Georg Neumark, (pronounced Gay-og Noymawk) knew what it means to suffer. Born in Germany in 1621, he lived much of his life during the 30 Years’ War (1618-1648), a war with one of the worst famines, plagues and greatest medical catastrophes in modern European history. Hymnologist Albert Edward Bailey speculates that Neumark’s homeland was at the center of this war’s devastation and “was reduced to a state of misery that baffles description. Population dwindled from about sixteen million to six, commerce and industry were destroyed, fields were wasted, all intellectual and moral life stagnated.” (Bailey, The Gospel in Hymns, 1950)
In spite of the horrible circumstances in Georg’s country, he sought to make a life for himself and study law. On the road to Königsberg to begin studying at the university, a band of robbers overtook him and robbed him of everything he owned, save a prayer book and a small bit of money he had sewn into his clothing. His hopes were dashed and having no means to provide for his education, he began to look for a job. After two years of searching and enduring brokenness and poverty, he finally was taken on as a tutor. It was this happy providence that caused Georg to sit down and write and compose the hymn, “Wer nur den lieben Gott,” or as we know it, “ If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee.” It wasn’t long before history repeated itself however, and poor Georg again lost all of his possessions, this time in a fire. Despite all the difficulties Georg endured, he wrote thirty-four hymns in which he expressed his complete trust in God. He died in 1681.
It may be a bit difficult to grasp the riches of this hymn because of its archaic language, but it is worth the effort to understand the message and to memorize the masterfully translated words. It is full of weapons of truth that we can use against the lies and doubts that attack us in times of trouble. We can endure hard things because we have a powerful, sovereign, and loving God who knows the end from the beginning. He will never leave us. He will ever be present as our Guide and Stay no matter what troubles we face.
Many of us have yet to truly feel the way Georg felt—helpless, scared, and worried about how we will make it through such dark times. We’ve had a little taste of what he went through the past few months during the Covid-19 pandemic—some of us have been more effected by this illness than others. What a perfect time to meditate on these truths, to store them in our hearts as protection and encouragement and to remember that if we will only trust God to guide us, He will bear us through.
You may or may not be familiar with this hymn. Either way, we invite you to spend this month meditating on its truths. To get you started, we’ve provided free printable lyrics, music and copywork — all found here! Also, you can find fresh versions of the hymn on our YouTube channel that you and your family can sing along with.
If you are new to this community, welcome! It is a great time to join in and make family worship a priority if you haven’t already. You are encouraged to gather up your families, for just a few minutes each day, to sing, discuss and memorize this hymn (hopefully in addition to reading the Scriptures and prayer) whether it is first thing in the morning, or around the dinner table or before bedtime – whatever works best for your family. You can let us know how it’s going by posting either a video or a photo on Instagram. Just tag it with #hymnofthemonth ! As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! God bless you all this month as you worship together as a family!
PS. If you need help with understanding the meaning of some of the language of this beautifully translated hymn, that is included in the printables! I’ll put it right down here as well just in case it’s helpful.
If you will only trust God to guide you and hope in Him in every circumstance
He’ll give you strength no matter what happens and He’ll carry you through difficult times
The person who trusts in God’s unchanging love builds on the one Rock (foundation) that no one can move
What good can your anxiety and worry do and all the constant moaning and sighing?
What help is it if you simply regret your situation or bemoan every hard thing that comes along?
Our trials and hard providences only get heavier if we are just bitter about them.
Be patient and await His timing in cheerful hope. With a content heart
- take whatever your Father pleases to do
- take whatever His wise love has sent you
- don’t doubt that our deepest needs are known to the God who has chosen us to be His sons and daughters
God knows the time for joy, and He will provide that according to His sovereign will
When He has tested you with trials and you are purified
He will surprise you and take care of you in love and full attention
Don’t think that in difficult times that God has forsaken you
Don’t think that just because evil prospers, that God is sleeping or inattentive
God will give help for the losses and harm suffered in his own time; God ordains these things with His love and power.
Indeed everyone is alike before the Most High God
We all know it is easy for Him to raise you up if you poor/low/needy and to humble those who are high/rich/powerful
God still works amazing things when he builds things up and tears things down
Sing, pray and keep God’s ways without turning aside; do your work faithfully
Trust God’s word, and though you are undeserving—You will find God’s word (and promise) true for you
God has never ever forsaken in time of need anyone who truly trusts Him.
*Some of this explanation is taken from Ligon Duncan’s excellent blog. Visit his post for more insight into the powerful song.