Leaning On The Everlasting Arms, written by Anthony Showalter and Elisha Hoffman, published in 1887. Here’s another quintessential southern gospel hymn. I get such a feeling of comfort from this song. Memories spanning childhood and beyond, of standing in church singing “Leaning On Jesus” with everybody else. At that moment, in midsong, I always felt a strong connection with everybody there. I started to say ‘kinship’, but if you’re from the same kind of deep south Baptist church, you’ll know kinship often means blood relations. While it would be accurate either way, I had in mind a more encompassing feeling.
Another thing about small churches in the deep south… they don’t mind if you sing a little off key. Or a lot. Nobody criticizes, and everybody who feels led to sing is welcome to share. I really really love that. Being accepted, and not judged. That’s the example Jesus set, and I strive to follow. It’s hard to understand all the hatred some people spew out under the pretense of religion. It’s also a frustrating thing to see people use God in hatred’s name; non-Christians only know what they see, and they assume we’ll all like that.
As long as I’m sharing personal thoughts here, let’s clear this up. I believe in God. Jesus. A Christian faith. I believe God made us all. I do NOT believe God assigned me judge and jury. That’s reserved to God. As far as I’m concerned, you believe what you believe. I’ll believe what I believe. And we’ll still be friends. According to my faith, I should accept you. Judgement is for God, not me. How and what you believe is your responsibility, not mine.
Oh, as long as we’re on the subject… I believe God has a sense of humor. Surely God likes to smile, and hopefully he’s gotten a chuckle or two out of my antics over the years.
Back to the main subject. Leaning on the everlasting arms. For me, this song epitomizes safety and security. No matter what happens, I’m covered. Whatever happens to me in this life, my long-term happiness and safety is secured.
The meaning behind the words is no accident. Anthony Showalter received letters from two of his former students, looking for solace because their wives had passed away. Looking to write letters of condolence, he went to Deuteronomy 33:27. Based on the scripture about everlasting arms, Anthony wrote the refrain, and asked Elisha to finish the verses.
As a result, they came up with a song that has provided solace to generations.