Behind the Music - O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
For the past few months, our church has been working through the different angles of love that are displayed in the book of Hosea. In Hosea's book, we are pictured as the whore, and God is shown for who his is, altogether wonderfully faithful in every aspect. In response to the series, our people have been using their talents to create artistic projects. We have put the words of an old loved hymn, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, to a new tune.
This is the story that led to the writing of the hymn, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go:
O Love That Will Not Let Me Go was written by George Matheson on the evening of his sister’s wedding. Matheson's entire family had gone to the wedding, while he stayed alone at home. That night, he wrote of things in his life that caused him immense mental anguish.
Years before, Matheson had been engaged to be married. His fiancé learned that he was beginning to go blind, and there was nothing the doctors could do to help him. His fiancé told him that she could not go through life with a blind man and broke off their engagement.
Matheson eventually went entirely blind while studying for the ministry. His sisters had helped him with his studies--even going so far as to learn Hebrew, Greek, and Latin to be able to help their brother.
Matheson was a brilliant student, and some say if he hadn’t gone blind, he could have been the leader of the church of Scotland in his day. He had written a learned work on German theology. Matheson also wrote “The Growth of The Spirit of Christianity.” Louis Benson noted that this was a brilliant book but with some major mistakes. When critics pointed out the mistakes and charged him with being an inaccurate student, Matheson was heartbroken. One of his friends wrote, “When he saw that for the purposes of scholarship his blindness was a fatal hindrance, he withdrew from the field – not without pangs, but finally.”
Matheson turned to the pastoral ministry, and the Lord blessed his ministry. He regularly preached to over 1500 people each week. However, he had only been able to do this because of the care of his sister. Now she would be married and gone. Who would care for him--a blind man?
His sister’s marriage brought a fresh reminder of his own heartbreak over his fiancé’s refusal to “go through life with a blind man.” In the midst of this darkness and intense sadness, Matheson wrote this hymn in only five minutes, and it was his only hymn that required no editing.
Looking back over his life, Matheson recorded that his life was “an obstructed life, a circumscribed life…but a life of quenchless hopefulness, a life which has beaten persistently against the cage of circumstance, and which even at the time of abandoned work has said not 'Good night' but 'Good morning.'"
How could Matheson maintain such "quenchless hopefulness" in the midst of his life's circumstances and trials? His hymn gives us a clue: “I trace the rainbow in the rain, and feel the promise is not vain.” The rainbow image is an example of just one of many everlasting covenants God makes with His people! God's love will not let me go .