Posted by: rcottrill | August 12, 2011

Be Still, My Soul

Words: Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel (b. Oct. 22, 1696; d. _____, circa 1768)
Music: Finlandia, by Jean Sibelius (b. Dec. 8,1865; d. Sept. 20, 1957)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Katharina von Schegel’s hymn originally contained six stanzas. Jane Borthwick translated five of these into English. The Cyber Hymnal includes them all.

Taking her inspiration from Psalm 46:10-11, “Be still, and know that I am God….The Lord of hosts is with us,” the author has created a message of profound reassurance. In my view, it is one of our greatest hymns.

In the above Bible text, the words “be still” mean more than simply be quiet. They also carry the thought: Relax! But, oh how difficult that is, at times. With compelling imagery, the author describes the problems that assail us, with phrases such as: the cross of grief or pain, every change, thorny ways, all now mysterious, waves and winds, when dearest friends depart, all is darkened in the vale of tears, your sorrows and your fears, all He takes away, disappointment, passing clouds, and so on.

When all around us is confusion and chaos, or when life’s painful problems seem to crowd around and hem us in, what then? Relax? How can we relax at such a time. Miss von Schlegel suggests about a dozen reasons why.

CH-1. “God is on our side.” And “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Further, we can be assured “He faithful will remain.” The Bible says, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Cor. 1:9; cf. 10:13). In Christ, we have a “heavenly Friend” who will lead us “to a joyful end,” even if it be, at times, “through thorny ways” (Ps. 23:1-6; Heb. 4:14-16).

CH-2. The Lord is able “to guide the future, as He has the past.” There is value in reviewing past blessings, whether those experienced by men and women described in Scripture (Rom. 15:4), or those living more recently, we ourselves, and those we know. We can be assured that “all now mysterious shall be bright at last” (I Cor. 13:12).

The last two lines of this stanza were a great encouragement to me personally, after a difficult double surgery. They refer to another time when the words “Be still!” were spoken. The Lord Jesus was in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, when a fierce storm arose, threatening to swamp them (Mk. 4:37). But Christ “rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (vs. 39).

Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

CH-3 is not often used, and that is unfortunate. It deals particularly with the experience of losing a loved one. Even when we are confident that the individual is with the Lord, there is the pain of parting and loss. Katharina von Schlegal assures us the Lord can minister to us in such a time.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

CH-4. Encourages us with all that will be forever put behind us, when we are “forever with the Lord”–things such as “disappointment, grief and fear,” as well as “change and tears.”

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

As with a number of other hymns I’ve discussed in these posts, I encourage you and your church to sing this hymn, and sing it often. The truths it contains are both biblical and profoundly encouraging.

1) When our inner peace is disturbed, what are some of the reasons?

2) Take a look at the stanzas of the hymn included in the Cyber Hymnal, and see if you can make your own list of reasons why the child of God can “be still,” rather than fretful and discouraged.

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. On February 2, 2012, I requested prayer on this website for our son (50 years old). Prayer has been answered! I thank the Lord that He saw us through this heart wrenching time. “Be Still My Soul” has been of deep comfort to me! All praise to our heavenly Father forever!


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