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"Abide With Me!"
Photo: Thomas Hamlyn-Harris
On the lawns of Navy House last year, I was introduced to the vice admiral. “Thank you for the wonderful piece you wrote on the navy,” he said, and I smiled. But it is not the admiral’s words, nor the spit and polish of uniformed men that I remember, nor the dramatic display by the helicopters. What lingers on in my mind is the navy band playing “Abide With Me” as the sun set that evening. Tears in my eyes, I hummed the first verse along with the band:

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!

Then the trumpeters on top of the Gateway joined in, and I sang softly with them my favorite verse:

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, O abide with me.

No it isn’t the band or navy that I remember today. It’s the awesomeness of a song that is sung and played throughout the world, everywhere, all the time—a hymn that was even a favorite of Gandhi.

Yet the hymn was written more than a hundred years ago by a man who felt disappointed and dejected the day he wrote it. Pastor Henry Francis Lyte walked into his study, his heart sad and burdened. He felt that he had failed in his ministry. He was an old man, weary of life, especially since receiving a medical report that his journey would be over in a few months. He picked up his Bible and began turning its pages. A moment later he read the invitation of Jesus’ disciples to their Master: “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent” (Luke 24:29).

Hymn has Comforted Millions

Instantly, Pastor Lyte felt young and alive again. The words of Jesus’ disciples kept running through his mind along with others that expressed what he felt. Soon he had written the hymn that is loved all over the world and has given comfort to millions.

During World War I the British nurse Edith Cavell helped hundreds of soldiers to escape from Belgium, which was occupied by the Germans. Eventually she was captured and put to death by a German firing squad. As she faced her executioners, she kept repeating the words of “Abide With Me,” knowing that Jesus was with her as she died.

When the RMS Stella was sinking with 105 victims aboard during World War II, a Christian woman led the passengers in singing “Abide With Me.” They had no fear in their hearts as the ship sank, for they had clasped the hand of God, and they knew that He was abiding with them!

Tears of joy ran down my face as I heard the band playing that evening. I remembered a God who had stood by me through thick and thin. Today I feel myself humming another verse of that famous song:

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!

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By Robert Clements. Reprinted with persmission from Signs of the Times, November 2006. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION © 1982.

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