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A Love That Won't Let Go

      By Fern Horst

O Love that will 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.

- George Matheson (1842-1906)

In spite of severely impaired eyesight, George Matheson lived a life of devoted service to the Lord. In his early adult years, his older sister ran his household for him, helped him in his parish, and even learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew to help him with his work. When he was 40, she married. It was then that George wrote the hymn, "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go." Later he wrote about this experience:

"I was alone in the manse at that time. It was the night of my sister's marriage, and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something happened to me, which was known only to myself, and which caused me 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 of having it dictated to me by some inward voice rather than of working it out myself."

Though George never revealed what caused his severe mental suffering, some have speculated that it stemmed from the rejection from a woman he loved. Others have wondered if it was the loss of his sister's assistance and companionship. Still others conjecture that it was his distress over the inroads of Darwinism into the church. It is just as well we do not know, so we can more easily apply the hopeful message of his hymn to our own individual circumstances.

It is encouraging to know that God met George that night in his anguish, giving him a message of love and hope that would not only minister to him in that moment, but to thousands of others through the years who have read, sung, or heard the words to this hymn. It is evident that God answered George's desire that night to have a richer, fuller life in Him: the rest of George's life was spent pastoring, preaching and writing. Because of his active life, we can assume that in the absence of his sister, God provided in other ways for the assistance she had given him.

Like George, we can also find comfort in the truth that God loves us with a love that will never let us go, and will provide all that we need to fulfill His purposes for us. In response to God's unending love, we too can surrender our lives anew to Him, and ask that in that surrender, He will make our lives richer and fuller for Him.

The rest of this hymn's stanzas are filled with words of hope and joy, surrender to the Cross, and anticipation for "Life that shall endless be" after this earthly life has ended:

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.

© 2011 Fern Horst

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