Story Behind the Hymn
Civilla Martin lay sick in bed. Civilla, her husband, the well-known evangelist, Walter Stillman Martin, and their son, were staying at the Practical Bible Training School in New York. Mr. Martin and the school president were compiling a songbook, Songs of Redemption and Praise. This tight-knit family’s ministry included preaching, writing songs for revival meetings, and ministering to thousands of people. Her husband had a preaching engagement that night in 1904. He seriously considered cancelling the service so he could take care of his wife. The church was a long way from the school, forcing him to be away from her most of the day.
Their 9-year-old son queried his dad asking, “Father, don’t you think that if God wants you to preach today, He will take care of mother while you are away?” Challenged by his son, Walter did go to church and preach, filled with fresh insight into the promises of God. Civilla stayed in bed, contemplating what their son had said. Soon she began to write the first of several hundred poems she would pen over the course of her life. When he returned, Mr. Martin found Civilla doing considerably better. She handed the poem to her husband. Inspired by this message of God’s faithfulness, he sat at the reed organ and one hour later he had composed the music to one of the best loved hymns of the 20th century.
This hymn has brought comfort to many people. For instance, a blind man was seen crossing a busy street singing this song. When asked why, he replied, “Because I must cross this dangerous street, and maybe one of the many wagons might strike me and I might get killed. But the thought came to me that, even if it did occur, my soul would go straight to God. And if He led me across all right, it would be just another evidence of His care for me. So, I could not help singing to myself.”
About 25 years after it was written, a businessman was hospitalized due to illness. His businesses had failed; he had little hope. He was in pain both physically and emotionally. He heard this hymn coming from the hospital chapel and as he listened, his burdens lifted and his worries left when he realized just how much God loves and cares for him. He later stated that those 20 minutes in the chapel were the most dramatic and glorious of his entire life. The man in despair was James C. Penney, founder of the American Department store chain, J. C. Penney.