This past fall, my father-in-law helped my wife build a raised garden bed. Neither Susie nor I really consider ourselves proficient gardeners, but we aspire to be. Susie’s Macedonian grandmother has tended a substantial garden of vegetables since she came to the States in the early 20th century. Having a backyard garden has always been a dream of mine. This spring, we’ve planted our first set of crops in the small garden, and Susie has been diligently watering them regularly.
Planting a garden and tending it for the first time has given me new perspective on Jesus’s image of abiding in Him, just as branches are connected to a vine. The way a branch needs its root or its vine points us to our dependence upon Christ.
“Abide With Me” was written and set to a tune in the 19th century, and it is a hymn not of praise or of triumph, but of deep need and desperation. Henry Francis Lyte writes, “When other helpers fall and comforts flee/Help of the helpless, O abide with me.” At various times in life, we will find ourselves walking through valleys that resemble David’s heart in Psalm 23. We may feel abandoned by people. We may feel as though everything that may bring joy has been ripped away. We may be tempted to forsake God in anger, but that is not the solution.
The solution is to cling closer to Christ when we feel abandoned and alone. As Lyte states later in the hymn: “O Thou who changest not, abide with me/I need Thy presence every passing hour.” We must trust that God will be faithful to us and fulfill His promises to us. Numbers 23:19 reminds us, “God is not a man, that he might lie, or a son of man, that he might change his mind. Does he speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?”
When we are trudging through seasons of life questioning the goodness or the presence of God, it can be difficult to lift our eyes to heaven and have any sort of affection or trust in our heavenly Father. When it seems as if an all-powerful God isn’t protecting us the way we think He should, we often misunderstand it as hatred or ignorance on His part.
Instead, when we walk through trials and periods of desperation, we must see these valleys as opportunities to cling to Christ when all other distractions and comforts have been stripped away. We must turn to the One who will not remove His presence from us, the One who continues to abide with us.
Written by Chris Martin
Abide with Me
Text: Henry Francis Lyte, 1847
Tune: William H. Monk, 1861
Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see.
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like Thyself my guide and strength can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.
I fear no foe with Thee at hand to bless,
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes.
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.