Friday, November 1, 2013

Abide with Me, Fast Falls the Eventide (Strength in Hymn)

"Abide with Me"
Henry F. Lyte, 1847

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.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,

Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide 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 power?
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.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

The Hymn Story: 

Henry Lyte wrote this hymn while dying of tuberculosis.  He finished it the same Sunday he gave his farewell sermon in the church he had pastored for 23 years.  He died three weeks later, en route to Italy.  This hymn made its public debut at his own memorial service.

For over a cen­tu­ry, the bells of Lyte’s church, All Saints in Low­er Brix­ham, De­von­shire, have rung out “Abide with Me” daily. It was a favorite of King George V and Mahatma Gandhi. The hymn was sung at the wed­ding of King George VI, at the wed­ding of his daugh­ter, the fu­ture Queen Eliz­a­beth II, and at the funeral of Nobel peace prize winner Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 1997. It was popular in the trenches during World War I, and was sung by Nurse Edith Cavell the night before the Germans shot her for helping British soldiers to escape from occupied Belgium.  On Sept 21, 2001 it was unforgettably played at Ground Zero by a Salvation Army band during the commemoration of the September 11 attacks. It is sung before kick off at every FA Cup Final and Rugby League, and at various annual celebrations in Austria, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom. It has been recorded by various jazz and gospel music artists, and has been included in the soundtrack of no less than 10 movies and television shows. (Information from this paragraph came from Share Faith, The Telegraph, and Cyber Hymnal.) Speaking of funerals, I think this may have also been sung at the memorial for my grandmother Margaret Driggs several years ago.

Why I Chose this Hymn:  

Last night, I drove one of my teenage sons about an hour away to attend a party given by one of his classmates. We were both struck by the beauty of the sunset, and fortunately we had both my iPod and our digital camera with us for him to take this pictures. (Of course, he missed a lot of shots because he was playing with light effects.)  

Anyway, as I gazed in awe at the splendor on the horizon, the line “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide…” quickly came to mind. The glory of the sunset came in sharp contrast to the deepening darkness that descended as we neared our destination on unfamiliar back roads with no street lights. So hard to see! Nervous! We missed a turn because we couldn’t even see the street sign well enough to read it. It seems like the whole last part of our drive was a blur.

Then, moments after we arrived, I stepped into a hole where someone had removed a utility cover. I fell hard, cutting my ankle and jolting my joints.  Darkness. Then into the light again, into a cheerful and hospitable home with new friends. Light.

I love this hymn. I plan to take a long pause today to meditate on the words of it and the Scriptures below.  I have been listening to the The Choir of Norwich Cathedral sing some of the verses with gorgeous grace.  It washes over my troubled soul with beauty and peace.  Serenity.

The Scriptures:

But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”   Luke 24:29-32 KJV

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-4 ESV

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”  Matthew 28:18-20

For Your Further Enjoyment:

Andrew Murray’s classic Abide in Christ, based on John 15, was a blessing to me as a teen.  It was a gift from my youth group friend Dave, and thankfully, I still have it nearly 35 years later.  From the preface:

“If, in our orthodox churches, the abiding in Christ, the living union with Him, the experience of His daily and hourly presence and keeping, were preached with the same distinctness and urgency as His atonement and pardon through his blood, I am confident that many would be found to accept with gladness the invitation to such a life, and that its influence would be manifest in their experience of the purity and the power, the love and the joy, the fruit-bearing, and all the blessedness which the Saviour connected with the abiding in him.”

This post is 23rd in my weekly series Strength in Hymn, which combines beloved hymn texts, nature photography, and encouragement for the disillusioned Christian.

Abiding in Him,
Virginia Knowles

Come not to sojourn, 
but abide with me.


  1. Thank-you for sharing this hymn and the Bible verses that encourage us to abide in Christ. The hymn takes me back to my childhood when my father would sing Abide with Me as a bedtime song. I am most familiar with the first two verses. Some of the verses are new to me. Blessings!

  2. This post was precious to me! It brought tears to my eyes. I am SO thankful I linked up and spotted your link on there, so I was able to find you today. I needed this encouragement and the peace it brought to me. How I love Him and appreciate all He has done for me! Thank you for posting this and for sharing what He has placed within your kind heart. Love, Cheryl

  3. This is such a beautiful hymn, Virginia!! Thank so much for sharing all the verses.