Hymns – From God Can Nothing Move Me

“This hymn was a source of comfort to those facing a deadly pestilence and uncertain times, and its words of comfort are just as applicable to us …

Rose: Hymns – From God Can Nothing Move Me

This is a recent post from another site that I write for. I enjoy writing about hymns and their history. You learn so much about the words you’re singing and the world they came from when you dig into their history and go through them line by line. Composing good poetry is a lost art, and discussing this form of poetry is one of my favorite subjects to write about! I hope you enjoy it as well.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

Ludwig Helmbold was born in January 1532, in Mühlhausen, Thuringia of the Holy Roman Empire. His father, Stephen, was a manufacturer of wool and was able to send his to university in Leipzig and Erfurt, graduating in 1550. He then worked at the Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church) school in his hometown. Four years later, he was made a philosophy professor at Erfurt. In 1561 he began to work at St. Augustine in Erfurt, after a second round of the Plague worked its way through Germany. It was during that Plague in Erfurt that it is assumed that Helmbold wrote this hymn. At this time, around 4000 people died in the area. To console his fleeing friends and Helmbold’ sown family, he wrote this hymn, based on Psalm 73:23.

In 1566, Helmbold was crowned as the poeta laureatus by Emperor Maximilian II. Unfortunately, he was a protestant and had to leave this position in 1570. Yet the following year, he received a leadership position at Marienkirche again, then made pastor at St. Blasius’s and superintendent of Mühlhausen towards the end of his life. In April of 1598, Helmbold died in his hometown, having written many German and Latin hymns for school and church use as well as other musical and lyrical compositions. Among these is “Von Gott Will Ich Night Lassen,” or “From God Can Nothing Move Me.”

Despite when this hymn was written, it did not appear in hymnals for many years. While it seems that there were originally nine stanzas, only seven are typically sung today, if even that many. In was translated a couple of different times over the years and given various other names. It was included in the Psalmodia Germanica of 1722 by J.C. Jacobi, then in Russels Psalms and Hymns of 1851, and finally in Winkworth’s Chorale Book for England in 1863. Each translation also appeared in a couple of other hymn books, such as the Moravian Hymn Book and the Collection by the American Lutheran General Synod. All of these translations were incomplete and often rewritten from the original.

For the LCMS, this hymn first appeared in the 1978 hymnal Lutheran Book of Worship (green hymnal), then in Lutheran Worship (red hymnal), and finally in our current Lutheran Service Book (burgundy hymnal). The hymn was brought into our hymnody by Gerald Thorson, who translated a couple of stanzas of the hymn in 1978 for the Lutheran Book of Worship. Two other translators, Gregory Wismar and Joseph Herl, translated the other stanzas. This hymn was a source of comfort to those facing a deadly pestilence and uncertain times, and its words of comfort are just as applicable to us today.

From God can nothing move me;
He will not step aside
But gently will reprove me
And be my constant guide.
He stretches out His hand
In evening and in morning,
My life with grace adorning
Wherever I may stand.

During times of trial, hardship, success, and doubt, nothing brings as much peace as knowing that the Lord is always with us. He promised that He would always be with us and that nothing would remove us from Him (Matt. 28:19-20, Psa. 73:23-26, 1 Cor. 15:58, Rom. 8:38-39). This is not to discount this difficult times, but rather to be thankful to the faithfulness of God and remember that sometimes they come because of sin in the world or God’s loving correction (Jhn. 14:27, Rev. 3:19). But regardless of what comes our way, nothing will separate us from the love Christ has for us; His faithfulness is renewed every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). And as the hymn says, wherever we are, our life is full of the grace of God (Psa. 143:8). This is the peace we have in Christ.

When those whom I regarded
As trustworthy and sure
Have long from me departed,
God’s grace shall still endure.
He rescues me from sin
And breaks the chains that bind me.
I leave death’s fear behind me;
His peace I have within.

As mentioned in the story above, this hymn was written for a friend, who was leaving Helmbold because of pestilence, in order to comfort them. In other hymns, we regard this first part of the hymn to mean our earthly friendships are flakey, and they are. Yet here we recognize that sometimes people leave not because they despise us but because they must. In these times, we realize intrinsically that our friendship with God is not the friendship we have with other people (Jhn. 15:13-14, 1 Thes. 5:23-24). God is trustworthy and sure. His grace is never-ending, as the previous stanza instructed. And this grace means that we are free from sin, and thus free from the fear of death (Rom. 6:18-22, 8:1-4, Heb. 2:14-18). As with Helmbold, his family, and his friends, we too should remember when we are faced with the reality of death, uncertainty, and the absence of loved ones, we can rely on God and His promises, the freedom we have in Him, and have peace in a chaotic world (1 Cor. 15:55, Jhn. 14:27, 16:33).

