Hump Day Hymns: O Thou from whom all goodness flows

Hymnal

O Thou from whom all goodness flows,
I lift my heart to Thee;
In all my sorrows, conflicts, woes,
O Lord, remember me.

When with a broken, contrite heart,
I lift mine eyes to Thee;
Thy name proclaim, Thyself impart,
In love remember me.

In sore temptations, when no way
To shun the ill I see,
My strength proportion to my day,
And then remember me.

And when I tread the vale of death
And bow at Thy decree,
Then Saviour, with my latest breath,
I’ll cry, remember me.
Thomas Haweis (1734-1820)

During difficult times, when I am in despair, I reach for hymns. I sing them to myself. The beauty of hymn meters, of course, is you can match up just about any text and tune which share the same meter. Many times when I don’t know the suggested tune, I will replace it with another tune.

So I sing hymns. I sing them when I’m doing dishes, or (quietly) when I’m on the bus, or when I’m pacing and overwhelmed with worry and unsure if I can make it through the day.

I sing hymns for two reasons. First, singing hymns, with the combination of words and music,  is distracting enough that I can momentarily gain relief from the nonstop tape of worry and fear playing in my mind, and second, it allows me to engage in something that can help me faithfully express my concerns and needs to God.

***

There are some that prize, above all else, spontaneity and extemporaneity of language of faith. While on a preaching assignment in seminary, one of my evaluations from the congregation included a critique of my use of written prayers. The evaluator noted that I should pray from the heart, not from the page. The assumption, then, is that only extemporaneous language is heart-felt.

On a day like today, however, I need to use the words of another — I need common words — to express myself. I am not able to form the right words. This is, of course, why we have the psalms. The psalms are a school of faith from which we never quite graduate.

So today, I am singing this hymn, a desperate plea that God remember me — us — but today, me. I love the simplicity of this hymn’s plea. “Lord, remember me.” The greatest good we could ever have and experience is not that God would eliminate all of our suffering, not that God would make everything better, not that God would do this or that, but that God would remember us. Remember us in our difficult state, remember us in our sufferings, in our conflict, in our trials, in our pains.

In this particular hymn, the hope and faith is deep and strong, yet in the subtext. Some hymns add a stanza or two at the end about the glorious deliverance that God will effect, but not this one. This one ends with a simple plea: Remember me.

I think that God appreciates it when we ask for specific things, specific actions, specific outcomes — all the while knowing that we do not really know what we want or need. However, there are times when we don’t see a way out, when we cannot imagine what peace and wholeness might look like, when a solution evades us, and all we can say is, “God, remember me!”

***

As a child, I never appreciated singing in worship. I thought hymns were boring and mundane. The organ seemed dated. I preferred an ever-changing repertoire of contemporary songs which mirrored the music to which I preferred to listen. But I am so grateful that I was able to grow up singing hymns. Congregational singing of hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs has such a wonderfully long and rich history, and for good reason.

Today, then, I am using this time-tested practice to attempt to express my concerns to God, and hopefully to allow my faith to be formed.

O Thou from whom all goodness flows,
I lift my heart to Thee;
In all my sorrows, conflicts, woes,
O Lord, remember me.

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