Day 1

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

from the reading plan

2 Samuel 22:1-20, Psalm 139:7, 1 Corinthians 15:49

On the day his sister was married, in the picturesque village of Innellan on the shore of Scotland, George Matheson endured one of the most traumatic and unspeakable experiences of his life. So unspeakable, he would never disclose it; he would only say this: “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” (Dough 111).

The hymn was “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” which famous American hymnwriter Fanny Crosby would affectionately call her favorite (112).

Crosby and Matheson had something unique in common: they were both completely blind. Born with sight, Matheson’s eyes began failing over the course of his childhood, and he was fully blind by the age of eighteen. But that did not stop young George from pursuing what he loved. Coming from a wealthy merchant family in Glasgow, Matheson studied at the University of Glasgow and graduated with honors. He went on to become an influential pastor, leading a congregation of 2,000 members at St. Bernard’s Church in Edinburgh.

Believers from all over Scotland made the trek to St. Bernard’s to hear the blind preacher deliver his passionate messages from the pulpit, and congregants from all over the world sing his famous hymn to this day. Still, none but God and George himself will ever know what happened on that day in Innellan, as the man sat alone and furiously penned the words of this beloved hymn, the verses coming to him as if dictated by someone else. “It was the quickest work I ever did in my life,” he would later say. “I am quite sure the whole work was completed in five minutes” (111).

The Cross, the Joy, the Light, the Love—these were the truths that held tight to a Scottish pastor as he suffered through a pain he could not bear to name. They are the truths that hold us too.

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
George Matheson; Albert L. Peace

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.

O light that foll’west 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.

Dough, Whitney J. The Hymnwriters: Our Unknown Friends: A Biographical Guide to British and American Sacred Song. Franklin, TN: Providence House Publishers, 1995.

Post Comments (52)

52 thoughts on "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go"

  1. Levi Johnson says:

    God is indeed almighty, what a testimony to how He uses us all even in our weaknesses to glorify His name. Truly the only love that will never let us go, very impactful to hear this message, especially among the daily demands of life to know He is always with us, Amen!

  2. Kevvinlim says:

    Our God loves us so much. He defeated enemies for us. He uses us to accomplish His goal. Nothing will stop his way.

    He love us, he will never give us too much that we cannot accomplish.

    He guide us like a Shepherd. He sees us as son of God. We love him with all our heart, soul and mind. He gave us peace when we trust in Him.

    His love will not let us go. He is a provider. When we are in trouble, his love saves us.

    Thank you God.

  3. Henry Hooks says:

    For whatever happened that day to George Matheson, it could not have been easy. The verses from Samuel are a shocking display of faithfulness through all scenarios. It speaks of faith even when you are hurting and the way that we should love our Father the way he loves us unconditionally. The title of the song speaks to the faith of the man and how great the power of the lord is. God will never let us go no matter what happens or how much we might reject him. My favorite line from the hymn is I give thee back the life I owe. To me this exemplifies how our lives are not our own. Our faith is not our own, our love is not our own. Everything that we have comes from God. May richer fuller be.

  4. Dan says:

    Right now, I am in one of the hardest seasons of my life. I have wrestled with challenges in never anticipated & my faith & trust have grown because of it. And still, this season continues. David’s words at the beginning of this passage remind me that despite how I am feeling (as inconsistent as emotions can be) the one constant is that God is in control & guiding the steps of me & my family.

  5. Jordan Covarelli says:

    Firstly, from a writing perspective, the rhyming scheme is super unique:


    Whaaaaat?! So cool! It creates this uneven tilt in all the stanzas that underpins the weary soul and need for relief spoken of in the hymn.

    In 2 Sam 22:3, David says God is our horn of salvation, which I can draw two parallels from.

    1) A horn was a battle cry, signaling an arriving army to attack (particularly reinforcements), or a battle horn was used to signal retreat,but the best sound of a battle horn was when it signaled VICTORY. Our God is our horn of salvation. He IS the promise and declaration of our victory over our enemy. He is the comfort and relief that comes with hearing the announcement that you have conquered and won. Think of a soccer game or basketball game. When that final whistle is blown or that final buzzer sounds that the game is over and you have won, you see the winning team leap for joy, or sink to their knees or faces in relief. Both are appropriate responses to our horn of victory.

