When we are tested and wrestle alone (StF 240)

Authors & translators:
Duck, Ruth (auth)
Festivals and Seasons:
Composers & arrangers:
Young, Carlton R.
Singing the Faith: 240 (CD10 #16)
STF Number:

Ideas for use


The notes below compare this text to Herman Stuempfle’s hymn, Jesus, tempted in the desert (StF 237). Consider having the two texts read out loud together, alternating Stuempfle and Ruth Duck’s verses – beginning with the Stuempfle.

Alternatively, sing “Jesus tempted in the desert” and then read “When we are tested and wrestle alone” as a prayer to follow.

You may also choose to sing or read this hymn one verse at a time, allowing space in between each verse to consider questions like these:

v1. In what ways have I experienced the world “offering stone”; how have I been helped to look beyond the temptation of transitory satisfaction to discover God’s gift of sustaining nourishment?

v2. Are there incidents that have caused me to cry out for a clear sign of God’s involvement in my life or the world’s? Have I been able to find rest, trusting in God’s presence – and, if so, how?

v3. What does the phrase “trading the truth for the power to control” mean; have I ever found myself tempted to do just that?

More information

This hymn works as a complementary text to Herman Stuempfle’s account of Jesus, tempted in the desert (StF 237). Stuempfle follows the biblical narrative as found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke (Matthew 4: 1-11Luke 4: 1-13), with the first three of his four verses beginning, “Jesus, tempted. . .” The final verse addresses the “So what?” of the story – what does it mean for us?

In effect, Ruth Duck’s hymn picks up where Herman Stuempfle’s leaves off, with each verse beginning (like Stuempfle’s final verse), “When we. . .”.

At the same time, Ruth also uses the structure of the biblical narrative to find connections between Jesus’ experience and our own. She has said that “sometimes I paraphrase psalms or other scripture passages, to lift out key ideas and images of the text in a way that I believe contemporary people will be able to sing in the spirit of prayer.” That’s exactly what she does here, illuminating a biblical passage of scripture that can sometimes become over familiar.

Jesus, like us, looked for food that would nourish him throughout his ministry. Not bread conjured from stones, which would assuage his hunger for a day, but God’s word. That is the prayer that Ruth gives us to sing too.

Similarly, like Jesus, we ask for trust in God’s presence without the need for “sign and test” (v.2) and (again like Jesus) to value truth over “the power to control” (v.3). Reading these verses alongside the opening three verses of Stuempfle’s hymn brings to life the drama of Jesus’ temptations and translates them into our own experience, expressing our desire to sort and sift the wrong from the right (v.4).

We are vulnerable beings, Ruth Duck suggests. There are indeed times in our Christian life when we struggle and search; and it’s OK to pray for “circles of care*, angels of healing” – just as Jesus did.

Read more about Ruth Duck in God in all our experience - the hymns of Ruth Duck

[*This image provided the title for Ruth Duck’s 1998 hymn collection: Circles of Care: Hymns and Songs (Pilgrim Press)

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