I used to think that this hymn was a just a children’s song and often referred to it as the “rainbow hymn” because the only word I could remember from it was “rainbow.” Recently, I came across the story behind this hymn, different versions of the melody, and upon taking a closer look at the lyrics, I realized how deeply beautiful the words to be.
George Matheson wrote this hymn in 1882. During schooling to become a minister, he started to become blind. When he told his fiance of his diagnosis, she left him. In order to make it through school, his sister learned several languages and helped write his papers. Eventually she would be the one to help him write his Sunday sermons to over 1500 church members. They were a team, but their work together would come to an end with his sister leaving him to be married. On the night of his sister’s wedding, he wrote this hymn, a reminder of the pain of love lost and changes in life, the deep hurt, the truth that God’s love is always with us, and the hope, joy, and fullness that we have in Him. (Read the full story here)
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.
This hymn is about putting your hope in Jesus, whose love will never let you go, and the hope we can have in eternity. We experience many loves through this life, but also the loss of love as well. Matheson lost his eyesight, his fiance, and his sister. I categorize these in my mind as love lost through death, discourse, disease, and distance. So often, this life can be seen as a series of goodbyes.
But we can have hope, because Jesus walks with us through it–a joy seeking us through the pain, a cross lifting up our heads, a light following us through life’s changes:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:35-39 NIV
When the things of this Earth pass away, you are not alone.
the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.Jeremiah 31:3 ESV
I want to share this hymn with you because it sits with me on days where situations or reminders of those “love losts” are present. Instead of falling into despair, it reminds me of the hope that I have in Jesus. He has an everlasting promise with us and is faithful when things of this world are not. This world is not our home; Jesus is guiding us through it to an eternity with him.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”Deuteronomy 31:6