Many years ago, while standing at a bus stop in north London, I pulled the hymn book out of my suit coat pocket and read the words of “How Firm a Foundation.” I was serving in the first area of my mission at the time, and feeling overwhelmed by the burden of responsibility and care. My spirit was indeed willing to serve the Lord, but my flesh was weak, and I needed strength to endure. As I rode from Muswell Hill to Golder’s Green on the upper deck of a big red bus, I studied and memorized this hymn.
Remembering this experience today, I can still feel the swaying of the bus as it drove through those narrow streets, brushing aside the green branches of great trees, and weaving between traffic and parked cars on the narrow road. I can feel the humid stickiness of the vinyl seats and hear the engine of the bus down below. Most of all, I can still see the little hymnal in my hands, and feel in my heart the assurance from the Lord that he would be with me, and that he would carry me through whatever deep sorrows or fiery trials would come my way.
“Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”
His promises are sure, and he did in fact carry me through those two wonderful and challenging years in England. He has continued to carry me ever since that day:
“In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea.
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.”
These words are attributed to Robert Keen, music director 300 years ago at a Baptist church in central London, about 30 miles south of my bus ride. He drew upon the Bible for his lyrics, quoting and paraphrasing several passages: Isaiah 41:10, 43:2, and 46:3-4, Romans 8:35-39, and Hebrews 13:5. Read these verses, and you will find comfort, assurance, and courage.
Over the last few months the world has been thrust from the familiar routines of life into an uncertain state, much like the new missionary with culture shock and homesickness. (Except that today we have a different kind of home sickness — sick of being stuck at home.) The hymn that comforted me all those years ago is a message for all people and all times, because it is God’s everlasting promise of faithfulness to us.
I am confident that the Lord is with us today. The Church of Jesus Christ is led by a prophet of God, whose teachings and counsels have prepared us for this challenge and will surely show us the way through it. So hold on to your faith. We are all in this together, and the Lord is driving the bus.
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