    My horn of victory personally right now has been freedom from lust, and receiving a full time job doing what I love and getting paid to play for gateway, providing addition provision for my family. The next horn of salvation I need is the announcement of a healthy mom and baby after delivery. With a pregnancy comes so much unknown: what will birth be like? Will there be any complications? What will happen to mom? What will happen to baby? Will the baby have anything wrong with it? There is so much faith and hope and trust being placed in God for things to be ok, and so much time you spend waiting that you won’t know for sure until an exact moment that you know will come. Like being in a battle and knowing you are striving for something and you know there is a deadline approaching. The armies can only battle for so long before either you win or they win. You know the sound of the horn is coming and you pray it is in VICTORY and not retreat or defeat. Good news: God has already told you it will be in victory and salvation. You just have to actively wait for it.

    The 2nd horn this verse reminded me of is the horns on the altar of the tabernacle. The investment that Josh grabbed ahold of as an act to beg for mercy and forgiveness before he was executed by Solomon’s orders. It didn’t work out well for Joab, but they were a perennial sign to the people of God that salvation is something that can indeed be grasped and held. It is something we can have a firm grip of and cannot be shaken. In the Old Covenant, it was our strength that was needed to hold onto our salvation: just as it was the person’s hand strength that determined how tightly they could hold to the horns of the altar. But in this New Covenant of Christianity, it is not our strength of grip or will power that determines how securely we have our salvation. Rather, it is the unwavering strength of our God and King that now hold us to our salvation. The death of Christ in the cross was an act of reaching out and taking ahold of us to save us. Just as Jesus’ hands were outstretched on the cross, nailed to the wood, so also his hands are forever outstretched towards his beloved, forever fixed to our hands, holding us securely in his salvation. We can choose to let go. We can tell Him to let go. But if we grow weary and weak, to where our grasp would slip on its own, and for all us this has happened innumerable times, God’s grip still hold firm to us, anchoring us to salvation.

  6. Calen Warkentin says:

    We do not need eyes to see the grace, mercy, love, and power of Jesus Christ of God our Heavenly Father of the Holy Spirit living inside.
    Faith is the assurance of things unseen !

  7. Terrell says:

    Powerful, powerful, powerful. It’s amazing the abilities soulful music has. It can literally change lives. That is why I take my position as music director of my church so seriously; because I know God has created me to literally be an instrument of praise. I kinda wish he did share it though, because powerful testimonies go hand in hand with ageless songs. The hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” came from the same type of emotion — pain. But that just shows God’s power once again — He can literally use YOUR pain to save thousands of lives. What other God do we know that can do THAT?!?

  8. Kurk says:

    I’m broken. My flesh is strong and I have jumped into deep dark waters. I am drowning.
    If I look up, I will see God’s light piercing my soul. He is powerful; He will save me. But I must look.
    Lord I look to you!! Please tilt my head up when I can’t even pull myself together. Pour into me like only you can.
    Forgive me for the vile things you have seen me commit. I want to be broken, but I want to stop destroying myself. Break me so I can be healed by you.

  9. Brandon Hubbard says:

    God is deserving of all the glory. Unwavering and almighty, I take refuge in his love. No weapon formed against me shall prosper when I call upon his name. God is my protector. I will give him the love and praise he deserves.

  10. Malachi McCaveney says:

    These passages bring me to a place that is a sorrowful and despairing. It reminds me when my girlfriend dumped me. It was a hard time but I got through it by only with God’s help. Just like this hymn, the author turns to God’s love for his strength and deliverance.

  11. Justin Lowery says:

    The cross, the joy, the light, the life. What a set they make!

  12. Tim says:

    The Lord delights in me! No matter how many waters I am in or terrible enemies I am facing – from within or without – He will rescue me from out of danger and set my feet on the solid rock of His love. His love will truly never let me go, no matter what happens.

  13. Tanner Dalton says:

    Our God is so very personal to us. When David cried, God came down in a thunderous cloud. It reminds me of the feeling a parent has when their child begins to cry from another room. There parent doesn’t amble into the room without care. In that moment, nothing else matters. That’s the love of our father.

    The final chorus for me is so powerful. From the dust, life’s glory dead, God will raise us up to live an eternal life within the safety and refuge of Jesus.

    I love this devotional. I’ve been looking for an opportunity for a Hymn study. I am a church song writer and am thankful for all those that have gone before me, those who are my peers, and I’m thankful for the legacy we can leave for future generations.

  14. Caleb Orta says:

    Worship is not just singing a useless anthem to the church, it is a invitation to the almighty God, a prayer in song form.

