Rose: Hymns – Have Thine Own Way, Lord

Life is a struggle, one that we too often try to wrestle control over. Many of us consider our path and wonder, often in fear, where we are going. And one night at the turn of the century, Adelaide Pollard found herself disheartened over a dream unfulfilled, wondering what God’s will was for her life. On this particular night, the Iowan woman was attending a bible meeting and overheard the wise words of an elderly woman. She said that which we should all take to heart: “Lord, just have you own way with our lives.”

But Adelaide had a long journey before this night. In fact, her name was not always Adelaide, for she was born with the name Sarah in November 1862. She later went to school in her home state of Iowa, then at Valparaiso, an Oratory school in Boston, and finally continued her education at Moody in Illinois. Having a heart for missions, Adelaide went to work for the New York school of Christian and Missionary Alliance Training, and here is where Adelaide found her dilemma.

It was 1902, and for the last decade she had been trying unsuccessfully to leave on the mission field. She wanted to go to Africa as a missionary, but she had been unable to find the funds to do so. It was during this difficult time in her life that she heard the comforting words of the woman at the meeting. In response, she studied Scripture when she got home and came across Jeremiah 18. From there, she was inspired to write the words to this treasured hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.”

It only took a handful of years for her hymn to gain popularity. In 1907, gospel tune writer George Stebbins—who worked with well-known evangelists like Dwight Moody, Ira Sankey, and Philip Bliss—composed the tune for “Have Thine Own Way.” The hymn was then published in the Northfield Hymnal and Sankey’s Hallowed Hymns New and Old among others. It has since been redone into the current century. 

Though little more is known about her life, it appears that along with help from a John Dowie, she did get to work in Africa. Adelaide also lived in Scotland for a time after the start of WWI, but towards the end of December in 1934, the aging Adelaide returned to New York. While traveling to a meeting, she became sick and, at a local YWCA, she went home to the Lord. But her hymn, along with more than 100 others she wrote, have remained a comfort to worshipers and are still used to praise the Lord for His direction in our lives to this day.

“Have Thine Own Way” is a song of request, a song of repentance, and a song of hope. Each verse demonstrates that we must humble ourselves before the Lord as He is master of our life (Psa. 37:23-24, Pro. 16:9, Jer.10:23). On our knees with humble hearts, we ask that the Lord would change us and guide us in the paths He has planned for us that we might walk in them and trust in Him forever by asking Him,  “Please, Lord, Your will and not mine.” (Eph. 2:10)

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
while I am waiting, yielded and still.

The first verse is patently taken from that passage in Jeremiah when God tells the prophet to go and watch at the potter’s house. Here, Jeremiah watches as the pot the potter was working on was marred, so the potter forms it again into a new pot as the potter designs (Jer. 18:1-6). Here, the Lord is talking about Israel, but how true this is for our lives as well! We are vessels in the hands of God to be used as He designs (Rom. 9:21). We are in the process of sanctification, and we, too, are being formed and reformed in our Creator’s hands as we mar our lives with sin (Isa. 64:4-8).

Humility is needed in us and an all due respect shown towards God as we recognize our position as dust and His as Lord, Creator, and Master. So we beg of the Lord to have His way with us and the fashion us as He sees best; and we, soft and pliable, be patient and still as we wait on the Lord’s plans for us (Eph. 2:10, Psa. 27:14, 51:10 & 17, Matt. 6:9-13, 26:42).

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Search me and try me, Savior today!
Wash me just now, Lord, wash me just now,
as in thy presence humbly I bow.

As the last verse strongly echoed Jeremiah, this one reflects two well-known psalms. In these psalms, David is recognizing his shortcomings and the mercy of God. We ask God again to have His will and not our own. As David asked, we ask the Lord to search us and know us, our thoughts, our anxieties, and our shortcomings and make us clean (Psa. 139:23-24, 51:2 & 7, 94:19, 1 Pet. 5:7). In this verse, there is desperation in the third line, as we the sinner, standing before God in His righteousness, cannot stand the stain on our souls any longer. We ask for the forgiveness of God, and He makes us clean with His blood (Isa. 1:18). 

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Here, the singer recognizes the struggle we face daily in this life (Eph. 6:12, Rom. 8:26). We see that we cannot fight this fight on our own and that our strength is nothing without God (Psa. 40:17, Phil. 4:13). This world leaves us wounded, our past hounds us, and sin leaves us fearful of our future. We do not know where or how to go. But in prayer as in this verse, we cry out to the Lord for His aid, and we know that He will come to us in our time of need (Heb. 4:16, Psa. 109:21-23, 1 Jhn 4:18, 5:14, Jas. 5:13, 2 Tim 1:7). Thus we go to our Father and Maker, our Healer and Savior, that we might be made whole and strong to do that which He has called us to, asking Him to do in us what He knows is good (Psa. 6:2, 41:4, Jer. 17:14, Mat. 9:21). 

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

We conclude the song in peace, for our hope is in the Lord (Psa. 18:2).  All our cares are on Him, our life is guided by His hands, and He knows the plans for us(Jer. 29:11, Psa. 23:1, 94:18, 100:3, Matt. 6:26, 10:29-31).  Because of this knowledge, we ask that the Lord guide our lives. Not that He does not guide us already, but here we submit to His will in humility and thankfulness for all he has done and continues to do (Jas. 4:7, Pro. 3:5-12). 

We should not live in fear, which shows a lack of trust in God. We should live in hope and faith, knowing that God will lead us even if we do not know the way, as Adelaide learned the night when she wrote this hymn. So, we ask not only that God have control over our lives, but that His Spirit might also fill us that Christ is seen in us through our actions, words, and being so that those who see us will glorify God (1 Pet. 2:12, Col. 3:16, Jhn. 13:35). And His Spirit does now live in us, and so we live for God in thanks for all He has done for us (Gal 2:20, Eze. 36:26-27, Psa. 118:28-29).

Blessings to you and yours,

~Rose


Works Referenced

“Adelaide Addison Pollard.” Hymntime

“Gerge Coles Stebbins.”

“Have Thine Own Way, Lord.”

“Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” Hymnary.

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