Hymns IV: Day 4

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

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Today's Text: Psalm 86:15, Matthew 20:16, Isaiah 53:5-6, Ephesians 3:14-19

Text: Psalm 86:15; Matthew 20:16; Isaiah 53:5-6; Ephesians 3:14-19

I once claimed a Dixie Chicks’ song as my “anthem.” If you haven’t heard of this pop-country group from the 90’s, you’re likely more qualified to write about hymns than yours truly.

But since you’re stuck with me today, I get to tell you just exactly why a beloved hymn of the Church reminds me of “Wide Open Spaces”— my teenage theme song, go-to karaoke choice, and lyrical inspiration for more than one boyfriend break-up.

The chorus goes like this:

She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

The truth is, I’d be hard-pressed to find another song with the same stride as my own steps. My sneakers practically lace themselves at the sound of wide open spaces, brand new faces, and room for big mistakes. Without question, I’d leave for a getaway to spacious ground with strangers who tip their hats in silence, leaving my story unchartered. I will always choose flight over fight, passport stamps over picket fences, and a fresh start over familiarity.

In the height of my Dixie Chicks days, I was afraid of what it might mean to slow down and stay. Suitcase in hand, I believed whatever I was facing was too big for the space I’d been given. My pride was too tall, my fear too deep, my anger too heavy, my grief too cumbersome, my questions too complicated. I hoped that free-falling into my next spontaneous choice would reverse the gravity of my own reality. And it did, but only because I bumped into the territory of Christ.

At that time in my life, God was the vaguely-loving being I sang songs about at summer camp. If He were to find me running away, I was sure He’d reprimand me and tell me to go home. But that’s not what He did at all. He was there, extending His mercy into the wide open and filling the spaces with His love. David knew the feeling:

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
-Psalm 139:7-9

In fact, there was more space than before: space for God’s grace, space to be found, space to be known, space to be welcomed, space to be home. Christ Himself was the spacious refuge I’d been looking for all along.

Had I been born a century sooner, I’m convinced I would have been best friends with Lizzie S. Tourjee in high school. Lizzie, lacking the companionship of the Dixie Chicks, wrote the tune to the hymn “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy” for her school’s graduation ceremony. The lyrics for the hymn were taken from a poem written by Frederick W. Faber in 1854, titled “Come to Jesus.”

The thirteen-verse poem begins with words for a weary traveler:

Souls of men, why will ye scatter
like a crowd of frightened sheep?

Foolish hearts, why will ye wander
from a love so true and deep?

Being rooted and established in Christ’s love fills us with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19), extinguishing our need to run. Christ’s own arms, spread open on the cross, placed us within infinite mercy. Friends, there is room for us!

Father, as we continue trusting You, may the size of Your mercy continue to surprise us. Keep us in the fullness Your love and presence. Amen.

“He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.”
-Psalm 18:19

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy
by Fred­er­ick W. Fa­ber, 1854

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given.
There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members
In the sorrows of the Head.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more simple,
We should take Him at His word;
And our lives would be all sunshine
In the sweetness of our Lord.

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  • Hayley Tancak

    Claire that’s the most amazing part about Jesus we don’t have to be “all sunshine”. he meets is in every situation and every trial. he calls us to love and wound peace and patience when we think we have nothing but hate and anger. God does want the mask of sunshine he wants the broke fragil person under it

  • Do you really think our lives would be ‘all sunshine’? I’m not claiming that I in anyway trust God completely…I’m trying to trust and trying to hope…my circumstances aren’t even that bad in the grand scheme of things though I do feel despair…what about the Christian family trusting God through cancer, through childlessness, through mental illness…I know God’s ways are above ours and we cannot understand always why we face trials but I don’t think we are expected to be ‘all sunshine’…I doubt Jesus would have described his life in that way when Lazarus died, or when judas betrayed him or when he was nailed to the cross!

