Posted by: rcottrill | March 17, 2014

Lonesome Valley

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Words: author unknown (Traditional Spiritual)
Music: composer unknown

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This simple Spiritual comes from the American slave music of the eighteenth or nineteen century. The Wordwise Hymns link will give you a recording of Jerome Hines’ version. Hines (1921-2003) was an operatic bass who sang for many years with the Metropolitan Opera Company.

Loneliness is a common experience in our day, even though our planet has more people on it than ever before. You can be lonely in a populous city, lonely even in a crowd.

The dictionary, in defining this malady, says it means being without friendship, companionship, or the sympathy of others, without the exchange of words, thoughts and feelings with another human being. That kind of aloneness can be painful indeed.

Right from the beginning, God designed us to have mutual friendships and company with other human beings. After forming Adam from the dust of the earth and giving him life, the Lord declared, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). This led to the forming of Eve.

But, having said these things, we recognize that there are times in every life when we must face something ourselves that cannot be shared with another person. That too is a kind of practical aloneness. When a life partner dies, or when we face a serious disease, there are elements of such trials and burdens that are unique to us.

The Lord Jesus is the perfect example of that. As the God-Man, He was (and is) unlike any other person. And His work of redemption was His alone. Many others were crucified, during Jesus’ time on earth, but He was the only One who could die for our sins. The only One who could face the Father’s wrath for us, and sense the excruciating pain of that break in fellowship. There on the cross He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” (Matt. 27:46). He alone was the Sin-bearer.

The Spiritual Lonesome Valley reflects on that, describing it with words that are reminiscent of Psalm 23:4, which speaks of “the valley of the shadow of death.” The experience of pain and suffering is indeed a dark valley.

CH-1) Jesus walked this lonesome valley.
He had to walk it by Himself;
O, nobody else could walk it for Him,
He had to walk it by Himself.

It is easy to see how the experience of the suffering Saviour had its impact on the slaves. They too were suffering. And though there were many of them, each had to go through their own particular trials, experiencing the loneliness of fear and pain and sorrow in a personal way.

CH-2) We must walk this lonesome valley,
We have to walk it by ourselves;
O, nobody else can walk it for us,
We have to walk it by ourselves.

Sometimes, CH-3 is directed toward others: “You must go and stand your trial.” Other times, you will see it personalized as: “I must go and stand my trial,” with the other pronouns put in the first person as well.

CH-3) You must go and stand your trial,
You have to stand it by yourself,
O, nobody else can stand it for you,
You have to stand it by yourself.

Gospel song writer and musical arranger Frank Anderson felt there was an element that was missing from this traditional song. For the Christian, there is an important fact that needs to be considered. No matter how alone we may be, we know that the Lord is with us (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). He has our best interests at heart, and He can either deliver us from our trial, or give us grace to sustain us through it (Heb. 4:15-16).

To indicate this significant truth, Frank Anderson added a final stanza that appears in the hymnal Praise: Our Songs and Hymns (published by Singspiration, 1979).

Now in ev’ry lonesome valley,
The trials and sorrows we must face,
O, Jesus Himself will be there with us–
To fill the shadows with His grace.

1) What are some burdens of life that can be shared with others? What are some of the kind that must be borne by us personally?

2) Is there some lonely person you can reach today, either in person or by phone, e-mail, letter, etc. who would be blessed by that?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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