This song was written by William Cowper, and published in 1774 by his good friend John Newton. William Cowper suffered from depression and mental illness, in an age when this was not well understood. And yet he was still able to express a deep trust in God’s providence. His security was found not in his circumstances, or in his feelings, or even in his interpretation of events, but in his Heavenly Father. His Father who is working in and through all things, for the good of his people, and the glory of his name.
I really feel this song is so much more powerful because it is written by a man who struggled and suffered. It’s not empty doctrine, but something he counselled himself to hold onto in the darkness. It is a doctrine which brings hope, and acts as an anchor in terrible storms. And yet, even when we fail to believe it, and we fall into panic and fear, it remains utterly and wonderfully true.
The Hidden Smile of God, John Piper’s biography of William Cowper, is available in PDF on the Desiring God website.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.