The Lord my life arranges;
Who can His work destroy?
In His good time He changes
All sorrows into joy.
So let me then be still
My body. Soul, and spirit
His tender care inherit
According to His will

Despite the sin and chaos around us, we are reminded here that our lives are not our own. The Lord plans our steps; we are the work of His hands (Psa. 37:23-26, 138:8, Prov. 16:9). As in the first stanza, what can separate us from God? We do not fear that which kills the body; our soul rests soundly in God’s hands and grace (Luk. 12:4). But we may still have sorrow now. Friends and family may be leaving or are far away. Those we loved may have died. Jobs may have been lost, and anxiety may be threatening to consume us. All of this sorrow is real. 

But what does Scripture say? “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth!” (Psa. 46:10) God is sovereign above all things. While these sorrows and pain are real, and we should mourn with those who mourn, let us also encourage one another to remember this is temporary, and we have a God who gives joy and peace in all circumstances (2 Cor. 1:3-4). And reflecting the beginning of this verse, we are creations of the Lord. He has made us, and “His care” will inherit us, bring us to Himself (Psa. 33:18, 85:8, Prov. 19:21). And until that day, we can be still and know that He is Lord of all.

Each day at His good pleasure
God’s gracious will is done.
He sent His greatest treasure
In Jesus Christ, His Son.
He ev’ry gift imparts.
The bread of earth and heaven
Are by His kindness given.
Praise Him with thankful hearts!

This verse continues the thought of the last. God’s will rules over our lives. Not the chaos, or governments, or pestilence, or anything else in all creation. God’s will is done regardless of our circumstances or people’s desires. Here, we reflect on the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13). We ask not that His will be done, for it will be done regardless, but that is might be done among us (Eph. 2:10, Phil. 2:12-16). We ask that He will give us our daily bread, and we know that our Father gives good gifts (Luk. 12:32). Of course, we already know that He has given us the greatest gift: salvation through the sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son! (Phil. 2:5-11) Though we may be in times of trial, the Lord is still at work in His creation. So we pray and give thanks, as if good and pleasing to our Father in heaven.

Praise God with acclamation
And in His gifts rejoice.
Each day finds its vocation
Responding to His voice.
Soon years on earth are past;
But time we spend expressing
The love of God brings blessing
That will forever last!

So what do we do in response to all that the Lord has done for and given to us? We praise Him! We will be thankful for what we have been given, even if our current circumstances are not what we would like for them to be. God has given to us all things, and in that we are thankful (Psa. 107:1-3, 1 Jhn. 5:9-11, 2 Cor. 5:5, Rom. 11:33-36). Furthermore, as we have asked that His will be done among us, so too do we try to fulfill His commands in the vocations he has called us to. Our days will come and go; hardships and blessings will come with them. But instead of worrying these days away, let us praise and be thankful, sharing with others the joy He has given us that they too might hear the blessing to the Gospel (Psa. 105:3-4, Rom. 10:14-17). This is a work that will last as the days and years go past. 

Yet even though I suffer
The world’s unpleasantness,
And though the day’s grow rougher
And bring me great distress,
That day of bliss divine,
Which knows no end or measure,
And Christ, who is my pleasure,
Forever shall be mine.

We now remember again that we will die one day. But this is not the sad part of this verse but the happy conclusion. We look forward to that day when we are united with Christ with joy. We will suffer hardship in this life; we were guaranteed that. But we have been given a peace beyond this world. We have been given a promise of life everlasting. So even though the days “grow rougher,” and they bring us distress, we look forward towards what is ahead, towards what Christ has called us and promised for us. This state of sin and death is not our home. Though we will endure it while we are here, it will not last, and our eternal reward, life eternal with Christ, will be that which we strive for (2 Cor. 5:1, Phil. 3:12-16, 1 Pet. 1:3-9).

For thus the Father willed it,
Who fashioned us from clay;
And His own Son fulfilled it
And brought eternal day.
The Spirit now has come,
To us true faith has given;
He leads us home to heaven.
O praise the Three in One!

So throughout our lives, we can trust that nothing will remove us from God. He has made us, and we are His (Gen. 2:5-7, 1 Cor. 12:27, Heb. 3:6). By faith through His grace, we have received this gift of life from God through His Son, Jesus Christ (Acts 3:14-18, Rom. 5:2, Eph. 2:8-9, Jas. 1:17-18). The Spirit is now with us, and one day He will lead us to heaven (Jhn. 16:13, Gal. 3:13-14). In this, we have peace. In this, we rejoice. In this, we give thanks! In this hope, we share the Gospel. In this hope, we wait patiently through suffering, knowing that our Lord and Savior sympathizes with us and will lead us home one day. In this joy, we praise our Triune God who gives us peace and assurance!

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

Works Referenced

“713. From God Can Nothing Move Me.” The Lutheran Service Book. 2006.

From God Can Nothing Move Me

“Helmbold, Ludwig.” A Dictionary of Hymnology. Ed. John Julian. 1892. p. 508-09.

“Ludwig Helmbold.”

“Ludwig Helmbold.” Hymnary.

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