Hymns of Hope: Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus
How fitting it is that a missionary should write a hymn about faith and trust in God. Louisa M. R. Stead was born in Dover, England in the mid 1800s. She became a Christian when she was nine years old and began to feel the pull of God on her heart towards the foreign mission field as a teenager. As a young woman, she immigrated to the United States and attended a revival meeting in Urbana, Ohio. It was there that the Lord more firmly impressed on her heart the call to foreign missions. She proceeded to make plans to go to China, but her hopes were dashed to pieces when her health proved too frail for the climate there.
She was married in 1875 and the couple was blessed with a daughter, Lily. When Lily was four years old, the family decided to enjoy a day at the beach at Long Island Sound, New York. It is said that while eating their picnic lunch, they heard cries for help and spotted a drowning boy at sea. Louisa’s husband rushed into the water to try to save him. As often happens, the struggling boy pulled his rescuer under with him and both drowned before the terrified eyes of wife and daughter. Other accounts say that it was Mr. Stead’s own daughter, Lily, who he saved. Regardless of the details though, the family’s beach side excursion resulted in deep tragedy for Louisa. “‘Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus” was inspired by this personal tragedy.
Soon after this life altering event, Louisa and her young daughter left for Cape Colony, South Africa, where Louisa worked as a missionary for fifteen years. It was there she wrote these words:
‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, thus saith the Lord.
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.
O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
Just in simple faith to plunge me,
‘Neath the healing, cleansing flood.
Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life, and rest, and joy, and peace.
I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.
Louisa later remarried a man by the name of Robert Wodehouse who was a native of South Africa. Because of her health, the family found it necessary to return to the United States in 1895. Her new husband Robert pastored a Methodist congregation during these years until, in 1900, they returned to the mission field, this time to Umtali, Southern Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe). “In connection with this whole mission there are glorious possibilities,” she wrote. “One cannot in the face of the peculiar difficulties help saying, ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ but with simple confidence and trust we may and do say, ‘Our sufficiency is in God.'”
Louisa passed away in 1917. Her daughter Lily, married a missionary and continued work in Africa for many years. Following Louisa’s death, Christians in South Rhodesia continued to sing her hymn in the local Shona language. Her words, written in the midst of great personal loss, have continued to minister to many others since. God gave her a hymn of hope- comfort in the midst of her affliction, so that she could then be a comfort and give hope to others in their afflictions (1 Corinthians 1:4).