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Songs of Comfort: Hymns to Help when You’re Hurting

When you think about singing, what emotion comes to mind? Often, we immediately assume that singing is what we do when we’re happy. We figure that hymns are for praise. But we can sing when we’re sad. We can use hymns as prayers of sorrow. We can use these words of comfort anytime—during personal devotion and daily study, whether spoken in prayer or sung aloud.

In fact, there are countless hymns we can use when seeking comfort and encouragement. “Be Still, My Soul” and “When Peace, like a River” are handy go-to options for the heart that needs music in a time of suffering. But there are plenty of great choices that may not always come to mind. Below is a mix of “classic” comforting hymns as well as a few you may not always consider when feeling burdened. Don’t just save them for your time in the pew; use them whenever you need extra support and encouragement through the promises of God set to song.  

Built on the Rock             
When life feels as if it’s falling down all around you, it can be a good reminder that you’re not alone. The writer of this hymn saw firsthand the Church in turmoil. But what words does he provide? “Built on the Rock the Church shall stand Even when steeples are falling. Crumbled have spires in ev’ry land; Bells still are chiming and calling” (LSB 645). This text and bold tune bolsters the believer to remember that God and His Church will not be overcome, even if the world and its institutions pass away.

Go, My Children, with My Blessing        
It seems rare when a congregation can sing this hymn without at least one person tearing up midway. The text is only about three decades old, but it has already become near and dear to many hearts. Jaroslav Vajda, a Lutheran pastor, wrote these words of blessing as if God Himself were speaking them: “Go, My children, with My blessing, Never alone. Waking, sleeping, I am with you; You are My own” (LSB 922). Sung at weddings as well as funerals, this text is appropriate at many life events and therefore has become a hymn tied to memories for many believers. In both happy and sad times, this hymn can bring you comfort as you read or sing God’s message of love for you.

Grant Peace, We Pray, in Mercy, Lord           
This hymn may not be a familiar one, but its short simplicity gets straight to the point: our hope is in our God alone. This prayerlike text would be easy to memorize and use at a moment’s notice, giving peace to those who hear it.     

Come unto Me, Ye Weary        
This hymn begins each stanza with the comforting words of God. When we hear our Lord’s words echoed from Scripture through song, we can recall His promises made to each one of us. Each stanza then responds with thanks and praise. “The foe is stern and eager, The fight is fierce and long; But Thou hast made us mighty And stronger than the strong” (LSB 684).

Consider How the Birds Above     
This hymn is also a newer one, written by another Lutheran pastor. Stephen Starke’s text uses our Lord’s words again (here, from Matthew 6) to remind us of our God’s care for us. When we feel burdened or are tempted to doubt that our Lord provides, these words can bring contentment. This hymn also reminds us that our Savior knows what it is like to suffer in this world—much more than we do. “For He who faced for you the cross Will give you strength to live each day” (LSB 736).

From Depths of Woe, I Cry to Thee           
There are times when a sweet or light tune can help uplift the hurting. But there are other times when the distressed believer needs a hymn as mournful as the one singing it. The melody seems to cry out with the congregation in repentant sorrow. These words especially resonate with those who are well aware of sin and feeling great remorse. But the hymn doesn’t leave us in this helplessness; we are reminded that salvation is not in our own hands, but in the hands of our loving God. “Though great our sins, yet greater still Is God’s abundant favor; His hand of mercy never will Abandon us, nor waver” (LSB 607).

There Is a Balm in Gilead       
This African American spiritual relies on imagery from the Old Testament to provide comfort to the “wounded” and “sin-sick soul.” Using repetition and a soothing melody, this hymn brings clear truths to the singer: “Don’t ever feel discouraged, For Jesus is your friend” (LSB 749). It can be powerful to remember that the first people to hear the promise of balm were those who suffered exile hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth. God was faithful to His people then; He is faithful now.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus     
The writer of this text knew about sorrow and loss. Yet in spite of his own troubles, or perhaps because of them, he was able to write these beautiful words of comfort to his mother. These words take on the tone of a friend consoling another with the certain hope of our Lord’s love for us. In almost a common-sense manner, we are reminded, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear—All because we do not carry Ev’rything to God in prayer!” (LSB 770). After singing these words, a time of prayer would be perfect for the “weak and heavy laden” to find comfort in Jesus, our friend.

Lord of All Hopefulness                    
This hymn takes a familiar tune and provides a prayer to the Lord during all parts of the day as a reminder that our God is with us always. It is often sung all at once, but families might consider breaking the hymn into sections and singing different stanzas throughout the day. It may be a stretch, but the words might also serve well when considering the “day” as a metaphor for the seasons of life, where our Lord is most certainly present from our waking to our homing and beyond.    

This list barely scratches the surface of hymns that can be read, prayed, and sung to find healing and comfort in our Lord during difficult times. Please consider commenting below to add your favorite titles to the list! Together, we can share comfort and sing the praises of our “Beautiful Savior” (another one!).

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