Tuesday, July 2, 2013

If You But Trust in God to Guide You

Here is another wonderful hymn during the long season of Common time!

Title: If You But Trust in God to Guide You

Tune: Wer Nur Den Lieben Gott (Neumark)


Author: Georg Neumark (16th March, 1621-18th July 1681), Translater: Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878)

Composer: Georg Neumark (")

The thirty-Years War raged on from 1618-1648, and was known as one of the longest and most devastating wars in modern history. Though those thirty years were extremely tragic and gruesome, many of our hymns that we know today were composed during that time. Some of the more famous authors included Paul Gerhardt (See “Oh Sacred Head, Now Wounded”), and Johann Heerman (see “Ah, Holy Jesus”), and the author of this hymn, Georg Neumark. The story of Neumark is one of great tradgedy and strife, and it is no wonder that his writing can be found in the “Trust, Guidance” section of the Evangelical Lutheran Worship. The road that led Neumark to penning this hymn came with him getting robbed, not being able to find work, and life generally not going according to plan, as was the case for many different hymn-writers in this time period.

Born in 1621 to Michael Neumark, a cloth and clothes salesman, Georg Neumark grew up in Thuringa (After 1623 at Mihlhausen in Thuringa) (hymnary.org, Georg Neumark, Par. 1). After being educated at the Gymnasium in Schleueingen and at the Gymnasium in Gotha, Neumark received his certificate of Dimissal from the Gymnasium at Gotha in 1641. After receiving the certificate, Neumark made plans to matriculate to the University of Konisberg, where he would go to begin studying law. Although he did eventually make it to the university to study law, Neumar's life would be taken on a detour first.

In the fall of 1641, Neumark was traveling with a group between Leipzig, Germany, and Lubeck, Germany. On his journey, just outside of Magdeburg, Neumark was robbed of everything he owned, except for a prayer book, and what little money he had sewed in his clothes (Westermeyer, 2010, p. 632). After having to deal with being robbed, Neumark abandoned his plans to go attend the University of Konigsberg, and went back to Magdeburg to look for work, in which he was unsuccessful in finding a job. After Neumark left Magdeburg, he moved on to try and find work in Luneberg, Winsen, and Hamburg (Neumark was recommended to look in these towns by his friends he had made along the way), but was still unable to find any sort of work. As December of that year finally came around, Neumark was still without work and was willing to do anything for work. Eventually, Neumark moved on to Kiel, where he became good friends with Nikolaus Becker, who was a native of Thuringa, and was chief pastor in Kiel (hymnary.org, par. 1). Though he had finally found good prospects for work, almost the entire month had elapsed with out any news of work for Neumark.

Finally, towards the end of December, 1641, Neumark received news from Becker, that the family tutor for Judge Stephen Henning had fallen into disgrace, and had thus fled from Kiel. Neumark was offered the job, and immediately accepted, filling the vacant position and giving him the opportunity to pen the hymn “If You But Trust in God to Guide You.” After staying with the family long enough to save some money, Neumark left in 1643 and matriculated with the University of Konigsberg, where he was finally able to study Law and poetry for five years. Life seemed to be looking up for Neumark, as he had finally made it to his original destination, and was accomplishing what he had originally set out to do, study law. Though things had finally begun to settle down for Neumark, he would eventually lose all of his belongings once again, in 1646, this time to fire.

Eventually, in 1648 (the year the Thirty-Years war ended), Neumark departed from Konigsberg, bouncing around from place to place until he finally settled in Weimar in 1651, where he was appointed court poet, secretary, and librarian for Duke Wilhelm II of Saxe-Weimar (Westermeyer, p. 633). It was during his time in Weimar that Neumark was inducted into a group named the Fruit-Bearing Society (Die Fruichtbringende Gesellschaft) Which at the time was known as the primary German vernacular literary and scholarly group (formed in 1617). After being inducted into the group, Neumark became secretary, and would eventually write the history of the group (Der Neu-Sprossende Teutsche Palmbaum, Nürnberg and Weimar, 1668). In 1681, Neumark became blind, but was still allowed to hold his positions with the Fruit-Bearing Society and the Pegnitz Order (Neumark became a member of the Pegnitz Order in 1679). In 1681, Neumark wrote of his chance encounter to work with Judge Henning:

This good fortune, which came so suddenly and, as if fallen from heaven, gladdened my heart so that on that very day I composed to the honor of my beloved Lord the here-and-there well-known hymn 'Wer Nur Den Lieben Gott Lasst Walten'; and had certain cause enough to thank the divine compassion for such unexpected grace shown to me” (Westermeyer, p. 632).

