One afternoon in 1887, music teacher Anthony Showalter dismissed his class and returned to his rooming house in Hartsville, Alabama. There, he found letters from two of his former students. The students have a similar story. Both of them had lost their wives, and both wives had died on the same day. Showalter began writing letters of condolences. Then he wrote a third letter, to Elisha Hoffman, his hymn writer friend, in Pennsylvania. Showalter asked that Hoffman write a hymn on that theme. He even suggested the wording of the chorus. Hoffman responded quickly with three stanzas and Showalter completed the music. Thus, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” came to life. Various musicians covered the song. Among those, Alan Jackson’s version is my favorite. Jackson included it in his 2006 live gospel album Precious Memories. When writing letters of comfort, Showalter was moved by a bible passage,
“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
Where We Can Lean, Always
While “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” never openly references prayer, it expresses confidence and trust in God’s providence. It speaks of a faith that is born out of a prayerful relationship. This works well as a worship song about prayer in a way that is not too evident and tacky. The hymn was created as a message of hope and comfort to a weary soul. It seems this hymn was produced by a life caring for others. Having the living word, the hymn includes the riches of the Old Testament and fellowship.
What have we to dread? What have we to fear? Nothing at all! His arms are a safe refuge. He will never let us down. He will love us to our last breath. Through our lives, lean on His everlasting arms for we are safe and protected from all alarms. Such peace lives in our hearts when our hope is in God. In His Everlasting Arms, we can hear love’s sweet chords.
Safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
May God help us to live the Words of this beautiful hymn. Praise Him and forget not His love. I am blessed with every word of this song. Do you feel the same?
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Alan Jackson, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
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