What Food Is For

Soul. Body. Soul

Sunday Night Soul Food (June 22)

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Our dedicated music pastor has been gradually, intentionally introducing our church to the growing trend of singing old Puritan hymns set to more contemporary tunes. (Puritan covers, so to speak.) Because I’m a vocalist, some weeks I get the double blessing of learning a new hymn so I can teach it to the congregation. As much as possible I try and memorize the lyrics, not just so that I can do the best possible job at conveying the hymn’s meaning, but also because then the song stays with me throughout the week.

I’ve been grateful for that double blessing of late. Several weeks ago, I got to teach the congregation a beautiful hymn by a Puritan woman named Anne Steele. She has the kind of story that sounds romantic now that she’s several hundred years into her heavenly reward, but “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul” is not a treacly, triumphalistic song. It’s a song about clinging to God in the midst of the often exhausting trials of life.

I wrote the meditation below several weeks ago to introduce Anne’s hymn to our church, when I was in one of the seasons she describes. Today, I’m there again, and bringing Ann’s words back to mind fed my soul. If you’re going into this week already tired, her words will encourage you too.

 

“The hymn you’re going to hear now was written by a woman named Ann Steele. Ann lived in England in the 1700s.  When she was 3, her mother died. When she was 19, she suffered a terrible hip injury that rendered her increasingly disabled. There is also a story that she was engaged but her fiancé drowned the morning of their wedding (which may be aprocryphal), and she never married. She` was someone who lived with a number of what the Puritans call “hard providences.”

The Bible is filled with the writings of God’s people who have lived the same kind of life. Job, David, Mary, Peter – all of them went through seasons where God gave them something, or things, that were brutally difficult to receive. What makes their stories so helpful to us is that in their seasons of testing, they fought to turn toward God and His Word, instead of running away from Him and towards the things of the world. They turn toward the One who turned His face away from His own Son on the cross, so that we could forever be kept and held by Him.

Some of us are in that season this morning. Unemployment, difficult marriages, wandering children, surprise and protracted illness – all these things test our faith, and tempt us to turn away from the One who made us and knows us and loves us. When we turn toward God in times of testing and temptation, – through prayer, through feeding on His word, through coming here this morning, to hear God’s word and be with God’s people, when our flesh is begging us to just pack it in, sleep in and fall away, that is a sign that we actually belong to Him.”

 Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul

1. Dear refuge of my weary soul,
On Thee, when sorrows rise
On Thee, when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies
To Thee I tell each rising grief,
For Thou alone canst heal
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief,
For every pain I feel

2. But oh! When gloomy doubts prevail,
I fear to call Thee mine
The springs of comfort seem to fail,
And all my hopes decline
Yet gracious God, where shall I flee?
Thou art my only trust
And still my soul would cleave to Thee
Though prostrate in the dust

3. Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face,
And shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace,
Be deaf when I complain?
No still the ear of sovereign grace,
Attends the mourner’s prayer
Oh may I ever find access,
To breathe my sorrows there

4. Thy mercy seat is open still,
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend Thy will,
And wait beneath Thy feet,
Thy mercy seat is open still,
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend Thy will,
And wait beneath Thy feet

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