“I shall not fear the battle If Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway If Thou wilt be my Guide.”
Throughout its history, Christianity has often had us focusing on future fears. We are to worry about winning pardon for our sinfulness. We are to worry whether heaven is waiting, or some version of hell. We are also often told that Christian salvation is a journey or a pathway to that future. And in many ways, it is. But my Christian experience has also been more like a battle, as John Bode described it in his hymn. Day-by-day and morning-by-morning, I’m struggling against selfishness or anger or fear or loneliness or illness. The list is endless.
Knowing what we face, knowing that we human beings aren’t going to win our way forward without an Advocate by our side, God sent His Son to fight with us and for us. That’s because salvation is more, much more, than just a future hope, and it is also more than just a human journey from here to there. As I see it, salvation is a full-scale war against a natural life that would make us all prisoners!
And, for me, helpful and freeing inspiration very often comes in the poems and hymns and thoughts of those who have gone before us. In the tumult of troubling times, Bode prayed, “Be Thou forever near me” and “O let me feel Thee near me!” And we do feel the continuing comfort of Christ’s nearby presence. That is what has drawn people to Christianity over the centuries. It is the living Lord by our side, calming us during the destructive roar of any kind of storm. The spirit of Jesus is, indeed, present and “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).
Just as John Bode wrote, I need “my Savior and my Friend” to be “forever near me.” I need to be quiet so I can hear him “speaking in accents clear and still.” When we give the burden to the Lord, things might not get perfect, but they will always get better.