“‘How Firm a Foundation’ connects you to the first resource, which is God’s word,” he wrote. “We learned to love this hymn because Elisabeth Elliott loved it. It was a favorite hymn of hers and you’ll see why.”
“Betty,” who was Tim and Kathy’s teacher at the time of their wedding, advised the couple to expect suffering. He added, “Since she had had two husbands die we took her seriously. By the way, this is also Isaiah 40. In fact you should read Isaiah 40 afterwards. We had it as the recessional in our wedding because we expected suffering. Because we expected to be helping people in suffering.”
Continuing, Keller said, “It’s a paraphrase obviously, but basically it’s what God is saying to Israel. But I’ll tell you, Kathy and I memorized it and used it on each other over the years.”
Keller shared that he and Kathy gave a vow to each other from Psalm 34:1-3, which is engraved on the inside of their wedding rings. “We wanted to praise God in the way that afflicted people were helped.”
The next hymn, “Jesus Lives and So Shall I,” provides hope for life after death, wrote Keller. “It should not be sung at too slow a pace, or it will sound like a dirge. So keep it brisk, and remember it’s describing our hope for the future.”
“There’s nothing that can happen here that can’t make you better,” Keller continued. “It says at the beginning of the last verse: ‘Jesus lives, and death is now but my entrance into glory.’”
The final hymn Keller chose was “For All the Saints, Who from their Labor Rest,” a song that talks about the saints for all the saints, he explained.
“It’s really wonderful in talking about how we’re all going to be gathered together. Verse 5,” Keller said, “is interesting because the idea is that, when you’re here, you’re in the middle of a battle. But the distant triumph song is at the end. We know that there’s a new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. And that there will be perfect justice.”
As Keller often did, he encouraged his brothers and sisters in Christ—even at his own memorial service.
“Are you in the middle of the battle?” he asked. “‘When the fight is fierce, the warfare is long, steals on the ear, the distant triumph song; and hearts are braving and arms are strong.’ That’s made for you.”