    • Abigail

      Sorry for the late response. You are right in asking why he does things, but think how would we grow ? How would we learn ? God has to put things in our lives so that we have to put out full TRUST in him. It may be hard to see t the time but letter on you will look back and think of how much God has blessed you!! Gbu! Praying for you :) – Abi

    • Rachel

      I paused on that line as well, but I think you could take it to mean that even in the darkest hours, you may still see Gods light and feel His warmth, feel his presence in spite of circumstances.

  • Hold back the river, let me love you so wide. Anh dem trey nu Hong.

  • “There is a wideness in Gods mercy” and we most definitely can’t live without it!

  • Keely Simmons

    Thanks for sharing! Just what I needed to hear!

  • Yes!

  • Abigail

    GOD is awesome! We are truly can’t live without GOD’S countless mercy forevermore!

  • what a wonderful way to wake up in the morning

  • Caylee Walters

    I am completely convicted today of being a self reliant fixer upper. I am aware of my weakness and my sin, so I try to fix my behavior. I try to wake up the next day with a new mindset. I’m overwhelmed with frustration at how this never lasts… But I’ve learned so so so much today that I CANNOT DO IT. I CANNOT RUN. All I need to do is truly confess and admit my need for Christ. Admit my need for His grace. Surrendering my weakness to Him will lead to finding the greatest strength of all… HIS! There is a wide was in His Mercy! It’s enveloping me!!

  • Debbie Madison

    Beautiful story and oh, my! This hymn…..never heard it before and am amazed by the words. Wow!

  • michelle of LA CA

    “He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.”
    -Psalm 18:19
    Thank God for His mercy “because He delighted in me ”
    Thank you for your story too

  • I’m praying for you Sarahs! God is good ALWAYS. Rest in his love and mercy. This earth isn’t our home

  • Ali Sims

    Praying for both Sarah’s! May God provide you with peace, strength, and understanding. I pray for healing and that through the healing God gets all of the glory!

  • ” There is plentiful redemption for the blood that has been shed” ❤️

  • Hi Sarah, praying for you. We have the same name and we are kind of in a same predicament. My situation is most definitely not as urgent as going to a hospital. I am a junior in high school and have been experiencing dizziness for the last three years from a concussion I got in a soccer game. In ninth grade I was out of school basically the whole year, 10th grade I was in school, but now the dizziness is coming back and I’m so afraid I’ll have to work on school from home. I want to see my friends and do all the extra fun stuff and not be stuck inside catching up on all the work I’ve missed since I’ve been sick. I really need to trust in God. If I have to work from home, then I will. I need to trust that he has a plan. He knows what he is doing. He is carrying me through this. He is carrying me. He will heal and help me catch up. I need to cast all my worry and stress on Him. He knows what is in store and He will see it through. He has a plan. Praying for you now Sarah.

    • Courtney C.

      Praying for you, Sarah.

    • Sarah

      Thank you so much Sarah for your prayers. I am praying for you now too that God will carry you in this time and that together we will trust in His plan. Thank you friend!

    • Samantha J Schrauben

      Praying for you Sarah, I’m in the same grade and can only imagine the stress. Where ever you end up while trusting Him is where you ought to be. Remember that, He has got one incredible plan for your life.
      And praying for the other Sarah, trusting in God is quite the pattern here, but not only here, everywhere with everyone. It wasn’t meant to be easy. God wants you to rest in Him in His peace. I was once trying to clean up my own mess of sin the other day and God said,” stop.” I asked why, and he said stop trying to work on your own strength to fix yourself. Fix your eyes on me and rest in me. Rest in Him! Find your peace sister, what a beautiful thing. Praying for you amd that you have peace through out all of this.

  • SRT Sisters- I read along side you everyday and learn more about God through your words here in the comments. I need to ask for prayer today. I have been walking with God towards a scheduled surgery next week and a more urgent health need has come up. I am filled with anxiety about the health related decisions I need to make will you please pray that I do not hold my health up as an idol but release my control to God and His ways. I am blessed by this community!

