Go Tell It on the Mountain

Day 4: Count Your Blessings

Psalm 40:4-5, Psalm 107:23-31, Psalm 136:1-26, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


No doubt many things got started in 1892. One of the many was the hymn-writing career of Johnson Oatman, Jr.

He wrote 5,000 hymns during his lifetime, a handful widely regarded as standards: “Higher Ground,” “No, Not One!,” and “Count Your Many Blessings.” That final example was first published in a songbook for young people. It is considered to be Oatman’s opus. One critic said: “Like a beam of sunlight it has brightened up the dark places of the earth.”

The Sunday nights of my childhood were spent in church, hemmed in among the waistlines of good Baptists. The feeling was laid back, no strict order of service like the morning. Often the song leader would loosen his tie and ask us for our favorite hymns. We Baptists didn’t bet, but some voice crying out “Count Your Many Blessings” was a sure thing, every time.

On those easy-like-Sunday evenings, the last half of that hymn’s chorus held a temptation too great for a song leader to resist: congregational participation. He’d always surrender. He would gradually slow us during that high E-flat “Count your blessings,” followed by the descending “name them one by one.” Then he’d bring us up full stop, still as sheep. He’d grin and say, “Now I know one of you has a blessing to count.” A grateful voice would rise, followed by another, and then another. And we would name them, always surprised at what the Lord had done, every time.

essay by John Blase

Count Your Blessings
by Johnson Oatman, Jr.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Sources listed here.