A Never Failing Pen
Discovering Gratefulness In Disappointment
by Eric Elkin
As a young man, Thomas Chisholm must have thought he was destined for greatness. Born in a log cabin in rural Kentucky, he was a teacher by the time he was 16 years old. A local newspaper owner discovered Chisholm’s talent for writing. He hired Thomas at age 21 to be the associate editor of The Franklin Advocate.
After attending a camp revival meeting, Thomas Chisholm decided to become a Christian. This led to him getting noticed by Dr. H.C. Morrison , president of Asbury College and Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Morrison recruited Thomas to become the editor of The Pentecostal Herald, a national religious publication. Eventually, Chisholm decided to become an ordained Methodist minister.
His preaching career ended almost as quickly as it started. Poor health forced him not only to resign from serving a congregation, but it required several years of recovery. With his life in ministry over, Thomas found himself working as an insurance salesman in Vineland, New Jersey.
Chisholm never abandoned his writing talents. He spent his idle time writing poems. By the time he retired from the insurance agency in 1953, Thomas Chisholm had written 1200 poems. Of those 1200 creations, 800 were published in various Christian publications. However, there is one particular poem he is best known for writing.
Over the years, Chisholm sent hundreds of poems to the Rev. William H. Runyan, a musician and editor in Chicago, Illinois. Only one poem ever caught Runyan’s attention. Its appeal almost left Runyan spellbound. He prayed, to a point of obsession, that he might write a tune fitting for the words.
In 1923, Ryan completed the tune and published it in a pamphlet of private songs. The song remained hidden in obscurity until 1954, when Canadian singer George Beverly Shea sang it at a Billy Graham Crusade in Great Britain. It was at that point, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” became an all-time favorite hymn. Sung throughout hundreds of congregations still to this day.
Thomas Chisholm died at the age of 87. He was never able to fulfill his professional dreams and struggled financially his entire life. The sickness that cut short his life as a minister, never went away. There were an abundance of reasons for Thomas to be bitter. However, when reflecting on his life he wrote, “I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.”
In a world where prosperity and position are used to evaluate value, it is helpful to reflect on Chisholm’s story. There is a joy that surpasses all earthly reason. It comes from those who see God’s mercies being poured out freely new every morning. Seeing this captures the heart with astonishing gratefulness.
Click to read Lamentations 3:22-3
- When have you been frustrated by an unfulfilled desire?
- How has this frustration framed your view of your own worth?
- Where do you see God’s mercies pouring out upon you this day?
- How can gratefulness for simple things reform your life?