Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus"

Helen Lemmel, the daughter of a Wesleyan Methodist minister, was born in England and moved with her family to America when she was twelve years old. They eventually settled in Wisconsin.

At an early age it became apparent that Helen was gifted musically. Her parents made it possible for her to take singing lessons from the best teachers, and when she was older she went to Germany to continue her studies.

When she returned to the United States she began her ministry - giving concerts in churches and auditoriums throughout the Midwest. She was talented enough to have become a professional singer but chose to use her gift to serve the Lord. Eventually she taught at Moody Bible Institute.

It was in 1918, when she was fifty-four years old that she wrote the hymn "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus." She was inspired by a statement in a tract written by Lilias Trotter:

“So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”

She wrote about the profound affect these words had on her in her memoirs:

"Suddenly, as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still, and singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme, or note to note to make melody. The verses were written the same week, after the usual manner of composition, but nonetheless dictated by the Holy Spirit."

This deeply inspirational hymn was published a few years later. It is only one of over 500 hymns Helen wrote. She also wrote poetry, music for children and a children's book entitled, "Story of the Bible."

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free!

Thro' death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion-
For more than conq'rors we are!

His word shall not fail you-He promised;
Believe him, and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Chorus: 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.



  1. This hymn always makes me think of a certain church we once attended as we sang it so often. The memories it brings are precious, as we loved it there and the fellowship was so sweet. Thank you for these hymn stories, Linda.

  2. I have many old hymns that are such favorites
    but this one is surely in the top ten. I have
    found it to be so true in that no matter how
    hard life gets, if I am able to keep my eyes
    on Him and His promises everything else pales
    in comparison.

  3. I'm back in a small church in Scio, Ohio at a revival meeting and we're sing this as Dad is setting the mood for an altar call. His booming voice would soften and the words and tone were absolutely sincere. He didn't guilt anyone into it---didn't believe in that---he just beckoned them to find the peace beyond all understanding that he had. Wonderful memory, Linda. I couldn't remember the tune to the verses, but I sung the chorus without hesitation.

    After the week I had, I really needed this message. Thank you.
    It's good to have you back. I hope your break was restful, happy, and fulfilling.

  4. Good to have you back and with such a beautiful song, and its beginnings.

  5. It is full of such truth that can get life into perspective and the roar of the beast is silenced.

  6. I love the stories behind those old hymns, and how they're composed. It's always the story that compels, isn't it?

  7. smiles. i remember singing this growing up...thanks for the story to go with it...its tune easily slips across my lips now...

  8. So glad to see you back here again. :)

  9. Did you have a nice break?
    Do you have a book with all of this info about the songs and who writes them?
    I was singing along as i read that (o:

  10. i always liked the melody of this piece.