I have often reported that most of the songs that are meaningful to Christians were born during a dark period in someone’s life. A tragedy of epic proportions was the background for the writing one of Don Moen’s most influential and widely known songs. The message in the lyrics and the beauty of the melody line have caused it to cross over from one genre of Christian music to others.
Don, the second oldest of the four children of Morris and Marjorie Moen, was born in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1950. Marjorie was a church pianist, so she saw to it that her children were involved in church and Sunday school activities, especially the music programs. She started each of them in piano lessons in the second grade. Don reports that he, his older brother and two younger sisters, went “kicking and screaming for six years.”
Don began to play the violin in the third grade, and in coming years it was to be his major instrument. With it, he was able to win a scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi. Soon after his enrollment he found himself playing in seven orchestras that were in a radius of about 100 miles from his school. Even with that kind of success, the violin was not his first love. His ultimate goal was to be a navy pilot, but his glasses kept him from that ambition. Don said, “Being a violinist was what I thought I would do for the rest of my life.”
Before becoming the Vice President of Creative at Integrity Music, he was involved in a number of positions in the firm, and during that time he began to write and record songs that have ministered to millions of people around the world.
One such meaningful song is the subject of this story. The following is how Don related his story to me:
“My wife’s sister and her husband, Craig and Susan Phelps, were involved in a car accident during a ski trip they were taking from their home in Oklahoma to a resort in Colorado. Way out somewhere in the Texas panhandle, their van was hit by an 18-wheeler. As they approached a remote intersection, Craig did not see the truck coming, and the driver of the truck did not see their van. The truck hit a rear panel of the van with such force that all four of their children were thrown out.”
“The children had just left their seats, where they were buckled in, to lay down for a nap on a ‘bed’ positioned in the rear of the van. In the darkness, only the crying of their severely injured children made it possible for mom and dad to find them — all except one — their nine-year-old son, whom they finally located lying by a nearby fence. He was already dead. His neck had been broken.”
“Craig, a medical doctor, picked his son up and tried to revive him, but God said to him, ‘Jeremy is with me. You deal with those who are living.’ They sat for 45 minutes, out in the wilderness, waiting for an ambulance.”
“I received word of the tragedy from my mother-in-law, but I hesitated to call Craig, because I had no idea what to say to him. He was a physician who deals with life and death on a daily basis, and now his own son was in his arms … dead. Craig was a Bible teacher and an elder at his church. He knew the Word of God, probably better than I did, and was living in faith, believing the Lord for things in his life. And yet, why would something like this happen?”
“They asked me to sing at the funeral, so I boarded a plane the next day, March 19, 1987, and headed for Oklahoma. As I sat on the plane, wondering what I should say to them, I began to read in the book of Isaiah. My eyes went to chapter 43, verse 19, “… I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” Instantly, the Lord gave me a song to sing to them. I sketched it out on a legal pad. I intended to sing it at the funeral, but they had already planned to ask me to sing Henry Smith’s ‘Give Thanks,’ so I sang their request instead.”
“After the funeral, I was sitting with them, holding them in my arms. I cried with them, and through my tears I said, ‘The Lord gave me a song for you.’ And I began singing … “God will make a way where there seems to be no way.”
In the song there is a reassurance that God will not only stay close to us, as a guide and friend, but he will be there during each “new day.” Even though our way seems as rugged as a desert or a wilderness, he will still remain as the restorer and provider.
Don continued, “I made a taped copy of the song for Susan to play on her small cassette player just above her kitchen sink. I knew that when all of the people had gone, and everything was said and done, that there would be days when she needed to hear that God was working in ways that she couldn’t see.”
God does work in many wayS that we do not understand. Young Jeremy’s friends heard that he had become a Christian before the accident. Many of them began to ask how they might know Christ, so that they could go to Heaven when they died. Jeremy’s parents became more intense in their walk with the Lord.
Jeremy’s mother later related how she made a quick decision between the time she got out of the van and the time they found her son. She knew that she had to make a choice between becoming bitter and angry and accepting God’s plan for their family at that time. Good things happened as a result of making the decision to embrace God’s will, no matter what that would mean in their lives. She agreed that God really did make a way for them.
Don continued, “About two years later, I was called to sing in a small church in Dothan, Alabama. Although I had never intended to sing ‘God Will Make a Way’ in a public service — I had written it just for that grieving family — somehow I felt impressed of the Lord to share the song with those people. I did so, and it had a tremendous impact on them.”
“The following week, I was leading worship during the Wednesday staff devotional period at Integrity Music, and again the Lord laid it upon my heart to sing that song. I pulled out my legal pad, looked at the words, and sang it for them. It seemed as if almost everyone there needed to hear the words, ‘He works in ways we cannot see.’”
“Following the devotional period F. G. Baldwin approached me and asked, ‘Don, have you ever thought of recording that song?’ I said, ‘Oh no, I would never record that song. It is much too simple.’ Baldwin protested, ‘That song has a tremendous message, and I think it needs to be recorded.’ After discussing it with some of the staff, we decided to put the song on a project entitled, ‘Eternal God.’”
In times of trial, and especially in times of extreme triAl, we need to be assured that we have a God who loves us and who will provide for our every need, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual. During those times, see if you too are encouraged and helped by singing Don’s song.
“…I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” —Isaiah 43:10-21