God showers us with blessings
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Devotional text: 2 Corinthians 9:8-10
As I sit at my desk this morning, I look outside and it is pouring rain. We need it. The ground is still dry and brown from winter’s passing, and the rain will help the grass and trees and flowers spring back to life.
The rain reminds me of an often-sung and well-known hymn written by Major Daniel Webster Whittle in 1883, “There Shall Be Showers of Blessings.”
Whittle wrote this hymn, one of some 200 authored by him, during his many years as an evangelist. The words are based on the book of Ezekiel 34:26-27: “I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land.”
Chapter 34 of Ezekiel is a prophecy that includes the work of the good shepherd, as a foretaste of the Messiah who was to come.
The words of Ezekiel are echoed throughout the verses of this hymn. In his first verse, Whittle wrote, “There shall be showers of blessings, this is the promise of love; there shall be seasons refreshing, sent from the Savior above.”
I like to look at the story behind the writer when there is information available. Whittle has a story that speaks to us all.
Born Nov. 22, 1840, in Chicopee Falls, Mass., Whittle was named after the famous American statesman, Daniel Webster. He entered the Civil War in 1862, the day after he married his sweetheart, Abbie Hanson, on Aug. 22. Whittle was 21 years old.
Toward the end of the war, he received the commission of major, a title he held for the rest of his life. However, during the war, he lost his right arm, which was amputated at the elbow. It was during his long recovery in the hospital that he began reading the New Testament that had been given to him by his mother.
One night, when another young soldier laid dying, the nurse asked Whittle if he would come and pray for the young man. At first, Whittle balked at the idea. He had not yet become a believer and did not think it was right for him to pray for anyone. The nurse mentioned that she thought he was a Christian because he was always reading the Bible. Finally, Whittle agreed to pray.
As he went to his knees at the young man’s side, the first thing Whittle did was to ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins. In his own words, Whittle later wrote, “I believe right then and there he did forgive me.” Then, he prayed with all his might for the young man. When he finished, the boy was dead.
Whittle wrote, “A look of peace came across his troubled face, and I cannot believe but that God who used him to bring me to the Savior, used me to lead him to trust in Christ’s precious blood and find pardon.”
Following the war, Whittle became a treasurer for the Elgin Watch Co. in Chicago. During this time, Whittle had a chance meeting with the evangelist D.L. Moody, which eventually led to a friendship between the two men. With Moody’s encouragement, Whittle left his good-paying job of $5,000 per year and entered the missionary field as an evangelist.
Whittle’s story doesn’t end there, but let’s look at what we have learned from his life so far.
His life shows the blessings of God at work in our lives. Whittle didn’t really know about the saving grace found in Jesus until he began to read the Bible his mother had given him as he went off to war. Having nothing else to do or read during his recovery, he took out the one book that would truly save his life.
Not yet a Christian, a nurse, unknowingly, was used by God to hasten along Whittle’s salvation. It was his reading of the Bible that led the nurse to call on him. It was his understanding of what he read that led him to his knees at the dying soldier’s side. There, God used the soldier to bring Whittle to salvation, and then Whittle could pray for the soldier’s salvation. It was Whittle’s first step as an evangelist.
Still, God was not done with Whittle, bringing him into contact with one of the greatest evangelists of all time, D.L. Moody. With Moody’s encouragement, as he was nudged by God, Whittle found his calling in life, to become an evangelist.
This is the way God blesses us. This is the way God works in our lives. God uses us and blesses us just as we are, just where we are and just as who we are. God brings people into our lives to help us along. Little by little, God shows us his plan for us as he blesses us with our needs.
We read more of how God blesses us in 2 Corinthians 9:8-10: “God is able to bless you abundantly, so in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
Continuing with Whittle’s story, another hymn writer and evangelist became a part of his life when he met Philip P. Bliss. The two men worked side by side for two years (1874 to 1876).
Tragedy struck in 1876 when Bliss and his wife died in a train wreck. As Whittle worked along with the crew trying to find bodies in the wreck, another friend of Bliss’ joined them, James M. Granahan.
As God led Whittle and Granahan to share their grief over the loss of Bliss and his wife, the two men decided to become an evangelistic team and remained so for more than 11 years. It was Granahan who wrote the music to “There Shall Be Showers of Blessings.”
There is a fifth verse to this hymn, one not found in many hymn books. It reminds us of our part in trusting God: “There shall be showers of blessings, if we but trust and obey; there will be seasons refreshing, if we let God have his way.”