BE STILL, MY SOUL
Katharina von Schlegel, 1697–?
English Translation-Jane L. Borthwick, 1813–1897
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10)
Spiritual revivals throughout history have always been accompanied by an outburst of new song. This was especially true of the 16th century reformation movement when, following centuries of dormancy during the Middle Ages, congregational singing was rediscovered. However, by the 17th century the church was once more cold and non-evangelistic.
Again God lit the fires of revival in the latter half of that century with a movement known as the Pietistic Revival in Germany, which was similar to the Puritan and Wesleyan movements in England.
The Pietistic movement also gave birth to many rich German hymns, one of which incorporates the contributions of three persons. Katharina von Schlegel was the outstanding woman of this revival movement. Little is known of her other than that she was a Lutheran and may have been the canoness of an evangelical women’s seminary in Germany.
However, we do know that she contributed a number of lyrics to a collection of spiritual songs published in 1752. Approximately 100 years after it was written, this hymn text was translated into English by Jane Borthwick, a scholar noted for her fine work in translating German texts. This hymn tune is an arrangement of one movement from Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia.” Sibelius was Finland’s best-known composer, and his music is generally characterized by a strong nationalistic fervor.
God has used the talents of these three individuals from different lands to provide His people with a hymn that teaches so well the biblical truth that we all need to relearn daily: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength … ” (Isaiah 40:31).
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 ev’ry change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul—thy best, thy heav’nly Friend thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end. 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.
Proverbs 3:5; Isaiah 30:15; 40:31; Hebrews 10:35