Abide With Me
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.
I need thy presence ev'ry 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, oh, 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.
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 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, through 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.