“These Inward Trials”

February 12, 2011

I’ve never heard this hymn sung, but I love the words and how real and honest they are. It is as if John Newton saw my heart cry at so many times and was able to put those cries into these eloquent words. I  especially love the last two verses:

I Asked the Lord

I asked the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.

I hoped that in some favoured hour
At once He’d answer my request,
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

“Lord, why is this?” I trembling cried,
“Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st seek thy all in me.”

I think that if songs like these were sung more in our churches, we would have Christians that are free to be real and wrestle with life. I think we might see less Christians having to look like they “have it all together” in life. The songs we sing reflect the cries of our heart – and I often have a hard time connecting with many modern worship songs because they don’t seem real, they seem too polished. I think we need some raw hymns like this to be sung. 
How often in song do we wrestle with the feeling that God’s not answering our prayers? Not often. But how often do we really wrestle with feeling like God hasn’t, or isn’t answering our prayers? I would submit: a lot more that you’d think. Why isn’t there more of a correlation with what’s in our hearts and minds and what’s on our tongues? 
Maybe my Christian experience is different from other’s – but my cry isn’t always “Into marvelous light I’m running” but rather “Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?” When will we sing songs that allow Christians to be real, instead of slowly pushing them to put forth a mask that’s fake most of the time? I think that’s why I love the Psalms so much – because they’re real and very raw.  Not many would deny that the Psalms are inspired and were used for worship, but I’d challenge you to find any church in America that sings songs with lyrics similar to Psalm 88 – or maybe 73, or 13, or any other number of songs. Anyone know of any?
Getting back to the hymn, I love the ending (because it is so much like the Psalms) – it ends with the realization that God “is good and does good” and that all of these things are to direct our attention to Him and Him alone. May I, with Newton, learn to seek “my all” in God alone instead of in “earthly joys” (which I am so apt to run after). If that means God “employing…inward trials” for my good, then may I rejoice that He is “blasting my gourds” and setting me free from “self and pride.” May His name be praised!

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