The RMS Titanic set out on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 10th April 1912. Five nights later she lay at the bottom of the Atlantic after colliding with and being torn open by an iceberg.
It’s told that the ship’s musicians played popular tunes to try and keep people calm as they filled the lifeboats but later, as their dire situation became more obvious, people requested hymns, the most famous being ‘Nearer my God to Thee’.
Music is a powerful thing, giving expression to a wide range of emotions. On occasions it can comfort the soul, especially if the words convey words that are true and reassuring. Written by Sarah Flower Adams in 1841, the hymn associated with the Titanic tragedy has brought comfort to countless believers worldwide.
‘Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee,
Even though it be a cross that raiseth me…’
Whatever our circumstances, whether full of joyful delight or fearful anxiety, only let them bring us nearer to a merciful God and we shall be satisfied!
Adams based the hymn on the account of Jacob in Genesis 28 where he has been found deceitful and had to flee for his life from his family home.
‘Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone…’
Alone and vulnerable he lies to sleep in the open country and is given a dream of a stairway connecting earth to heaven with a constant traffic of angels ministering God’s gracious will. In his vision Jacob hears God promising to be with him despite his moral failures and the challenges of the journey before him.
This is grace! The Almighty coming close to us in the darkest of hours, His presence the help we most need. He doesn’t condone wrongdoing but His heart is full of concern for the people He created. Jacob rises next morning encouraged to know his forefathers’ God was nearer than he had thought!
People in the 21st century are perhaps less resilient than former generations in the face of difficulty. Modern medicine anaesthetises much of our pain. We imagine health and prosperity to be human rights we somehow deserve. Possibly more than ever we find it difficult to accept hardship.
But what if we made our priority in life simply to live closely with God? Then even hard times could be steps closer to His blessing!
‘There let the way appear steps unto heaven
All that Thou sendest me in mercy given…’
King David famously sang that even in the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ he was not overcome by fear for his divine ‘Shepherd’ comforted him.
The Apostle Paul tells his fellow Christians in Philippi he doesn’t mind his circumstances, being ‘in plenty or in want’, even whether he lives or dies. Knowing his Master, serving and identifying with Jesus, finishing the work God had given him to do, these were what mattered. Staying close to the Lord he found confidence and courage to face all kinds of challenge.
The God Who watched over Jacob and David and Paul still cares and provides for all who trust in Him today. In bright days but equally in dark nights we can draw near to Him.
His presence is the key.