Church Worship

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

  • Lucy Neeley Adams
  • 2017 25 Jul
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

When I was a little girl I was my dad's favorite date to baseball games. Since no one else in our family wanted to go I felt very special. I loved  the smell of popcorn and the sounds of the balls hitting the bat. But I had a secret that I tried to keep to myself.
My poor eyesight was that secret.  But one night I asked my dad one time too many, "What's the score?" He told me all I had to do was look out at the scoreboard in center field. Then my secret had to be shared. "I can't see that far." My mind was full of terrible thoughts. I might need to wear glasses and I was only twelve years old. But that's what happened.
I wore my new glasses when Dad and I had our next date to the ballpark. I was actually glad I had them. I could see the scoreboard and even beyond. My world was bigger and I saw things I had been missing for months. Through the years my glasses have been a constant companion, and I am thankful for them.
There are, of course, more serious eye problems. A friend in our church developed a disease of the nervous system that effected his eyes. Jim could not hold his eye lids open so he appeared to be blind. His whole body was eventually effected with the disease so that he had to use a wheelchair.
His mother was his devoted care giver and her grief about him was understandable. It was even more tragic when she kept telling Jim to open his eyes if people spoke to him. He could respond but only with a smile.
As the months passed, Jim's mother died of a sudden heart attack. Not too long after her funeral Jim also died..
We gathered for the memorial service at our church and several people told about their friendship with Jim. Someone said, "Jim is having no more trouble with his droopy eyelids is he? He's even looking at the face of Jesus" (Rev. 22:4a) We smiled as we remembered the desire of his mother that he open his eyes and greet people.
For the Christian there is blessed assurance of that heavenly home where there are no more tears and no more sickness. "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death nor sorrow, nor crying and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).
We who live the Christian life can see Jesus through eyes of faith even before we get to heaven. After my born-again experience, I remember the first time I sang a familiar chorus, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" in my church.
 Even though I had attended church every Sunday for years this was different. It felt like everything was new since I had asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior and I totally surrendered my heart to Him. I was now building a relationship with a real Person.

Tears of joy ran down my cheeks as I sang. Now I knew that this was possible.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."

The truth is that we can see Jesus in our mind's eye. Our resurrected Lord is alive and always waiting for us to look at him and search for His ways.

Those words of encouragement remind us God does not intend for His children to be encumbered with weariness and troubled thoughts.  The things of earth can entangle the mind with fears and anxieties about the future. That is why the first verse begins with a question"

"Oh soul are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see?"

Composer, Helen H. Lemmel wrote the words and music for this hymn. Born in Wardle, England in 1863 she moved with her family to America when she was twelve years old.  She loved music and her parents provided her with the best teacher they could find.
"She returned to Europe to study vocal music in Germany", writes hymnist, Robert J. Morgan in his book Then Sings My Soul. "In time she married a wealthy European, but he left her when she became blind and  Helen struggled with multiple heartaches during midlife."
The writing of this hymn was the result of Helen Lemmel's reading a small pamphlet, written by a missionary friend.  She believed every word that was written and was touched by the unique way it was expressed. Her desire was to focus on Jesus so that the earthly things in life would be dimmed by his radiance.  She wrote of that experience:

"Suddenly as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still.  Singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus of the hymn, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme or note to note to make melody."
Within the week, she completed the three verses that surround the chorus. The exciting story of Lemmels' composition was widely circulated.  In 1924 it became a part of  the hymnal, Gospel Truth in Song. Helen Lemmel died in 1961 in Seattle, Washington .
Through this hymn  we hear the echo of Hebrews 12:2:, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." He can turn our weariness and trouble into peace and joy.

Lord Jesus, we can see you through eyes of faith. Thank you. We see your arms open wide as we come again and again for refreshment and nourishment.  We are filled to overflowing with your loving grace that forgives.  ‘Thank you' are only two small words that mean, ‘we love you'. In your powerful name, Amen

Lucy Neeley Adams has always loved music. She began telling the story of hymns on Christian radio WWGM in Nashville, TN, in the '80s. She then wrote a newspaper column titled "Song Stories" for five years. During that time Lucy's book, 52 Hymn Story Devotions, was published by Abingdon Press in Nashville. Each of the 52 stories contained in the book is written in a devotional format, with the words of the hymn concluding each devotion.