Abide with me

Abide with me, fast falls the even tide,

The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide,

When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

My heart has been repeatedly touched and blessed by this song written by Henry F. Lyte (1793-1847) in 1847.  Although this song is usually used for comfort by Christians during sorrow and deep distress, I was touched by the song and the author beyond all that.

Henry Lyte wrote this song before his last Sunday at the church in lower Brixham where he served as the pastor for many years.  People tend to think that this song was about asking for help in deep human distress and sorrow, partly because of the circumstance under which the author wrote the song.  Henry Lyte’s health condition was extremely poor, on the verge of dying.  He was only 57 is old.  He was urged and finally agreed to leave Brixham and go to Rome, Italy where the weather condition was better. He wrote the song before he left.

But the spirit of the author, through the song, tells a story that is far beyond seeking comfort and help in human distress. The dear brother in the Lord was touched by Jesus’ appearance to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, and that became the basis of the words in the song.

“Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.” Luke 24: 28-29.

Seeing his life as a journey which was coming to an end, an inevitable end of every man who has lived on earth, the brother saw the Lord truly as his Savior.

We often think that we see the Lord better when we are in the brightness of the sun above us, but the true spiritual experiences like what brother Lyte had experienced tell us that we only see Him better when the evening’s tide is near and the darkness is approaching.

The earth is not our home where we should seek for eternal comfort.  Without seeing this, we would never understand why the Lord’s heart is so close to those who are trodden down in this life and on this earth.  His people do not belong here. Without seeing this our heart would always be offended by a calling to fellowship with the Lord in His suffering; Without seeing this we would always ignorantly think that giving up a bit of earthly glory is such a condescending sacrifice made for the sake of being a Christian; Without seeing this we would never sense and despise the contemptuous arrogance we have against our meek Lord when we despise His little ones.

And we are His little ones. And only the little ones understand the tears shed by the Lord when He lived on earth with His people.

We need the Lord. How we need the Lord!  Not only in order to live this life, but also in order to walk with Him. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus walked with the Lord. But they came to a point that they had to stop for the night. But the Lord would have gone even further. How they needed the Lord, to the point that they had to constrain Him such that the Lord would stop His own course in order to stay with them. And the Lord indeed choose to abide with them, and fellowshipped with them by breaking the bread. The Lord did not require them to walk with Him any further.

Abide with me! O Lord, abide with me, for sometimes I won’t be able to go any further, and I won’t be able to get through the darkness of the night without you.

May the sight of the darkness shed light on our real condition and cast the relationship between the Lord and us under the light of truth and love. May we experience such spiritual revelation before our last days on earth are approaching.

Henry Lyte died on his way to Italy. It was the last sermon he gave and the last poem he wrote.

14 years later, another Christian William H. Monk (1823-1889) wrote the tune for the poem which became the song we know today. William Monk initially named the tune “Eventide” for Lyte’s song. But today the song is known as “Abide with Me”, rightfully.

The complete lyrics of the song:

Abide with me, fast falls the even tide;
The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide;
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O 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 a round I see;
O Thou, who changest not, abide with me.

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.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
I triumph still if Thou abide with me.