Now, today I want us to look at another lesser known poet and hymn writer who provided us a gospel song that’s been a great blessing to many.
Her name was Louisa Stead. She was born in 1850 in Dover, England. She trusted Christ at the age of nine. As a teen she felt this sense of calling to become a foreign missionary. When she was twenty-one, she immigrated to the United States. During her years of living here, she attended a revival meeting where once again she felt this strong pull and call of God on her life to be a missionary, so she offered herself up for mission service.
Her desire was to go to China, but she had no-so-good health, and she wasn’t accepted to go.
She married a man whose last name was Stead. I’ve not been able to find his first name. I’m sure it’s somewhere in there, buried in the archives. One sunny, summer day, Louisa and her husband and their four-year-old daughter named Lily packed a picnic lunch and went down to the beach on Long Island, NY, near where they lived, to enjoy a few hours of playing in the sand and the water.
Now, I’ve read varying accounts of exactly what happened next, but the best I can piece it together, while they were enjoying their little picnic, the Stead family heard a scream. It was from a young boy who out in the water who was struggling against the wind and the undertow to get back to shore.
Well, Mr. Stead plunged into the water immediately and swam out to help the boy. He put his arm around the boy and tried to swim back to shore with him, but Louisa and her little girl watched helplessly from the shore as the boy kept struggling and flailing, and eventually both the boy and Mr. Stead were pulled down into the waves and drowned there in the ocean.
Well, heartbroken and now as a widow with a little girl, without her husband, Louisa struggled to provide for herself and her daughter. She told a friend:
I need faith and trust to believe that His Providence is still at work, and that His hand can still guide me through the bleak, unknown future.
Of course, in those life circumstances, and some of you have been there—some of you are there perhaps . . . It makes me think of my mother who was widowed at the age of forty with seven children, ages eight to twenty-one. At that moment the future can seem bleak and unknown. Right? But keep in mind that it’s only unknown to you. It’s not unknown to Him who orchestrates the moments and the circumstances of our lives for His glory and our good.
Well, she said: “I need faith and trust to believe that His Providence is still at work and that His hand can still guide me through this bleak, unknown future.”
One day the pantry was empty, there was nothing to eat, so Louisa led her little girl as they prayed and cried out to the Lord. They told God that He knew their need and that they were trusting in Him, asking Him to provide out of His abundance.
Well, the next morning they got up, and they found a large basket of provisions at the front door, and an envelope that had enough money in it to buy shoes for Lily. Louisa told her little girl: “We trusted God, and He has not failed us.” What a powerful lesson for a little girl to learn early in life: “We trusted God, and He has not failed us.”
Some of you have experienced those amazing moments where you have nowhere else to turn, no other hope, no other help but to turn to the Lord and say, “Lord, I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on You. I’m trusting You. Give me grace to trust You more.” And then you’ve seen God provide, and then that becomes a message to your children and to your grandchildren and your friends around you: “We trusted God, and He has not failed us.”
Well, out of the experience of her tragic loss and seeing God’s hand meet her needs, Louisa was inspired to write this simple bit of poetry:
'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,Just to take Him at His Word;Just to rest upon His promise; Just to know, ‘Thus saith the Lord!’”
“’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.” Now, as you reflect on the words of this gospel song, keep in mind that our trust, our faith, is not in a vacuum. It’s not just fantasy faith: “Oh, I’ll just dream it to be so, and it will be so; or I’ll just speak it to be so, and it will be so.” This is not name it and claim it theology.
Our trust has an Object. It’s not in ourselves; it’s not in our dreams; it’s not in our hopes. Our trust is in a Person. “’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.” Our trust is based on the solid foundation of His Word.
“It’s sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word, just to rest upon His promise.” That’s what makes faith valuable and strong. Not that our faith is strong but that the Object of our faith is strong. We’re trusting in Christ; we’re trusting in His Word; we’re trusting in His unfailing promises.
And so she says in the chorus:
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er! Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O, for grace to trust Him more!
The more you’ve seen Him work and provide, the more you want to trust Him, and the more you want to pray for grace to trust Him even more.
So out of these early experiences as a widow with a little girl, Louisa trusted Jesus for practical, material provision, and He came through. He met her in her financial need in this point where she, in the loss of a mate had no means to provide for herself, she saw Him come through and provide.
But she knew that she could trust Jesus for more than just material provision. She knew that, even more importantly, He could be trusted for her eternal salvation. Because what if you have all of the riches of the world but you die lost and without Jesus? You’re not rich. That’s ultimate poverty. Right? So she knew that she could trust Jesus for her salvation, and so she says in the second stanza:
O how sweet to trust in Jesus,Just to trust His cleansing blood,Just in simple faith to plunge me‘Neath the healing, cleansing flood!
What are you trusting for your salvation? What are you trusting for forgiveness of your sin against a holy God?
Are you trusting religion?
Your church experience?
Your good works?
Your family background?
Some religious experience you had somewhere along the way?
Some decision you made in some emotional meeting somewhere?
Listen, none of these can save you. None of those can forgive one single sin much less a lifetime of sin against a holy God. Nothing and no one other than Jesus and His shed blood is sufficient for your salvation.
And then, having experienced His saving grace, Louisa also found in Jesus sanctifying grace, deliverance from sin and self, and she refers to this in the third stanza:
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.
“’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.” It’s a life of faith. It’s a life of leaning on our Beloved, as the Song of Solomon says. A life not of striving, not of performance, not of human effort.
Some of us just live our lives back at Mt. Sinai where the law was given, and you’ve got to strive and struggle and try to perform to please a God that we can’t please. Or we struggle, and we wrestle, and we grasp, and we try to get life and joy and peace and the fruit of Spirit. “I’m going to have it if it kills me.” (It may!)
But she recognized that this is a life of faith, a life of believing that all I need, all I want, all I long for, all I have to have for this life and the next, ultimately is found in Jesus. He has finished the work. Ours is to look to Him and believe. “’Tis sweet to trust in Jesus. Just from Jesus, simply taking life and rest and joy and peace."
And then we see in the final stanza that Jesus can be trusted, not only in this life, but through all of life and all the way to the finish line into the next life. She says:
“I’m so glad I learned to trust Him.”
By the way, you don’t learn to trust Him unless you have difficult circumstances that put you in a difficult place. Right? If you always had everything you need and you never had any challenges, never had any problems, never had any difficulties, would we learn to trust Jesus? Who would we trust? Ourselves. Right? We’d be self-reliant. We’d be stubborn and proud.
And so she said:
I’m so glad I learned to trust Him.
What she’s really saying is: “Anything that makes me need God is a blessing.” It makes us trust Him.
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;And I know that He is with me,Will be with me to the end.
What she’d experienced in the past she knew would also be true in the future—whatever that might bring that she couldn’t see at this point.
You see, our need, our distress, our challenges, our problems, our pressures, all of those are opportunities to trust Jesus, to look to the Lord, to discover His promises, to prove His promises, to try Him to see that He really is faithful.
As I said, if we never had to face those extremities, if we never had to trust Him in difficult places where we can’t see the outcome, where would we be? That’s why God loves us enough to create circumstances that bring us to the end of ourselves and make us realize how desperately we need Him.