I was very moved recently to discover the story behind the beautiful hymn ‘O love that will not let me go’. It was written by George Matheson (1842-1906), a Scottish minister. Here is the wikipedia entry:
“O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” was written on the evening of Matheson’s sister’s marriage. Years before, he had been engaged, until his fiancée learned that he was going blind—that there was nothing the doctors could do—and she told him that she could not go through life with a blind man. He went blind while studying for the ministry, and his sister had been the one to care for him through the years, but now she was gone. He was now 40, and his sister’s marriage brought a fresh reminder of his own heartbreak. It was in the midst of this circumstance and intense sadness that the Lord gave Matheson this hymn, which he said was written in five minutes.”
He himself wrote:
I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high.”
I imagine this dear brother on the eve of his sister’s wedding being filled with fear about the future. Who will care for him now that his sister is getting married? How will he cope as he sinks into blindness? George Matheson looked to the Lord. He yielded his flickering light to the sunshine of the Lord:
- O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
- O Light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
- O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
- O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
May we, like George Matheson, give our lives to the Lord that in His ocean our lives might flow with more depth and richness.
You can listen to a version of the song here. It’s a catchy tune but, for my money, I wonder if it’s a bit too upbeat given the context above. Waiting for someone to rewrite it…maybe you?!