ABIDE WITH ME – 1847
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. John 15:7
As we face difficult times or decisions it is easy to simply “pick up our suitcase filled with learned behavior” and apply it to our life in the present. This is a picture painted in my brain by Pastor David some years ago and repeated for emphasis in later sermons. I agreed when I first heard the concept and do so even more today. It’s the easiest answer for most of us – just head straight for the quick solution, never pausing to seek guidance from the best and most powerful source — GOD!
Reading the words of today’s hymn gave me such comfort and peace of mind as I was reminded of God’s constancy and life-changing power. He never changes. His steadfast love surrounds and supports us through the joys as well as the difficult times of life; if we but take the time to acknowledge and listen. The path becomes clearer and all the clutter of our lives simply melt away as we invite Him in to abide with us; live in us; sit beside us and guide us in all things. When we abide in Jesus, we are rooting His word in our hearts, creating intimacy with Him through worship and allowing Him to work in and through our lives and obeying Him. It might be easier to just pick up that old suitcase of the familiar and move on, but, oh, how much more glorious is life abiding in Him!
Henry Francis Lyte, vicar in the fishing village of Lower Brixham, Devonshire, England, ministered faithfully for twenty-three years to his seafaring people. Though a humble couple, he and his wife Anne, lived in an elegant estate, Berry Head. It had reportedly been provided by King William IV, who had been impressed with Henry’s ministry. At water’s edge, its coastal views were among the most beautiful on the British Isles. Henry laid out walking trails through the estate’s forty-one acres and enjoyed the tranquility of the house and grounds. There he wrote most of his sermons, poems and hymns.
But Henry’s lung condition hung over the home like a blackening cloud. Lower Brixham suffered damp winters, and while in his early fifties, Henry realized his lung disorder had deteriorated into tuberculosis. On September 4, 1847, at age 54, he entered his pulpit with difficulty and preached what was to be his last sermon. He had planned a therapeutic holiday in Italy. “I must put everything in order before I leave,” he said, “because I have no idea how long I will be away.”
That afternoon he walked along the coast in pensive prayer then retired to his room, emerging an hour later with a written copy of “Abide With Me.” Some accounts indicate he wrote the poem during that hour; others say that he discovered it in the bottom of his desk as he packed for his trip to Italy, and that it had been written a quarter century earlier. Probably both stories are true. It is likely that, finding sketches of a poem he had previously started, he prayerfully revised and completed it that evening.
Shortly afterward, Henry embraced his family a final time and departed for Italy. Stopping in Avignon, France, he again revised “Abide With Me”—it was evidently much on his mind—and posted it to his wife. Arriving on the French Riviera, he checked into the Hotel de Angleterre in Nice, and there on November 20. 1847, his phthisic lungs finally gave out. Another English clergyman, a Rev. Mannnig of Chichester, who happened to be staying in the same hotel, attended him during his final hours. Henry’s last words were, “Peace, Joy!”
When news of his death reached Brixham, the fisherman of the village asked Henry’s son-in-law, also a minister, to hold a memorial service. It was on this occasion that “Abide With Me” was first sung.
May you find inspiration and peace for the day through the words of this amazing poem penned so many years ago. I love all of the verses, but especially the third verse:
I need Thy presence Every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can Foil the temper’s power?
Who, like Thyself, My guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
Audrey Assad’s very simple rendition which reminds me of the singing in my childhood church by my Mom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84YASWe3_2Q
City Choir, Dunedin, Scotland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkUVw2jXjAk
Grace, Peace and Joy to you as you listen!