There is a phrase we use when nothing else makes any sense. It is one of those that is true but usually it is more like an expression of defeat than an affirmation of faith. Sigh. “Yeah, God works in mysterious ways,” we say without much conviction. But, He does and He invites us to trust Him profoundly.
“God moves in mysterious ways” is part of a hymn written by William Cowper in the 18th century. He struggled with depression for most of his life. In the depths of his pain, he wrote poems that were set to music, many becoming loved songs of the Church. One of the best known is There is A Fountain. The hymn from which this line is taken was his last. The story of the hymn’s origin is fascinating though we cannot confirm it. “One night he decided to end his life by drowning himself. He called a cab and told the driver to take him to the Thames River. However, thick fog came down and prevented them from finding the river (another version of the story has the driver getting lost deliberately). After driving around lost for a while, the cab finally stopped and let Cowper out. To his surprise, he found himself on his own doorstep: God had sent the fog to keep him from killing himself.” – cyberhymnal.org
“God works in mysterious ways,” is REAL comfort for suffering saints who are willing to wait, trust, and look to the Sovereign Lord.
Moses was living in the center of the will of God. But, he ran into situations that made little sense. Exodus 5 read like a tragic comedy! Moses and Aaron arrive in Egypt with great news for the Hebrew slaves, “The LORD God has sent us to lead you out of slavery, back to the Land of Promise.” The people heard their message with great joy and they worshipped the Lord. Then, these two men went to Pharaoh to appeal for release of the Hebrews. He laughed at them and doubled the slaves’ workload, making life even more miserable! “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’” (Exodus 5:17, NIV) Moses and Aaron were no longer popular. Their promise was rather hollow! “The foremen said to them, “May God see what you’ve done and judge you—you’ve made us stink before Pharaoh and his servants! You’ve put a weapon in his hand that’s going to kill us!”(Exodus 5:21, The Message) Moses was as confused as anyone. He asked the Lord, “Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!” (Exodus 5:22-23, NLT) Yet, God was working!
From our seat in the grandstand of history we look over the story and realize that the Lord was setting the stage for a confrontation with the gods of Egypt, in which He would show His mighty hand and reveal that they were no gods at all. Egypt was a wonder of the ancient world. God would bring her to her knees before He was finished, but nobody knew that in the moment. They only saw a greater workload with less resources, a situation that appeared to grow worse by the day. But, God planned a day of deliverance when all Egypt would say, “Yahweh is the Lord!”
Cowper finished the thought that “God moves in mysterious ways” with this conclusion – “His wonders to perform!” The affirmation of God’s purposes is not a spiritual aspirin meant to minimize our pain nor should we feel ashamed if we wrestle with faith as we try to comprehend His ways. It is a lifeline of truth thrown to us to pull us out of the murky waves of despair. In the darkest day, we speak our faith and live it – trusting in the Word’s revelation that God rules without hindrance and that His purposes always stand.
So, we can, we must, take great comfort in His mysterious ways, praying for faith to let the picture form, so that all we see it.
Are you wrestling with things in life right now that would appear to be without purpose? Does it seem that life has overwhelmed God and His plans, leaving you just hanging onto a bit of wreckage on the sea of life trying to stay afloat? Don’t quit! Re-dedicate yourself to Him, with the simplest prayer, being real about your feelings. Then re-affirm your faith in the God who works in mysterious ways.
Here is a word from the Word. I pray that the Spirit will make it a life preserver for you today.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. … For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. … And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:18, 24-25, 35-37, NIV)
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.
– Public Domain, William Cowper