I first heard this hymn at a hymn sing that my former church hosted. Fair warning: it’s not your typical easy-to-sing praise song to the Lord.
Rather, it possesses a different kind of richness and realness that I think is beautiful.
The Lord is good and gracious in everything that He does, including the times when He walks us through seasons of deep suffering. We can see His goodness and grace even in the deep suffering because it leads us to trust Him and know Him more. It serves to shape us more into the image of God. It helps us to see the temporary nature of the world and the lasting satisfaction found in God.
That last line gets me every single time: “these inward trials I employ, from self and pride to set thee free, and break thy schemes of earthly joy, that thou mayest seek thy all in Me.”
May the words of this hymn lead us to praise God for the ways that He works to shape us into His image. May we consider it grace when we encounter suffering, be it depression, anxiety, death, recognition of sin, because we understand that it is working in us something of surpassing worth – knowing and trusting and imaging God.
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face
Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair
I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest
Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part
Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low
Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer for grace and faith”
“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”