By Louisa Stead (1850-1917)
Today’s hymn comes from a woman who is buried in my father’s homeland in Southern Africa about 170 Kilometers from Mutare in former Southern Rhodesia – Zimbabwe today. She knew what tragedy was, but the greatest of all about her is that through is all, she learnt to trust in Jesus. Out of a deep human tragedy early in her life, Louisa Stead learned simply to trust in her LORD. She was used to “the praise of His glory” for the remainder of her life. Still today, her ministry continues each time we sing and apply the truth of these words- I’m so glad I learned to trust thee… just to take him at his Word; just to rest upon his promise, and to know, “Thus saith the Lord.
It has been said that a believer must learn to exercise such a strong trust in God’s providence during the good days of life that, when the despairing times with their accompanying doubts come, which surely they do to all, trusting Jesus continues to be the normal pattern of living. Or, “You will not doubt in the dark, if you have truly learned to trust in the light.”
I find the words in this hymn to be so profound. The word Trust is one of those marvellous words that can be used in many different ways. As a noun, it refers to the confidence that we have in someone or something. It can also be an account that is entitled to special treatment and special protection. As a verb, it is the act of placing confidence in someone else. Whether it is a thing or an action, though, we often speak of “levels” or “degrees” of trust. Between the best of friends there is great trust. How much do we trust others? How much do they trust us?
Our featured hymn today was written by Louisa Stead. Louisa M.R. Stead (1850-1917) felt the call to the mission field at an early age. That dream was hindered due to her frail health. At age 25 she married and a year later gave birth to a beautiful baby girl; Lily. Several years after Lily’s birth, Stead’s young husband suddenly died while trying to save a drowning child.
The circumstances that led to the writing of the song: The story is told that she and her husband were watching their young daughter by the beach. Someone cried out for help. There was a boy in the water. Mr. Stead went to the rescue, but the frightened boy pulled him under the water in a panic. Mrs. Stead and her daughter could only watch from the beach as the boy and her husband drowned.
Stead was a poor woman and she was hardly able to provide for her daughter. One day when it seemed that all of their resources were gone, she found a gift of food and money left on her doorstep. In response to her grief on that day she sat down and wrote the words to Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.
Years later, Stead would remarry. She would also realize her dream to be a missionary. Her daughter Lily would continue that dream by also entering the mission field. Stead’s life was a testimony to the faithfulness of God.
|1. ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
and to take him at his word;
just to rest upon his promise,
and to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”
|2. O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
just to trust his cleansing blood;
and in simple faith to plunge me
neath the healing, cleansing flood!
|3. Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
just from sin and self to cease;
just from Jesus simply taking
life and rest, and joy and peace.
|4. I’m so glad I learned to trust thee,
precious Jesus, Savior, friend;
and I know that thou art with me,
wilt be with me to the end.
A short time later, Mrs. Snead and her daughter Lily left for south Africa, where Louisa worked diligently as a missionary in the Cape Colony for the next 15 years. Here she married Robert Wodehouse, a man from South Africa. In 1895, Louisa’s failing health made it necessary for the family to return to America for her recuperation, during which time Mr Wodehouse pastored a local Methodist church. By 1900, Louisa’s health had improved sufficiently for the family to return once more to a Methodist missionary station at Umtali, in Southern Rhodesia now Zimbabwe. Something of her same life-long trust in God can be learned from a communique Louisa sent back shortly after their arrival:
In connection with this whole mission there are glorious possibilities but one cannot, in the face of the peculiar difficulties, help say, “Who is sufficient for these things?” But with simple confidence and trust we may and do say, “Our sufficiency is of God.”
After ten years of further service, ill health again forced Louisa to retire. Her daughter, Lily, who had become Mrs. D.A. Carson, continued to serve for many additional years in this mission field of Southern Rhodesia. After several years of prolonged illness, Louisa Stead Wodehuse died on January 18, 1917, at her home in Penkridge, near Mutambara Mission, about 70 kilometers from Umtali. After her death, a fellow missionary wrote concerning the continued use of “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”:
We miss her very much, but her influence goes on as our five thousand native (as local Zimbabweans were often called) Christians continually sing this hymn in their native tongue – Shona and Ndebele.
Stead trusted Jesus completely. She had nothing of her own to trust in. Yet the Lord provided for her day after day, year after year. She relates her experience in such a wonderful series of stanzas. Trusting what Jesus says; trusting what Jesus did; trusting what Jesus shares; and rejoicing simply in having Jesus as a friend. Even the closing line is compelling. Although her trust was so complete, Stead asked for grace to trust even more!
May we trust Jesus as Louisa Stead did. May we yearn for grace to trust even more. And, as the unknown person who provided food and money for Stead, may we be the instruments that put trust into action
Enjoy listening to this great hymn performed by Casting Crowns(with lyrics).