By Taylor Brantley
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 was written by a man who suffered prolonged trials in life, yet chose to see God’s faithfulness through it all.
Thomas Chisholm was born in Kentucky, 1866. From a young age, Thomas was highly intelligent and ambitious, becoming a school teacher at the age of sixteen and an associate editor for his hometown newspaper at the age of twenty-one. Though he was ever successful in his early years, Thomas found his greatest success at the age of twenty-seven, the year he became a follower of Christ. From that moment on, he used his intelligence and ambition for God.
Thomas was always a lover of poetry, and was now able to use that love to its fullest in glorifying God. But he wanted to do even more for God – to dedicate his life fully – so he pursued the life of a minister. Sure enough, Thomas was ordained, and in 1903 was given a congregation of his own in Scottsville, Kentucky. God was clearly pleased with Thomas’ complete passion for Him, and in the same year of 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 he had more time to focus on his poetry.
Yes, he had health problems, but he had a wife and two daughters who loved and supported him.
Yes, he had financial struggles, but he was able to find a job selling life insurance which allowed 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. 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.”
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.
“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
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