In your unfailing love, you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength, you will guide them to your holy dwelling. Exodus 15:13
Be strong and of good courage; do not fear nor be afraid of them, for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
Some people think the old gospel song, “Precious Lord Take My Hand, was written by the famous big band leader Tommy Dorsey. It wasn’t; the author was named Thomas Andrew Dorsey, and he was the son of a Black revivalist preacher.
Thomas was born in a small town in Georgia in 1899. When he was about eleven, the family moved to Atlanta where Thomas became enamored with the blues and began playing piano in a vaudeville theater. Later the family moved to Chicago where he attended classes at the College of Composition and Arranging. He was soon on stage under the name of “Georgia Tom”, playing barrelhouse piano in one of Al Capone’s speakeasies and leading jazz bands.
Thomas was converted at the National Baptist Convention in Chicago in 1921. He began writing gospel songs and trying to get them published. It was discouraging at first. He later said, “I borrowed five dollars and sent out 500 copies of my song, ‘If You See My Savior,’ to churches throughout the country. It was three years before I got a single order. I felt like going back to the blues.”
He didn’t, and gradually his reputation grew and his work became known. In August, 1932, while leading music in St. Louis, he was handed a telegram bearing these words, “Your wife just died.” A friend drove him through the night, and he arrived home to learn that his baby boy had just died.
Thomas later said, “I began to feel that God had done me an injustice. I didn’t want to serve Him anymore or write any more gospel songs.” But the next Saturday, while alone in a friend’s music room, he had a sudden calm and quiet stillness. As his fingers began to move across the keys, words began to fall in place on the melody:
Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand.
I am tired; I am weak; I am worn…”
What a heartfelt prayer this must have been to Thomas Dorsey at a time when it appeared he had lost everything to live for. But God had a plan for his life and He has a plan for each of us. When things seem the darkest in our lives, God has a gracious way of lighting our path if we will trust him to bring us through it all. Let’s keep looking up and keep praying and trusting Jesus, and He will light our path and lighten our load. Thomas Dorsey would go on to write many gospel hymns, including “Peace in the Valley”. What does God have in store for you?