One of the most lyrically beautiful hymns is “Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” written by George Matheson in 1882.
Like many hymns, the story behind the lyrics is a powerful one.
Matheson went blind at a young age, and had a close relationship with his sister who helped him with his studies as he worked to become a successful pastor in Scotland.
Matheson wrote the hymn on the day of his sister’s wedding, but said “Something had happened to me which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering.”
Many scholars have speculated on the cause of Matheson’s suffering on his sister’s wedding day.
“Matheson obviously didn’t intend to tell us what caused his ‘most severe mental suffering,’ but people who know his background strongly suspect that it had to do with a heartbreaking experience several years earlier,” wrote Christian author Richard Donovan. “His fianc￩e had broken her engagement to him, telling him that she couldn’t see herself going through life married to a blind man. Matheson never married, and it seems likely that his sister’s wedding brought to memory the woman that he had loved and the wedding that he had never enjoyed.”
Sometimes it’s difficult to cling to God when we’re in pain. Our soul eyes Him suspiciously, wondering why He didn’t intervene.
But as hard as it may be to believe sometimes, God doesn’t revel in our sorrow. And when we take it to Him looking for comfort, He can turn it into something beautiful, like this song.
“O Love that wilt 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 foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s 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 life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.”