Scripture Reading: John 15:1-8, 1 John 3:18-24, Numbers 23:19, 1 Corinthians 15:50-58
The hymn “Abide with Me” is my funeral song. It is the song that, after what I hope is a very long and sweet life, I want sung by my people when I’ve gone to glory.
It is also my living song, one that I have turned to in so many seasons. I sang it for months on end after my beloved grandmother died, as I wandered lost through the fog of grief for the first time. I sang it when my husband and I moved away from our first home, when I wrestled with deep fears and ached for community. I sang it when our best friends’ baby died. I sang it when I, eight months pregnant with a broken body and weary mind, paced for hours on end in the middle of the night, awaiting our sweet girl’s arrival.
Fear, death, paralyzing anxiety—these are the things I’ve carried my whole adult life. But this song reminds me that I don’t have to carry them. When I ask for the Lord’s presence to be near, He reminds me that He’s always with me, that He’ll never leave me.
I am hardly the first person to associate this hymn with death, nor will I be the last. When he wrote the text, Henry Francis Lyte was dying of tuberculosis. It is rumored to have been played by the band on the Titanic after it struck the fatal iceberg. It was played at Mother Teresa’s funeral, and at Richard Nixon’s too. It was played at Ground Zero after 9/11. Joyfully, it was also played at Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s wedding.
I love this hymn so much, I could write a dissertation on every line. I love it so much because it reminds me—it floods me—with the goodness, faithfulness, kindness, and trueness of God.
In Luke 24, Jesus appears to His disciples after the resurrection. They don’t yet recognize Him when they ask Him to stay with them, because the night is falling. Thus begins the first stanza of the hymn—Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.
When I hear this hymn, I am drawn to reflect on what it says specifically about who God is: He helps the helpless, and He changes not. He is my guide and my strength, and His grace alone foils Satan’s power. This song also declares that all earthly helpers and comforts will surely fail and fade under the harsh light of sin; change and decay are the norm here in a fallen world. But most importantly, when I listen to this hymn, I am reminded of my only hope, my only comfort in both life and death—Jesus. I need Him every hour.
This song knits together lament and hope, the way every day of this Christian life does. I ache, and I rejoice. I long, yet I live in abundance. I weep, and I laugh. I will die, but I will also live forever because of Jesus.
Abide with me, Lord—these are the words Henry Lyte penned before he died.
Abide with me, the disciples asked, before they even knew He was already there.
Abide with me, we ask, we pray, we sing.
Abide with Me
Text: Henry Francis Lyte, 1847
Tune: William H. Monk, 1861
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.
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.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like Thyself my guide and strength can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.
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.
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.
Melanie Rainer is a bookworm from birth who makes her days writing, editing and reading in Nashville, where she also joyfully serves as the editor of Kids Read Truth. She has an M.A. in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, spends as much time as she can in the kitchen, and can’t wait until her two daughters are old enough to read Anne of Green Gables.