July 1, 2019

O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go

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 followest all my way,
I yield my flickering 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.

On the 13th of August 2009, a friend sung this hymn at our wedding.

On the 6th of January 2019, Cara and I recorded it to be used at our church’s 1-year anniversary service.

The first day was one of joy and celebration, and as we heard the words sung we knew our future was secure in Christ.

The second was one of joy and celebration as well, but it was also a day when Cara and I were feeling absolutely burst. As we sung it, we clung to these truths, knowing that our weary souls could find rest nowhere else but in Christ.

On the 6th of June 1882 George Matheson, a minister from Glasgow, wrote the words of this beautiful hymn.

It was the night his sister was married, but despite that joy, he was in anguish.

He’d been blind since his late teens. He’d been engaged to be married, but when he went blind his fiancé called it off.

His sister had then been by his side, helping him to study and prepare for sermons. She even learned Hebrew and Greek to assist his research.

Perhaps his sister’s marriage brought back painful memories of his own love rejecting him. Perhaps now his sister being married would take away his only friend and help. Regardless, he was aware of his own pain and isolation, and it left him suffering greatly.

“Something 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. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life.”

From the depths of despair, this beautiful hymn of hope and assurance came.

On the 6th of January 2019 we had just come home after being in Inverness over New Year, and it felt like we were about to be overwhelmed by a tsunami.

For years I’ve struggled with headaches and fatigue, normally resulting in cycles where I’d bottom out for weeks at a time, recover a bit, then plod along for a wee while, only to bottom out again after a busy spell.

I was exhausted, my head was frazzled, and having slowed down a little over the Christmas holiday it was all hitting me again. I’d been back and forth to the doctors countless times the last few years but had gotten nowhere.

Cara was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in summer 2017. After having twins her body was smashing her with constant pain in her joints. Not the most fun when you’ve got tiny twins and their big brother to look after. After being diagnosed, she eventually got on meds that seemed to work, and for nearly a year she had been almost pain free.

But in January her pain was back. She’d had to come off her meds because her blood levels were off. And now she was starting to feel it. We knew that meant a rough spell was coming.

We sang this hymn with tears in our eyes.

As time went on I could feel my mind was fragile. I struggled for concentration and could barely focus on reading anything or doing anything productive. My memory was shot, to the point that there were occasions when I forgot things I had just said. I found it exhausting to be around people, tiring to try and follow what they were saying, or trying to keep up with the conversation. I dozed through days. I even fell asleep while talking to people a couple of times. I ended up signed off work for 6 weeks.

Cara had to wait until her bloods normalised before she could go back on her meds. In the meantime, pain. All the while she had to deal with me being out the game, and three wee boys running mental at home.

I was then diagnosed with sleep apnea, meaning I had to give up my driving licence for a time. Giving up my licence meant an extra burden on Cara, who also struggled to drive with pain in her wrists. Thankfully treatment for the sleep apnea has helped the fatigue, but migraines remain.

Ministry is tough at the best of times, never mind when you’re feeling battered by poor health. On top of all this we’ve had a pastoral rollercoaster of blessing and of heartache.

The last few months our souls have been weary. There’s been many nights of anguish.

In the middle of it came the tears inducing question from our oldest son, Callan.

“Daddy why hasn’t God healed your headaches yet?! Maybe God can’t?”

Heart-breaking, and yet, a great opportunity to share the hope we do have.

‘…that morn shall tearless be…’

This day is hard. This world is broken by sin. But on that day, there will be no more headaches, no more fatigue, no more tears, no more anguish.

Until then, we rest knowing that Christ is the Love who will never let us go. It’s only in him that our weary souls can rest, both now and for all eternity.

In the depths of despair, this beautiful hymn brings hope and assurance.

10 years ago we had no idea what a blessing this song would turn out to be.

137 years ago, I’m sure George Matheson had no idea that the fruit of his night of anguish would still bring comfort today.

Today, I hope and pray that you would find huge comfort in these glorious words, as your head is lifted at the cross, and to the hope of that morn, when there will be no more tears.

“Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of you we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:35-39‬ ‭CSB‬‬

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