Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life’s tempestuous sea; Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treach’rous shoal; Chart and compass come from Thee—Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
As a mother stills her child, Thou canst hush the ocean wild; Boisterous waves obey Thy will when Thou say’st to them, “Be still.” Wondrous Sov’reign of the sea, Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
When at last I near the shore, and the fearful breakers roar Twixt me and the peaceful rest —then, while leaning on Thy breast, May I hear Thee say to me, “Fear not — I will pilot thee.”
In 1871, Pastor Edward Hopper of The Church of Land and Sea in New York wrote this beloved hymn, and John Gould composed the music. Hopper, the “pastor of the sailors,” penned words about Christ in familiar terms and phrases that any sailor could understand and take to heart. Many sailors visited Pastor Hopper’s church as they came ashore from their times of duty at sea. How comforting the lyrics must have been as the men returned to sea, never knowing what peril might lie ahead—“Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treach’rous shoal; Chart and compass come from Thee—Jesus, Savior, pilot me.”
When I awoke with this song in my heart one morning, it remained with me all day. I found myself rehearsing it repeatedly as I was recovering from an illness. I drifted to sleep with the words on my lips and woke up with tremendous hope and peace. My body was still fighting an illness, but my spirit was strong, and I knew the Lord was with me to heal, help, and encourage!
Imagine a raging sea—boisterous waves and wild oceans, as Hopper wrote. Few men can allay the terror that grips the hearts of sailors at such a time. Only Jesus, “Wondrous Sov’reign of the sea,” can speak to the waves and command them to be still; only He can hush the ocean wild. Only He can quiet a troubled soul.
He pilots us through storms and challenges we face in life, leading and guiding us through deep waters and turmoil. His navigational skills are superb; His authority to speak peace into troubling situations that overwhelm us is unparalleled and cannot be defeated by any force, seen or unseen. The Lord tells us in Isaiah 43:2 (NLT), “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.”
Do we still need more reassurance? Again, in Psalm 46:1-3 (NKJV), we are reminded God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.
Exactly how high are the floodwaters coming at us? The world is not a comforting place, and as inferred in John 15:19, we are in the world but not of the world. The psalmist boldly declares in Psalm 93:3-4 (NKJV), The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted their voice; The floods lift up their waves. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea.
While in Alaska, my friends and I came upon a rough, bumpy dirt road that was being reconstructed after an earthquake had destroyed it several years prior. The quake had so devastated the landscape it was difficult to recruit workers to repair and rebuild the area. Suddenly, a large, forceful, deafening waterfall crashed into a small ravine along the dirt road. It was a jolting reality of the powerful force of unrestrained, wild water. The Lord on high—Wondrous Sov’reign of the sea—is mightier than the noise of many waters!
Whether you are enjoying the peace of still waters right now, or whether the floods have lifted up their voice around you, and your heart cries, “Jesus, Savior, pilot me,” know with certainty that our Wondrous Sov’reign of the sea says, “Fear not—I will pilot thee.”
© 2023, Chris Custer Werre