1 God moves in a mysterious way
his wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps in the sea
and rides upon the storm.
2 Deep in unfathomable mines
of never-failing skill,
he treasures up his bright designs
and works his sovereign will.
3 You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
the clouds you so much dread
are big with mercy and shall break
in blessings on your head.
4 His purposes will ripen fast,
unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste,
but sweet will be the flower.
5 Blind unbelief is sure to err
and scan his work in vain.
God is his own interpreter,
and he will make it plain.
The first line indicates the focus of the entire text: God's ways may well be mysterious to us, but God does act! He "works his sovereign will" (st. 2), and someday "he will make it plain" (st. 5). In the meantime, even in periods of profound doubt and despair, we may trust God's wisdom.
Psalter Hymnal Handbook
This beloved hymn has been the source of encouragement to many believers in their times of trial and pain, for it enables them to express in song what they have learned from the confessions. First, God will always be with his people. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9, Question and Answer 26 professes that God will “turn to my good whatever adversity he sends upon me in this sad world.”
Secondly, nothing happens outside of God’s will. Lord’s Day 10, Question and Answer 27 professes that “all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.” Belgic Confession, Article 13 teaches that “this doctrine (of God’s Providence) gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing happens to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly father.”
Finally, nothing can separate God’s people from his gracious love. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10, Question and Answer 28 professes that we can have “good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love.”