We come to the rock star of our hymns this week. A tune that has been recorded by a dizzying array of artists fairly consistently since 1941. Everyone from Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Patsy Cline, Ella Fitzgerald, Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, Harry Connick Jr., Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Lawrence Welk, The Fray and Eric Clapton have recorded and performed it – and many more! What is it about this one that has made it so popular?
An old gospel song, it is said to have its roots in the southern African-American church and in the field singing of slaves. Although possibly originating prior to the American Civil War, the version we’re probably most familiar with is the one from the 1940s when it was first recorded. There is no known author of the text, although a few people have added and adjusted the lyrics over the years.
This is a very personal prayer. A song filled with the desire to be carried by something beyond our own strength. Filled with an acknowledgement of our weakness, our burdens, and our need for support.
I am weak, but Thou art strong,
Jesus, keep me from all wrong,
I’ll be satisfied as long As I walk,
let me walk close to Thee.
Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.
When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more,
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom’s shore, to Thy shore.
Maybe that’s why it has been so popular. I suppose we all struggle with the inability to manage everything. We all live in a world filled with toil and snares – things that derail our plans and best intentions. We all have moments that feel like our lives are feeble. These insecurities and challenges are common and even the most successful of us face them. The specifics of whom we look to as a supportive walking partner may vary, but we’re all looking. My wish is that you find that partner – be they earthly or spiritual. Walk closely together. Guide and be guided gently and safely to the shore on the other side.
Just a closer walk with thee,
grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
daily walking close to thee:
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.