COLUMN: Hymns written during troubled times

Published 7:30 am Sunday, October 29, 2023

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The year was 1943. Ruth Caye Jones, a mother of five and pastor’s wife, was reading 2 Timothy 3:1, which reads, “In the last days perilous times shall come.”

Reading the newspapers, it seemed perilous times had already come. The newspaper printed the list of World War II casualties and reported on the slow progress of Allied troops moving up the boot of Italy.

Times were hard. People were discouraged. Food such as sugar and other products like gasoline were rationed. (I recall hearing stories of how church members would give my grandfather, who was a minister, some of their gas ration coupons so he would be able to visit the sick and shut-in.)

The story is told that after reading 2 Timothy 3:1, Ruth took a notepad from her apron and started writing some words. Though she had no formal music training, she wrote the lyrics and the music to a hymn we still sing today.

Verse one says, “In times like these you need a Savior, In times like these you need an anchor; Be very sure, be very sure, your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!” Verse 2 continues, “In times like these you need the Bible, In times like these O be not idle; Be very sure, be very sure Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!”

The third verse expressed her personal faith, “In times like these I have a Savior, In times like these I have an anchor; I’m very sure, I’m very sure My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!” Her chorus reminds us, “This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One; This Rock is Jesus, the only One! Be very sure, be very sure, Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!”

Another song gives similar assurance. A couple, known for their prolific and popular songwriting, penned the words and music during troubling times. They were expecting their third child. The husband was recovering from a serious illness. The world was in turmoil around them – the Vietnam War, racial tension with violence in the streets, and increasing drug abuse. They worried about the kind of world their children would face growing up.

Gloria Gaither recalls being filled with fear that New Year’s Eve. But, then she felt a calming peace within. After her son was born, she and her husband, Bill, wrote, “God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus; He came to love, heal and forgive; He lived and died to buy my pardon.  An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!”

Verse two expressed their hope for their newborn son, “How sweet to hold a newborn baby, And feel the pride and joy he gives, But greater still the calm assurance: This child can face uncertain day because He lives.”

The chorus declares their trust in God, “Because He lives I can face tomorrow, Because He lives all fear is gone, Because I know He holds the future And life is worth the living just because He lives.”

We are living in perilous times in our world. We don’t know what the future holds. But we can take comfort in the words of another hymn writer, “I don’t know about tomorrow, but I know Who holds my hand.”

— Jan White has compiled a collection of her columns in her book, “Everyday Faith for Daily Life.”