God Moves in a Mysterious Way

Another hymn by William Cowper, this hymn has often been described as the finest hymn ever written on God’s providence. No doubt the experience of Cowper losing his mother when he was six, being shipped to boarding school not long after, and suffering sever depression most of his life, helped shape this hymn. Renowned British hymnologist Erik Routley compares this hymn text to a Rembrandt painting: its dark background sets off the bright light of truth in the foreground. Over it Cowper wrote John 13:7: “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand”1. The song version I have included below has slightly different lyrics, but is great nonetheless.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform
He plants his footsteps on the sea
And rides upon the storm;
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

You fearful saints fresh courage take
The clouds you 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.

1page 117 – Leeman, D. and Leeman, B., 2022. Our Hymns, Our Heritage: A Student Guide to Songs of the Church

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