Abide With Me
After eight days of savage fighting, several thousand British soldiers were trapped and soon to be taken prisoner by German troops near Arnhem in the Netherlands. A group of filthy injured and exhausted British troops were huddled in a field hospital about to be taken over by a hostile force. Their able bodied comrades had escaped. They waited for their enemy with hope of mercy but in fear of revenge. One of them quietly began to sing:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Soon, all those who could joined in singing this hymn to their Lord. These wounded soldiers faced an uncertain future and so placed their hope on the certain promises of an unchanging God.
"Abide with Me" is a Christian hymn written by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte and sung to English composer William Henry Monk's tune entitled "Eventide." Lyte wrote the poem in 1847 and set it to music while he lay dying from tuberculosis. He survived only a further three weeks after its completion. The hymn was hugely popular in the trenches of the First World War, and sung by Nurse Edith Cavell the night before the Germans shot her for helping British soldiers to escape from occupied Belgium.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
These thoughts and words were inspired by the passage in Luke 24, when Jesus appears to two travellers, disciples who were mourning the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Christ doesn’t reveal Himself to them, and as they drew near the village: 29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.”
This hymn, though it be over a century old, still speaks to all who serve the Lord. Every generation faces trials, temptations, discouragements. The people change from one generation to another, but we are all the same. God is the same. From Adam and Eve… to me and you, we each need God in order to navigate this mortal life. And without God in our hearts, we are alone. We may have success. We may be powerful in worldly terms, but when we face a grave illness or the end of life we are alone. Unless God abides with us! As Christians we are blessed beyond measure.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
We are children of God. Just as your parent protected you, tended to your discouragement, times when you could not make it on your own, your Father in heaven loves you and cares for you. How many times do we read of God’s children failing to obey, placing their selfish wants or even false gods before Him? Yet His love endured for His children. When we were young and did foolish things, God was patient. He protects us from the wiles of the devil. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1 John 3:1
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
He knows what we need before we ask. God is all knowing, and His love seeks your salvation. We seldom know when God tends to our providential path. His ways are higher than ours. Given time, we may look back and see His handiwork in our lives. With God, we fear no foe. “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Matt 6:8
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
God will provide. We can approach the true and living God through Christ. We can share our fears, our dreads, and our thanksgiving with the Creator. What a privilege! “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matt 7:7
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.