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Sometimes you have to reach bottom before you look up to see God at work. Back in 1973, I was out of work again and depressed — actually very depressed. My wife and I had a son, an apartment, a car, and lots of bills to pay. I had also made myself unemployable as a high school teacher with just too much Jesus talk in class. I guess I was naive to think that talking about Jesus was more important than teaching Latin or English literature.
One morning I was reading the Bible and came to Isaiah 52:7: “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him Who brings good news, announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness: your God reigns.” My heart began pounding in my chest because, through what I read, God spoke to me: “You’re going to get through this, and you will be fine. In fact, you’ll do very well.” I just felt the dark cloud lift off me. I picked up my guitar and, in a few minutes, Our God Reigns was born! I had one verse and the chorus. It wasn’t so much that I wrote it as I received it!
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him
Who brings good news, good news
Announcing peace, proclaiming new of happiness
Our God reigns, Our God reigns!
Our God reigns! Our God reigns! Our God reigns!
A couple of months later, a traveling evangelist visited our church, heard the song, and taught it as he went from church to church. It took me three more years to complete the other verses that made this Scripture chorus into a hymn that went around the world.
After the three big Christian music publishers passed on publishing my song in the late ’70s, I decided to keep the copyright and establish New Jerusalem Music to manage my songs, as well as the songs of our friends and my son, Daniel C. Smith, of the group Danielson Family. The decision to create my own music company worked out incredibly well over the decades. This was the fulfillment of His promise all those years ago when He told me that I would do very well. I know we really do have a Good Shepherd who is guiding us, closing doors, and opening doors.
Every one of us has experienced disappointment and failure and had our hearts broken. But we don’t need to be bitter about it. If we look closely, we’ll see how God worked it out for our good. Over time, we become more understanding, more patient, and kinder to others who have been overlooked and forgotten. We must not forget that suffering is the very thing God uses to refine and strengthen us. Jesus set the pattern that crucifixion comes before resurrection.
I would never have taken up learning how to play the guitar in seminary in the ‘60s if I hadn’t been so desperately lonely for so long. And I would never have started writing Scripture songs if I hadn’t so deeply needed the comfort of the Psalms of David, who also knew something of loss and pain and heartbreak.
Looking back, I’m grateful I was fired from that last teaching job. It proved to be the door God closed before He opened a new door for me. That open door has allowed me to enter into a wonderful new world. Thank you, Lord, for being such a good, loving, kind, faithful Shepherd. I know I’m in Your good hands and that will never change.
To hear Lenny and his family singing Our God Reigns, visit bit.ly/OurGodReigns.
Leonard E. Smith is a singer, songwriter, and music publisher. He has written more than 200 songs, but he is best known for “Our God Reigns,” which has been recorded on over 55 albums, printed in 35 songbooks and hymnals, and translated in more than 20 languages. He and his wife, Marian, have five children. Find Lenny’s music at www.greatcomfortrecords.com