Updated: May 3, 2020
Text: Thomas Chisholm (1866-1960) Tune: William Runyan (1870-1957)
1. Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
R/Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
2. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
3. Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
The strains of this classic Gospel song floated up to my third floor apartment from
downstairs. My five year old great nephew appeared and invited me to church. I
went downstairs to see the family sitting in a circle, a square of early spring sunlight
shining on them as they sang. Even the twenty month old sat with a hymnal smiling
as the song poured forth and the small congregation joined their parents in this
The music brought me back some sixty years. I could hear my mother, pious,
beautiful and extremely funny, singing it to the annual convention of the Women’s
Missionary Federation of our small church. The sanctuary was packed: there she
stood, in her new blue dress, pink pop beads, singing her heart out, her sweet voice
filling the space. It was an honor for her to be there. We suggested she sing an old
chestnut, like the Holy City, or something, to show off her talents, but she refused.
Great is thy faithfulness is pure Gospel and the people love it. And they did. She gave
me something, a holy memory, a liminal time when we stand at the threshold of
another world and revel in it.
When we sing hymns together, our bodies respond to the music and rhythm and we
become tuned to each other and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The sounds that come
from outside us into our flesh changes our bodies and spirits.
The more familiar and beautiful the song, the more it takes us out of ourselves into a
new reality. Somehow as we sing a hymn, every time we have sung it before comes
back to us subliminally and fills us with memories. Hearing this song brought me
back to Sunday evening services in the small congregations on the North Dakota
prairie where I grew up, hearing the pump organ as the wind beat against the
building, to Bible camps, youth conventions, Wednesday night Bible studies. Seeing
the twenty month old smiling up at me and lifting the hymnal in her lap brought all
that back in a wave of joy.
Our songs are either about memory or hope. The songs of memory are sweeter, and
oddly they give us hope. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 42, I remember all the good
you did back then and am asking you to do so again.
Thomas Chisholm, the writer, used Lamentations 3:23 as his source. God is faithful, his mercies are new every morning. And will always be. My little grand niece is
connected to all who sang these words then and now. They are saving words. There
on the first Sunday of quarantine and questioning, we sang, “All we have needed, his
hand has provided, Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto Thee.” We believe he will
continue to provide. Thanks be to God!
There are thousands of renditions of this hymn on Youtube. It has gone around the
world into almost every language on earth. I was moved to share these two with
you. Seeing the English singing it in the cathedral was thrilling, as was hearing
Veritas. Remember, his compassions fail not!