Abide with Me

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After a long week that ended with a Friday that felt more like a Monday, it was incredibly refreshing to meet up with a friend for dinner and head down to see a former student perform at Asbury University this weekend.

The whole concert was excellent, but my favorite piece was Abide With Me, performed by their concert band. This particular piece was arranged by Jay Dawson, in which he juxtaposed bugle calls of Last Post, the British equivalent of Taps, adding an even greater sense of desperation and gravity to this popular hymn.

The overarching theme of the song is a petition for God’s presence–especially in death. Henry F. Lyte, an Anglican priest, penned these words as he was dying from tuberculosis at age 54, and actually passed into eternity just three weeks after writing this heartfelt plea.

This hymn is commonly associated with funerals. But if we need in Him in death, don’t we also need Him in life? I need Thy presence every passing hour; What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r? 

We sing a lot of hymns at my church, but I never recall singing this one. I’m committing to learning this one on my own because its lyrics would undoubtedly serve me well as I go about everyday life. I especially like the second verse which reminds me that though things around me are constantly changing, God remains constant.

Abide With Me
[Words by Henry F. Lyte | Music by William Henry Monk]

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, oh, 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.

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.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, 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;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” {Hebrews 13:5}
What a comforting promise. He will abide with me. Always. Even on the Fridays that feel like Mondays…and during the long work-weeks that never seem to end…when you get fabulous news…and when you receive devastating news…in all the ups and downs and monotony of everyday life…in the uncharted waters of death…through it all…He’ll be there. Always. Isn’t He good? 

P.S. I wasn’t able to get a video of Asbury playing, but thank God for the YouTube so you can hear a sample of this gorgeous arrangement played by a school band in Qatar. 

[And if you want to read more about the story behind the song, check out Tim Challies’ post on his ever-informative blog.]

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