    • Lindsay Prater

      Praying.

    • She Reads Truth

      Praying for you, sweet friend. Asking God to supply wisdom, peace, strength and healing. May He hold you close.

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • Mary Kiefer

    Such a beautiful hymn! I think the text is wonderful and a great reminder that the mercy of God calls us to be merciful. There is also a brand new version of this song that I really love. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017EWXN1O/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_Wtorwb0HYYNJP
    Give it a listen!

    Thank you for your reflection, Kaitlin!

    PS For what it’s worth, this version of Psalm 139 is also beautiful. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003VDESPQ/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_6worwb1QFF481

    • She Reads Truth

      Thanks for sharing these songs, Mary! Off to check them out! We love having you in our community!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • Kaitlin, I think we are soul sisters! Thank you for today’s devotion.

    • She Reads Truth

      Haha, love that, friend! Thanks for joining us!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • this is so good! wow! “I will always choose flight over fight, passport stamps over picket fences, and a fresh start over familiarity.” This incredibly spoke to my heart, as I do the same, but I know that with Christ I am in open spaces of mercy! Definitely what I needed to hear today! Praise God!

    • She Reads Truth

      Thanks for joining us, Katelyn! We love having you in our community!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • Caroline

    Beautiful words and as always I’m inspired by each of your compassionate posts and insights. Love this group ❤️

    • She Reads Truth

      Thanks for joining us, Caroline! We love having you in our community!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • Melissa Henderson

    Thank you for this post. I am continuously amazed at the various ways God speaks to us. I love to sing out loud, even though I am not gifted with a beautiful voice. But, I do know that God loves my voice and He is happy when I sing His praises. :-)

    • She Reads Truth

      Melissa, I’m the same way! Grateful for all of the little and big ways we get to experience the glory of God!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • Tabitha N.

    Thank you for bringing such beautiful words to life. This poem speaks to me, particularly the third section, I find myself reading it over and over and seeking that peace that comes from understanding and trusting the Father. Blessings to you ladies today.

    • She Reads Truth

      Thanks for joining us, Tabitha! Yes, I am so grateful for these words that lead us to a deeper understanding of God’s character!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • Caroline @ In Due Time

    Thank you Lord for your never ending mercy!!! They are new every day! http://www.in-due-time.com

  • “For the love of God is broader than the measure of our mind”

    I will never fully known (grasp) this side of heaven all the love the Father has for me, but I DO know the cost–Christ Jesus paid it for me!

    Thank you merciful God that there is no fence limiting your love.

  • Heather Clement

    I’m a valley girl. I love being surrounded by mountains and I’ve always said there’s no place I’d rather live than right where God has me today. Even still, there’s something cool about a big wide open space too. In a big field, it seems as though you can see forever. You can run without bumping into things. You can feel… well… free.

    God’s grace is like that.

    “He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19
    David spent a heck of a lot of time in prisons and caves before God brought him to the throne. He knew what it was like to live in tight spaces, and the joy that comes with being granted freedom. Contrast brings perspective. I love what C.H. Spurgeon said about this…
    “Sweet is pleasure after pain. Enlargement is the more delightful after a season of pinching poverty and sorrowful confinement. Besieged souls delight in the broad fields of the promise when God drives off the enemy and sets open the gates of the environed city. The Lord does not leave his work half done, for having routed the foe he leads out the captive into liberty. Large indeed is the possession and place of the believer in Jesus, there need be no limit to his peace, for there is no bound to his privilege.”

    God gives grace and brings us to wide open spaces because He delights in us. Let me say it again… the God of the Universe delights in YOU. His love is deep and high and long and wide and beyond comprehension. He gave the life of His Son so you could know what it’s like to experience true freedom. All of the tight, closed up spaces that threaten to close in on you and suffocate – let them cause you to appreciate His grace all the more… when you know the Truth, the Truth sets you free. Jesus is that Truth. Embrace your freedom.

