Nearer, My God, To Thee

Sarah Flower Adams, born in Harlow, England in 1805 grew up with great talent and stage presence. She enjoyed acting and hoped to be a prominent actress someday. In fact, she even played in some leading roles in the Richmond Theater in London and received critical acclaim. During this rise in her fame, she fell ill and her health demanded her to abandon his dreams of being on stage.

As the daughter of a newspaper editor and a multitalented person herself, she turned her focus more on her literary talents. She was known to write poems and lyrics with such inspiration that editors rarely made changes to her first draft.

In 1841, pastor William Johnson Fox mentioned that the church hymnbook did not include a song about the topic he prepared for that week’s sermon. Sarah quickly offered to write a hymn based on the story of Jacob at Bethel (Genesis 28:20-22). Over the course of the week, she studied the scriptures and penned the lyrics to the now well-known hymn, “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”

Sarah’s sister Eliza was a talented musician and composer, who quickly composed the tune for that hymn. However, another composition by Lowell Mason in 1856 became widely used and is the tune we sing today.

Sadly, shortly after the hymn composition, Eliza contracted tuberculosis and died in 1846. During this time, Sarah cared of her sister, and it said she was also showing symptoms by the time she lost her beloved sister. Sarah passed away at the age of 43 on August 14, 1848.

Although Sarah had dreamed of fame and grandeur, God led her to a life of humble service through her hymns, the effects of which we still feel today. When life takes unexpected turns, turn your heart to God!

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV).