Words by: Rev. W.A. Fletcher ; Music by: Barney E. Warren (1867-1951)
Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.
Sometimes I wonder why I must suffer,
Go in the rain, the cold, and the snow,
When there are many living in comfort,
Giving no heed to all I can do.
Tempted and tried, how often we question
Why we must suffer year after year,
Being accused by those of our loved ones,
E’en though we’ve walked in God’s holy fear.
Often when death has taken our loved ones,
Leaving our home so lone and so drear,
Then do we wonder why others prosper,
Living so wicked year after year.
“Faithful till death,” saith our loving Master;
Short is our time to labor and wait;
Then will our toiling seem to be nothing,
When we shall pass the heavenly gate.
Soon we will see our dear, loving Savior,
Hear the last trumpet sound through the sky;
Then we will meet those gone on before us,
Then we shall know and understand why.
“…There shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying…” (Rev. 21:4)
A song which looks forward to that time and place where there will be no more death, sorrow, and crying is “Farther Along” . The authorship of this song has had many controversies. Many sources attribute both the text and the tune to W. B. Stevens (1862-1940). I have been able to find very little information about this author and composer except that he must have been a minister of some kind because many older books list him as “Rev. W. B. Stevens.” It seems that the text, apparently attributed to Stevens, first appeared in the 1911. In my research however, I have found out that the lyrics to the song were written in 1911 by Rev. W. A. Fletcher, an itinerant preacher, while he was travelling to the Indian Territories by train. The music may well be correctly attributed to Stevens. Fletcher was feeling depressed because his wife was expecting their first-born child in a few weeks and he wouldn’t be present for the occasion. He felt that his priorities were with his ministry in the Indian Territories and wrote the lyrics to reflect his frame of mind at the time. Sitting next to him on the train was J. R. Baxter, a gospel music promoter who was quite taken with the lyrics that Fletcher was writing and offered him $2.00 for them. Mr. Baxter subsequently had them put to music and the song has been quite popular in the gospel music arena ever since.
The song deals with a Christian’s dismay at the apparent prosperity of the wicked, when contrasted with the suffering of the righteous. The repeated theme is that, in Heaven, the truth will be revealed. Through the years, I have heard brethren’s objections to this song as being at best improper because of the questions that it raises and, even worse, possibly unscriptural.
The song mentions several things about which we shall know more after this life is over. Stanza 1 talks about being tempted and tried. Certainly, God’s people are tempted: Jas. 1:13-15. In this and in many other ways we are tried or tested by various trials: 1 Pet. 1:6-7. As we suffer such things, like the Psalmist we are made to wonder why there are others living about us in the wrong who never seem to be molested: Ps. 73:1-9
Stanza 2 talks about the coming of death to take our loved ones. Death comes and takes our loved ones because it is appointed for people to die: Heb. 9:27. It leave our homes so lonely and drear as we mourn their loss as Abraham did that of Sarah: Gen. 23:1-2. When we experience such things, like Job we are made to wonder why the wicked prosper: Job. 21:5-14
Stanza 3 talks about the Lord’s command to be faithful till death while we labour and wait. Regardless of our trials and sufferings, Jesus commands us to be faithful till death: Rev. 2:10. During whatever time we have left on earth we must continue to labor and wait: Ps. 90:10, 1 Thess. 1:9-10. However, someday we shall experience as fact the promise in scripture that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed when we sweep through that beautiful gage: Rom. 8:18, Rev. 21:12
Stanza 4 talks about the time when we shall see Jesus coming in glory. We look forward to the time that we see Jesus coming in glory: Acts 1:11. At that time we shall meet Him in that bright mansion that He has gone to prepare: Jn. 14:1-3. Then we shall understand all that is now unclear because the dead will be raised, the living changed, and the righteous taken up in the air to meet the Lord and ever be with Him: 1 Cor. 15:51-52, 1 Thess. 4:16-17
The chorus reminds us that while we do not know everything now, we shall understand why better later on.
“Farther along we’ll know all about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine.
We’ll understand it all by and by.”
Gary D. Jones writing for The Gospel Guardian about this hymn says it well. “”Farther Along’ is one of those songs in which words and music blend almost perfectly to present a wonderful message of faith. So often Christians have wondered why they must suffer all sorts of hardships—mental, physical, and financial—when many non-Christians, if not ‘in the lap of luxury,’ are at least very ‘well fixed.’ And often the morality quotient of such people is quite low, even by man’s standards. Upon the death of relatives, we likewise wonder “why this had to happen.” How could a God of love let a thing like this happen? Whether it be a ten-year-old child who died tragically or an adult who had an untimely demise, we ask this.
We should derive some comfort from the chorus that what we now know only in part we shall certainly understand ‘Farther Along.’ Then we will not have to ask why, or to speculate. In the meantime, we are reminded, we must be faithful all our lives to our loving Master. If we will do this, we will live with Him forever. And the troubles of this life will ‘seem as nothing’ in comparison to our reward. While we are yet in this turbulent, often-treacherous and contradictory world, there are numerous occurrences which we do not fully understand. At times we may feel that everything is against us, that nothing is ‘going right.’ At just such times we most need to consider the eternal truth of ‘Farther Along,’ that it is all important to have faith in Jesus and trust Him to reveal the unknown things in His own good time. Thus shall we please Him.” Yes, we may not always understand why things happen the way they do on earth, but we can eagerly anticipate being at home with Christ “Farther Along.”