“Abide With Me”
Tradition says that Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) wrote this touching hymn after visiting a dying friend, an experience that would have given a face to our need for God’s presence. Lyte himself suffered from asthma and tuberculosis. His own longing for the presence of God, no doubt, added to the depth of his empathy. Who hasn’t felt lonely, isolated and in need of the near presence of Jesus? Haven’t we all prayed, “Abide with me?”
Lyte, like the American theologian William Stringfellow, makes a connection between our feelings of loneliness and our awareness of our mortality. The images of darkness, decay, passing time, death and the grave give the hymn a somber tone, reminding us that we approach death’s door individually. No one, save God, can be with us at that moment.
Yet the hymn moves from the dark thoughts of isolation and death in the first two verses to a transitory third verse. The last two verses express our joy and confidence in God’s victory over death and our trust in the cross that will lead us through the gloom to the bright skies. We echo the hymn’s final plea, “In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”
Loving God, remember me when I am lonely, afraid or desperate. Help me hold fast to you when the darkness deepens. When I am called from this life, grant me a peaceful departure. Amen.
“Let Us Hold Fast” is a publication of Luther Seminary.2481 Como Ave. | St. Paul, MN 55108, 651-641-3456 | 888-358-8437 www.luthersem.edu