Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Thomas Chisholm, 1877 -1957

Great is thy faithfulness!

Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed thy hand hath provided,

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me! 

Retired in sunny Florida, Bob Lytle, veteran missionary, lustily sings this hymn as his life theme. The text was inspired by pivotal lines of Jeremiah's Lamentations. After a long litany of disaster and woe, Jeremiah gives a reason for hope: God is faithful and his compassions are new every morning.

Bob Lytle recalls the day when Chisholm's hymn and Jeremiah's point was indelibly stamped on his consciousness. It was 1945, the year he and his wife, Louise, and infant son left New York State for their first missionary tour.

The Lytles flew to Colombia, but they couldn't board with much baggage, being restricted to sixty pounds for each paying passenger. And most of that allotment, Bob says, "was claimed by diapers and baby necessities. Mom and Pop had little room for their clothing and household articles"—including

many items unavailable in the Third World. Bob and Louise packed all but the bare essentials for shipment by sea. They were told to expect the boxes and barrels to arrive at their door in three weeks.

In Medellin the Lytles moved into a mission apartment outfitted with basic furnishings. But weeks, then months, passed, and Bob started to wonder if the slow boat had sailed to Calcutta. He recalls, "Our son lived comfortably with plenty of diapers and rompers. But the parents—we watched our insufficient clothing become damaged, worn out, and detested. We longed for the useful gadgets" packed away and gone only God knew where.

Bob and Louise prayed for God's merciful will, and finally, six months later, the unaccompanied baggage arrived on two rickety, two-wheeled, horse-drawn flatbeds. Though battered, it had survived its sea voyage, the sun-baked docks, the customs inspection, and the train trip up the Andes from the coast.

The morning those tired horses stopped in the street, "it happened—no, God ruled it—that a fellow missionary in a neighboring apartment was playing 'Great Is Thy Faithfulness' on her vibraharp." Bob remembers the moment: "My spirit rose with that song as I thought how good, how faithful God had been. In hindsight, I see that the cartons may have contained only a few trinkets, but he had brought them in blessing to us."

Bob sees God's faithfulness not only in "providing" the long-delayed possessions but also in the timing of a neighbor's song of praise. "It was more than a fortuitous happening," he says of the music vibrating through the thin walls. It was God's not-so-subtle reminder—strong enough to last a lifetime— that he is Jehovah-jireh, the God Who Sees and the God Whose Provision Shall Be Seen. That event has been followed by uncounted encores, daily blessings, small and large, that reinforce this lesson learned as a young man.

And yet there have been days, weeks, when Bob could have written his own litany of lamentations. And that's when he chooses to take Jeremiah's tack—relying on recollection of previously acquired knowledge and understanding: "This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope."

As you face a new morning, recount God's faithfulness. Recollect his mercies. Recall the small and large miracles of your life. The material provisions. The orchestrated interventions. The reasons for your hope (Jeremiah 3:21 kjv).

Lord, when my hope and faith falter, remind me of specific times when I have been keenly aware of your faithful love and provision.

From the book "Spiritual Moments With The Great Hymns" by Evelyn Bence