Hymn History: I Gave My Life for Thee November 9, 2022

History: Francis HavergalI wrote "I Gave My Life for Thee" after seeing a depiction of Pilate presenting Christ to an angry mob in a museum.

Hymn History: I Gave My Life for Thee

Francis Ridley Havergal was a famous hymn-writer and singer. Raised in a preacher’s home, her talent was recognized very early in life. Her father was both a faithful pastor and a mighty singer/songwriter. Early on he encouraged her to pursue her love and gift of music. 

Havergal began writing hymns and poems in her teen years. As part of her extensive education, she spent time in Germany studying the arts and languages. During her years there she was taken to an art museum in Dusseldorf. As she walked through the museum, she came across a painting whose depiction was of Pilate presenting Christ to an angry mob. 

Interestingly, 150 years prior, a young man named Nicholas von Zinzendorf had seen the same painting. As he looked at the depiction of his Savior and all that he had endured to save us, he surrendered His life to the Lord Jesus. God would use him to help spurn the mighty Moravian Mission work of the 1700’s. 

Now, as Havergal gazed thoughtfully at the painting, her eyes fell to an inscription below it. The inscription reads, “I have done this for you; what have done for me?” Seventeen-year-old Havergal was so profoundly moved that she went straight home and began writing a poem. She spent quite some time trying to write out her thoughts.

Eventually, Francis gave up and threw her paper into the fire…or so she thought. Most accounts state that the paper flew out of the fire and onto the floor. Her father, coming in later, found the paper and encouraged her to finish the hymn. He even helped her compose its first version. Then, several years later, P.B. Bliss arranged the tune that we sing it with today.

Havergal would go on to write many, many more hymns of the faith. Many of them are still being sung today. In her book, Kept for the Master’s Use, she reflects, “The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep. Oh, wonderful gift! Not promised, but given; not to friends, but to enemies. Given without condition, without reserve without return. Himself unknown and unloved, His gift unsought and unasked, He gave His life for thee…and we for whom He gave it have held back, and hesitated to give our lives, not even for Him…but to Him. 

Let us not miss the profound question that this young lady reminds us of: Christ gave Himself fully for us, must not we give ourselves fully to Him? May the Lord help us to consecrate our lives entirely to God’s will. We also do well to remember just how mightily God can use the humble offerings of one young woman. Determine to give yourself to the great Giver today!

Lyrics:

1. I gave My life for thee,
My precious blood I shed,
That thou mightst ransomed be,
And quickened from the dead;
I gave, I gave My life for thee,
What hast thou done for Me?
I gave, I gave My life for thee,
What hast thou done for Me?

2. My Father’s house of light,
My glory-circled throne
I left for earthly night,
For wanderings sad and lone;
I left, I left it all for thee,
Hast thou left aught for Me?
I left, I left it all for thee,
Hast thou left aught for Me?

3. I suffered much for thee,
More than thy tongue can tell,
Of bitterest agony,
To rescue thee from hell;
I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee,
What hast thou borne for Me?
I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee,
What hast thou borne for Me?

4. And I have brought to thee,
Down from My home above,
Salvation full and free,
My pardon and My love;
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee,
What hast thou brought to Me?
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee,
What hast thou brought to Me?

                                                                            

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4 Comments

  1. Pst Moses on April 7, 2023 at 1:16 AM

    I love the song, the life she lived, her blessed memory

  2. Raymond Ricard on June 15, 2023 at 6:49 AM

    O Lord for more of those surrender woman of God.
    What a great spiritual heritage she left us for our blessing .
    To Him be the glory.

  3. Ruth on September 4, 2023 at 6:05 AM

    thank God for speaking to me through this song today. Thank God for the life of Havergal, she left a good memory behind. I pray that God should help me to lay my all at His feet and inspired others as well.

    • Micah Hendry on September 12, 2023 at 12:28 AM

      Amen!

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