Seasons of Clear Shining is a devotional book based on intensely personal hymns of worship and devotion. Our title is drawn from the opening verse to a hymn by William Cowper:
Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises with healing in his wings.
When comforts are declining, he grants the soul again
A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.
Cowper suffered from bouts of extreme depression throughout his life, and tried several times to commit suicide. And yet, he was a prolific writer who gave us some of the finest, most comforting, truthful, and poetic verse in all of the hymnody. You can read the full text of this hymn here.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, herself swept out of a life of loneliness and illness by the love and encouraging support of her husband, Robert Browning, reflected at Cowper’s graveside about the great man’s spiritual struggles, and in a few pithy lines gave us a deep insight into one of the purposes of the Lord Jesus Christ’s terrible cry of dereliction from the cross:
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”
We know that Jesus was quoting only the first line of the 22nd psalm, a psalm that would have been well known and recognized by the Jewish witnesses to his crucifixion. We know that they would have filled in the great Messianic lines of the rest of the psalm in their own minds, and wondered at what was transpiring before their eyes. And some would have believed, because the psalm contains among the greatest words in all of Scripture:
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.
Jesus was on that bloody cross voluntarily giving himself for his people, and God the Father heard him. In this truth we can shout “Hallelujah” and praise God forever, but that doesn’t negate the journey the Lord went through for our sakes.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21
There was nothing false in His cry of forsakenness. And Elizabeth Browning wrote weeping beside Cowper’s grave:
“Yea, once, Immanuel’s orphaned cry his universe hath shaken,—
It went up single, echoless, “My God, I am forsaken!”
It went up from the Holy’s lips amid his lost creation.
That, of the lost, no son should use those words of desolation…”
You can read all of E.B.B.’s poem here.
We hope you find a moment or two for personal reflection on what Jesus has done for you, in reading these brief thoughts on some of the greatest words of worship penned though the history of Christian saints on earth.
The title of this book is also intended as a tribute to the fine Canadian hymnist and writer Margaret Clarkson, who granted us permission to use two of her compositions for devotional study.
Seasons of Clear Shining is available for order now. Click here for details.