Abide With Me ‘Tis Eventide

by | Oct 16, 2017 | Religion

This is a talk given by Luke Radke to his ward near Calgary, AB Canada [15 October 2017]. He was kind enough to let me post it.

I pray that the spirit will fill this room and bestow upon you the meaning of what I have prepared to say.

This morning I wish to speak to you about a song that has special meaning to me.  It has brought light to my darkest of days; it has given me hope when I believed everyone and everything had turned against me; and it has given me patience to endure the neverending trials of life.

This song, or rather…hymn, was written by those who lived through terrible tragedy and bloodshed.  These men saw first hand what the devil can do when he has turned the hearts of man against one another.  The words of this hymn reflect these emotions, and they humbly plead with God to not leave them. The hymn I speak about, brothers and sisters, is Abide With Me ‘Tis Eventide.

Now, just for a bit of insight, “the lyrics and music to the hymn…were heavily influenced by the American Civil War. Both the writer of the lyrics, Martin Hofford, and the composer of the music, Harrison Millard, held positions in the Union forces and felt the widespread loss and sorrow that the war brought.”

Now many of you, if not all, have never heard me speak in a sacrament meeting before.  So, like my favorite speakers, I want you to know that I tend to draw on my personal experiences, and many other sources to help weave the tapestry I will create before you.  Now I know my trials are not the same as yours, but I am sure that the feelings we get will be the same, or at least very similar.

Last week when I told my wife about my speaking assignment, she asked me “Why do you like this hymn?  Is it because of Joseph Smith?” Despite having a deep love and admiration for Brother Joseph, and knowing what event she was referring to, I answered “No.  I love this hymn because it is a plea to God, from those so heavily beaten down in life, that they have nowhere else to go but to Him for comfort. Having been one to see my share of torment and loss, I know how they feel and this hymn gives me hope when I need hope the most.”

I’m sure all here can agree with me, when I say that there are times in our lives that we may feel that the world has turned against us.  Where we feel alone and desperate. Now, whether you have felt this before, or are going through life feeling it right now, I can assure you that you are not alone.

Let’s remember what we read in Doctrine and Covenants, section 122.  Joseph smith, a prisoner in Liberty Jail, pleaded with Heavenly Father, begging to know where he was and why he was having the saints endure terrible hardships.  As an answer to his prayer, Brother Joseph wrote:

5 If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;

7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

9 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.

This passage of scripture impacted me the most when I was on my mission.  I served in the former Canada Toronto West Mission. It wasn’t what I would call the ideal mission experience, if there is such a thing, rather it was more of a HUGE testimony building experience.

During my time serving I was subjected to torment and ridicule, Several times I went hungry from lack of food, I felt completely alone, suffered extreme depression, fought and fled from demons, and so on.  It all peaked when I was serving in Hamilton. While I was there, I had the very real feeling that I wanted to be “rubbed out”…I just wanted to cease to be. Now it wasn’t a suicidal feeling, just something that came over me due to bitter agony of the soul.  One day during my morning studies I found myself reading Doctrine and Covenants 121 and 122, and these sections stuck with me…especially the latter; they would get me going with my day and give me strength to do some work. Whenever I needed strength, I would reread these passages and pray that I could endure what I was feeling.  Sometimes the strength lasted days, sometimes it was only hours. So, while my companions were praying for converts, I was praying just to get one foot in front of the other. I didn’t know what Heavenly Father was doing to me, and still don’t, but I knew they were trials, and very heavy ones at that.

Now I want to emphasize that even though I was being crushed with a very heavy mental anguish, I learned to turn to God for help.

In the address titled Challenges: But For a Small Moment, Neal A. Maxwell states:

“Christ on the cross gave out the cry “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” That cry on the cross is an indication that the very best of our Father’s children found the trials so real, the tests so exquisite and so severe, that he cried out—not in doubt of his Father’s reality, but wondering “why” at that moment of agony—for Jesus felt so alone…

From Gethsemane and Calvary there are many lessons we need to apply to our own lives. We, too, at times may wonder if we have been forgotten and forsaken. Hopefully, we will do as the Master did and acknowledge that God is still there and never doubt that sublime reality–even though we may wonder and might desire to avoid some of life’s experiences. We may at times, if we are not careful, try to pray away pain or what seems like an impending tragedy, but which is, in reality, an opportunity. We must do as Jesus did in that respect—also preface our prayers by saying, “If it be possible,” let the trial pass from us—by saying, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt,”…It is because he loves us that at times he will not intercede as we may wish him to. That, too, we learn from Gethsemane and from Calvary.”

