The Christian life is “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). Much of the tone of contemporary Christian music could be summarized with this last word, but not the first. Christians live in the “already and not yet”: the kingdom has dawned, but it is not yet fully here. We rejoice, but it is not a hollow rejoicing. We rejoice in the midst of sorrow.
One song that expresses this tone well is “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.” George Mathison said that he wrote this hymn out of deep distress and that it was the “fruit of pain.”
Mathison began to lose his eyesight in seminary, and he eventually became blind. He was engaged, and his fiancé left him because she said she didn’t want to be married to a blind man. His sister then took care of him for years, but then she was now to be married and move on in her life.
On the night before his sister’s wedding, while his family was all away, he was left alone. And on this night of deep sorrow, he wrote this hymn. But it wasn’t merely a night of sorrow. Mathison said that God gave him an “unquenchable hopefulness.”
As Christians, we believe that there is reason for deep comfort in the midst of deep sorrow. Because when we suffer, we don’t have to wonder if God loves us. We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. He let his Son die for us; he will not let us go. As Christians, we need to be able to sing songs of hope from the midst of anguish. This song is a channel of comfort for grieving Christians.
Here are two versions of this song:
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 followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshines 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 lifes glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.