  15. Igor Popov says:

    Life is going to be hard, there will be trouble, there will be pain. People are going to hurt me. My life will feel like its crumbling. I will have situations in my life that I do not understand. And it’s going to feel like nothing is going my way. It’s going to feel like God is letting everything happen to me. But I know in whom I trust. I know who puts the breath in my lungs. I know who gives me life every morning and wakes me up from my sleep. Though my troubles are big, my God is greater. I trust in you Lord and I lay down my life to you. I call upon you and pray you lighten my burdens. Your love never fails, and your mercy is unending! You are faithful till the end, and I will love you for all my days!

  16. Matt Vanderworp says:

    I’ve sung this hymn so many times without ever knowing the story behind it. I truly wonder what could’ve happened to him that caused so much emotional distress. Also FIVE MINUTES?! I can’t even finish my breakfast in five minutes. I find it so incredible that the spirit led him to write this song which has stood the test of time. At my RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) ministry at the University of Houston, this hymn is a classic (Indelible Grace version). We sing it at least once or twice a month for weekly Large Group meetings.

  17. Dillon Davis says:

    Oh joy that will not let me go
    Oh cross that lifteth up my head

    These stuck out to me the most.
    No matter what comes our way, is that what we are to cling to? The love, the light, the joy, the cross? Is it really ours? Are we that beloved of God?
    What is the point? What is life?

  18. Jonathan DeWeber says:

    It’s amazing to see that God is near by. That even when we don’t think he is, he is still near wait patiently for us to call upon his name. Lord forgive me of my lack of trust. Lord take my burdens and help me to build that trust.

  19. Logan says:

    I’ve personally never heard this hymn before. But after reading through it’s words, as well as the scripture from 2 Samuel, it’s hard not to praise God for the love He constantly pours out on us. Not only that, but the comfort I can take knowing that God is the strongest supporter I have in any dark time is THE most amazing feeling one can have. I particularly enjoy the fact that David is speaking these words in Samuel, a man who never doubted that God would be there for him always. Even as we sin, God never ceases to love and support us.

  20. Joel Scoggins says:

    Pain and hurt remind us of God’s goodness when we trust him through the process and see his faithfulness on the other side of our circumstances. His love is enough to see us through. In his love is where we find abundant living (John 10:10) because despair is never an option when we rest and trust in Him.

  21. Micah McIlvain says:

    This is so comforting to me during this season of life. Being unemployed, having to wade through lies and deceit surrounding my former employer, and being reminded of my own sinful ways all have me feeling weary and worn. So thankful to have a Father who reaches down into my weary existence to pull me up and tell me that I am loved.

  22. Geoffrey Belk says:

    Sometimes we sing songs just from the pages of the hymnal or paper without actually reading and understanding the words or its meaning. We have sung this song so many times but until I sat and read the words as they were meant to bring truly did not know the depth of HIS love for me. Lord I pray that in this time of reflection on your word and love that you will empty my heart of me and fill it with your complete and never ending love.

  23. Isaiah Gray says:

    Just started my second semester of college. And to be honest life is rough. I’ve had this app now for 5 days without opening it. What a perfect passage to enter in on. God’s got us in our worst situations, he fights for us when we can’t fight anymore. It’s good to know I’m NEVER in this alone.

  24. Nathan says:

    Jesus you are my redeemer. My solid rock. My fortress in the raging storm. The Joy of the Lord is my strength! Of whom shall I be afraid? What can man do to me? Where can I go from your presence? Where can I escape your love? It follows me all the days of my life and it will never let me go. You do not disappoint God. You are always present. Your plans are for good not evil and you will make a way for me. Even in the storm. I know who you are and what you do! You save and redeem! You also correct and discipline your children. Oh what love a Father can carry. None other than you. There’s no one beside you and you’re all I’ll ever need. Nothing can stop you, not even death. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod (guidance) and staff (support) will comfort me. Help me to reflect you in all that I do. Don’t let me stumble or fall. You do not fail and you are victorious!

  25. Bige Wade says:

    There’s no pain or hurt or sin that God’s love cannot reach. His perfect love cannot and will not let anyone be forgotten or parish.

  26. Justin says:

    It’s in moments of tragedy and great anguish that comes through the most. In times of pain and hurt that He draws close. It’s when we are weak that we see His strength most evident.

  27. Jeff Holland says:

    Though there are times that we think are horrible, tough, or even a life’s struggle the Lord will deliver us and show his powerful love.

    God takes care of his children, he uses our scares to testify to others. He lets them know that they are not alone.

    Though the time comes when we think we are alone, he shows us. Though we may be going through a dry time in our walk, he blesses it. Though we may never truly understand the why’s behind our struggle, one day we will and he will tell us.

