Pastoral Perspectives

Does God Still Care?

2020 will be remembered for years to come. I was browsing the church gallery –particulary the pictures taken during our annual Chinese New Year Combined service at the beginning of the year. The pews were significantly less occupied compared to previous years. It was around that time Singapore began to feel the impact of the COVID 19. A few weeks later, churches were shut down and our services pivoted to online.

It’s August and monsoon season in many parts of the world. There are floods, mudslides, and landslides disturbing the rhythm of farming for many farmers. Apparently, many crops have been destroyed and there isn’t much left to harvest. And we are also witnessing explosions, forest fires, political unrest in many parts of the world.

Closer to home, many are struggling with one thing or the other. Some are reeling from the impact of losing their jobs. For some, their loved ones are affected and they are at a loss, not knowing how to cheer them up. Some are unable to see their loved ones while some are stuck in a rut. Some are psychologically affected while some are diagnosed with terminal illness. Many are worried about the future. In all these conversations, one thing stood out- how do we make sense of these things and continue to have faith in God?

It was around this time that I heard an old favorite gospel hymn being played once again. It was written by Civilla Durfee Martin.

The author explains the context out of which the much-loved gospel hymn was born. In the spring of 1905, she was travelling with her husband Dr Martin in Elmira, New York where they developed a deep friendship with a godly couple by the name of Mr & Mrs Doolittle. Mrs Doolittle was bedridden for nearly twenty years and her husband was wheelchair bound who had to propel himself to and from it to get about his businesses. Despite their condition, they lived happy Christian lives encouraging, comforting, and inspiring all who knew them. When asked what the secret for their bright hopefulness was, she responded ‘His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches over me.’ The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Civilla and her husband. Out of that experience, the hymn “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” was born. The next day, she mailed the poem to a famous composer of gospel songs Charles Gabriel who wrote the tune for it.

The song’s inspiration arises from Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” We often hear the expression ‘to flee as a bird to the mountains’ and in times of dire stress, we would rather flee as a bird than face the situation. And some might also argue that some birds are more majestic than others.

This is where Matthew 10:29-31 continues “Are not two sparrows sold for penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of you Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

In the olden days, of all the birds used by people for food or offerings, apparently sparrows were the cheapest in the market, costing only a penny for a pair- the larger the quantity, the cheaper the price! So, a sparrow seems like a worthless bird in human terms.

Yet, his Eye is on the sparrow. If a worthless bird has significance in the eyes of our Creator, and if the words of our Lord Jesus Christ means anything to us, surely we can take comfort in knowing that He knows what is happening and will take care of us.

To those who are troubled, struggling, doubting, crying, helpless, angry and in distress, this is what our Lord said in John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God’s truth and also in me.” We can take comfort and be rest assured that God is watching over us.

The song brought much comfort to the African American community during the Civil Rights movement. The words speak to all of us today too, reminding us that in spite of sorrow, there is solace and peace giving us the assurance that we are under the watchful eyes of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who remains a constant friend even when all else flee.

His Eye Is on the Sparrow
Civilla Martin

1.Why should I feel discouraged,
Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely,
and long for heav’n and home;
When Jesus is my portion?
My constant friend is he;
His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know he watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know he watches me.

I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free
For His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know he watches me.

2.“Let not your heart be troubled”
His tender word I hear,
And resting on his goodness,
I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path he leadeth,
but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know he watches me
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know he watches me.

3.Whenever I am tempted,
Whenever clouds arise;
When songs give way to sighing,
when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to him,
From care he sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know he watches me
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know he watches me.

Pr Loliro Sani

August 16, 2020