    • Heather (MNmomma)

      “All of the tight, closed up spaces that threaten to close in on you and suffocate – let them cause you to appreciate His grace all the more… ” – sooooooo much truth in this. It is in those dark, suffocating moments that I have felt grace poured out…..

    • lynn

      I love what you wrote Heather, it really ministered to my heart, especially today.It is so true that in finding ourselves in the Lord’s mercy and grace – and yes, being alone, all alone except for him – enables us to truly lean on Him, bask in His presence alone and learn that without Him, we are nothing.

  • Donna Maria

    With the words of Psalm 18, “He brought me out to a spacious place”, I am transported to a beautiful memory. On a faith walk through a nature refuge, we came out upon a wide open space of meadow. There, God did indeed fill that space with his majestic awesomeness, abounding love, and complete joy!

  • candacejo

    The NLT version of Ephesians 3 is one of my very favorites! “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”

    And may YOU have the power to understand how WIDE, how LONG, how HIGH and how DEEP His love is! Always reminds me of the song, Lord, I’m amazed by You. He is truly amazing, His love NEVER fails and He is a forever, faithful friend indeed. So encouraged by the words today and the hymn that I did not know. Blessings. ♥
    (Lincoln Brewster knocks this one out of the park! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qVkzdK6N20 )

  • I love the description of Christ as the spacious refuge- “space to be found, space to be known, space to be welcomed, space to be home.” Psalm 18:19 is a verse that means a lot to me and I’m grateful for the freedom found in him and that he delights in us. The hymn is beautiful too- not one I’ve heard before.

    • She Reads Truth

      So grateful for your words, Carly! Thanks for joining us today!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • I feel so overwhelmed with life right now. Everything is happening at once and I feel like I’m stuck in the middle of a hurricane, helpless but to be caught up in the turbulence. I feel as if I have let God down on everything I do, and I can never stay on the right track. I’ve prayed a thousand times but still I get stuck in ruts where my faith falters. I don’t know what to do. All I want is to grow stronger in my faith, so that it won’t be so easily shaken. Everything is turned upside down and inside out and I can’t see the right path anymore. What can I do! :,(

    • Elise

      You are loved. Nothing can ever change that. Nothing you do or fail to do will ever change that. You are loved! God loves you so much and he longs for you to know this love and to open your heart to receive His love. Read today’s scriptures again and discover the extravagant love and mercy of the Father. He wants to give you all you need.

      • Kimry

        When I go through tumultuous times and feel like I am in a hole that I can never escape from, I have learned that those are the times when God is strengthening my faith. Often I could not see it until much later, but I was walking through His refining fire. Your loving Father is turning you into gold, Kenz! He is using pressure and heat to shape you. and then removing the “dross” from your life, the excess that gets scraped away in the gold making process. Let this encourage you: He is refining you! He is walking through it all with you! You feel far from Him, but He is near! There is a poem about footprints in the sand. When the writer says she sees only one set of footprints, she ask God where he went. God replies, “My child, it was then that I carried you!” One thing that helps me is singing. When I am feeling overwhelmed, I try to pause, turn my eyes to Jesus, and sing! Singing comes as a therapy for me, and lifts my spirits. I sing any worship song that pops into my head, ponder the words as I sing them, and find encouragement in them. Remember the phrase, “singing through the night”. When you are going through a “night”, sing until you find a dawn! It helps me, and I hope it encourages you as well! He’s holding you! And you are so tremendously loved!

        • candacejo

          Beautiful! ♥

        • Shelia

          I really needed to hear these words of encouragement today. My mom had a stroke 2 months ago, and I am having to watch this strong vital woman learn to eat, talk, and walk again. I just had to put my dog down 2 days ago, and we are moving. Thank-you, thank you for these words today.

