William Cowper’s famous hymn, Sometimes a Light Surprises , is a powerful proclamation of choosing to praise God no matter what the circumstance or situation. This world promises joys and comforts, but leaves us dissatisfied and disillusioned. The Christian, however, is no longer thirsty, for they are given the very fountain head; we are free, but, like CS Lewis once said, “Free, as a man is free to drink while he is drinking. He is not free still to be dry.” Or, you could say, we are free to rejoice while we are enjoying the unfailing presence of Jesus; we are not free still to be glum.
We moan and complain life’s circumstances; yet, true faith holds steadfast to the promise of the Promiser. This hymn has come to be a precious reminder to me for two reasons. The first is obvious, it is a tremendous hymn of praise to the Lord. The second is because I recently read in M’Cheyne’s biography that this was the final song he heard, as he was dying of the fever, racked with pain, delirious with his illness. His sister read or sang–I don’t quite remember–this to him a few hours before his death.
What a statement to end one’s life with! Is your deathbed hymn one of glumness, sorrow, regret, or doubt? Or can you say with the final two lines: Yet God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice, for while in Him confiding, I cannot but rejoice?
Is your hope in the temporal pleasures of earth, or have you found the fullness of the fountainhead? The Gospel truth of Christ abides ever faithful, ever available, and since He cannot fail, we cannot help but rejoice.
Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises with healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining, He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.
In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation, and find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.
It can bring with it nothing but He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing will clothe His people, too;
Beneath the spreading heavens, no creature but is fed;
And He Who feeds the ravens will give His children bread.
Though vine nor fig tree neither their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the field should wither, nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice,
For while in Him confiding, I cannot but rejoice.