Poet Sarah Williams once wrote that "the anguish of the singer makes the sweetness of the strain" and that was especially true in the life of hymn-writer William Cowper.
Cowper was a well-known poet before becoming a hymn writer. His launch into hymnody began when his friend and pastor John Newton (of Amazing Grace fame) invited him to help write a hymnal for his congregation.
Cowper's most famous hymns are O, For a Closer Walk With God, There Is a Fountain, and God Moves in a Mysterious Way.
While God seems to have shaped and tried many hymn writers with external events, Cowper's suffering was more of the internal kind. He suffered with severe depression most of his life, yet he persevered.
When we look at William Cowper's hymn texts, we are reminded that God gives us hope not just in our physical ailments, but also in the trials of our hearts and minds. In fact, it is often the latter wherein we grow and glorify God most.
In God Moves In a Mysterious Way, Cowper uses the imagery of storms, mines, clouds and flowers to showcase the wisdom, goodness and sovereignty of God. These are all real even when we don't feel it.
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.