This syrupy piece of marijuana-haze hymnody is found in the hymnals of churches that have substituted sentiment for orthodoxy and worship. Hence you don’t find it in older Presbyterian hymnals, but in the Trinity Hymnal. Nor do you find it in Episcopal and Lutheran hymnals until very recently in some Lutheran books.
The song would be much improved if the spacy refrain were omitted. I don’t know if Horatio Spafford actually wrote this refrain in his original poem or if it were added by Philip Bliss in his gooey music, but I do know that if I smoked marijuana I’d love it. It drifts along in a haze that is so far unlike anything God enjoys, as seen in the book of psalms, that is might as well be Hindu.
Happily, two of Spafford’s stanzas are usually omitted:
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!
“No pang shall be mine”? How utterly unlike David in the psalms, who certainly feels pangs and cries out to God. “The sky, not the grave, is our goal”? This sound like “earth is not my home, I’m bound for heaven” nonsense. No, we are bound for resurrection, as Luther’s great hymns constantly remind us.
Still, the hymn might be salvaged, if it is worth salvaging given how many great hymns are unknown, if the refrain were omitted and the last stanza dropped. “And Lord, haste the day….” What? We want Jesus to FAIL? We want Him to come back soon, having failed to disciple all nations as He said He intended to do? Surely no Christian wants Jesus to fail and be humiliated having been defeated by sin and the devil. We don’t want Him to come back soon. We want Him to conquer the world and disciple all nations!
Now, it is normal and proper for Christians to hope and pray for a reversal of the curse. What the Bible teaches, however, is not that we should hope for history to end but for the kingdom of Jesus to become accepted and evermore manifest in history. It used to be that 1/2 of all children born died in their early years. That is no longer so. Our grief should not make us pray for Jesus to return soon, but to pray for men to repent and the blessings of His kingdom overcome the curses brought by Adam and sinful men. The sentiments in Joy Patterson’s hymn below are what we should pray.
My opinion? Follow the lead of those churches serious about worship hymnody and DROP THIS SONG! And substitute this fine alternative, which can be sung to Sursum Corda:
- When aimless violence takes those we love,
When random death strikes childhood’s promise down,
When wrenching loss becomes our daily bread,
We know, O God, You leave us not alone.
- When passing years rob sight and strength and mind
Yet fail to still a strongly beating heart,
And grief becomes the fabric of our days,
Dear Lord, You do not stand from us apart.
- Our faith may flicker low, and hope grow dim,
Yet You, O God, are with us in our pain;
You grieve with us and for us day by day,
And with us, sharing sorrow, will remain.
- Because Your Son knew agony and loss,
Felt desolation, grief and scorn and shame,
We know You will be with us, come what may,
Your loving presence near, always the same.
- Through long, grief-darkened days help us, dear Lord,
To trust Your grace for courage to endure,
To rest our souls in Your supporting love,
And find our hope within Your mercy sure.