Helen Lemmel The Story Behind the Hymn: "Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus"
She was twelve when her family moved from England to America. Her father was a Methodist minister who felt called to a new ministry. Helen Lemmel was remarkably talented in music. She studied voice with the finest teachers and traveled to Germany where she spent four years studying. She returned and launched a ministry of her own giving concerts in auditoriums and churches across the Midwest. Later she joined a quartet which traveled to small rural towns and villages that would otherwise have no opportunity to hear quality performers. Although talented enough to succeed as a professional singer, Helen felt that she needed to use her musical gifts as a form of ministry to the Lord. So she joined the staff of the Moody Bible Institute teaching vocal music. When she was fifty-four, a missionary friend with whom she was visiting handed her a tract by Lillias Trotter entitiled “Focused.” That little pamphlet included these words: “So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look fully into His face and you will find that the things of this world will acquire a strange new dimness.” For weeks the words seemed to repeat themselves over and over to her. According to her memoirs: Suddenly, as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still, and singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make a rhyme, or note to note to make melody. The verses were written the same week, after the usual manner of composition, but nonetheless dictated by the Holy Spirit. In 1922 this song, her favorite, was included in the hymnal “Glad Songs” for the Keswick Convention. All sixty-six of the hymns in that hymnal had been written by Helen. She wrote more than 500 hymns in her lifetime, many of them for children. Helen turned her eyes toward Jesus, serving Him faithfully until the day of her death, November 1, 1961, at the age of ninety-six.
O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free.
His Word shall not fail you—He promised; Believe Him, and all will be well: Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.