  28. Sean Otto says:

    In the suffering of loved ones death, I can relate to pain. In the heaviest of longing for relationship feeling so far from the human that I feel I must find and have, I also find pain. But then remembering that I am wrong, He is the only one that can fulfill my soul and belong to and Him to me. It is only when I decide to believe and hold this focus, that I will feel peace.

  29. Beau-Daniel Loumeau says:

    It’s difficult to understand or comprehend the faith of some of these great men…
    A lot of my new life I’ve seen as maybe not living up to the expectations of what a Godly man should be. It’s encouraging to know that He develops you into that, but sometimes I feel more stuck in a rut then growing. His voice, at times, becomes hard to hear and it’s testing, but I know He’s there.

  30. Christopher says:

    How in a time where I am so focused on being a father, I myself have been set lacking someone to confide my soul in, I find it truly remarkable. It’s been two and a half weeks away from work, and I am due to return to a busy schedule once again tomorrow. During the time of my absence I desired to grow accustomed to the routines of parenthood with my wife. Yet, learning all that I needed to about that, I left behind myself (my soul) to grow weary. Truth be told it was weary way before our child was born. Somehow the Lord found me, as in 2 Sam. 22: 17 the Lord reached down, in the times I called upon Him, and he rescued me from drowning in such deep waters. Praise be to God that He hasn’t forgotten me and still chooses to quench my thirsty heart.

  31. David says:

    In this time of reflection I see how his pain was so great he couldn’t speak of it, but he never lost sight of God, and though his pain is terrible he has helped lead other in worship by his challenges and his hymn.

  32. Sam says:

    God is always with us. When we are suffering He is there. God used this blind man to share teach the gospel and save lives. Trust In God and know that everything happens for a reason and that all things work together for good for those who love God and for those who are called according to his purpose.

  33. Evan Tinklenberg says:

    My God, lament often seems like the only utterance of my lips, and it has a tinge of guilt; as though I ought not cry out to God at any time. But the words of this hymn show that you are not far from anyone (Acts 17), and you hear the cries of your people. Thanks be to God, we are not left to grieve alone!

  34. Luke DeBoer says:

    It’s amazing how trials and unspeakably painful experiences draw us closer to God.

  35. Daniel Howell says:

    To lay in dust life’s glory dead.. and from the dust there blossoms eternal life, red with the blood of Christ. This is a beautiful picture of daily dying to oneself, repenting and believing in Jesus, and letting the Spirit of God dictate every step of the day.

    I trace the rainbow through the rain… and let my hope be firmly founded in God’s faithfulness to answer His promises, all of them. In the midst of doubt, pain, fear, shame… this is the hope of the Christian.

    O light that foll’west all my way… I admit that my life’s righteousness is worthless when held up against the full brightness of your glory. So I yield my life to you, O God, because I know that you can take these filthy rags and make them into a useful vessel.

    O love that will not let me go… I am thankful for your power to save AND to keep. Keep me, Holy Spirit, and make my heart glad in what pleases The LORD!

  36. Israel says:

    The songs of David are just powerful and beautiful, in the same way I hope the song writers of this day and age learn from davids hymns as well but not copy them, while we sing a new song there is so much to give and write about when it comes to out God. This instance it was about David not being killed and being victorious, we have so much to sing about. Let’s just start then and there for what God has given us

  37. Matthew Hejny says:

    God will always be with us and He is our stronghold. He is our LORD and Savior. Always and forever by our side when are down and out or when we are having the best time of our lives.

  38. Rudy says:

    What situation in your life reminds you of what David was going thru in this scripture. How did you react towards this trouble? Did you run to God or did you curse God? Why? What are some things you could learn from David’s miraculous faith. His joyful praise shows us how confident we need to be in God when times of trouble come upon us. No situation is too dire for God to get us out of.

  39. Phin says:

    Jesus always knows when we are in pain and is always there to help us. We can come to him in a time of need

  40. Marty Huff says:

    Wow…. Love inspiring stories of real life. Fanny J. Crosby has always been a favorite of mine. Interesting to know ( and believe) how we have an affect on one another. That can go both ways.

  41. Richard Ndukwe says:

    No matter how much we see God as someone who maybe angry at us. God shows compassion he shows how much he loves us even when we don’t even deserve it. Gods mercy and kindness is never ending and he lets chose our path which still leads back to him. No matter how we try to avoid him he’s there.

