God stills' us, despite the raging sea
By By The Rev. James M. Harrison
President James A. Garfield had been in office only four months when he was shot in a train station in Washington, D.C., en route to a class reunion. For weeks as he hovered between life and death, the worried nation discovered an old hymn titled "Master, the Tempest is Raging." It was sung from coast to coast, over and over, and it gave comfort to America.
The hymn had been written by a woman at the end of her rope. Mary Ann Baker's family had been devastated by a certain disease. Her father and mother had died from it, she, herself, was bedridden, then her beloved brother fell ill. Hoping to find a cure, he left Chicago and traveled to a warmer climate. For weeks, the telegrams flew back and forth between brother and sister, until the last telegram came, telling her of his death.
But gradually, the Lord brought relief and understanding into Mary Ann's heart, and she acquiesced to his will. A great peace filled her soul, one she could hardly describe. Shortly afterward, in 1874, a friend, the Rev. H.R. Palmer, asked Mary Ann to write a song to go along with a Sunday school lesson from Mark 4:37-39, about Christ calming the sea.
Mary Ann hesitated at first, but she very much wanted an opportunity to express the inner peace that God had given her. She had learned that sometimes God stills the frightened disciple even more than he stills the raging elements. And, so out of her own experience and from her study of Mark 4 came the words which, a few years later, comforted a nation:
The sky is o'ershadowed with blackness, No shelter or help is nigh.
Carest thou not that we perish? How canst thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threat'ning, A grave in the angry deep?
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea, or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies, the master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all sweetly obey thy will: Peace, be still; peace, be still.*"
We, too, can find comfort, hope, consolation and peace believing that God "stills" us, despite the raging sea.
Peace, to you.
*Ernest K. Emurian, "Living Stores of Famous Hymns" (Grand Rapids, Mich., Baker Book House)
The Rev. James M. Harrison is pastor of Central United Methodist Church, 1004 23rd Ave. Sunday worship service begins at 10:55 a.m. and is broadcast on WMOX 1010 AM Radio.