God Moves in a Mysterious Way

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

God Moves in a Mysterious Way
William Cowper by Lemuel Francis Abbott.jpg
William Cowper, author of the hymn text
Full titleConflict: Light Shining out of Darkness
Textby William Cowper
Meter8.6.8.6 (CM)
  • London New (The Psalmes of David in Prose and Meeter)
  • Dundee
Published1774 (1774)

"God Moves in a Mysterious Way" is a Christian hymn, written in 1773 by William Cowper from England. It was written by Cowper in 1773 as a poem entitled "Light Shining out of Darkness".[1]

The poem was the last hymn text that Cowper wrote. It was written following his attempted suicide while living at Olney in Buckinghamshire. John Newton published the poem the next year in his Twenty-six Letters on Religious Subjects; to which are added Hymns (1774).


The words were composed by William Cowper (1731–1800). Constituting 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 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."[2]

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 sovereign 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 ev'ry 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.[3]

The first line of the hymn has become a proverb in modern times, usually phrased as "God moves in mysterious ways" or "the Lord moves in mysterious ways."[4]


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;[5] the harmony was arranged by Thomas Ravenscroft (1592–1635) in 1621.[6]

Other traditional tunes include:

Much of the hymn became the lyrics of the theme song for the award-winning 2017 Danish television series Ride upon the Storm.

Inclusion in other works[edit]


  1. ^ The Columbia Anthology of British Poetry p.383 edited by Carl Woodring, James Shapiro
  2. ^ Hymnary.org: Psalter Hymnal (Gray) – 434. God Moves in a Mysterious Way
  3. ^ Cowper, William (1913). Milford, H. S. (ed.). The Complete Poetical Works. London: Oxford University Press. p. 455.
  4. ^ Manser, Martin H.; Fergusson, Rosalind (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5.
  5. ^ LindaJo H. McKim The Presbyterian Hymnal Companion 0664251803 1993 p.192 "Dundee appears in the Scottish Psalter (1615). For comments on the tune, see hymn 234. 270 O God, in a Mysterious Way Tune: Dundee The text was written by William Cowper in 1773 after he attempted suicide while living at Olney. This, the last hymn Cowper wrote, was first published in John Newton's Twenty-six Letters on religious Subjects; to which are added Hymns (1774). "
  6. ^ Hymnary.org: a comprehensive index of hymns and hymnals – Tunes – Dundee (Ravenscroft)
  7. ^ C Edward Spann and Michael Edward Williams, Presidential Praise: Our Presidents and Their Hymns, Mercer University Press 2008 ISBN 0-88146-117-2 (p.102)
  8. ^ "Church Music Dublin – Charles Wesley (1707–88) -The Legacy". Archived from the original on 27 December 2011. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  9. ^ Joy Beyond the Sorrow: Indelible Grace VI – Indelible Grace Music, www.amazon.com, Accessed: 10 May 2014

External links[edit]

Audio clips[edit]

Video clips[edit]