Text and tune: Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933)
1 When the storms of life are raging, stand by me; (stand by me) when the storms of life are raging, stand by me. (stand by me) When the world is tossing me like a ship upon the sea, thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me. (stand by me)
2 In the midst of tribulation, stand by me; (stand by me) in the midst of tribulation, stand by me. (stand by me) When the hosts of hell assail, and my strength begins to fail, thou who never lost a battle, stand by me. (stand by me)
3 In the midst of faults and failures, stand by me; (stand by me) in the midst of faults and failures, stand by me. (stand by me) When I’ve done the best I can, and my friends misunderstand, thou who knowest all about me, stand by me. (stand by me)
4 In the midst of persecution, stand by me; (stand by me) in the midst of persecution, stand by me. (stand by me) When my foes in war array undertake to stop my way, thou who rescued Paul and Silas, stand by me. (stand by me)
5 When I’m growing old and feeble, stand by me; (stand by me) when I’m growing old and feeble, stand by me. (stand by me) When my life becomes a burden, and I’m nearing chilly Jordan, O thou Lily of the Valley, stand by me. (stand by me)
REFLECTION (I am ahead of myself in this text, but it will prepare you for the text when it comes shortly, but the song works for all of the latest texts.)“When the world is tossing me like the sea, stand by me.” Tindley, sometimes called the grandfather of Gospel, knew what he was talking about in his most famous hymn. Born a free man—his mother was a slave, but his father was free--he was sent to his mother’s sister after his mother's death when he was a small child. Even as a child, he was “hired out” by his father to people and situations which were not always kind. He married while still a teenager and had eight children. Tindley understood what Jesus was saying in the parable about the unrighteous judge and the persistent woman of prayer. His life was a testament to the persistence of prayer.
Self taught, he learned to read and compose music and became a preacher well regarded by many. He and his wife moved to Philadelphia, and after completing a correspondence course in theology, he became a Methodist pastor, after serving as sexton in his church. His congregation in East Bainbridge church grew quickly, until it had a multiracial membership of ten-thousand. All the time he composed music and songs for his people, none more famous than this.
The relentless widow finally wears down the unrighteous judge and he grants her petition out of weariness with her pleas. Jesus advises us not to lose heart in our prayers and this parable gives us a picture of why. “In the midst of tribulation, stand by me.” At the end of the parable both the widow and the judge must face the judgment of the Lord upon his return. For both, Christ will return. There will be judgement. Best to be found in constant prayer than in lazy and sinful rebellion. “In the midst of persecution, stand by me.”
In the meantime, we persist in our prayers for many things, but among them, at least for many I know now in their latter days, is the prayer for the end, for Christ’s return. Sometimes that can be a prayer simply to leave this mortal coil and be rid of the sorrows and pains of a sinful and rebellious world. “When my life becomes a burden, stand by me.”
I know some right now who are burdened with the care of another, maybe a spouse who needs full time care, 24/7. They long for an answer to their prayer to be released but it seems not to come. Still, they pray. I know one man in this situation who is praying for help to care for his wife suffering dementia. His prayers for her to find a spot in the right home seem not to be answered. Still, he says, he could not do what he is doing without the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!
Hans Nielsen Hauge was singing a hymn, "Jesus, I long for your blessed communion," when he had his spiritual enlightenment . It has a stanza that ends with a reference to a similar parable:
I like the woman of Cana, keep pleading, Crying to you till my longing is stilled. And you have spoken with grace to my needing, “Amen, yes, Amen, Be done as you will.”
Note, it is the Lord, who says Amen and grants the prayer. The days are growing darker, the end seems near. But we have life in Jesus who promises us that he will be with us throughout all our lives, its sorrows and joys. Pray that you be found with the Lord standing by you, even to the end.
Tindley and his wife produced many hymns together. They were collection in Soul Echoes in 1905 and 1909 and New Songs of Paradise 1916-1941. He continued ministering to his congregation in the Tindley Temple until his death in 1933. The idea of the text has been used as a love song or asking for a friend to stand by me. See below for another hymn on this text.
Melissa Schworen https://youtu.be/pTjM1Ek8CoA
Dr. E. Dewey Smith https://youtu.be/sIg96UVlsHs
The Staple Singers https://youtu.be/1PsE_CyX108
Elvis singing it/Joan of Arc being persecuted, old silent film https://youtu.be/8l6QP6k1dsk
Allen Hall https://youtu.be/mcoXI0Mpr40
My hymn on this specific text.