Georg Neumark (1621-1681), the writer of text for the Lutheran hymn, “If You Will Trust in God to Guide You,” experienced a personal tragedy early in life. It occurred in 1641 while traveling with a group of merchants to Lübeck. After passing through Magdeburg they were plundered by a band of highwaymen. Neumark was robbed of all he had with him except for his prayer book and a little bit of money he had sewed up inside the clothes he was wearing. He returned to Magdeburg to try to find employment, but with no success he ended up in Kiel, where he became a tutor. It was upon the occasion of the ending of his anxieties from this tragedy that he penned the following hymn (translated into English in the 19th century by Catherine Winkworth):
1. If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He'll give thee strength, whate'er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God's unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that naught can move.
2. What can these anxious cares avail thee,
These never-ceasing moans and sighs?
What can it help if thou bewail thee
O'er each dark moment as it flies?
Our cross and trials do but press
The heavier for our bitterness.
3. Be patient and await His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate'er thy Father's pleasure
And His discerning love hath sent,
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own.
4. God knows full well when times of gladness
Shall be the needful thing for thee.
When He has tried thy soul with sadness
And from all guile has found thee free,
He comes to thee all unaware
And makes thee own His loving care.
5. Nor think amid the fiery trial
That God hath cast thee off unheard,
That he whose hopes meet no denial
Must surely be of God preferred.
Time passes and much change doth bring
And sets a bound to everything.
6. All are alike before the Highest;
'Tis easy to our God, we know,
To raise thee up, though low thou liest,
To make the rich man poor and low.
True wonders still by Him are wrought
Who setteth up and brings to naught.
7. Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
Perform thy duties faithfully,
And trust His Word, though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
God never yet forsook in need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.
It is in times of adversity that we realize our reliance upon God for strength to endure. Neumark found this to be true and we are blessed to have in our United Methodist Hymnal (#142) his testament to God’s care for each of us no matter the circumstances.
Verses 1 and 7 are being sung at First United Methodist Church during the Lenten season as the Introit and Choral Benediction, respectively. Daniel Burton, our former Organist and Composer-in-Residence, arranged the settings that were published in a collection of Service Responses for the Church Year that were commissioned by the Chancel Choir several years ago.
The youtube link below is a choral arrangement for three verses of the hymn by Jody Lindh performed by a colleague and friend of mine, Karen Kniss Eddinger, and the choir of Trinity Lutheran Church, Reading, Pennsylvania. Our Chancel Choir has sung this as an anthem several times over the years at First Church.
The links below are youtube recordings of two organ settings by Johann Sebastian Bach.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0LeGq2EyKY (Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orgelbüchlein chorale prelude performed by Martin de Vos followed by his improvised harmonization of the chorale tune)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWETPFr68Bo (Johann Sebastian Bach’s Schubler chorale prelude performed by Benjamin Alard)