His Eye Is On The Sparrow

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Luke 12:4-7, Matthew 6:25-34, Psalm 91:1-16, John 14:1-4

Text: Luke 12:4-7, Matthew 6:25-34; Psalm 91:1-16, John 14:1-4

We have a photo of my family from a few years ago, on the day my dad came home from a long hospital stay. He sits wearily but happily in his recliner, wearing a plaid flannel shirt and an oxygen tube, and the group of us is gathered, standing, around him. It’s one of my favorites.

We’re all smiling in that picture—each and every one of us. It was a happy day for our family, though “happy” is not exactly the word I’d use to describe that time in our lives. It was a hard season—harder than I care to remember most of the time. We were terrified, facing death together for the first time in such an intimate way. Making it from one day to the next was an overwhelming chore. Even so, the season was somehow undergirded with a steady, pulsing joy. The word “supernatural” doesn’t often escape my lips, but that’s only the way I know to describe the peace that covered us. It was peace that passes understanding.

I love Civilla Martin’s hymn, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” because it so beautifully embodies this mysterious juxtaposition of circumstance and joy. The words of the refrain are so enthusiastic and certain! “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free! His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” But the melody is somber, almost haunting.

The lyrics speak truth—our lives are in God’s careful, constant care.
The melody sings reality—life can be oh so hard.

This collision of condition and joy is what inspired Mrs. Martin to write the hymn in the first place. She and her husband were traveling in New York in the early 1900’s, when they befriended a couple named the Doolittles. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nearly 20 years, and her husband was wheelchair bound. Still, their disposition was bright and hopeful, enough that the Martins asked them the simple question: Why are you so happy? Mrs. Doolittle’s reply became the heart of the soon-to-be refrain: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”*

I just paused my writing to look up the word “happy” in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines it as “feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.”

I don’t know about you, but belting out “I siiiiing becaaaaause I feel pleasure about my situation!” just doesn’t ring true. If I look at my tangible circumstances—my struggles, my uncertainties, all the ways I feel I’m failing at all the things—happiness hardly seems to fit. But if I look to Jesus—to the promises of His Word and the glory of His cross—a holy joy begins to hum underneath the sound of earthly sorrow.

When I turn my ear away from temporary troubles—real and painful though they are—and turn toward the Savior, I can hear the sure and steady song of redemption.

It’s the song my family heard that day as we gathered around my dad, laughing at our lack of camera-timer savvy. It’s the song the Doolittles sang as they chose joy in a life most of us would pity. It’s the song that has played from the beginning of the Gospel Story, when God made a covenant with His children to carry them close and bring them Home.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
– Psalm 91:14-16, NIV

*source: cyberhymnal.org


by Civilla D. Martin, 1905

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.


Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.



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231 thoughts on "His Eye Is On The Sparrow"

  1. Molly Grace says:

    Looking up the song now

  2. Erica Stewart says:

    I struggle so much with anxiety. These verses are nice tools to hold onto in those tough moments.

  3. Lizzy Butterfield says:

    God has been meeting me exactly where I’m at lately, I was just talking with my mom and saying that I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing with my life but I want to do it well. This was a great comfort to be reminded of

  4. Mara Babb says:

    Never heard this hymn before. And I’m so thankful to hear it now. ❤️