William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”) was an eighteenth-century British poet hymn writer. The beauty of his words sometimes hides the crushing depression that he lived with most of his life. He had a deep faith in God – but, at the same time, he could never find relief from the melancholy that plagued him.
One of his great hymns celebrates God’s mysterious ways. The hymn does not pretend to understand those ways, but it acknowledges the fact that God is God – and that we are not!
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
You fearful sinners, fresh courage take:
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
In Cowper’s original version of the hymn, there was another verse that has not made it into our modern hymnals:
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.