Day 10

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

from the Go Tell It on the Mountain reading plan

Deuteronomy 33:27-29, Psalm 71:4-6, Psalm 91:1-16, Psalm 118:6, Proverbs 3:5-12, Galatians 3:5-9

BY Guest Writer

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 33:27-29, Psalm 71:4-6, Psalm 91:1-16, Psalm 118:6, Proverbs 3:5-12, Galatians 3:5-9

Behind the cheerful tune of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” is a heartbreaking story.

There were not only itinerant preachers in the deep South of the mid-1800s, there were also itinerant teachers of church songs. One of the more popular of these traveling teachers was A.J. Showalter. Showalter published over 130 music books, his sales exceeding more than two million copies. He traveled throughout the South to various churches, spending roughly a month with each of them, teaching these revival songs.

On one of these trips, while in the small town of Hartselle, Alabama, A.J. Showalter returned to his room to find two pieces of mail. Each was from a former student, and each contained a tragic story. Both students had lost their wives on the same day and were now widowers.

Eager to offer them solace, Showalter searched the scriptures till he found Deuteronomy 33:27, which read, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” And so he began to write the memorable chorus,

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarm

Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Showalter sent the devastated men these words of comfort even as he was still struggling to compose the verses. He shared what he’d written with a friend, Elisha Hoffman, who then provided the verses. With those verses in place, Showalter wrote the music of the hymn we know today.

It’s ironic that this hymn, born of great tragedy, is couched in an upbeat tune that makes it so easy to remember. But in times of great sorrow, there can be no better truth to recall than this: we can lean, safe and secure, on the everlasting arms of our Lord.

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
by E. A. Hoffman

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning,
safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning, leaning,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
leaning on the everlasting arms.


Matt Redmond loves words, music, his family, and the Church. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Matt attended Southeastern Bible College and Covenant Theological Seminary, and has served in pastoral ministry as well as the banking industry. He and his wife Bethany have three children. Matt is the author of The God of the Mundane and blogs at Echoes and Stars.


Morgan, Robert J. Then Sings my Soul. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011.

Petersen, Randy. Be Still, My Soul: The Inspiring Stories Behind 175 of the Most-Loved Hymns. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014.

Post Comments (33)

33 thoughts on "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms"

  1. Atalie Jones says:

    Thank You, Father. With You I am safe and secure. Write these words on my heart today.

  2. Allison Joy says:

    I don’t know why I have only mentioned this now… over half-way through the study, but what I like to do with all these hymn studies is go to Spotify (or your on-line streaming music service of choice) and search for the hymn name and “instrumental” so that I’m listening to instrumental versions of the hymns as I’m reading.

    Also, with the Prov. 3:5-6, I’m always reminded of the song we used to sing in youth group, apparently by Sixpence None the Richer (I didn’t know that/had forgotten).

    If you haven’t figured it out by now, I LOVE music, and often find that God speaks to me thorugh music. My mom used to play piano for our church, when she was pregnant with me and when I was younger, so I have known the hymns literally from the womb, and they will always have a special place in my heart. I still attend the traditional service at my church, because I love they old hymns so much.

    1. Shelley Edwards says:

      My daughter and I have been searching them on YouTube. There is something soul stirring in the old hymns.

  3. Becky says:

    I sang this hymn to myself in my darkest days…when I was carrying my first son, whom I knew would not live long after he was born. Every time he would kick or move, I would lean on God’s everlasting arms, and I still do, ten years later.

    1. C.S. says:

      I am so sorry for your loss, Becky. Praying for you today.

    2. Emeline says:

      Taking the ovrveiew, this post hits the spot

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