Posted by: rcottrill | September 12, 2012

Safe in the Arms of Jesus

Words: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: William Howard Doane (b. Feb. 3, 1832; d. Dec. 23, 1915)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: There’s an interesting little incident connected with the writing of this song in 1868. You can find it on the Wordwise Hymns link.

This is a lovely hymn, but it’s usually misused or misapplied. I think the only time I’ve heard it sung is at funeral services. In the minds of most folks it apparently evokes a sentimental picture of the departed loved one being hugged by the Lord Jesus, as he or she is welcomed into heaven. We do know that, while on earth, Christ took infants and young children in His arms (Mk. 10:13-16). Perhaps that’s what has prompted the other idea for some.

But Fanny Crosby doesn’t have death and heaven in view. She’s talking about the loving care of the Saviour in the here and now. She revels in the fact that she’s wrapped ‘round with the loving arms of Jesus in a spiritual sense, even as she faces “only a few more trials, only a few more tears” (CH-2), and she prays, “Here let me wait with patience, wait till the night is o’er” (CH-3).

So, does the Lord Jesus Christ personally welcome home each saint by wrapping him or her in His arms? It’s possible, of course, but there’s no evidence that it’s more than a sentimental notion. The Bible teaches that the Son of God is normally seated at the Father’s right hand in glory (Heb. 1:3). But when Stephen was stoned to death, he saw the Lord “standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). It’s not difficult to imagine Him preparing to welcome the church’s first martyr home. More than that it’s difficult to say.

The family and friends of departed Christians don’t need to be mollified by fantasies. They can be uplifted and encouraged by the certitudes of Holy Scripture. And what was said of Israel is surely true of each individual saint today: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27).

We mustn’t lose the blessing of using this hymn as a reminder the Lord’s presence and tender care now. “Lo, I am with you always,” Jesus said, “even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:28). Fanny Crosby’s poetic imagery, though symbolic, expresses a reality that is comforting and reassuring. With the psalmist she would say, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8). It would be worth explaining this hymn and using it in other circumstances.

Though it may be mediated by the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the attentive ministrations of angels (Heb. 1:14), Christ’s care of the saints is no less real and no less effective. The One who “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20), would surely not abandon me now. In fact, the book of Romans is quite insistent in answering the question: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” In Romans 8:35-39 we are made to understand that nothing can or will.

CH-1) Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’er-shaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! ’tis the voice of angels, borne in a song to me.
Over the fields of glory, over the jasper sea.

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast
There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.

CH-3) Jesus, my heart’s dear refuge, Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages, ever my trust shall be.
Here let me wait with patience, wait till the night is o’er;
Wait till I see the morning break on the golden shore.

1) Can you think of other hymns that seem to be used at funerals but not at other times–songs that could be a blessing in other circumstances?

2) What are some aspects or elements of the Lord’s loving care for His own?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. 1. “Abide with Me” comes immediately to mind as a song that shouldn’t be relegated to funerals. In a similar vein, I think sometimes of songs that would find new life when brought out of the “invitation” or “altar call” scenario.

    • Thanks for your comments. And I do agree about “Abide with Me”–and with the thought of using “invitation” hymns on other occasions. An example that comes to mind is “Just as I Am.” It has a strong association with evangelistic altar calls in the minds of many, because that’s how Billy Graham used it in his meetings for many years. But sung by Christians, as a prayer of confession and commitment, it takes on a whole new powerful significance. God bless.

      • Yes, this is all resonating with me, too. Another invitation song from my past — “I Hear Thy Welcome Voice” (can we not hear It more than once?).

        You might enjoy my recent post that touches on songs: I’m again writing on such things about once a week, after not having done it for a while.

      • Maybe we need to start making a list of misused or under-used hymns and gospel songs. 🙂 Now that you’ve got me thinking, there are likely some Christmas carols that should be used more than just in December.


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