Be Still, My Soul

Chances are, the hymn “Be Still, My Soul” is familiar to you. It is included in dozens of hymnals – nearly half of all hymnals in print, according to hymnary.org – and is a frequently used choral piece. Kathrina von Schlegel wrote the hymn in 1752, and it was translated by Jane Borthwick in 1855. It is most frequently tied to the tune FINLANDIA, composed by Jean Sibelius in 1899 in – you guessed it – Finland. It is a wonderful example of the text of a hymn matching the tune perfectly.


But if you’re anything like me, you may have taken the words for granted in the past, not paying close attention to them. That all changed last week, as I was evaluating the text for use in corporate worship. Sometimes all it takes to re-appreciate a hymn’s poetry is to read the text without singing it. I realized that von Schlegel’s hymn has some of the most profound words in hymnody. The second and third verses are so beautiful, with the closing lines of each being especially powerful. My wife summed up the words thusly: it is a succinct, poetic, and powerful expression of the sovereignty and love of God in suffering.


Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end. 
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below. 
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away. 
Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last. 
Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well-pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

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