This hymn by Anne Steele has found new revival in the past decade. Originally published in 1760, this is one of Steele’s most popular hymns. It was set to newer music by Matt Merker in 2014.

Steele’s life was full of pain. Quite literally she lived with pain in the form of symptoms of malaria throughout most of her life. Stomach aches, headaches, fever, and never-ending physical pain. This was on top of losing her mother at age 3, a potential future husband at age 20, stepmother at 43, sister-in-law at 45, and her father, whom she cared for, when she was 53. In excruciating pain, she whispered, “I know that my Redeemer liveth” before her final breath in 1778.

Despite all her hardships, she remained engaged with society as much as possible. She chose to be single, turning down a proposal at age 26, so that she could focus on her writing. She could hold her own theologically, one might say, in literary circles of Dissenting ministers. Suffice it to say, she doesn’t appear to have allowed her pain and struggle to overtake her life.

Culture would explain this as self-reliance. The world might say, “she decided she wouldn’t let it get her down”. For many Christians, this is the way we handle it as well. We become self-reliant thinking that God has given us the ability therefor we must do. Often this is how I approach pain as well. Work past it, push through it, ignore it, compartmentalize it, or just forget it. Sometimes we go as far as to tell ourselves, “God doesn’t want to hear me complain. He sent Jesus to die for me and my problem isn’t that big. So I just have to suck it up and deal with it.”

Self-reliance is the opposite of what we see in the whole of scripture. The idea that we’re “on our own” couldn’t be further from the truth. The suggestion that we must emulate God-like understanding and wisdom in every situation is not only false, but untenable. Job was downright obnoxious, and, in the end, God said he was right to come to him with all his honest emotion. God approves of our wrestling with him through prayer.

How many of us would respond lovingly to our neighbor banging on our door in the middle of the night asking for a loaf of bread? Yet Jesus tells us this is how we are to approach our heavenly father. With a sort of audacity and shamelessness that our culture would scoff at, and many in our churches would say is utterly irreverent. If we can do this for such trivial matters, then even more we must, when in pain and sorrow.

Our Heavenly Father desires for us to come to Him with everything, including our sorrow, our pain, and grief, and even, our doubts and unbelief.

This beautiful hymn gives us the language to do so, and a memorable melody to help us remember.

 

Dear refuge of my weary soul
On Thee when sorrows rise
On Thee when waves of trouble roll
My fainting hope relies
To Thee I tell each rising grief
For Thou alone canst heal
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief
For every pain I feel

But oh when gloomy doubts prevail
I fear to call Thee mine
The springs of comfort seem to fail
And all my hopes decline
Yet gracious God where shall I flee
Thou art my only trust
And still my soul would cleave to Thee
Though prostrate in the dust

Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face
And shall I seek in vain
And can the ear of sov’reign grace
Be deaf when I complain
No still the ear of sov’reign grace
Attends the mourner’s prayer
Oh may I ever find access to breathe
My sorrows there

Thy mercy seat is open still
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend Thy will
And wait beneath Thy feet
Thy mercy seat is open still
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend Thy will
And wait beneath Thy feet

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