Thou changest not; thy compassions, they fail not.
As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
I was a little intimidated to record a new version of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” for this new She Reads Truth project, but I was also drawn to it for the same reason—because it felt like a challenge. Sometimes a song feels too big to reduce into a few chords.
As I started to work with this iconic hymn, I tried to zoom in on a particular memory to help me connect with the lyrics more deeply than surface sentimentality. I remembered how we sang that hymn in a close family friend’s wedding more than 20 years ago. I remembered my pink, handmade dress, the french braid in my hair and those uncomfortable dress flats. But as I traced the memory further, I remembered how that tumultuous marriage was, more or less, a long, slow trainwreck, and so I tried to push down that memory and think of another one instead. But the memory followed me around for a few days, and I realized maybe it was exactly this memory I needed to explore.
If I were sitting across the table from God having a conversation today, I would ask Him questions about His faithfulness and what it means in the loose ends of life—in the unresolved and ongoing bits. What is God’s role in the vow-keeping process between broken people trying to work things out? In our tender moments before bedtime, my sweet kids frequently bring up rather impossible-to-answer questions about life’s loose ends. They are so honest and direct, unfiltered and earnest in their asking. It makes me wonder how God might feel when we really stop to talk with Him.
When I make space to ask God my own honest questions, I have found that, just like with my kids, talking about it together serves to deepen the intimacy between us. As we see in the Psalms, there is often more significance in the questions than the answers. The questions invite us closer to each other. When I finally get quiet, I find God is not afraid of honesty. He welcomes me. His love pushes out my fear. It’s gonna be ok. I’m here. I’ve got you. He presses in with His clarifying invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy hearted” (Mt 11:28).
Like a flashlight in a dark room, God’s faithfulness is the illumination that comes in and brings a mysterious relief when I am brave enough to say my fears out loud. We are not in control of the universe. We have limitations. But the limitations are part of who we are and they remind us with discomfort and distress signals—like little alarms going off in our lives—that we need a Savior. They remind us that we need human community, too. I need sisters to sit with me in these hard questions, and we need space to be together in the silence that comes after the question mark.
When everything around and within us turns, “There is no shadow of turning with thee.” We try to make sense and find meaning in the patterns. Cycles and seasons pull us back and forth. We are tossed, habitually, by life’s waves and and occasionally realigned. People come and go in our lives. “Summer and winter and springtime and harvest.” We cannot yet see the whole picture. But God pursues us in our seeking, earnest to meet us in our sorrow and poised to celebrate with us in our joy.
God is the only constant. He is the unchanging centerpiece, holding all things together. He holds our life circumstances. He is holding the chaos of this world. He is holding our hearts—holding us. In all things, He works for our good and for His glory. But this truth is progressively revealed, even as it is sure. Truth comes to us, but not all at once. The answers sometimes move painfully and articulate slowly.
Singing the faith declarations in “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” with honesty is delicate work. I think you can almost hear the evidence of fragility and vulnerability in the sound of the recording. But there is strength there, too. I could recount to you a thousand mercies of God in my life. And many of God’s richest mercies have come in the hardest times. “He is close to the brokenhearted,” says the Psalmist (Ps 34:18). I am convinced ABOVE ALL THINGS that God’s faithfulness abides when all else fails. “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” How can this be?
I look back and I see in my story, start to finish, that God has been so good to me. He comes to meet us, like Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, calling Mary outside and weeping when He sees her face. He is ready to meet us with the sorrowful embrace of a friend. He is ready to meet us in the boat, waking from sleep in the middle of a chaotic storm, saying, “Peace!” (Mk 4:39). And He is ready to meet us in the heat of the battle, saying, “I will fight for you, you need only to be still” (Ex 14:14).
God is great. God is faithful. And His love is set upon us.
We come as we are, with trembling trust.
Please help us, Father. Bring your steadfast love to bear in our lives. Bring your comforting Spirit to guide us, and your mercy to support us. All we have needed your hand has provided. Help us to walk forward in this truth, morning by morning, and through every changing scene. Amen.
Sandra McCracken is a singer, songwriter and producer from Nashville, TN. Over the course of nine critically acclaimed studio albums, Sandra has developed a body of work that encompasses hook-driven melodic pop, No Depression-style Americana, contemporary recastings of classic hymns, and even children’s music as part of the Nashville alt-folk super-group Rain For Roots. Her new album, Psalms, was released this spring.
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not; thy compassions, they fail not.
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
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!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow –
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!