Lessons from Hymns: The Christian Virtue of Curiosity

“How Great Thou Art” is one of the most familiar hymns in the American church. But the ideals of our culture do not line up with what this hymn is inviting us to do. The lyrics tell us to stop doing and to start looking and listening. While society tells us to speed up, contribute more, and never stop working, this hymn is calling us to quietly observe, be curious, and to enjoy God’s goodness in everyday life. Let’s look at the first verse and chorus.

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art

In the first few lines, the hymnist looks up towards the sky and gives thanks to God. In each verse, the only action the hymnist does is observe. He sees the world as it is and gives glory to God because of it. He looks at the sky and sees God’s power to create. He looks at his own sin and sees God’s forgiveness and grace. He looks at the beauty of Christ in the world we already live in and is overwhelmed by the mere thought of what Heaven will be like. Each of these observations causes him to say, “How great Thou art!”

Romans 1:19-20 says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

God’s creation declares his goodness. We only need to stop and reflect to experience this. And by creation, I don’t just mean nature. Although we certainly can see God’s power by going outside. But we can also experience the beauty and goodness of God in math, science, color, music, language, food, stories, people, everything! All of these things are God’s creations. Curiosity and observation can lead us to deep worship.

This hymn is an invitation to participate in God’s beauty on earth, do to as Psalm 34:8 instructs, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”