“He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be,
still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.” — Joseph H. Gilmore
This old hymn, which its author said was written during “the darkest hour of the Civil War,” has always been a favorite of mine. I have vivid childhood memories of hearing it sung by the congregation in church, where the booming, perfectly-pitched tenor of an older British gentleman rose above the others and impressed me with the conviction in his tone when he sang it. To hear him sing those words was to feel a sense of elation and absolute assurance that went perfectly with the beautiful melody of the song’s chorus.
I know there are a lot of people who have mostly negative views of religious faith. I can understand to some extent how people could feel that way, given the wars and violence done in the name of various religions, and the unfortunate stereotypes of believers that are often perpetuated by the media.
My own experience of faith, though, has been almost completely the opposite. For a lifetime I have been watching believers whose faith in God has defined their lives and blessed the world around them. I have seen people weather unbelievably tough times with a peace that truly passes understanding. I have been strengthened and upheld by knowing that people are praying for us. And the sadness of losing loved ones who die is tempered by the belief that their souls live on, and the hope that we will someday see them again.
To some, of course, this sounds like foolish wishful thinking. But I’m reminded of one of my favorite Woody Allen quotes: “What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.” As funny as this quote is, he does have a point. If it’s cold, hard evidence you’re after, I think most of what seems like “proof” is just as illusory, if not more so, than truths that cannot be seen. I’m not sure we have any more reason to trust what we see as “realities” that appear only to our senses, than we do to trust in the unseen, and perhaps Einstein would agree.
In any case, I am profoundly thankful to have this song among the ones that play inside my head when I need them most. I love it even more now, after sitting beside Jeff in church this morning, hearing him sing the words of the final verse and knowing he meant them. The world is a very tough place at times, and it’s unspeakably comforting to hold to an unchanging hand.
One year ago yesterday*
*the post from one year ago today was linked in yesterday’s post