I love hymns. I have always enjoyed singing hymns with a congregation or by myself. I love the lyrics, the repetition, and the poetic beauty of these songs the Lord has given to the Church.
I also thoroughly enjoy learning the stories behind the hymns. So many of the most beloved songs in the Church were born out of seasons of suffering that are noteworthy. There are hymn writers with incredible biographies who overcame significant obstacles in their life. Some of the most well-known examples would be the story behind the hymn, "It is Well with My Soul" written by Horatio Spafford, and the amazing career of Fanny Crosby who authored too many hymns to count.
Then, there is "Great is Thy Faithfulness," which is one of the most popular hymns of all time. The author's name is Thomas Chisholm. He was born in Kentucky and began teaching school at age 16.
He suffered from bad health and had bouts of illness and bounced around different jobs including journalism, insurance, and evangelistic work. Through it all, Lamentations 3:22-23 became precious to him. The Scripture says, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
That is about it. No major tragedy. Nothing particularly noteworthy. Just a normal person, with ordinary struggles, being sustained by an extraordinary God. His hymn was published in 1923 and became a theme song at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and eventually gained a wide audience when it was used in Billy Graham crusades. It continues to be sung around the world to this day.
I suspect most of us have more in common with Thomas Chisholm than we do Horatio Spafford (author of "It Is Well with My Soul"). Most of us have not endured suffering to the extent that Mr. Spafford did. Nor are you likely to go down in history to be one of the most successful hymn writers like Fanny Crosby. For most of us, our stories, our testimony, our lives are fairly...normal.
So, what do normal, regular people have to offer? We offer up songs of praise that focus on a God that is greater than our minds can imagine! We write, we sing, we preach, we teach, we pray, and we work for the glory of God...not so our names are famous and remembered, but so His name would be praised among the people.
I am grateful for the stories of unbelievable spiritual courage. I am strengthened by the people whose lives have been remarkable. Yet, I identify most easily with those who are painfully ordinary. And the lesson of "Great is Thy Faithfulness" is that ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God will never run out of sermons to preach or songs to sing.
So, if your life feels nothing more than average, take heart. Add your voice to a never-ending choir that lifts up the praises of God. In the end, it is not our struggles nor our victories that are praiseworthy. Indeed, it is not about us anyway. It is the God we serve, the One who redeemed us...He is the One -- the only One -- worthy of praise. When ordinary people sing about an extraordinary God, it sounds something like this:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
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