This is one comfort we can take when we are burdened with trials that we think we can not bear any longer; that they are known to Heavenly Father, and he is sending them to us for our personal and spiritual growth.  But I think it hardly goes without saying that this thought doesn’t always make it any easier for us to endure them.

The perfect example could be the last two years for me.  Like so many others, I was laid off with the downturn in the economy.  I had worked at a luxury home builder, and there just weren’t the sales.  Since then I had tried to start up a small accounting/bookkeeping firm, an SEO agency, a photography business, an online link building business, etc…and found very little success.  All the while I was applying for hundreds of accounting positions. A year ago when I was finally offered a few 12 month contracts, I had to turn them down as I couldn’t commit to working the full term.  The reason I had to turn them down was because I had just been diagnosed with a fagtal brain tumor and I had just opted for surgery; I knew my surgical date would fall somewhere in the middle of the contracts, and that they would have to be cancelled.  After I turned down the work, I’ll be honest when I say I was a lot like President Brown, when he recalled the following in his 1968 BYU commencement speech:

“…bitterness rose in my heart until…I clenched my fist, and I shook it at heaven, and I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I’ve done everything that I knew how to do…and now you’ve cut me down. How could you do it?”

I knew fine well that I was going through a trial, and that it was for my own personal growth…but the compounding challenges I was facing were so heavy that I lost sight learning from the experiences, and instead I angrily confronted Heavenly Father and demanded why did I have to endure?!  I fell hard into a trap that Elder Maxwell mentions in the same address :

“A…trap, and a major one, is the trap of self-pity. One man has said that “hell is being frozen in self-pity.” Indeed, at times when we think our lot is hard or when we feel ourselves misunderstood, it will be so easy for us to indulge ourselves in feeling some self-pity. A contrasting episode comes to us out of ancient Greece: Several hundred Spartans were holding the pass at Thermopylae, that narrow pass, and the Persians came in overwhelming numbers and urged the Spartans to surrender. Hoping to intimidate them further, the Persians sent emissaries to the Spartans, saying they had so many archers in their army they could darken the sky with their arrows. The Spartans said, “So much the better. We shall fight in the shade.””

We need to be careful not to fall into a cycle of self pity, it is hard to resist especially where we live where tens of thousands of people are without work.  Instead we need to be like the Spartans who followed King Leonidas. They knew they would not live to see the end of the battle, but faced the overwhelming armies of Xerxes with determination to do their all, and to maintain their pride.  If we have trouble with this by ourselves, then we need to turn to God for help.

“…bitterness rose in my heart until…I clenched my fist, and I shook it at heaven, and I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I’ve done everything that I knew how to do…and now you’ve cut me down. How could you do it?”

Now I am not perfect by any means; I’m not even that old; I don’t have all the answers; and like most, I have a hard time enduring the hard trials that fall upon me.  I don’t know what Heavenly Father has in store for me, or why he has had me and my family go through the trials that we have. However, I do know one thing. I know that when the days are dark; when my spirit is shattered; and when I don’t think I can endure anymore, I can sing.

What I sing is a prayer, and that is:

Abide with me; ‘tis eventide,

And lone will be the night

If I cannot commune with thee

Nor find thee in thee my light.

The darkness of the world, I fear,

Would in my home abide.

Oh Savior, stay this night with me;

Behold, ‘tis eventide.

Oh Savior, stay this night with me;

Behold, ‘tis eventide.

Brothers and sisters, I love this hymn; I love the feeling it has; I love the words it contains; I love its plea for comfort.

I can testify to you, with a perfect knowledge, that in your darkest of days you are not alone.  God is with you, and he will not let you suffer more than you can bear. Yes times may be tough but I promise that a simple thought of a prayer will bring comfort to you, and a reassurance that you are loved.  It is my hope and prayer that you will go forth from this day remembering who you are and why you are here, and that if you don’t know, that you will ask your Heavenly Father. He loves you all and will never abandon you.  I testify of this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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