God’s love that won’t let go of us
For I am sure that neither death nor life…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)
A well-known hymn I have grown fond of is: O love that wilt not let me go. It was composed by Scottish minister George Matheson, who was informed by doctors at age 19 that he was going to go blind. After relating the sad news to his fiancée, she decided she could not be married to a blind man and, subsequently, broke off their engagement.
George began to study theology and had a successful ministry career in the Church of Scotland up until his death in 1906. He never married, but the deep hurt of his broken engagement remained with him for many years. On the day that one of his sisters got married, Matheson wrote this hymn. He recorded the account of that experience in his journal:
‘My hymn was composed in the manse of Innellan on the evening of June 6, 1882. I was at that time alone. It was the day of my sister’s marriage, and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something had happened to me, which was known only to myself; and which caused 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. I had the impression rather of having it dictated to me by some inward voice than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring on high…’
The first and fourth verses of the hymn are especially inspirational:
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 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.
Although he lost his sight and what might have been a happy marriage, George Matheson didn’t end his life a loser. He experienced the love of God that would never let go of him, and he looked forward to his Saviour’s promise of ‘life that shall endless be’.
Thank you, Father in heaven, for the life and example of George Matheson who lost his sight at an early age, and suffered the pain of rejection from his fiancée. Help us to be strong in faith when trials and difficulties come our way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Study by John Magowan
About the writer:
John Magowan attends the Lisburn congregation of Grace Communion International, Northern Ireland.
Lisburn Grace Communion
Ballymacbrennan School House
129A Saintfield Road
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