25 Hymns to Sing in Troubled Times
The Preacher of Ecclesiastes tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. . . . A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance . . . a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing” (Ecc 3:1, 4, 5).
In a time of uncertainty, what should we sing?
As the globe responds to the pandemic of coronavirus and COVID-19, Christ invites his people, as always, to approach the throne of God with confidence to find help in our time of need (Heb 4:16). The hymns of the faith, both ancient and modern, offer us a vocabulary for expressing our fears, anxieties, and questions to the One who hears.
Many churches have decided to cancel their gatherings out of concern for those most vulnerable to the virus. These are exceptional times. There’s no substitute for meeting with God’s people in the local church and letting the Word dwell in us richly as we sing (Col 3:16). Yet, though many believers may be temporarily separated, this isn’t a time to stay silent. Now, as ever, the Christian sings.
So, through these hymns, lay your burdens at Christ’s feet. Praise the Lord of history who holds all things—disease, life, and death—in his hands. Ask for his help in a season of waiting. Lament and grieve the tragic effects of the fall. And herald the good news that through Christ’s death and resurrection, he has given us an unshakeable hope.
Here are 25 songs to sing in trying times. Though there’s a ton of relevant Christian music out there, I’ve limited myself to hymns suited for congregational singing, recognizing that many Christians won’t be able to sing with their churches this month. These songs may help soothe the wound of missing out on fellowship. For each song, I’ve selected an excerpt that especially seems to speak to our present situation. Click each title to read the full lyric, and listen to all 25 songs at this Spotify playlist.
Hymns on God’s Sovereignty, Providence, and Power
“To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small,
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish–but naught changeth Thee.”
(Walter C. Smith, 1867)
“And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.”
(Martin Luther, 1529, based on Psalm 46; Translated by Frederick H. Hedge, 1852)
“Who has given counsel to the Lord?
Who can question any of His words?
Who can teach the One Who knows all things?
Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds?”
(Jonathan Baird, Meghan Baird, Ryan Baird, and Stephen Altrogge, 2011)
“Under the shadow of your throne
Your saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is your arm alone,
And our defense is sure.”
(Isaac Watts, 1719, based on Psalm 90:1–5)
“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.”
(William Cowper, 1774)
“Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under his wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been
Granted in what he ordaineth?”
(Joachim Neander, 1680; Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1863)
Bonus: A Sov’reign Protector I Have
This song isn’t widely known or sung, and I don’t know of a recording of it, but the text is a moving expression of trust in God in the midst of peril.
“Inspirer and hearer of prayer,
Thou Shepherd and Guardian of Thine,
My all to Thy covenant care
I sleeping and waking resign.
If Thou art my Shield and my Sun,
The night is no darkness to me;
And fast as my moments roll on,
They bring me but nearer to Thee.”
(Augustus Toplady, 1774)
Hymns of Waiting, Lament, and Endurance
“I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless,
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.”
(Henry Francis Lyte, 1847)
“Out of the depths I cry to You,
In darkest places I will call;
Incline Your ear to me anew,
And hear my cry for mercy, Lord.”
(Stuart Townend, Keith Getty, Jordan Kauflin, and Matt Merker, 2018)
“Christ, the sure and steady anchor
Through the floods of unbelief;
Hopeless somehow, O my soul,
Now lift your eyes to Calvary.
This, my ballast of assurance;
See His love forever proved;
I will hold fast to the anchor;
It shall never be removed.”
(Matt Boswell and Matt Papa, 2014)
“Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.”
(Katharina von Schlegel, 1855; Translated by Jane Bothwick)
“Those He saves are His delight,
Christ will hold me fast;
Precious in His holy sight,
He will hold me fast.
He’ll not let my soul be lost;
His promises shall last;
Bought by Him at such a cost,
He will hold me fast.”
(Ada Habershon, 1861–1918)
12. When Trials Come
“I turn to Wisdom not my own
For every battle You have known;
My confidence will rest in You,
Your love endures, Your ways are good;
Your love endures, Your ways are good.”
(Keith and Kristyn Getty, 2005)
“Afflicted saint, to Christ draw near,
Your Savior’s gracious promise hear;
His faithful Word you can believe:
That as your days your strength shall be.”
(John Fawcett, 1740–1817)
Hymns of Trust and Commitment
14. All My Help Comes from the Lord
“When I am weak, he gives me strength.
When I am lonely, he comforts me.
When I am tired of the load that I am bearing,
He gives me courage, courage, courage to bear my share.”
(Cleophus Robinson, 1932–1998)
“What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.”
(Elisha Hoffman, 1887)
16. He Leadeth Me
“Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden’s flowers bloom,
By waters calm, o’er troubled sea,
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.”
(Joseph H. Gilmore, 1862)
“When I walk through the shades of death
Thy presence is my stay;
One word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.”
(Isaac Watts, 1719, based on Psalm 23)
“Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him!
How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust him more!”
(Louisa Stead, 1882)
“Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.”
(Samuel Rodigast, 1675, Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1827–1878)
Hymns on Hope, Everlasting life, and the New Creation
“No chilling winds or poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.”
(Samuel Stennett, 1787)
21. There Is a Hope
“There is a hope that lifts my weary head,
A consolation strong against despair,
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit,
I find the Savior there!
Through present sufferings, future’s fear,
He whispers ‘courage’ in my ear.
For I am safe in everlasting arms,
And they will lead me home.”
(Stuart Townend and Mark Edwards, 2007)
“All trouble done, all conflict past,
Where shall I be?
And old Apolyon bound at last,
Where shall I be?
When Christ shall reign from shore to shore,
Where shall I be?
And peace abide forevermore,
Where shall I be?”
(Charles Price Jones, 1865–1949)
“Mine are tears in times of sorrow
Darkness not yet understood
Through the valley I must travel
Where I see no earthly good
But mine is peace that flows from heaven
And the strength in times of need
I know my pain will not be wasted
Christ completes his work in me”
(Jonny Robinson and Rich Thompson, 2016)
“We will not be burned by the fire;
He is the LORD our God.
We are not consumed, by the flood;
Upheld, protected, gathered up,
We will feast in the house of Zion.
We will sing with our hearts restored.
‘He has done great things,’ we will say together;
We will feast and weep no more.”
(Sandra McCracken and Joshua Moore, 2015)
“The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of heaven breaks,
The summer morn I’ve sighed for,
The fair sweet morn awakes;
Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
But day-spring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.”
(Anne Ross Cousin, 1857, based on the letters of Samuel Rutherford)
“What truth can calm the troubled soul?
God is good, God is good.
Where is his grace and goodness known?
In our great Redeemer’s blood.
Who holds our faith when fears arise?
Who stands above the stormy trial?
Who sends the waves that bring us nigh
Unto the shore, the rock of Christ?”
(Keith Getty, Matt Boswell, Jordan Kauflin, Matt Merker, Matt Papa, 2020)