Matthew 6:26; Matthew 10:29-31
Text: Civilla Durfee Martin (1866-1948) Tune: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (1856-1932)
1. Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home, When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He: //His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;// R/ I sing because I’m happy,
o I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow,
o And I know He watches me.
2. “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;// R/
3. 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;//
This hymn was written by the woman who wrote “God Will Take Care of You." Her last stanza gets at a truth that keeps striking me as the days go on. The worse things get, the closer we grow to the Lord. “When hope within me dies, I draw the closer to him."
Suddenly something comes along and we realize we need something stronger than our own powers. Walking into the ICU where a loved one is fighting for their life, we hear ourselves praying and crying out for help we cannot have imagined doing even minutes before.
Prayer rises up out of our very beings when we know we need help. Romans 8:26 is a comfort at that point—the Spirit also helps when we don’t have words. It interprets our deepest sighs for us. I keep learning this; life is a constant review.
My mother and I were sitting in the ER waiting for someone to come and set her broken wrist. She had broken it falling down the stairs on the way to a piano recital of two of her grandsons. She had pushed me away when I asked if she needed help with the stairs, and then she had tripped and fallen, bumping head first all the way down the concrete stairs for what seemed eternities. I thought she would be dead, given her frailty and osteoporosis. Her bones were chalk. But she sat up, felt her arm, and said, "It is only my wrist. I can stay to hear them and then go to the ER.”
I ran to get ice from a nearby restaurant in the mall where we were. Almost 80, she sat there, listening, in her red dress, looking regal, holding the ice over her wrist. They moved up the schedule of performances so she could hear the boys and then we left. They call it grit.
We got to the hospital about 8:00 that evening, a Friday. They looked at her and realized she needed a specialist. So we waited. As we were sitting in the little curtained off space, she smiled and said, “Well, since there is nothing to do, I might as well say my prayers.” At this time in her life, she was becoming increasingly hard of hearing. So I nodded. She began rather loudly, a condition of her deafness. Her rather extensive prayer list, she knew by heart.
She began. The list of concerns ranged from help for someone who was dying, another facing cancer surgery, a friend dealing with the alcoholism of her son, to someone needing help with their depression, that I would get my work done, etc. She was bringing every possible care--from serious to trivial--to the throne of our Lord. She trusted that his eye was on the sparrow and was watching over all of us.
Suddenly from behind the curtain on the other side, a person waiting, and without doubt listening, began to weep. From the depth of her gut, she wailed out a cry of dereliction. All human agony filled the room. Mother could not hear it. I could not explain it to Mother without shouting. I did not want to invade the space of the person, nor call out to her. I stood there and let Mother continue her prayers as the cry next to us died away.
I have regretted my failure to act ever since, but prayed that in that cry of desolation the Holy Spirit was giving voice to the inchoate groaning of that person’s deepest “doubts and fears.”
We had prayed for Mother as we sat in the little space, believing she was being watched over by Jesus, her constant friend, who was with us. The person in the next cubicle taught me once again that when clouds arise that we are drawn closer to our Lord. He was with us both. We could bring the most trivial things to him and our wildest groans, more than words could speak. Let not your hearts be troubled. Rest on his goodness. Lose your doubts and fears. He's watching over you.
Civilla Martin and her husband were visiting a married couple, the wife had been bed ridden for twenty years, and the husband confined to a wheel chair. When she asked him how they were doing he remarked, “His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.” From that exchange came this hymn.
Charles H. Gabriel who set it to music was among the more prolific writers of Gospel songs—they think over 7,000--and this is among his most beloved. He grew up on a farm in Iowa where his father was a singing school leader. He learned music from him, but was never trained. He served as organist in several churches, one in San Francisco and Chicago where he became the musician with the Homer Rodeheaver Publishing company. He edited over 35 Gospel Song books, plus many other collections. His most famous song after this one is “Brighten the Corner Where You Are.”
The song became Ethel Waters’ signature tune. She had come to hear Billy Graham in Manhattan in 1957 and rededicated her life to Christ. Cliff Barrows heard she was there and asked her to sing for them over the next years. She became a regular at the Billy Graham revivals.
Lynda Randle, David Phelps, Reggie Smith
Whitney Houston (her last recording}
Mississippi Children’s Choir