    • Alexandria Contreras

      I recently went through a season where I felt that I was constantly failing to put my faith in God , every morning I would feel hopeful and by the afternoon I’d be in tears because of all my fears that were just too heavy for me to handle. And when I was feeling guilty for my constant failures I felt God showing his mercy and reminding me that it didn’t matter if I was failing, he loved me anyways. What a relief!! Keep seeking the Lord even when it feels hopeless.

      • She Reads Truth

        Alexandria, I so relate to your words, especially the point that hope in Christ is a relief! So grateful for the way He continues to pursue and love us even when we have a hard time trusting Him.

        xoxo-Kaitlin

    • Dana

      Let us, your sisters in Christ, be your voice. We pray for and over you, asking God to reveal Himself to you in His strength and power. We pray for your eyes and heart to be completely open to all of the love and tenderness He has for you. You are His.

    • Carly B

      Praying for you, Kenz, that you know God’s love and presence with you in the midst of this storm.

    • Heather (MNmomma)

      Kenz – I am lifting you up in prayer this morning. Huge hugs headed your way. You are sooooo loved Kenz.

    • Churchmouse

      Open your Bible today. Read the Word. Call a Christian friend and ask her to pray with you. Turn on worship music. Repeat. Every. Day. Our Father loves you and He will meet you in the open Word, in the prayer of a friend, in the lyrics of a song. He’s not turned away from you. He’s in front of you, his arms outstretched. Say “I’m sorry” and fall into His embrace. He will never let you go.

    • Carolina

      I just prayed for you, Kenz. That you may delight in loving God. And that’s it. No striving, no pleasing, no guilt or shame in the shortcomings (shame is not from God!) May you be in His presence and love Him because He is the only thing worthy of glory and affection. You do not have to make your own goodness or righteousness, friend! That comes from Him and is the natural overflow of a heart absolutely in love with Jesus! Our transgressions were nailed to a cross and have already been forgiven. Just love Him, spend time with Him, get to know Him and understand Him just because He is God. Nothing we do will make Him love us more than He already does.

    • Pam B

      Kenz, know that you are not alone. We’ve all been there. We all have those rough patches that we feel like we will never get out of. But God is right there with you. You might not feel like He is there, but He is. Dig into Scripture-the Psalms are filled with David’s cries to God and affirmations of how great our God is. I really connect with music, so if you have a favorite worship song or one that really speaks to you I would listen to it a lot. Also talking to Christian friends who can pray with and encourage is also wonderful. :-)

    • Lalo

      Kenz, I’ve totally been where you are right now. The fact is, I had been there for many years. I felt really alone, fearful, and overwhelmingly depressed. I was reminded of a passage in the Bible where Peter started to walk on the water towards Jesus but when he saw the wind, he became afraid and started sinking. The Lord reached down and grabbed his hand. (Matthew 14:22-33). That passage reminds me of the storms that are going on in your life and mine. Sometimes we get really focused on the storm and it makes us afraid. If we only look up, above the storm, towards Jesus, we will know there is nothing to be afraid of. Even as we sink, He is there, grabbing ahold of our hand. The storms you are going through in your life are helping to refine you as a Christian. The Lord allows these things to happen to help you learn how to persevere. After all, a diamond is just a common looking stone in the rough. It needs polish, and fire, and grinding to make it beautiful and clear. We go through these trials because after we have come through, we become more and more like Him. But the best thing about it, is we have the Lord and He will never leave or forsake us. Praying for you this morning sister.

    • Sarah York

      I feel the same very, very often lately. I have been trying to submerge myself in His Word. Trying to memorize scripture. Keep reminding yourself of God’s love, listen to some Christian music, and just talk to Him! Pour out your heart to Him. This is all stuff I am constantly reminding myself to do too. My prayer lately has been “please, Lord, continue your good work in me because right now, I am miserable. Keep changing me from the inside out. I can’t keep a positive attitude without you working within me.” I also try to remember to remind myself that even when I feel far from God that He is there and remembers me. He remembers you too!

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