In my younger, fitter days, a particularly favourite jogging route of mine would take me along Shirley Road and passed the St. Helens depot for hauliers Suttons Transport. The clock tower overseeing the main gate at ‘Suttons’ once stood on the estate of racing driving Sir John Whitmore and was rebuilt at the St. Helens site by the late Alf Sutton. Now a well-known local landmark, the clock tower’s annotation reads: “Time and tide waiteth for no man.” It is said that this prophetic 14th century proverb was chosen by Alf to, “prod any slackers!” Whether that is true or not, I cannot say. Suffice to say that this proverbial phrase, which first appeared about 1395 in Chaucer’s Prologue to The Clark’s Tale, clearly alludes to the fact that human events or concerns cannot stop the passage of time or the movement of the tides.
For some, this reality is unnerving at best, and downright terrifying at worst! For the Christian, however, it is fundamentally liberating.
I am reminded of the old adage: Man proposes, God disposes. From this we understand that it is not purely London, or Washington D.C., or Brussels, or Beijing, that shapes our destinies, but Almighty God. The Psalmist captured the essence of this truth beautifully: “Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; [God] lifts his voice, the earth melts…” (Psalm 46:6)
Whatever situation or circumstance we face - good, bad or indifferent, the child of God can rest secure in the knowledge that their loving Heavenly Father is Sovereign, He is in control.
In what was, reportedly, the last hymn he ever wrote, the 18th century poet and hymnodist concluded his now infamous hymn Light Shining out of Darkness, (beginning “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”): “Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan His work in vain. God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.”
The fascinating, though unsubstantiated, story behind this classic hymn is worth telling: Cowper often struggled with depression and doubt. One night he decided to commit suicide by drowning himself. He called a cab and told the driver to take him to the Thames River. However, thick fog came down and prevented them from finding the river (another version of the story has the driver getting lost deliberately). After driving around lost for a while, the cabby finally stopped and let Cowper out. To Cowper’s surprise, he found himself on his own doorstep. God had sent the fog to keep him from killing himself.
Let us rejoice together in all that God is doing in these days. We serve a Sovereign God who knows all about our present situation and will bring us through it.