Ever have one of those nights where the body desperately desires sleep, but the mind decides to act like a hamster on a wheel, endlessly running, running, running, but never getting anywhere? It happened to me the other night and was thoroughly aggravating, frustrating, and exhausting. It wasn’t helped by an earworm I picked up somewhere. Through my hamster-brain, my head was running an old hymn, “Standing on the Promises.” It was a great favorite in the Baptist church of my childhood and youth and was a rousing hymn I had learned by heart early on. Still, it wasn’t exactly welcome when I tossed and turned, trying to sleep.
1 Standing on the promises of Christ, my King,
Through eternal ages let his praises ring;
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises of God, my Savior;
I’m standing on the promises of God.
2 Standing on the promises that cannot fail.
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God. [Refrain]
3 Standing on the promises of Christ, the Lord,
Bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God. [Refrain]
4 Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
List’ning ev’ry moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God. [Refrain]*
I certainly had been going through some times when “[T]he howling storms of doubt and fear assail.” I think I probably had several million companions sharing that feeling. However, even though the election was over, the pandemic was still here, finances tight as always, the allergies going nuts, and I felt the weight of the world had been lightened but not removed. I hadn’t slept well the past several nights, and along came this hymn that I hadn’t thought about in decades but which popped up unexpectedly and repetitiously.
Then my mind took a turn. Just what promises had I not been standing on? It made me think of promises I’d learned in Sunday School about God promising Noah that God would never again destroy the whole earth with floods. God didn’t promise that there wouldn’t be floods, just not one to cover the planet with water and destroy everything on it. We still have surges of water that decimate populations and destroy towns, cities, and whole countrysides. But still, we stand on God’s promise to Noah every time we see a rainbow.
God promised Moses and the Israelites that they would have their own land. Although it took centuries, God watched the Israelites (with Moses looking on from afar) move into their new home. It was taken away several times in Biblical times, but the people now called Jews found their way home again. Even though strife divides the land and rockets and bullets are frequently heard and felt through the ground, Jews hold on to and stand on that promise.
God promised to be with us and protect us, but God also expects us to help with those promises. God never promised that we would be without troubles and worries. Still, we have the responsibility to help ourselves and others. If we knowingly build a house in a flood plain or area where avalanches are expected, then we must make plans for contingencies that floods or avalanches will occur, and we will be in danger. Making plans for evacuation and the like are necessary, just as watching the weather forecasters or paying attention to the ground shaking more often than usual.
We learn to stand on our own feet, yet we have the hands of God beneath us to hold us up. We believe that, and we trust that those hands will never let us fall.
So I think my earworm was my reminder of that and that God won’t let me down. Now I have to remember my share of the deal is to not let God down by doing what I can for the earth and its peoples, at least as much as my single, solitary self can do.
I have to remember to stand on the promises, rely on Jesus, and listen to the Spirit. I think that’s what my earworm wanted me to tell me, as after a few repeats and some meditation and prayer, I went peacefully off to sleep for the remainder of the night.
Image: The Bow of Promise, Illustrated plate from the book, My Mother’s Bible Stories, 1896. Author unknown.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives in Avondale. Arizona, just outside of Phoenix.