Next to the Word of God, I know of few things that comfort and soothe a fearful heart like the words and familiar melodies of the old hymns. No doubt penned under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, many traditional songs of the church usher us into the very presence of God at times when we need Him most.
Traditional or contemporary, I enjoy any type of music that honors God and presents the truth of the Gospel, but when my soul is weary, I tend to turn toward the timeless truths found in the Church Hymnal. Here are some of my favorite hymns from the last four centuries:
Written by John Newton, 1779
We all know and love this Christian standard. (If you don’t know the story of the writer’s conversion, it’s definitely worth researching.) How many lives must this song have touched? Sung for centuries in church services, and commonly sung at funerals, “Amazing Grace” is probably the most well-known hymn in existence. But when I think about reaching beyond our fear into our faith, it’s the third verse specifically that speaks to me the most.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home
When we are afraid, we need only to look back at how God has kept us up to this point in the journey. He has been, and will continue to be, faithful.
As Paul testified in his letter to Timothy, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:18 ESV)
Here is a link to this song being performed:
It Is Well With My Soul
Written by Horatio Spafford, composed by Philip Bliss, published 1876
You’ve probably heard the story, but this famous hymn was born of tragedy. In a span of three years, the author lost a two-year-old son, was ruined financially by the Great Chicago Fire, and lost four daughters at sea when their sailing vessel sank. Yet even in the midst of the unthinkable, Spafford trusted God, as demonstrated in the first verse:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Whether life is going perfectly, based on our natural understanding, or we are in the midst of tragedy, we have a loving God that cares about us and is all-powerful.
One of my favorite recordings of this hymn is found here:
Written by W.D. Cornell, 1889
I’ve much more familiar with the chorus of this song than the verses, and I find it a great comfort. Both an assertion about the peace of God and a prayer for its constant presence, the melody itself is peaceful and reassuring.
Peace! Peace! Wonderful peace, Coming down from the Father above;
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,
In fathomless billows of love.
If you find yourself in distress, take a moment and sing this chorus as your heart’s prayer, and watch God’s peace show up in your situation.
You may hear the hymn here:
‘Til the Storm Passes By
Written by Mosie Lister, 1958
From my mid-teens to early twenties, until God gave me complete healing, I suffered from regular, debilitating panic attacks. I don’t like to recall those times, but I remember a particular instance when God used this old song to help calm my anxiety-wrecked mind and body.
I had called a dear friend during a particularly bad attack, and she drove a long distance to sit with me in my apartment. I can still hear her voice as she sat in the floor next to me, while a lay curled up in a ball on the sofa:
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.
As she sang, my muscles relaxed. The tears eventually ceased. Indeed, God did keep me safe. He preserved me until I was healed, and has continued to keep me through every storm since then.
Here’s a video of the hymn being performed:
In Christ Alone
Written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, 2001
No, it doesn’t have to be old to be a hymn! This popular modern hymn—with very direct theology and memorable melody—is quickly becoming a classic. Due to copyright issues, we can’t share the lyrics with you here, but here is the link to the hymn.
What more do we need to overcome fear than a reminder that Christ is our hope, our solid ground?
When you find yourself struggling with feelings of anxiety or fear, first pray and seek Him, then open the hymnal and be encouraged.