Help of the Helpless: O Abide with Me
written by Michelle Hamann
In moments of profound loss and grief, we often find ourselves searching for an anchor—something to hold onto when the waves of sorrow threaten to overwhelm us. As I sat quietly in the van on the way home from a memorial service this past weekend, I was reminded of the timeless hymn, “Abide with Me.” The prayerful yet powerful words spoke directly to my heart.
Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Embracing the Reality of Grief
Pastor Vradenburgh has stated, “God made us to weep. Natural sorrow is common to all men—both saved and lost. It is not an evidence of weakness, but of love.” Grief is an inescapable part of our human experience, a testament to our capacity for deep love and connection. I’ll say it out loud—it’s been a hard season of loss recently within our Friendship Baptist Church body. For many of us, the darkness of loss has felt like an uninvited dusk, hurrying in to extinguish our rays of joy.
“We wept when we were born though all around us smiled; so shall we smile when we die while all around us weep.”Charles H. Spurgeon
Grief isn’t just an emotion. It differs from sorrow in that it’s often more intense and sometimes overwhelming. It can engulf you in the wake of loss—be it the loss of a loved one, a hope or expectation, a marriage, a job.
Thankfully the Bible does not shy away from this reality. In the Psalms, we find David repeatedly expressing his anguish and despair, crying out to God in his moments of deep sorrow. Yet, even in his darkest moments, David always returns to a place of trust in God’s presence and provision (Psalm 56:4; 28:7).
The Nature of Divine Companionship
In John 15:4, Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you.” This mutual indwelling speaks of a relationship that goes beyond mere awareness of God’s presence. Thus the plea for God to “abide” with us during times of grief is a profound recognition of the sweet reality and nature of His desire for companionship with us.
Even in our darkest moments, when our friends can’t fathom our pain and their words of comfort feel hollow, this line reminds us that we are never alone. There’s a plea, a yearning for a Presence that understands the depth of our sorrow, a Helper Who will never leave us or fail us even when all others have faded into the backdrop of our grief.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.Psalm 23:4
Finding Strength in Helplessness
Acknowledging our helplessness in the face of grief is not a sign of weakness, but rather a recognizing of our human limitations and a turning towards One Who is Greater. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 remind us that God’s grace is sufficient for us, and that His power is made perfect in our weakness. In our most vulnerable state, we are open to the sustaining grace of God (2 Corinthians 12:10).
The Promise of Comfort
James 4:14 reminds us that life is a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. Death and loss cause us to confront the transience of everything we hold dear on this earth. Scripture acknowledges that fear, and proceeds not by offering false assurances, but by echoing the impermanence of earthly joys in stark contrast to the fullness of joy that we will find forever in His presence (Psalm 16:11).
The Word of God provides a powerful assurance of hope—never trivializing our pain but instead promising comfort in the midst of it (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). This comfort sometimes comes through the presence of the Holy Spirit—the Comforter Himself, sometimes through the love and support of others (I Thess. 4:18), and often through a deep inner sense of peace amidst the storm—surpassing all human understanding (Philippians 4:7).
The Hope Beyond Grief
While grief can feel like an endless night, our faith in Christ offers the hope of a new and glorious dawn. Revelation 21:4 paints a picture of a future where He will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. This hope does not erase the pain of the present but offers an eternal perspective that extends beyond our current, earthly sorrows.
“What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death— to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.” (The Heidelberg Catechism; Romans 14:7-8).
Living in the Now and Not Yet
As Christians, we live in the tension of the now and not yet. We experience the reality of grief and loss here and now, but we also hold onto the hope of the resurrection and the restoration of all things (Revelation 21:5). This hope does not negate our present pain but coexists with it, offering us a glimpse of the eternal life, love, and peace that ultimately triumph through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:53-57).
We have a God who is with us (Deuteronomy 31:6), a God who understands our pain (Hebrews 4:15), and a God who promises to bring us through to morning light (Lamentations 3:22-23). In Him, we find our solace, our strength, and our hope.
In moments of grief and loss, may the words of “Abide with Me” and its moving plea become your heartfelt prayer as it has become mine. May it remind us that in our times of deepest despair, we are never alone (Psalm 139:7-12; Hebrews 13:5).