O Love, that wilt not let me go

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 followest all my way,
I yield my flickering 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.

The author was inspired to write this hymn in 5 minutes during a time of distress.

Ryan Danek

Bellevue, Washington, United States

Thank You Lord for not letting me go.

Steve Miller

Detroit, MI, United States

The original 3rd line of the 3rd stanza said "I climb the rainbow through the rain". It was a prosy hymnal committee of the Church of Scotland that insisted it be changed to "I trace the rainbow through the rain." The members of the committee could not imagine anything so fanciful and farcical as climbing a rainbow! ... Finally, Matheson consented to the change with regret, permitting a line he would never have written.

How sad! A close friend of Matheson, J. Morrison of Colinton, Scotland, expressed in an article for "The Scotsman" years later: "When "climb" was altered to "trace", the figure of a victorious ascent of the spirit toward its divine source (a purely inner experience) was changed to passive contemplation of an external phenomenon mentally envisaged - pious and beautiful in its way, but quite different from what was originally implied." ...

For Matheson, the rainbow was like Jacob's ladder let down from heaven for the poet's ascent into the glory of God.

James Black, in a book published 54 years after Matheson's death, wrote: "It is merely silly to think of Matheson 'tracing' that rainbow through the rain; his eyes were shut forever! But in his own fine imagination, he could picture himself stumbling forward blindly till he actually touched the rainbow with his groping fingers! And when he touched it, he could grasp it and climb it." - Climbing the Rainbow by Loyd J. Ogilvie

Joanna Smathers

Baton Rouge, LA, United States

We enjoyed Christ in this song and the history of it and the writer this morning at Sisters' prayer. Seems to me this is the history of shepherds. Exodus 3:1 Now Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, to Horeb.

Steve Miller

Detroit, MI, United States

George Matheson was born in Glasgow, Scotland. By the time he was 18 years of age he was totally blind; still he achieved high honors in university. He became one of Scotland's outstanding preachers and pastors. Although he never married, he had a devoted sister who studied Greek, Latin, and Hebrew in order to aid him in his studies. Due to his great ability to memorize sermons and large portions of Scripture, many people did not know he was blind. One Sunday as he was preaching his mind went blank. He read out a Psalm from memory and then sat down. After a song was sung he again stood up, told the audience what had happened, and then, although blind, spoke another portion of Scripture and gave a powerful message on that portion. From that time he no longer wrote out sermons but spoke from a prepared outline.

There is much speculation concerning the background of the writing of this hymn. It is best to take Matheson's own account:

"My hymn was composed on the evening of the 6th of June, 1882. I was at that time alone. It was the day of my sister's marriage, and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. 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. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression rather of having it dictated to me by some inward voice than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in 5 minutes, and equally sure it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high. I have never been able to gain once more the same fervor in verse." - Songs of the Spirit by Martin


Matheson's poem was published in a Christian magazine in 1883, and in 1884 it was considered for inclusion in "The Scottish Hymnal". The musical editor of that work, Albert L. Peace, couldn't find a suitable tune in the poem's unique meter, so he wrote a new one. Like the poet, the composer worked quickly, saying, "The ink of the first note was hardly dry when I had finished the tune." Written in a few moments, this enduring song celebrates a love that lasts forever. - Be Still My Soul: The Inspiring Stories Behind 175 of the Most-loved Hymns by Petersen


Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

Brought up in a Methodist manse, I grew up singing hymns like this. Feels much more meaningful now that I'm older. Oddly, it was reading Colin Dexter's "Death is Now my Neighbour" that prompted me to look this up. Thank you, Mr Dexter!

Brinley Morgan

The Village Of Raglan, Monmouthshire, Wales, NP15 2EN

This beloved hymn is our Morgan Family hymn, sung at many weddings and funerals. It will be sung next at the funeral of our beloved Mam, Dorothy May, nee Brinning, (1913-2014) in Caerphilly, near Cardiff, where she will join Ernest Leslie Morgan (1912-1963). She earnestly wanted this hymn to be sung at this final goodbye, along with "The Day Thou Gave'st Now Is Ended". Farewell Dear Soul, Dear Mam. XXXX

Nelson Liu

Irvine, CA, United States

O Love! O Light! O Joy! O Cross!


Canyon Lake, TX, United States

The music and lyrics of this beautiful hymn perfectly express the love of Our Lord Jesus...so much so that it always brings tears of perfect peace.

Don Smith

Rupert, West Virginia, United States

This most lovely hymn brings a satisfaction to my heart that none other has. Thank you for this beautiful example.

Henry Francis B. Espiritu

Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines

This comforting hymn tells us of the hope we have IN the Beloved. The Scriptures declared that a lowly grain, in order to bring much harvest, must die first to live a fuller and more productive Life. Praise God that IN the Beloved, we are safe and secure and we are with the Beloved come what may--from life to Life! Our life on earth is only a shadow of a much richer Life--only if we are IN the Beloved! Praise God for this confidence that my life is loved by the Beloved; with a "Love that will never let me go". His Love does not diminish despite my shortcomings; for His "love will never me go". May the Lord capture our hearts to see what privilege we have IN the Beloved. Oh God who allowed my ordinary existence to flow back to the depths of this Ocean of Love, I gave my life to Thee. Praise the Beloved because we do not have to fear death. Why should a lowly stream fear in merging with the depths of the Ocean of Love, Who is God Himself? Hallelujah for this assurance! Our flickering life will be returned back to the blazing Sun of Reality, Who is the Beloved Himself! Why should a flickering torch be afraid of the Sunshine's blaze? I really love this hymn because it puts in proper perspective that our passing away on this earth is actually a passage to Life Everlasting. If I have the Beloved in my spirit, even though "I lay in dust life's glory--dead", but "from the ground there blossoms red; Life that shall endless be"! In death, we will be planted as one of the beautiful roses in God's Eternal Garden! Why should I fear death? When did I become less by dying? "Oh 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". Why should I fear the darkness of the night when after the innermost darkness is the reddish dawn of a new Day? Hallelujah! What a glorious promise that will be fulfilled by and IN the Beloved! Oh glorious Day, indeed! Amen.