Strength Through Adversity

(Photo of Barry P. Epps)


Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him (James 1:12)

     INTRO.:  A song which is designed to help us endure the temptations and trials of life so that we may receive the crown of life is “Strength Through Adversity.”  The source of the text for stanzas 1 and 2 is listed as “Author Unknown.”  Other sources identify it as being taken from a three-stanza poem of six lines each entitled “Climb The Steep,” beginning “For every hill I’ve had to climb,” and attributed to L. E. Thayer.  The tune was composed by Barry Paul Epps, who was born in Muskogee, OK, on Nov. 30, 1940, to Mr. and Mrs. Paul Epps, and was baptized in 1952 at Paris, TX.  Barry played in his high school band; two college bands while attending Lubbock Christian College from 1959 to 1961 and Abilene Christian College from 1961 to 1963, where he received a B.S. degree in marketing with a minor in Bible; and the Second Armored Division Band at Fort Hood, TX.

     In 1966 Barry married Glenda Minchew of Dimmitt, TX, and they had two sons, Lance and Todd.  For twelve years, he was employed by Montgomery Ward and then went to work as a buyer for United Stationers of Dallas, TX.  In addition, he studied music every summer under such teachers as Wilkin Bacon, L. O. Sanderson, Texas Stevens, and his own father.  For “Strength Through Adversity,” Barry took the first four lines from the first two stanzas of Thayer’s poem and reversed their order.  The text of stanza 3 was added and the melody was harmonized both by Barry’s father, Paul H. Epps (1914-2002).  Then a chorus was fashioned using the omitted fifth and sixth lines from Thayer’s original stanzas 1 and 2.

     The song was copyrighted in 1976 by Barry and Paul and was published in the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons.   It also was used in the 1980 compilation Our Garden of Song edited by Gene C. Finley.  Among Barry’s other published songs is “The Land of Perfect Peace.”  Two more of his songs, “I Want to See Heaven” copyrighted in 1975, and “Jesus My Friend” copyrighted in 1980, are found in the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.  The latter also appears in the 1999 Into Our Hands: Songs for the Church edited by Leland R. Fleming.  Both were written in conjunction with his father Paul.  

      “Strength Through Adversity” reminds us that God can use the trials and tribulations that we experience to accomplish good in our lives (variations noted in parentheses).

I. Stanza 1 mentions heartaches

For all the heartaches and the tears,

For all the anguish (misery) and the pain,

For gloomy (the gray) days and fruitless (useless) years,

And for the hopes I’ve (that) lived in vain:

 A. Heartaches are often accompanied with tears: Ps. 6:6

 B. They also frequently bring anguish and pain: Ps. 25:17-18

 C. As a result, we sometimes find that our days are gloomy and full of trouble: Job 14:1

II. Stanza 2 mentions hills

For every hill I’ve had to climb,

For every stone (rock) that bruised my feet,

For all the blood and sweat and grime,

For blinding storms and burning heat:

 A. There will be hills to climb if we are pressing upward: Phil. 3:13-14

 B. Along the way, we may be bruised as Christ was bruised: Isa. 53:10

 C. And we may face storms which represent the tribulations of life: Acts 14:21-22

III. Stanza 3 (Thayer’s original 3rd stanza) mentions adversity

It’s (‘Tis) not the softer things of life

That arouse our (stimulate man’s) will to strive,

But raw (bleak) adversity and strife

Do most to keep our (man’s) will alive:

 A. Some people seek the softer things of life: Matt. 11:8

 B. However, it is by facing the adversity of trials that we are blessed: Jas. 1:2-3

 C. It is this kind of experience that gives our will the hope to keep us alive: Rom. 5:3-5

IV. Stanza 4 (Paul Epps’s added 3rd stanza) mentions burdens
I thank Thee, Lord, for all the years,

For every burden of the day,

For all the heartaches and the fears

That I have known along the way:

 A. We should be thankful in every situation: 1 Thess. 5:18

 B. Each of us has a burden or load in life that we must carry: Gal. 6:4-5

 C. And all of us have various fears from time to time: 2 Cor. 7:5

     CONCL.:  The chorus expresses gratitude for even these difficulties because they help us grow and make us stronger.

My heart sings (but) a grateful song,

These (Those) were the things that made me strong.

I do give thanks for now I know,

These were the things that made (helped) me grow.

The last two lines of Thayer’s original stanza 3 are as follows:

Over (O’er) rose strewn paths the anointed ones (weaklings) creep,

But only those deserted (brave hearts) dare (to) climb the steep.

No times of suffering ever seem to be joyful for the present.  But whenever we are called upon to undergo afflictions, it is always good to know that we can look to the Lord for “Strength Through Adversity.” 

One thought on “Strength Through Adversity

  1. L. E. Thayer may be Ernest Lawrence Thayer, best known for his poem “Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888,” published anonymously under his pen name “Phin” in the San Francisco newspaper, “Daily Examiner.” His poem used here is elsewhere referred to by the title, “Friendly Obstacles.”

    The remnants of Thayer’s poem might be adapted in some similar manner:

    “O’er rose-strewn paths do weaklings creep,
    On clover beds they take their sleep;
    But only brave hearts climb the steep,
    Who trod that Strait and Nar-row street.”


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