Indelible Grace Hymnbook

Oft In Sorrow

Henry White and Frances Fuller-Maitland
Justin Smith

1. Oft in sorrow, oft in woe, Onward, Christian, onward go.
Fight the fight, maintain the strife, Strengthened with the Bread of life.

2. Let your drooping hearts be glad. March in heavenly armor clad.
Fight, nor think the battle long. Victory soon shall be your song.

3. Let not sorrow dim your eye, Soon shall every tear be dry.
Let not fears your course impede, Great your strength, if great your need.

4. Onward then in battle move, More than conquerors ye shall prove.
Though opposed by many a foe, Christian soldiers onward go.

© 2011 Justin Smith Music


I first discovered this text while recording our third CD (For All The Saints) in 2003. While Andy Osenga was singing “Jesus With Thy Church Abide” we came up with the idea of finding some words for a chant to go over the ending of the song. I had a copy of Spurgeon’s Our Own Hymnbook in the studio with me that day, and while browsing through the section on “Courage And Confidence” we found this text. We loved the first two lines, “Oft in sorrow, oft in woe. Onward Christians, onward go.” They fit perfectly for the ending chant. But I distinctly remember Andy remarking, “You know, this whole hymn is great – we should write a tune for it.” I tried for almost ten years to write a tune for this text! So when Justin Smith sent me his tune, I didn’t want to like it. I had always thought I could write a tune eventually, but I finally had to admit that I really liked what Justin had done. While I don’t want to endorse all of his theology, there is a quote from Watchmen Nee that I have always loved: “Holding on to the plow while wiping away tears– that is Christianity.” Perhaps overstated, but he captures a point that is often underappreciated in our day; suffering is a normal part of the Christian life.
One of the special things about the recording of this hymn is the vocal group at the end of the song. I asked a group of my Belmont RUF guys who I had been discipling for the last several years to sing it. It seemed right to have a group of guys who had been walking together for years sing this song about journey and struggle. I love the way these hymns have made fitting companions for so many of us over the years.