My favorite hymn is "O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go" because every time I sing it, I think about the story behind it. It was written by a forty-year-old preacher named George Matheson. Matheson was born in 1842 in Glasgow, Scotland, the eldest of eight children and the only one with poor eyesight. He needed powerful glasses to help him see, yet he was a brilliant student with aspirations to become a minister. His very supportive sisters rallied around him and learned Greek, Hebrew and Latin so they could help him in his studies. By age twenty he was almost completely blind, and the woman he hoped to marry rejected him because she didn't think she could be married to a blind man. Yet his eldest sister was always at his side as he entered the ministry, assisting him at home and with his sermons. Soon Matheson became quite famous as a preacher, and many people didn't know he was blind because he could recite his sermons and huge portions of Scripture from memory.
Then came the day for his sister, the one he relied upon so much for help and companionship, to get married. The night of her wedding, while the rest of his family was staying elsewhere, Matheson was alone at the manse and experiencing "severe mental suffering." Some speculate that it was not just his sister's marriage, but the reminder of his own rejection from marriage years ago that caused him so much pain. In that moment he wrote this hymn, which he said took about five minutes. It turned out to be his most lasting legacy. Matheson died at age 64, having never married.
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 follow'st all my way,
I yield my flick'ring 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.