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Remembering what God has done

Jul 2015    

Count Your Blessings
(Baptist Hymnal 1991, #644)

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain: 

Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done; Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

 

Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, ev’ry doubt will fly, And you will be singing as the days go by.

[Refrain]

 

When you look at others with their lands and gold, Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; Count your many blessings, money cannot buy Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

[Refrain]

 

So, amid the conflict, whether great or small, Do not be discouraged, God is over all; Count your many blessings, angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end. [Refrain]

1 Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), 185.
2 Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality Through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2004), 169.
3 Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories: The Inspiring True Stories Behind 101 Favorite Hymns (Carol Stream, Ill.: Oasis Audio, 2010), 55.

Picture by Maridav/Bigstock.com


The period after the Lent-Easter cycle or more specifically after Pentecost Sunday, is designated as “Ordinary Time” in the liturgical calendar. Spanning some 33 or 34 weeks, Ordinary Time begins with Pentecost Sunday and continues until the beginning of Advent.

 

For the first half of the year, the Church remembers and celebrates the salvific work of God through the great historic events from Advent to Pentecost. For the rest of the year, however, the saving, rescuing activities of God and his continuing presence among his people is no less dramatic or evident as it was in the Advent-Christmas or the Lent-Easter cycles.

 

When the Christmas carols have died down together with the dismantling of the Christmas decorations, and when the Easter eggs have all been distributed, worship on the Lord’s Day carries on unfettered by the passing of the feast days. “Each Sunday is a feast, a little Easter, in its own right,” said Sister Joan Chittister of the Order of Saint Benedict1. In Sunday worship, the church still remembers God’s saving action in history; it experiences God’s presence, and anticipates the consummation of God’s works in the new heavens and new earth2.

 

And what better way to remember what God has done than singing the hymn ‘Count Your Blessings’. The hymn text was written by a mercantile businessman-cum-Methodist-lay-preacher named Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922), who was acquainted with the hymns of the church at a very young age by his father. Oatman went on to write over 5,000 hymn texts3.

 

In the first two stanzas, Oatman seems to suggest that counting our blessings is the cure for life’s discouragements. Remembering the blessings that God has showered upon our lives seems to put our worldly troubles and cares in the proper perspective with the view of the eternal reward that awaits us (stanza 3). But the biggest blessing of all is the assurance that we will have God’s help and comfort till the end of our earthly lives (stanza 4).

 

These simple and yet profound truths expressed in this hymn will indeed spare us much despair and inner tension in our daily living.

Dr Yeo Teck Beng is Principal of the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.

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