You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance….The Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. (Psalm 32:7; 94:22)
William Orcutt Cushing (1823-1902) was raised in a Unitarian family, but through Bible reading, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Cushing became a Christian. He trusted that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God1 and followed the Lord for the rest of his life. Like his Savior, Cushing was generous and once gave his life savings for a blind girl’s education. After completing preparation for ministry, Cushing’s first pastorate was near Hector, N.Y. There he met Hena Proper and they married in 1854. Hena was a great helper in life and ministry and together they served various congregations in New York State. During a long illness, William cared tenderly for Hena, but she died in 1870. Soon after her death, creeping paralysis seized Cushing, forcing him to retire from pastoral ministry. Yet he prayed, “Lord, still give me something to do for you.” From that time onward, Cushing devoted himself to hymn writing and penned more than 300 hymns. “Hiding in Thee” is one of his best known.
Hiding in Thee
I sing Cushing’s hymn to the tune by Ira Sankey or just read the words as a prayer to the Lord:
1. O safe to the Rock that is higher than I, My soul in its conflicts and sorrows would fly; So sinful, so weary, thine, thine would I be; Thou blest Rock of Ages, I’m hiding in thee.
Chorus: Hiding in thee, hiding in thee, Thou blest Rock of Ages, I’m hiding in thee.
2. In the calm of the noontide, in sorrow’s lone hour, In times when temptation casts o’er me its power, In the tempests of life, on its wide, heaving sea, Thou blest Rock of Ages, I’m hiding in thee.
3. How oft in the conflict, when pressed by the foe, I have fled to my refuge and breathed out my woe! How often when trials like sea-billows roll, Have I hidden in thee, O thou Rock of my soul!
Connection to Psalm 61
Cushing’s hymn reminds us of Psalm 61:1-4: Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
Psalm 61 was written by King David during a time of great anguish, maybe when he was fleeing from Saul’s envious efforts to kill him or from his son Absalom’s coup d’état. David sounds like a refugee in a deserted place. David knows he needs God-Help instead of self-help. Being stiff-necked, doing as David saw fit, doing what’s right in his own eyes came easy to David and that attitude got him into trouble often.2 So now David looked up beyond himself, outside himself, praying to and trusting in God his Savior. The New Testament teaches that David was looking ahead to King Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as his only comfort in this life and beyond.3 David believed that Christ, the God of peace, will soon crush Satan under our feet.4 Do we believe that?
The verses above from Psalm 61 mention four kinds of protection that Jesus provides: Christ is a refuge or fortress; the Lord is a strong tower; God is a tent for shelter; and Christ covers us with His wings. The whole Bible teaches that Jesus does much more for us! Cushing said that his hymn grew out of many tears, many heart conflicts, much spiritual warfare, so it’s easy to see why he was drawn to Psalm 61. This Psalm was put in the Bible for all Christ’s followers to trust and use as a pattern for our prayers.
So What? Applying It
Cushing’s hymn and Psalm 61 suggest these lessons to me:
- Jesus taught that in this life we will have trouble, tribulation, distress, suffering, and frustration.5 We can’t expect complete deliverance from the presence of sin and its consequences now. That will only happen when Jesus brings us to a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells.6 The Christian life involves spiritual warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil. King David faced that struggle, so did William Cushing, and so do we.
- When troubles come, we must run to Jesus in faith and prayer, asking Him to deliver us. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent people you save me.”7 King David and William Cushing cultivated close personal communion and fellowship with the Lord. Do we? Sometimes we forget to ask Christ to rescue and help us. Often we take Him for granted. Scripture teaches, “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, to spend it on your passions.”8
- Taking refuge under God’s wings reminds us of Jesus’ words: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,….how often I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”9 Many of the Jewish people of Jesus’ day refused to come back to the Lord. Let us not be contrary children, difficult or disobedient, uncooperative or unreasonable, headstrong or self-willed. Christ favors repenting people who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at His word.10
- Sheltering under God’s wings reminds us of the mercy seat in the Old Testament tabernacle.11 The Greek word for mercy seat in Hebrews 9:5 is hilasterion, which means propitiation or atoning sacrifice.12 It means the Lord removes our sin by Jesus being the Lamb of God. Praise the Lord! He saves completely, forever, to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, because Christ always lives to intercede for us.13
We can’t hide from God or even from enemies for long. But Jesus’ followers died to our old ways, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.14 The penalty for our sins was paid by Christ’s death on the cross and we were raised with Jesus for a brand new life. Christ’s followers are secure in Him; we are protected from spiritual enemies; and we have access to all God’s blessings in Jesus and an eternal inheritance.
Maybe William Cushing had all this in mind when he wrote his hymn of dependence on Jesus. I like to think that he did. Learn Cushing’s hymn for yourself or at least use it as a prayer to God. Or at least chant the chorus (in modern English), especially in troubling times:
Hiding in YOU, hiding in YOU, my blest Rock of Ages, I’m hiding in YOU.
Notes (various translations used): 1 Matt 16:18. 2 allusion to Judges 17:6,21:25. 3 Acts 2:22-36. 4 Rom 16:20. 5 John 16:33. 6 2 Peter 3:13. 7 2 Sam 22:2,3. 8 James 4:2-3. 9 Matt 23:37. 10 Isa 66:1-5; 57:15. 11 Exodus 25:10-22. 12 Rom 3:24,25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10. 13 Heb 7:25. 14 Col 3:13.