“Peace, Be Still”

"What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!" (Matt. 8.27)

     INTRO.: A song that is based on the story of where Jesus stilled the wind and the sea is "Peace, Be Still" (#689 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #532 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Miss Mary Ann Baker who was born in 1831 and lived at Chicago, IL. As a young woman she was taught to believe in Christ and give Him a consecrated life, but a series of events led her to become rebellious.  Both her father and her mother died, and then her beloved brother became a victim of the same disease that killed their parents. Leaving their home in Chicago, he travelled a thousand miles in the fruitless search for a climate that would heal better than the damp, cold winters to which he was accustomed. However, his condition grew worse rather than better, and to add to his misery his favorite sister herself was bedridden back home in Chicago so she could not come to look after him in his final illness. For two weeks telegraph messages were sent back and forth between brother and sister until the last telegram came bringing word from the south that the brother had died after suffring many months from his long and lingering illness.

     After this, Miss Baker said, "God does not care for me or mine.  This particular manifestation of what they call ‘divine providence’ is unworthy of a God of love." Feeling that what had happened to her and her family was more than she could bear, she continued, "What have I done to deserve this? What have I left undone that God should wreak His vengeance upon me in this way?" However, as the weeks of time passed, the tempest in what she called her "unsanctified heart" began to be stilled, and she gradually came to realize that God is always a loving Father, whether we are well or sick, rich or poor; whether we succeed or fail, live or die. A deeper and richer trust took possession of her and transformed her from a rebellious woman to a loving and obedient one.  Soon afterwards, she became active again in religious activities, such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, for which she provided some temperance songs. Then in 1874 she was asked to produce several songs to accompany Sunday school lessons. One of the subjects that was assigned to her was "Christ Stilling the Tempest."

     At first hesitating to attempt an expression of that scene’s majesty in an original poem, Miss Baker found that her own experiences of tragedy had taught her that often times Christ can still the troubled heart like the troubled sea, so she concluded that the miracle of Jesus had changed the frightened disciples as much as the elements of nature. Thus, drawing on what had happened in her case, she began putting pen to paper and finished three stanzas and a chorus. The tune was composed that same year by Horatio Richmond Palmer (1834-1907). The well-known singing teacher, hymnwriter, and church musician who is most famous for "Yield Not To Temptation," published Miss Baker’s words with his music in his 1874 Songs of Love for the Bible School. It did not achieve popularity until seven years later when, in 1881, President James A. Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau. For weeks, while Garfield hovered between life and death, people throughout the country sang this song, and after his death on Sept. 18, 1881, it was sung at his funeral. From then on it was printed in songbooks and won a permanent place in American churches.  Miss Baker died in 1921.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) and the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     This hymn applies the account of Christ’s stilling the tempest to our lives.

I. Stanza #1 points out that our lives are often like the tempest on the sea
"Master, the tempest is raging! The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’er-shadowed with blackness, No sherlter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish? How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threatening A grave in the angry deep."
 A. Sometimes we find that our lives are filled with raging like the storms of Galilee: Mk. 4.35-37
 B. We may even be led to wonder if the Lord cares for us, but the Bible certainly teaches that He does: 1 Pet. 5.7
 C. Yet, even though we know that the Lord cares, it may seem that each moment so madly is threatening to send us to our grave; this is the kind of situation that David called walking "through the valley of the shadow of death": Ps. 23.4. Of course, even then David said, "I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me."

II. Stanza #2 points out that the reaction to these tempests is often fear
"Master, with anguish of spirit I bow in my grief today;
The depths of my sad heart are troubled–O waken and save, I pray.
Torrents of sin and of anguish Sweep o’er my sinking soul;
And I perish! I perish! dear Master, O, hasten, and taken control."
 A. In times of trial, we often feel overwhelmed with a sense of doom, as did the disciples in the boat: Mk. 4.38
 B. Sometimes, like the waves which beat against their boat, torrents of sin and of anguish sweep over our sinking souls: Ps. 69.1-4
 C. And it’s then that we cry out that we perish and ask the Master to hasten that He might take control: Rom. 7.23-24. And the answer given in Rom. 7.25 is that Jesus Christ will save us

III. Stanza #3 points out that our plea for salvation from Christ will be heard
"Master, the terror is over, The elements sweetly rest;
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored, And heaven’s within my breast.
Linger, O, blessed Redeemer! Leave me alone no more;
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor, And rest on the blissful shore."
 A. Christ has promised that He is able to bring peace to troubled hearts just as He calmed the storm on the sea: Mk. 4.39-41
 B. When Christ does come into our hearts and bring us this peace, our prayer should be that He would linger with us and leave us again no more: Eph. 3.17
 C. And with His help, we can have the blessed hope of joyfully making the blest harbor and resting on the blissful shore, as described by John: Rev. 22.1-5

     CONCL.: The chorus replays the scene of the tempest, along with Christ’s comforting words:
" The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will, Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea, Or demons or men, or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies The Master of ocean, and earth and, skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will, Peace, be still!"
So, whenever we experience trials and tribulations in life, we can call upon the Lord who will say unto us, "Peace, Be Still."


6 thoughts on ““Peace, Be Still”

  1. This is an old favorite hymn of mine, much of it memorized, and I was searching for all the words to use in a Bible study tonight. I’m glad it was here along with the story of its creation. 10/25/10.

  2. This is a great song. I’m not sure how the lyrics go but GOD placed this song in my spirit when I was going thur my addictions, and at the same time dealing with childhood secrets that I had blocked out. Everything was rushing to me at once and the words peace be still, peace be still came to me at night. I long to sing this song! After reading this story, I know why. It’s definately comforting when dealing with lifes issues.

  3. I have been struggling to become a christian just like the desciples were strugling to calm the storm while they had a simple task of awakimg the master to do it.i cant stop to awake the master now that i have the secret.Ihave to share this with my church choir, perhaps it will help someone also.I thank the Lord for this

    • Through the years, I have seen and obtained many different resources from which I have researched the history of hymns, writers, and composers. To be honest, I do not know precisely where I found the information about “Peace, Be Still,” and in fact, the material may have been synthesized from several different sources.


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