“Sometime We’ll Understand”

"In Thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk" (Ps. 143.8)

     INTRO.: A song which expresses a relationship of trust in God and encourages us to seek the way in which He wants us to walk is "Sometime We’ll Understand" (#472 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Maxwell Newton Cornelius, who was born July 30, 1842, on a farm in Lawrence County, western PA. Leaving the farm at an early age to earn his living as a brick mason in the building and construction trade, he was very successful and soon founded his own company. However, while building a house in Pittsburgh, PA, he suffered a tragic accident and severely mangled his leg. After a week, the doctors determined that his damaged leg had to be amputated, and though he withstood the operation well he felt that his house building career was over.

     Therefore, Cornelius decided to enter college and obtain an education. After graduating with honors, he became a Presbyterian minister in 1871 and remained in the East for several years with his first work at Altoona, PA, but because of his wife’s poor health they moved to Pasadena, CA, in 1885, where he took a struggling church of 100 members to 1000 in less than three years. Then an unexpected economic collapse occurred. Around 1891, while struggling to meet the financial obligations on a new church building and at the same time caring for his wife’s rapidly declining health, he wondered why God had permitted so many tragic events to occur in one person’s life. Then he began to think about "God’s better land," beyond the reach of sorrow and tears, where God’s people would understand the reason for their sufferings.

     These events moved Cornelius to write his one and only poem. Shortly after he penned it, his wife died. Cornelius spoke at her funeral service, and at the conclusion of this sad occasion, he read his new poem. Somehow, the sermon was copied with the poem and it appeared in a California newspaper, where it was discovered by evangelist Daniel Webster Whittle (1840-1901). Impressed with its beauty, he carried it in his Bible for three months and then asked that a tune be composed for it by James McGranahan (1840-1907). Cornelius authored only the stanzas, while Whittle provided the chorus based on the thoughts of the stanzas and had the song published in Ira D. Sankey’s Gospel Hymns No. 6 of 1891 (some sources say that it was not included until the 1895 edition). Mr. Cornelius died in 1893.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L Jorgenson; and the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson.  Today, it may be found in the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Sacred Selections and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song points us to that future time when all will be made plain.

I. Stanza 1 tells us when
"Not now, but in the coming years, It may be in the better land,
We’ll read the meaning of our tears, And there, sometime, we’ll understand."
 A. There are some things that we shall just never understand "now," in this life, because the end of a thing is better than the beginning: Eccl. 7.8
 B. Therefore, to understand them fully, we must wait until we come to "the better land," the heavenly one: Heb. 11.14-16
 C. At that time, we can read "the meaning of our tears" in that God will reward us for our sufferings: 1 Pet. 4.12-13

II. Stanza 2 tells us what
"We’ll catch the broken thread again, And finish what we here began;
Heaven will the mysteries explain, And then, ah then, we’ll understand."
 A. Life is sometimes poetically pictured as a cord or thread, in which are breaks as loved ones leave us and other tragic events occur: Eccl. 12.6
 B. But when this life is over, we can finish what we here began because God is able to take that which He has begun in us and complete it: Phil. 1.6
 C. "Heaven will the mysteries explain" because there God will wipe away all tears: Rev. 21.4

III. Stanza 3 tells us why
"We’ll know why clouds instead of sun Were over many a cherished plan;
Why song has ceased when scarce begun: ‘Tis there, sometime, we’ll understand."
 A. In this life, we do not always understand why clouds of sorrow sometimes shut out the sunshine of happiness: Eccl. 11.4
 B. We do not always know why our cherished plans often go unfulfilled: Jas. 4.13-17
 C. Here, song may cease when scarce begun, but we shall understand why better when we are given the eternal song to sing with the redeemed of all ages: Rev. 5.8-14

IV. Stanza 4 tells us how
"Why what we long for most of all Eludes so oft our eager hand,
Why hopes are crushed and castles fall, Up there, sometime, we’ll understand."
 A. What we long for most of all is usually happiness: Eccl. 2.1-11
 B. This so oft eludes our eager hand because we find that man is generally of few days and full of trouble: Job 14.1
 C. Yet, while hopes are crushed and castles fall here, there is something that will anchor us to the Rock of Ages as a firm foundation upon which we can build our lives: Heb. 6.19-20

V. Stanza 5 tells us who
"God knows the way, He holds the key, He guides us with unerring hand;
Sometime with tearless eyes we’ll see; Yes, there, up there, we’ll understand.
 A. We do not always know the right way, but God does: Ps. 1.6
 B. Therefore, we can trust Him to guide us with an unerring hand: Ps. 31.3, 32.8
 C. Then, someday we shall see with tearless eye because we shall be ushered into His very presence where there will be no night: Rev. 21.22-27

CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of the importance of putting our trust in God rather than in the ephemeral things of this life:
"Then trust in God through all thy days; Fear not for He doth hold thy hand;
Though dark thy way, still sing and praise; Sometime, sometime we’ll understand."
The answers to life’s suffering cannot be explained with human logic.  However, we receive help to endure the problems of this life by putting our faith in God to direct our steps. And we can do so with the knowledge that "Sometime We’ll Understand."


One thought on ““Sometime We’ll Understand”

  1. i think this is the song that my grandmother loved enough to look it up in all her old gospel books to be used at my brothers funeral in 1992. I have been looking for the words, now I can learn the melody.
    there is another great song called Some Day
    Dr. Victor M Staley cas H Gabriel copyright 1931, renewal Homer A Rodeheaver, owner. I got this onw out of one of Grandma’s old Gospel Melodies and Evangelistic Hymns. Have a blessed summer.


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