This hymn of assurance was written in 1896 by William O. Cushing as he reflected on a time of personal suffering. He was born in 1823 in Massachusetts, and at eighteen, he decided to become a minister. His first pastorate was at the Christian Church in Searsburg, New York. Over the years, he pastored at several locations in New York and was known as a kind and compassionate man who loved the Lord.
In 1870, his wife of sixteen years passed away. She had been a great help to him in the ministry and worked diligently in the Sunday School. Soon after his wife’s death, Cushing developed a paralysis that left him unable to talk and forced him to retire from the pastorate. It may have seemed that his usefulness was tragically ended, but he wasn’t easily discouraged. He prayed that God would allow him to continue serving in a ministry.
His prayers were answered, but probably not how he had expected. The door to a new ministry opened when God led him to write the words to hymns and gospel songs. He eventually wrote the words to more than 300 of them, including "When He Cometh," "Ring the Bells of Heaven," and "Hiding in Thee." Some of the best-known hymn composers of his day wrote the music.
When Cushing was seventy-three and remembered how God had cared for him during his life’s darkest hours, several passages from the Psalms came to his mind, and he was moved to write “Under His Wings.” Three verses, in particular, influenced the writing of this gospel song: He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. (Psalm 91:4); Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, (Psalm 17:8); and I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah. (Psalm 61:4). The music for “Under His Wings" was written by Ira Sankey, who sang it for the Moody-Sankey evangelistic meetings. It became so popular at D. L. Moody’s school in Northfield, Massachusetts, that the students sang it in morning chapel every day.
William O. Cushing went to be with the Lord when he was seventy-nine. God had put a song in his heart and a pen in his hand to continue his ministry. Although he couldn’t speak, his words have been sung for generations.
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust him; I know he will keep me;
He has redeemed me, and I am his child.
Under his wings, under his wings,
Who from his love can sever?
Under his wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.
How the heart yearningly turns to its rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blest.
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me;
Resting in Jesus I’m safe ever more.
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