The Story Behind: Great Is Thy Faithfulness
By Taylor Brantley
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee…
One of the most wonderful things about being a follower of Christ is the peace that attends even when life is difficult. Great Is Thy Faithfulness, a testament to God’s unchanging nature, was written by a man who suffered prolonged trials in life, yet chose to see God’s faithfulness through it all. This hymn, deeply rooted in Scripture, continues to inspire and bless those who sing it.
The Inspiring Journey of Hymn Writer Thomas O. Chisholm
Thomas Chisholm was born in Kentucky, 1866. From a young age, Thomas was highly intelligent and ambitious. He became a school teacher at the age of sixteen and an associate editor for his hometown newspaper at the age of twenty-one. Though he achieved success in his early years, Thomas found his greatest success at the age of twenty-seven when he became a follower of Christ. From that moment on, he used his intelligence and ambition for God.
Thomas Chisholm was also a Methodist minister who had always been a lover of poetry. Now able to use that love to its fullest in glorifying God, he wanted to do even more – dedicate his life fully – so he pursued the life of a minister. Sure enough, Thomas was ordained and given a congregation of his own in Scottsville, Kentucky.
In 1903, Thomas started a family by marrying the love of his life: Catherine Vandervere. It seemed to Thomas that his path in life was now set, that he would be a minister for the remainder of his days, but the following years showed him otherwise.
Thomas experienced a decline in health during his time as a minister, and in 1909, those health issues forced him to leave his congregation. In the years that followed, financial issues arose as well from numerous hospital bills. Many people would have become bitter with God during a time of health and financial crisis, but Thomas became quite the opposite.
Yes, he was no longer a minister but now had more time to focus on writing hymns.
Yes, he had health problems but also had loving support from his wife and two daughters.
Yes, he faced financial struggles but found a job selling life insurance, allowing him to keep up with the bills.
No matter the struggle, Thomas always chose to see God’s faithfulness.
Thomas’ positive outlook on life never shifted, and in 1923, he took up pen and paper and wrote his most famous poem: Great Is Thy Faithfulness. He sent the poem to Reverend William Runyan, musician of Moody Bible Institute and editor of Hope Publishing Company in Chicago.
Runyan’s position brought in many a poem submission, but Thomas’ moved Runyan so much that Runyan quickly took to praying that God would reveal a tune worthy of the lyrics. With divine guidance, Runyan composed a beautiful tune to accompany the poem and named it FAITHFULNESS. Reflecting on this creative process, Runyan later wrote, “This particular poem held such an appeal that I prayed most earnestly that my tune might carry over its message in a worthy way, and the subsequent history of its use indicates that God answered prayer.”
Great Is Thy Faithfulness: A Timeless Hymn Gains Momentum
Once Runyan found the tune, Great Is Thy Faithfulness as a hymn was born. It was an instant favorite amongst Moody Bible Institute staff and students, quickly becoming the college’s unofficial hymn.
Past the college, the hymn took a bit longer to reach great heights, that is until a certain man by the name of Billy Graham heard it and began using it in his crusades during the 1950’s. What began as a simple poem from a simple man was suddenly reaching the ears of millions, and has continued to do so each year since.
During the rest of his life, Chisholm spent many years residing in New Jersey, working as a life insurance agent to support himself and his family. Despite having an office job, he continued to express his love for God through poetry and wrote nearly 1,200 poems throughout his life. Many of these poems became published hymns that have further spread the message of God’s faithfulness.
“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV
Frequently Asked Questions:
What does the Bible mean when it says Great Is Thy Faithfulness?
The phrase “Great is Thy faithfulness” comes from the Bible, specifically Lamentations 3:23. It is a declaration of God’s unchanging reliability and constant presence in our lives. The term “faithfulness” here refers to God’s steadfastness, His unwavering commitment to His promises, and His consistent character. This means that God is dependable and trustworthy, regardless of our circumstances.
Who originally wrote Great Is Thy Faithfulness?
The hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” was originally written by Thomas Chisholm in 1923. Chisholm, a Methodist minister, wrote the poem about God’s faithfulness throughout his life. The music was later composed by William M. Runyan. The hymn has since been covered by various artists and is popular in many Christian congregations.
Where did the song Great Is Thy Faithfulness come from?
“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is a Christian hymn that originated in the United States. The lyrics were written by Thomas O. Chisholm, a Methodist minister from Kentucky. He wrote the poem in 1923 about God’s faithfulness over his lifetime. The music was composed by William M. Runyan, a friend of Chisholm, specifically for the poem. The hymn was later popularized by the Moody Bible Institute and Billy Graham’s crusades.
Who sings with Carrie Underwood on Great Is Thy Faithfulness?
In her rendition of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” Carrie Underwood performs a duet with gospel singer CeCe Winans. This version of the hymn is part of Underwood’s 2021 album, “My Savior.” The collaboration between Underwood and Winans brings together country and gospel music in a unique and powerful rendition of this classic hymn.
Great Is Thy Faithfulness Lyrics
If you’re captivated by the timeless message of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and want to explore its lyrics further, head over to hymndex.com. This user-friendly website offers a vast collection of hymns lyrics that can help churches create lyric slides for worship.
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