HYMN 5 Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

1 Peter 5:7

Text: Anonymous Tune: Negro Spiritual

1. Nobody knows the trouble I've been through

Nobody knows but Jesus.

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen

Glory hallelujah!

2. Sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down

Oh, yes, Lord

Sometimes I'm almost to the ground

Oh, yes, Lord

3. Although you see me going 'long so

Oh, yes, Lord

I have my trials here below

Oh, yes, Lord

4. I never will forget that day

Oh, yes, Lord,

When Jesus took my sins away,

Glory, hallelujah!

Negro Spiritual 1867


Jesus being anointed with oil by the woman of the city

Some years ago, a pastor friend of mine, noticed that every day about noon, a middle-aged woman entered the beautiful Baroque church sanctuary and sat there weeping. This went on for some time. One day, my friend went to her and asked if she could help. The woman looked up and pointed to the beautiful paintings of Jesus suffering. She noted, “I live a very successful and stressful life, and am expected to be cheerful all the time. Here is the only place I know where suffering is known and allowed.”

She named a truth we often forget about our faith. It knows suffering. Jesus went to

the depths of hell for us and knows our sorrows.

Even in these times, our troubles can still be unuttered; even those closest to us,

may not know what is nagging away at us. The spirituals express sorrows few of us

can imagine, but they give us words to express our own sorrows. This spiritual

speaks the truth and preaches the good news to us: Jesus knows all our troubles,

better than we do ourselves. Scripture (I Peter 5:6-11) says that we should cast all

our cares upon him, because he cares for us. “Remain firm in your faith, knowing that

the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood through the

world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called

you to his eternal glory in Christ, will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

We know everyone is suffering, we live in hope for his glory.


This spiritual was published in the book of spirituals printed in 1867. In 1871, the Fisk

Jubilee Singers, from Fisk University, in Nashville, began touring the country singing

spirituals plus other popular songs, some by Stephen Foster, to raise money for the

school. They did so at great cost, braving the racism of the day, but also bringing

these great treasures to light. Their efforts in teaching the spirituals brought them to

notice and put them firmly in the American treasury of song.

Henry Thacker Burleigh

By the turn of the 19th century, with the encouragement of Antonin Dvorak, African American composers like Henry Thacker (Harry) Burleigh (1866-1949), began setting them into songs that became what we would call art songs. Marian Anderson began her recording career with this song, among others. It became standard in the repertoires of singing groups around the world.

Scandinavians treasured spirituals as well and became passionate appreciators of

jazz. After WWII, African American jazz musicians performed there; some even made their homes in Norway or Sweden. The Deep River Boys recorded the spiritual in Oslo during a stay in Norway and Sweden during the 1950s.


Deep River Boys

While many of you know the song from recordings by Louie Armstrong or Mahalia

Jackson, and you can find many of them on Youtube next to these links, I am sharing

a performance you may not know of, by Alice Babs, the Swedish soprano of the

twentieth century. Duke Ellington loved her voice and recorded with her on several

occasions for good reason.

Alice Babs

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