Though Neumark had written the hymn, as well as the tune, in 1641, it was not published until over fifteen years later. The original publishing of the hymn was done in seven stanzas, and was published in Neumarks own Fortgepflantzter Musikalisch-Poetischer Lustwald (Jena, 1657). Neumark captioned the hymn “Hymn of Consolation. That in God's own time God will sustain and keep each person according to the text, Cast your burden on the Lord, who will sustain you” (Westermeyer, p. 633). The text that Neumark is referring to is the a quotation from Psalm 55:23, but has also been suggested to be a quotation from 1 Peter 3: 8-15, which is the epistle that is traditionally read the fifth Sunday after Trinity. In the 18th century, J.S. Bach used all seven stanza's of Neumark's hymn for his Cantata 93, which was performed the fifth Sunday after Trinity.

Though there was no way of knowing just how popular “If You But Trust in God to Guide You” would become, Neumark was correct in saying that his tune was already somewhat well-known. This hymn was included in many different German hymnals, and was widely used among Lutherans and German Reformed. Catherine Winkworth (See “O, Lord How I Meet Thee”) translated this hymn into her Lyrica Germanica, first series (1855), and then again in her Choral Book for England (1863) in it's original meter, so it could be sung with the original tune (Westermeyer, 633). The hymn became widely used in the English-speaking world, being introduced to Lutheran's in North America through Winkworth's translation in August Crull's Hymn Book for the Use of Evangelical Lutheran Schools and Congregations (Decorah, 1879). Though Crull included all seven stanzas in his publication, most 20th century hymnals narrowed it down to only four stanzas, and sometimes, outside of the Lutheran hymnals, even two or three stanzas. Evangelical Lutheran Worship includes four stanzas, stanzas 1, 2, 3, and 7 (Westermeyer, p. 633).

The Text:

  1. If you but trust in God to guide you
    and place your confidence in him,
    you'll find him always there beside you
    to give you hope and strength within;
    for those who trust God's changeless love
    build on the rock that will not move.

  1. Only be still and wait his pleasure
    in cheerful hope with heart content.
    He fills your needs to fullest measure
    with what discerning love has sent;
    doubt not our inmost wants are known
    to him who chose us for his own.

  1. Sing, pray, and keep his ways unswerving,
    offer your service faithfully,
    and trust his word; though undeserving,
    you'll find his promise true to be.
    God never will forsake in need
    the soul that trusts in him indeed. 

My Take on the Hymn:

This hymn is very straight forward, trust in God, and all will be well. Though we do not deserve it sometimes, and even though we have fallen, God loves us unconditionally, and he loves us enough to take care of us no matter what, if only we believe in Him. Sometimes, as was the case with Neumark, God's promises seem to take an eternity to be fulfilled, but we must take note that many of our wants and desires are earthly, and God will reward us with gifts in Heaven. As we journey through life, and as we move forward with our journey through faith, we will run into trials, strife, struggle, and misfortune, but if we only place our trust in God, if we see Him every day as our rock and our strength, and our only way to salvation, He will carry us through each and every day with unwavering love!

The Hymn:

If you cannot read music, just start the Youtube video and follow along!


Julian, John. "If Thou but Suffer God to Guide Thee." Hymnary.org. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 02 July 2013.

Julian, John. "Catherine Winkworth." Hymnary.org. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 02 July 2013.

Julian, John. "Georg Neumark." - Hymnary.org. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 02 July 2013.

Psalter, Hymnal Handbook. "NEUMARK." Hymnary.org. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 02 July 2013.

Westermeyer, Paul. "Trust, Guidance." Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Vol. 1. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2010. 632-34. Print.

1 comment:

  1. There are at least 8 verses translated from German to English to Tamil of this hymn. I am looking for all the verses in its original form. Please help