Gaither Homecoming: Stories Behind Popular Hymns, Day 5

Today’s reading is drawn from Matthew 11:28, Luke 18:22, and John 6:35.

Softly and Tenderly

Will L. Thompson was a successful songwriter, having amassed wealth beyond his greatest expectations when he had first set out from Liverpool, Ohio, trying to sell his writing. Actually, he ended up developing his own publishing company and churned out hit after hit, eventually earning the nickname “The Bard of Ohio.” But it wasn’t until he determined to commit all of his music to the praise of the Lord, rather than continue in the secular music he had been so successful with, that he ended up writing the most significant song of his life. Thompson had a heart for reaching small-town churches with music, and as he developed his ministry of traveling back roads of the Midwest to bring quality worship music to those ignored by other big-name evangelists and musicians, he wrote “Softly and Tenderly,” inviting all of its hearers to “come home.”

The song so beautifully poses the invitation that Jesus offers over and over throughout the Gospels: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28); “Come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22); “He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). It quickly became a staple of evangelical meetings and concerts across the United States. In fact, Thompson developed a relationship with famed evangelist D.L. Moody, and as Moody lay on his deathbed, he told his friend, “Will, I would rather have written ‘Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling’ than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.”

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Charlie Wedemeyer

“Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Life was good for Charlie Wedemeyer. He was married to a beautiful woman, Lucy, had two wonderful children and was a successful high school teacher and football coach. When he noticed a weakness in his hands, however, he visited a doctor. The doctor told him he had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), that in a few years he would be totally paralyzed, and that eventually, he would die. Charlie’s disease worsened in the years that followed.

Time appeared to be running out. Then two things changed his life—he began using a portable respirator, and he became a Christian.

Today, more than twenty years after being diagnosed, Charlie and Lucy have touched thousands of lives during their appearances across the country. He cannot walk, speak, or even breathe on his own, but he chooses not to dwell on his infirmities.

“Pain and suffering are inescapable,” Charlie says through Lucy’s translation. “It’s up to us to decide if we’re going to be miserable or if we’re going to try to make the most of our lives.”

Charlie Wedemeyer is making the most of his. How about you?

Just between us…

Father, thank You for promising to be with us when we suffer. Help us not to complain too much about life’s little hurts, and help us to place our big sorrows in Your tender care. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.