Words We Need
Updated: Mar 24, 2020
“Blessed Assurance” has been called the archetypal gospel song. We sang it joyfully in church just a few weeks ago. What different times those were, when we were free to gather and sing lustily next to each other! Who knew at the time how we would treasure that memory in the weeks to come!
As with many of our great hymns, there’s a wonderful story behind this one. As I’m telling our children in the children’s sermon video that will be posted to our YouTube channel (check back there, lots more coming), the story resonates with this Sunday’s Gospel reading, the delightful and humorous account of the man born blind (John 9:1-41), who—while blind—used his condition to praise and glorify God.
When Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) was just six weeks old she developed an eye infection. The regular doctor was out of town and she was attended to by a man posing as a doctor. He gave her the wrong treatment and she was permanently blinded. But as is always the case, God works through our setbacks and sufferings to bring good out of them. In Fanny’s case, she was not sad or bitter – just the opposite. At age 8 she wrote poem that began, “Oh, what a happy child I am / Although I cannot see. / I am resolved that in this world, / Contented I will be.”
Fanny Crosby went on to use the gifts God gave her to write more than 8,000 hymns in her long lifetime. Would she have written these if she wasn't blind, or would they have had the same intense love of Christ at the center? Only God knows.
“Blessed Assurance” was actually conceived in response to the tune, instead of the other way around as usually happens. Fanny's friend Phoebe Knapp had written the music but she didn’t know why. She played it for Fanny and asked her what it meant, what message was contained inside. Fanny responded with these timeless words. Here is a moving rendition of the hymn during a worship service at First Plymouth Church, Lincoln, Nebraska, taped a year ago in September. It’s slower than usual, but this allows us to pray and sing at the same time. The organist and his incredible skill, the looks on the faces of those in the congregation, and the truth within it all moved me to tears. Please sing along with the harmony if you’re so inclined.