When This Passing World is Done

I was blessed to grow up in a home and church where hymns were beloved companions to life and worship. I have fond memories of Sunday-night singspirations, bonfire hymn-sings, and joyful singing from the top of a mountain while enjoying the view on a church hike. Our favorite hymns were sung quite often. As children we easily memorized all the stanzas to many of the hymns by frequently singing them. My brother became so familiar with our “old red hymnal” that if you mentioned the name of a hymn he could immediately tell you its number. Hymns were, and still are, an integral part of my life. We sang hymns because we loved to praise the Lord, but also because we loved their words and their meaning. The deep theological truths expressed in them challenged and strengthened our faith.

One well-loved and often sung hymn, which I remember from my childhood and still cherish today is “When This Passing World is Done.” Written by Scottish preacher Robert Murray McCheyne, this hymn beautifully speaks of our glorious state when we are with Christ.

When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon radiant sun,
When I stand with Christ on high,
Looking o’er life’s history,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe.

The repeating phrase “Not till then, how much I owe” is like an old familiar friend coming alongside encouraging me to remember that all I am Christ has done in me, and all I have Christ has given me. My whole life story is planned for my good by my gracious Lord; it is all of His grace! How amazing it will be to understand this perfectly in glory!

When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe.

When the praise of heav’n I hear,
Loud as thunders to the ear,
Loud as many waters’ noise,
Sweet as harp’s melodious voice,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe.

Two of these verses about longing to be with Christ in eternity call me back to the life I am called to live now. They challenge me to dwell upon God’s grace towards me and then to demonstrate that grace to others.

Oft I walk beneath a cloud,
Dark as midnight’s gloomy shroud;
But, when fear is at its height,
Jesus comes, and all is light;
Blessed Jesus, bid me show
Doubting saints how much I owe.

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Savior’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show
By my love how much I owe.

As I have sung and meditated on these words over the years, I have grown to love them more and more through each season of life. I have fearfully walked through gloomy seasons, but Jesus always comes and makes everything light. I have seen my own ugly sinfulness more than I ever wished, and so I rejoice all the more that I have been chosen of Christ, awakened to flee to Him, and hidden in my Savior! Oh what grace!

In response to this grace, Robert Murray McCheyne’s hymn challenges me to show others how much I owe Christ. I must love much because I am loved much. I am compelled to share Christ’s light because He has shown it to me. The hymn perfectly includes the reminder that it is the Lord’s teaching and bidding that enables me to do anything for Him. This hymn contains both amazing truths and hard challenges.

I am thankful for God’s grace in blessing me with a godly home and a church that cherished precious hymns and taught me to love them from my earliest years. Grace upon grace.

Lydia Bowman is the wife of Rev. Derrick Bowman, associate minister of Grace FPC, Winston Salem, NC.

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