Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bliss and Thistles

I read a hymn a day as part of my devotions. I learn the history of the author, the motivation behind the hymn and some helpful ways to pray and worship through it. I love the crafting of the lyrics, the richness of the theology, and the connection to the vitality of a historic faith.

Around this season of Thanksgiving the theme has appropriately been around giving thanks.

Towards the end of the 19th Century Adelaide Proctor wrote;
"I thank Thee, God, that all our joy is touched with pain,
that shadows fall on brightest hours, that thorns remain,
So that earth's bliss may be our guide and not our chain."

All too often, the writers of the hymns went through horrific trials. Their praise rose up from valleys of such intense distress and suffering that my struggles seem brief and insipid by comparison. Still, the treasures forged in their crucibles can be ours, no matter the intensity of trials.

They seemed to be able to tell that the difference between shallow happiness and deep sustaining joy, was sorrow. Pure joy was not the absence of sorrow, it was being able to rejoice in the presence of sorrow. It was a sober admission that there may never be a perfect season to praise. That though God was redeeming the bliss of Eden, our fallen world would always contain some thistles. That this was a gift that caused to long for our true home in heaven, which meant that every season could be a good season to praise.

It's an amazing irony that Thanksgiving and Black Friday stand only hours apart.Have you noticed how the grateful thanksgiving around the table turns into a mad rush just a few hours later to grab the things we simply cannot live without.

Horatio Spafford wrote 'It is well with my soul' as his ship passed the place where his wife and daughters had drowned in a previous shipwreck.
"When sorrows like sea billows roll,
whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
it is well it is well with my soul."

Lord teach us to be thankful in loss, and joyful in sorrow.


  1. This is good, Allen. It isn't, for me, that grief taught me lessons. It was the things that Jesus told me in the dark days of grief ~ I don't think I could have really heard them at any other time. My joy -- as it were -- wasn't found IN grief or sorrow. It was given to me in the comfort only Jesus could give me in those awful times. But that joy LASTS. And the revelations whispered to me by Him - since he is LIGHT, itself - when I sat in darkness changed the very fabric of my soul and spirit and mind eternally.

    1. Yes, Barbara, that is a vital piece to this conversation. It is He that has taught us to say, "It is well with my soul."

  2. Alan, thank you for the great reminder and insight.