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Hymn History: “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting”

2 min

The missionary stared at the letter in his hand. In the 1800s, the Gospel was spreading in China, but travel was difficult and the work was hard. In some areas, the Chinese vehemently rejected foreigners and threatened their lives. The letter Hudson Taylor held in his hand reported that riots were occurring in two missions in the region.

A coworker was present when the letter arrived. As he moved toward the door to leave Mr. Taylor with the letter, he heard the soft whistling of the hymn “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting.” Surprised, the coworker turned around and asked Mr. Taylor, “How can you whistle, when our friends are in so much danger?” Hudson Taylor looked up. Calmly he replied: “Would you have me anxious and troubled? That would not help them, and would certainly incapacitate me for my work. I just have to roll the burden onto the Lord.”

“Rolling his burden upon the Lord” was a demonstration of Hudson Taylor’s faith. Other missionaries reported seeing him oftentimes playing on a little reed organ and softly singing this hymn. How­ever, “resting” had not always been his practice. Mr. Taylor founded the China Inland Mission in 1865. However, after four-and-a-half years, work and worry so overwhelmed him that he nearly suffered a nervous breakdown. In late 1869, a friend and fellow missionary wrote to him: 

Abiding [in Christ], not striving or struggling, looking off unto Him; trusting Him for present power . . . . This is not new, yet ’tis new to me . . . . Christ literally all seems to me now the power, the only power for service; the only ground for unchanging joy.

Impacted by his friend’s letter, Mr. Taylor excitedly shared this spiritual insight with his sister in England. After explaining how overwhelmed he had been with the mission work, he wrote: 

. . . a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy [a friend] was used to remove the scales from my eyes . . . . [He] wrote: “But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith but by resting in the Faithful One.” As I read, I saw all! . . . [W]hat light the Blessed Spirit poured into my soul!

Patience is “accepting a difficult situation from the Lord without giving Him a deadline to remove it.” Patience does not come by striving or struggling but is acquired as we give our rights and expectations to God. Only then can we rest in Him.

Little is known about the author of Hudson Taylor’s favorite hymn. An Irish woman, Jean S. Pigott lived only until her late thirties. This hymn she wrote greatly encouraged a missionary to patiently trust Jesus. May it also encourage you to give your cares to the Lord and patiently rest in Him!

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