Posted by: rcottrill | May 17, 2017

O Love Divine That Stooped to Share

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Words: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (b. Aug. 29, 1809; d. Oct. 7, 1894)
Music: Quebec (also called Hesperus), by Henry Baker (b. June 6, 1835; d. Feb. 1, 1910)

Wordwise Hymns (Oliver Wendell Holmes)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The son of a pastor, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) was the father of the esteemed American Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. And the senior man, a medical doctor, was not unfamiliar with hospitals. He also taught anatomy and physiology at Harvard Medical School, where he eventually became dean.

Dr. Holmes wrote another hymn that touches on the presence of God, a theme similar to the present one. It begins:

Lord of all being, throned afar,
Thy glory flames from sun and star;
Center and soul of every sphere,
Yet to each loving heart how near!

The hospital can be a lonely place, especially at night. During the day, there are more people around, and there can be visitors to break the monotony. But at night the passing hours seem much longer, and the pains more painful.

When we have an opportunity, we need to express our appreciation for nurses and other staff members, especially for those who work a night shift. On one occasion, a church I was pastor planned a service where we honoured our health care professionals. Perhaps you could do the same at your church.

There is such healing power in a smile and an encouraging word. Years ago, during a time when I had two surgeries days apart, and spent nearly a month in the hospital, there were two or three nurses in particular who showed real kindness and concern for me. Holly, with her tiny flashlight, made the rounds at night, checking on each patient. When she learned I was having trouble breathing, needed to sit up, and found the bed uncomfortable, she went to a waiting room down the hall, and pushed a reclining chair from there into my room, where it remained through my stay. (What a relief it was!)

I wrote a poem called Night on the Ward, attempting to capture something of the solitary feelings patients experience in the night hours, and of the blessing of compassionate nurses on duty.

Footfalls echoing
Down long, dim corridors
To a counterpoint of pain;
Stirring sleepers,
Pastel shadows on a wall,
Reach out for help and comfort
With a distant bell;
White forms moving
From sound to source,
Bring routine remedies
Tinctured with fresh mercy.

Whether the lonely night hours are spent in a hospital, or at home, there is One who is always within reach to give reassurance and settle our hearts with His peace. The psalmist says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present [a fully available] help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth [faithfully]” (Ps. 145:18).

David writes of the Lord, “You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off….Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You” (Ps. 139:2, 12). And another has said, “God my Maker…gives songs in the night” (Job 35:10; cf Acts 16:23-25).

In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus had a special word of reassurance for His followers. Though He was about to return to heaven again, He was able also to continue with them as a spiritual presence. He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). And the book of Hebrews contains this promise to believers: “He Himself has said, ‘I will never [not under any circumstances] leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper’” (Heb. 13:5). He’s near at all times.

Meditating on the words of Scripture, “You are near, O Lord” (Ps. 119:151), Holmes wrote a hymn he called “Hymn of Trust.” He spoke of how he had passed by a sick room one day, and heard some comments he turned into his hymn.

CH-1) O Love divine, that stooped to share
Our sharpest pang, our bitterest tear!
On Thee we cast each earthborn care;
We smile at pain while Thou art near.

CH-2) Though long the weary way we tread,
And sorrow crown each lingering year,
No path we shun, no darkness dread,
Our hearts still whispering, ‘Thou art near!’

CH-4) On Thee we fling our burdening woe,
O Love divine, forever dear!
Content to suffer while we know,
Living and dying, Thou art near!

1) Have you ever experienced the nighttime loneliness of a time of illness?

2) What did you do to bring relief–or how were you helped by another person suffering similarly?

Wordwise Hymns (Oliver Wendell Holmes)
The Cyber Hymnal


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