(Based on Philippians 2:5-11)
Caroline Noel, the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, was born in London in 1817. Early in life, she discovered her talent for poetry, and by age twenty had written several hymns. Then she pursued other interests and wrote nothing for twenty years. At age thirty-five, however, she became an invalid—whether through illness or accident I do not know. Five years later, she once again picked up her pen with a view toward writing hymns that would comfort people in her circumstances. She named a collection of her worksThe Name of Jesus and Other Poems for the Sick and Lonely. It was in that collection that she published this hymn, “At the Name of Jesus.”
This hymn, however, is not what we would expect in a collection aimed at comforting the sick and lonely. It is, instead, a hymn about Jesus—how God glorified Jesus—how we should glorify Jesus—how Jesus bore his suffering on the cross so that he might rise victorious over death.
However, properly understood, the last verse is comforting, because it promises strength to those who place Jesus on the throne of their hearts—who let him subdue all that is unworthy within them. It calls us to “Crown him as (our) captain in temptation’s hour,” and to “Let His will enfold (us) in its light and power.”
While this verse doesn’t mention suffering, it does reflect Caroline Noel’s understanding that all people— even the sick or lonely—can find strength by making Jesus captain of their lives—by wrapping themselves in Jesus’ will so that they might experience his light and power.
You might or might not be sick or lonely. You can be sure, however, that you will at some point experience troubled times—times when you need God’s help—God’s strength. When that happens, come back and read once again the words of this hymn—especially the last verse. It will tell you how to become strong so that you might move through the troubled times to the light that lies beyond.
— Copyright 2007, Richard Niell Donovan