Hymn for the Soul in the Midst of the Pandemic

This week Rhonda Smith offers comforting words through the lyrics of a hymn by Helen Lemmel to encourage us all to focus on Christ and His Kingdom in the midst of the pandemic.

Our world has suddenly come to a screeching halt. The busyness of daily life has been forced to slow. As we exchange our fast-paced lives with a much slower routine it is a good time to reflect on where our focus lies. I have part of this quote by missionary, Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), hanging on the wall in front of my desk:

“Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen harmless worlds at once — art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on. And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the good hiding the best. It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? Dare to have it out with God and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His Glory. Turn your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.”[1]

While many of our “harmless worlds” are currently unavailable to us it is possible to just shift our focus to anxiousness and worry over the chaos around us. In this time of uncertainty, it can be difficult to turn to Christ and not our circumstances. Where our thoughts may have previously settled on work, school, or hobbies, we now find ourselves focused on news and updates.

Helen Lemmel, a well-known hymn writer, took part of Lilias Trotter’s above quote from a pamphlet called “Focussed” and used it in a hymn that is familiar to most:[2]

O soul, are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior,

And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting

He passed, and we follow Him there;

O’er us sin no more hath dominion—

For more than conquerors we are!

His Word shall not fail you – He promised;

Believe Him, and all will be well:

Then go to a world that is dying,

His perfect salvation to tell![3]

Right now, it seems the world is collectively on edge. The opening lyrics resonate as our souls may indeed be weary and troubled. I go back to Trotter’s words, “Turn your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.” 

Looking to Christ and keeping Him as our focus is the answer in time of peace and in time of chaos. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”[4] It matters to God where we place our thoughts. Trotter’s words hang on my wall reminding me to ask myself often where my thoughts settle. In times of peace, am I focused on Christ first? In times of chaos, am I focused on Christ above my worry? I hope we can daily turn our eyes upon Jesus. His word is true, and He will not fail or disappoint us.

[1] “https://www.liliastrottercenter.org/Lilias-Trotter-1,” n.d.

[2] “https://liliastrotter.com/Turn-Eyes-upon-Jesus-Story-Song/,” n.d.

[3] “https://hymnary.org/text/O_soul_are_you_weary_and_troubled,” n.d.

[4] All scripture quotations taken from the English Standard Bible (ESV).

Check back soon for more updates on Rhonda’s upcoming title.

Or check out Rhonda’s other writings at rhondasmithwrites.

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