Don’t you love the hymn ‘Nearer, My God, To Thee?’ It’s always been one of my favorites. The one problem I have with it, though, is the fact that the best verse is one that is frequently unsung. Here it is:

Then, with my waking thoughts,
Bright with thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs,
Beth-el I’ll raise.

So by my woes to be,

Nearer, my God, to thee.
Nearer, my God, to thee.
Nearer to thee.

I have discovered something pretty intimately glorious in this verse, and in thinking about it today, I wanted to share. Background: I took a biblical Hebrew class my freshman year at BYU, and through it got a lot of insight about names in the Bible. The word ‘beth-el’ is a mixture of two words–beth (I believe it is ‘bet‘ in the Hebrew–it’s been a while, sorry), meaning ‘house’ and ‘el,’ meaning God. So literally Beth-el means “House of God.”

OK, so what? Well, look at the line right before: out of my stony griefs Beth-el I’ll raise.

Wow. What a teaching. Out of the darkest times in our lives, where our griefs could indeed be characterized as ‘stony,’ we have the opportunity to become closer to that which we are meant to be: a house of God. ‘By [our] woes’ we can become the most glorious of edfices.

I feel so much that the last nearly two years I have been phoning it in spiritually. In my sorrow over my son’s illness and the ensuing life changes, I have been treading water, just attempting to continue breathing. I have been ignoring the still small voice that calls to me–dulling its sound with the anger that has been my near constant companion. I have wasted golden opportunity to make the pain matter–my chance to become something more because of it. Instead of building with bricks of stony grief, I have thrown them at anyone and everyone.

I don’t want to live like that anymore. Starting now, the stone goes to building that house of God.

Devon is wife to a wonderful guy and mom to a superhero. Check her out at Defining Devon or see a real live Superman at The Daily Dakin.

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  1. Erin says

    I just stumbled on this blog today. Many wonderful posts, but this one, for me, was earth-shattering revelation!

    Devon, thank you so much for posting!

  2. Valerie says

    Thanks for sharing such a special thought. I go to a Spanish-speaking ward and rarely sing hymns in English any more so I don't remember this verse. It is beautiful.

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