  42. Caleb says:

    When life became overwhelming to the point of being cornered by their worst thoughts and fears and anything else, David and even George cried out to God and he heard them. They both were psalmists that when life got tough, they sang of His goodness and love and how He can stick up for them in these hard times. Often times I cower when life gets hard. I try to just ignore it and never really deal with anything. I want to have faith and joy like these two had. Especially in dark times, I want to be able to get mad at Satan and respond with joy and hope and call on God to come to my rescue. The devil shouldn’t even have a chance against me because of my Savior and Lord. I can’t face the devil in my own strength. I can hardly face myself in my own strength. But I want my responses to life’s hard times to be that of worship. God is all powerful and all knowing, and is so worthy of our praise and thanksgiving.

    God help me to have faith like that.

  43. Dustin says:

    David relied heavily on God. When surrounded by enemies and overwhelmed, he cried to God. The picture given of God’s holy wrath when He rescues David inspires fear and awe. God’s Love for us is so deep that He would come down to us and lay near the foundations of the earth.

    The hymn speaks of the smallness of man. My pitiful torch, which seems to bright to me, is nothing compared to the light of the Lord that seeks me. In Christ, I am a part of the light. I am enveloped in Him. No matter the sadness, pain, or turmoil, God is good. His joy and life are more than I can imagine or describe. No matter the burden received from following Jesus, the everlasting life in Him is worth the trial.

  44. Micah Gardner says:

    The joy that I find through the pain that I am comes from my character
    Am I happy with what’s happened, no I am not. But I am content that this is the path to fix it. And I will be with her someday

  45. Gabriel Messenger says:

    In so many seasons of life, wet and dry, this hymn reaches parts of my soul that have been left to be forgotten both intentionally and not. Without knowing this hymn, this has been my prayer in all times, that my heart and soul would remember the cross and what it did for me. I rest my weary soul in the fathers heart knowing that he responds no matter where he or I are.

  46. Joshua Vest says:

    It’s amazing what God will truly do for us when we are in need. God will always take care of us. Seeing the 2 Samuel 22:20, “because he delighted in me” makes me feel that God will always take care of us but, when we are doing what we are supposed to be doing spiritually and on the right road he will be even more fierce when facing the enemies that try to hinder us.

  47. Cooper says:

    God is always there for us whether we truly realize it or not. I’ve said this time and time again and will always say it because it is so very comforting and true. To see the miracles God Did for those we believed and trusted in him is breath taking really. The hymn by George Matheson is one of my favorites and I feel like it has a true connecting between Georgia and God. The hymn mentions a few items in the first lines which attention should be focused towards

    “O love that will not let me go,”

    “O light that foll’west all my way,”

    “O joy that seekest me through pain,”

    “O cross that liftest up my head,”

    Love, Light, Joy, and the Cross all things which separately are magnificent but together are truly remarkable, one cannot truly have a prosperous, healthy, happy life without each and every one of these things within in with God being the absolute center.

  48. Jonathan Harwood says:

    The beauty and poetry that God inspires is important for the development of Christian virtue as these words are greater than what we can bring forth. They’re more beautiful than anything we know and fulfill an aching in our heart with their descriptions of something so majestic. Gods glory is evident in the grasses and fields but also in the sinews and fabric of creation. His name is glorified and his presence is inexhaustible, and that comforts me; the down-trodden and tired. The praising and interaction of a heavenly being lifts me out of the dreary existence I’m forced to march and shows a window into literal paradise. The praising of God is an evangelical act as well, the heart of stone can and will melt in the face of the fiery praise of the child of the one true God.

  49. Vinicius Marques says:

    Through everything that we experience, the truths of God are still true. The joy, the love, the cross. What is true in the light, is still true in the dark. We have to recognize that no matter what we go through, the truths still hold true. Just like the hymn writer did here.

  50. Jacob Morter says:

    Even through the toughest, darkest time in His life…He still leaned on God. Remembering His love will never let Him go! There’s power in remembering God is truly always with us and just wanting us to reach out and lean on Him.

    Praise God.

  51. John Boyne says:

    A love that does not let me go. So often in life we focus solely on what we need to do to maintain our relationships and not on how the grace of others is available to us in difficult times. God, the Lord of Grace, promises to hold on to us with his love no matter what. I want to be as confident at the author of this hymn to be able to say in replay that I give my life to you, God. May that be true in all our lives as we submit to the Father and live for him.

  52. Joshua Jones says:

    What a powerful word. We often forget the sovereignty and mightiness of God when we get busy in the world. We must remember we serve a God who sent his son to die for us and will answer when we cry out. A God that saved me from my sin and depression before I even has a glimpse of what his love is like. That God is worthy of praise!

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