Indelible Grace Hymnbook

God Moves In A Mysterious Way

William Cowper
Jeremy Casella

1. God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps on the sea, And rides upon the storm.

2. Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, The clouds you so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break, With blessings on your head.

3. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace.
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

4. His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.

5. Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan His work in vain.

God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.

© 2009 Saint & Pilgrim Songs (ASCAP), admin by The Loving Company


One thing that a maturing Christian should understand is that God’s ways are not our ways, and thus we must always be humble in how we think about God’s work in our lives. Thinking we have got God “figured out” can be a real barrier to walking humbly with our God. This hymn is a great reminder of that important lesson, which is made even more poignant when we remember the life of William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper"), the author of this remarkable hymn.

Cowper was an 18th century poet and hymn writer who collaborated with his friend John Newton (author of many great hymns, including "Amazing Grace" and "Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder") to produce a hymnal called Olney Hymns. But Cowper had long struggled with serious mental illness, and as Newton and Cowper embarked on the project, Cowper was struck again with a serious depression from which he never recovered.

Newton writes in the preface to the Olney Hymns that he was so discouraged when Cowper was struck ill that he set aside the project and almost never completed it. There is a story (perhaps apocryphal) that "God Moves" was the last hymn that Cowper ever wrote, as he felt his insanity coming upon him again. Reading the hymn in this light brings great pathos to lines such as “Blind unbelief is sure to err
 / And scan His work in vain / God is His own interpreter / And He will make it plain.” The hymn is a call to trust the Lord, even in the dark (Isaiah 50:10). But I love that it was written by one who knew firsthand the difficulty of this. I have loved this text for many years, and even tried coming up with a tune for it myself. But when Jeremy Casella wrote this tune I fell in love with it instantly. I believe Jeremy captured the mood of the text so well with both his tune and this performance. My former RUF intern, Syneva Colle (who played cello at the Ryman with us on "I Need Thee Every Hour"), contributed a great string arrangement (the string parts can be downloaded for free from the IG hymnbook site) and Sandra McCracken added haunting background vocals to this track as well.