I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Psalm 46:10-11 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 

And then the psalmist says, The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.”

That passage was the inspiration for Katharina von Schlegel's hymn, BE STILL MY SOUL.

In that Bible text, the phrase, “be still” means more than just simply being quiet; It conveys the idea of complete relaxation with the assurance that comes because the Lord is our refuge.  We are held firmly in His almighty hands 

One day, one of my employees came running into my office and hysterically reported the misfortune of a little sparrow in the yard. The bird had been drinking water from the top of one of the sprinkler heads on the lawn and its foot had become lodged inside the pop-up mechanism.

The solution seemed simple enough; I would just lift the pop-up sprinkler head and the bird would be free. But my attempt only frightened the bird more as it wildly flapped its wings and frantically tried to escape. In its desperate struggle, its foot was bloodied and it appeared as though the bird might lose it.

I knew what I had to do to protect the bird in order to free it. I plunged my hand down quickly over its frightened little body. I sensed its panic and felt the pulse of its racing heart. With the bird firmly gripped in my strong hand, the bird became still and calm; I was able to remove its foot from the sprinkler.  When I opened my hand, the bird quickly flew away.

God used that incident to remind me of His watchful care over us as described in the words of another familiar song, “HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW and I know He watches me.”

In this song, Be Still, the author describes many of the problems that cause us to be anxious.   When our lives are filled with chaos, or pain, or loss, or tribulation, how can we relax? 

ThE hymn was originally written with six verses.  In it Miss von Schlegel has suggested, at least, about a dozen reasons why we can and should be still.

For example, in the opening phrases of verse ONE we see that “God is on our side.” And, further, we can be assured that “He faithful will remain.”

One verse specifically deals with the experience of losing a loved one.  Even when we know that the individual is with the Lord, there is the pain of parting and loss.  But God is with us.

Listen to these words:
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
from His own fullness, all He takes away.

This song is listed among some of the greatest of hymns because it encourages us with many assurances from scripture, that, we have a great God and therefore, we have a great hope.   

If you are anxious about anything, I would encourage you to take the time to look up and read all the verses of this song, identify all the reasons to be still, and then reference them back to the Word of God.  I am sure that you will find a great deal of encouragement, assurance, and peace knowing that our God is our refuge.


1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all, He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,

All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

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