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Ambrose, a fourth-century bishop of Milan, said a psalm is a blessing on the lips of the people, and added:

It is the voice of complete assent, the joy of freedom,
a cry of happiness, the echo of gladness.
It soothes the temper,
distracts from care,
lightens the burden of sorrow.
It is a source of security at night,
a lesson in wisdom by day.
It is a shield when we are afraid,
a celebration of holiness,
a vision of serenity,
a promise of peace and harmony.
It is like a lyre, evoking harmony from a blend of notes.
Day begins to the music of a psalm.
Day closes to the echo of a psalm.

— Ambrose of Milan, Explanations of 12 Psalms

Among other things, psalms (and hymns) soothe, distract, lighten, shield, instruct, and promise, to name a few things. What a list of applications! As a prescription to remedy the human condition, music is indispensable to our faith. This is no snake oil I’m peddling. According to Doctor Ambrose (he is, after all, recognized as a Doctor of the Church) take one psalm in the morning, and one before bed.

The best hymns and songs of the church are participatory — especially those that are made for group singing (alas, much of contemporary song is not designed as such). At its best, congregational music not only conveys our inmost prayers and speaks to our hearts, but has the mysterious capacity to link us to the voices of people through the ages.

Like the book of psalms, a good songbook for congregations includes music for the whole of the human experience – including seasons of trouble and concern, such as we are in this time of COVID-19. Unfortunately, our ability to sing with one another is on hold at the very time our confidence in the future is understandably shaken, if not stirred.

Even after we are able to resume singing together again, we’ll want for the blessed assurance.


Hymns for Faith in Troubled Times


Here are selected verses from a dozen hymns of faith, trust, and assurance for us to remember and sing from wherever we are. Links are provided to – a searchable resource with a wealth of information about the hymns.

Additionally, I created a playlist on Spotify called  Hymns for Faith in Troubled Times you can visit for wonderful settings of these hymns.

1. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

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, German, 1680; Tr. by Catherine Winkworth, English, 1863)

2. O God, Our Help In Ages Past

Under the shadow of your throne
Your saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is your arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

(Isaac Watts, English, 1719, based on Psalm 90:1–5)

3. I Sing the Mighty Power of God

There’s not a plant or flower below
but makes thy glories known.
And clouds arise, and tempests blow,
by order from thy throne,
while all that borrows life from thee
is ever in thy care,
and everywhere that we can be,
thou, God, art present there.

(Isaac Watts, English, 1715)

4. This is My Father’s World

This is my Father’s world:
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let earth be glad!

(Maltbie D. Babcock, American, 1901)

5. My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

My shepherd will supply my need;
Jehovah is his name.
In pastures fresh he makes me feed,
beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
when I forsake his ways,
and leads me, for his mercy’s sake,
in paths of truth and grace.

(Isaac Watts, English, 1719, based upon Psalm 23)

6. How Firm a Foundation

Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed;
for I am your God, and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

(“K.,” in John Rippon’s, A Selection of Hymns, London, 1787)

7. Children of the Heavenly Father

God, His own doth tend and nourish,
In His holy courts they flourish,
From all evil things He spares them,
In His mighty arms He bears them.

(Carolina Sandell, Swedish, 1855, Tr., Ernst W. Olson; Author: Carolina Sandell, Swedish-American, 1925)

8. Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

(Thomas O. Chisholm, American, 1923)

9. It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

It is well with my soul;
it is well, it is well with my soul.

(Horatio Gates Spafford, American, 1873)

10. Abide With Me

I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like thyself my guide and strength can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

(Henry Francis Lyte, English, 1847)

11. His Eye Is On the Sparrow

Why should I feel discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely
and long for heaven and home,
when Jesus is my portion?
My constant friend is he:
his eye is on the sparrow,
and I know he watches me;
his eye is on the sparrow,
and I know he watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
for his eye is on the sparrow,
and I know he watches me.

(Civilla D. Martin, Canadian-American, 1905)

12. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name,
from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.

(Martin Luther, German, 1529; Tr. by Frederick H. Hedge, American, 1852)

And here’s a BONUS:

13. Be Still, My Soul

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.

(Kathrina von Schlegel, German, 1752; Tr. by Jane Borthwick, 1855)