God Moves in a Mysterious Way

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God Moves in a Mysterious Way
William Cowper by Lemuel Francis Abbott.jpg
William Cowper, author of the hymn text
Full Conflict: Light Shining out of Darkness
Text by William Cowper
Meter (CM)
  • London New (The Psalmes of David in Prose and Meeter)
  • Dundee
Published 1774 (1774)

"God Moves in a Mysterious Way" is a Christian hymn, written in 1773 by William Cowper from England.


The words were composed by William Cowper (1731–1800). Comprising six verses, they were written in 1773, just before the onset of a depressive illness, during which Cowper attempted suicide by drowning. The text was first published by Cowper's friend, John Henry Newton, in his Twenty-six Letters on Religious Subjects; to which are added Hymns in 1774. The hymn was later published in Olney Hymns which Cowper co-wrote with Newton. Entitled Conflict: Light Shining out of Darkness, it was accompanied by a text from Saint John's Gospel, Chapter 13: Verse 7, which quotes Jesus saying to his disciples; "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter."[1]

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

The first line of the hymn has become an adage or saying, encouraging a person to trust God's greater wisdom in the face of trouble or inexplicable events,[2] and is referenced in many literary works.[3]


Olney Parish Church, Stained Glass Window, with words from God Moves in a Mysterious Way

The hymn tune London New comes from The Psalmes of David in Prose and Meeter of 1635. In Common Praise, it is in D major. A popular alternative and rather similar tune is Dundee, which comes from the Scottish Psalter of 1615; the harmony was arranged by Thomas Ravenscroft (1592-1635) in 1621.[4] Other traditional tunes include Manoah, first published by Henry Wellington Greatorex in Boston, Massachusetts in 1843 but sometimes attributed to Joseph Haydn,[5] and Irish by Charles Wesley, first published in 1749.[6]

The lryics were also used as part of the theme of the award-winning 2017 Danish television series "Ride upon the Storm".

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