Thomas Andrew Dorsey was the first African American elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Association’s Living Hall of Fame. His notoriety and contributions to Christian music are amazing.
In 1932 he was a new husband and soon to be father. Thomas and his wife, Nettie, lived in a little apartment on Chicago’s Southside. It was a hot August afternoon when he was supposed to go to St. Louis, where he would be a featured soloist at a large revival meeting. Something did not feel right. He told Nettie that he was not going to the revival. Nettie, who was in the last month of pregnancy with their first child, insisted that he go to the concert and bless those who came to hear him. So, he went.
The concert was so successful that people were screaming for Thomas to keep on singing. He was exhausted when he finally sat down. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a messenger boy running up to him with a Western Union telegram. He ripped open the envelope. Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED.
Thomas confesses, “When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart. For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice. I did not want to serve Him any longer or write gospel songs. I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well.”
Yet, Thomas eventually turned back to the Lord for comfort and relief from his deep grief. In the process, Thomas wrote the song, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.” These stanzas captured the grief not only of Dorsey, but also of any who have suffered significant loss.
Precious Lord, take my hand,
lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;
Through the storm, through the night,
lead me on to the light:
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.
The opening line of stanza one, “Precious Lord, take my hand,” indicates a suffering soul that is reaching out. The songwriter/singer acknowledges that he is at the end of his rope: “I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m worn.” When Dorsey penned, “Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light,” perhaps he was thinking of Matthew 8:23–27, where Jesus stilled the storm.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 23
Many hymns and messages are conceived in the throes of tragedy. What events or circumstances have drawn you closer to our Lord? How have you been able to share your pain?
Jim Grassi, D. Min.
We cherish any verse in Scripture that reminds us to keep focused and intentional about evangelism and discipleship. “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5