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Senior notes: Don’t be afraid to lean
Rich DeLong

“What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms.”

“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” is a hymn published in 1887 with music by Anthony J. Showalter and lyrics by Showalter and Elisha Hoffman. Showalter had received letters from two of his former pupils informing him their wives had died and they were seeking consolation.

When writing them back, he was inspired by the phrase in the Book of Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” He was so moved by this passage that he turned the last words into a hymn for many who seek relief in times of grief. From this noble intent, Showalter created one of the greatest hymns for times of solace as he encouraged “leaning on the everlasting arms” of God when seeking comfort. However, he needed help with the stanzas, so Anthony went to see Hoffman, author of more than 2,000 gospel hymns. Hoffman provided the stanzas while Showalter created the refrain and music to the hymn, and out of their collaboration, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” was born.

Hoffman was ordained in 1868 after graduating from Union Seminary in Pennsylvania. As a minister he was appointed to the circuit in Napoleon, Ohio, in 1872. He worked with the Evangelical Association’s publishing arm in Cleveland for 11 years.

He served in many chapels and churches in Cleveland and in Grafton in the 1880s, among them was Bethel Home for Sailors and Seamen.

Showalter published more than 130 music books, which sold more than one million copies.

He was principal of the Southern Normal Musical Institute in Dalton, Georgia, from its inception in 1880. He edited The Musical Teacher (later renamed the Music Teacher and Home) magazine for more than 20 years and served as an elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Dalton. He joined the Music Teachers National Association in 1888 and was vice president for Georgia for several years. This past week we were once again reminded of just how precious and tender life really is.

There are very few words that one can utter when someone is experiencing the loss of a loved one, especially that of a child.

There are so many questions and yet too few answers.

Life and death had always been something of which I could never become quite comfortable, not until my young teenage years when I had a stark conversation with the pastor of my church. He was visiting our house one evening, as he often did, and I had asked him how one can be sure that there is a heaven and an afterlife.

He stared right at me and in his determined, gravelly voice said, “Son, that is where your faith comes in.” It was a simple and yet very profound answer that I still cling to every day of my life. It was then that I realized I could not have faith if I didn’t at least try to understand it. Like many people, my faith journey is unique but also filled with much of the same concerns, fears and sorrows that we all experience. If there’s one thing I have learned over my time of serving the elderly — people who have gone through much more than I could ever imagine — it is that their faith has carried them along the pilgrimage of life and death. “Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way, Leaning on the everlasting arms”.

Keep leaning my friends.

DeLong is the executive director of Station Exchange Senior Care.

Contact him at 912-531-7867 or

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