WELS Hymnal Project

In Life, in Death, O Lord, Abide with Me

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, oh, abide with me!

When has God helped you? When has he carried you because you couldn’t do it yourself? Through what trial in your life has God brought you? “Abide with Me” is a favorite hymn because of its comforting message that God is with us. This comforting message has perhaps been used at the funeral of a loved one. The text very clearly and reassuringly reminds us that our Lord is with us at all times, even until and beyond earthly death. Each of the verses serves as a petition. Each describes times when we ask God to abide with us:

  1. When we need help; the way is dark...Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.
  2. When joy is gone...Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day.
  3. When we seek comfort and forgiveness...Come not in terrors, as the King of kings.
  4. When we were young and foolish...Thou on my head in early youth didst smile.
  5. When we were tempted....I need thy presence every passing hour.

Yes, at all these times and many more, dear God, abide with us.

Yet, when verse six arrives, there is reason to sing just a bit more boldly. Read the third line: “Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?” Do you punch those words of the verse a bit more forcefully when you sing with the congregation? Do you think of the triumphant words of 1 Corinthians 15? Do you think about Jesus’ victory on the cross? Sing the text more loudly. Sing the melody more confidently. Be bold; sing the tenor line harmony that rises and hits its high point just when the text rebukes the sting of death and the grave. Sing because Jesus has triumphed and we have too.

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.

The final line of the final stanza of the hymn summarizes the previous six and points toward heaven. “In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!” When you sing these final words, how do you sing them? Do you sing the commas, allowing the text to take center stage? Do you emphasize each of those brief phrases? Do you put space between the notes, reminding yourself and others that your God has never left you in life and he will not leave you in death? “In life. In death. O Lord. Abide with me!” That is our petition, and that is his promise.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!

Jonathan Niemi
Communications Committee

About Jonathan Niemi

Jonathan Niemi is on the Communications Committee for the WELS Hymnal Project. Niemi serves as Music Coordinator at St. Martins in Watertown, SD. He previously served at St. John's in Jefferson, WI. Jonathan is married to Emily (Eckley).


Other Recent Articles

Catch up on the latest writing from the WELS Hymnal Project.

Get the blog delivered straight to your inbox.
Join our mailing list and you'll receive timely updates, interesting insights, and invitations to participate in the research and development of the new hymnal.