Born in 1829, Priscilla Jane Owens spent her entire life in Baltimore, Maryland. She not only dedicated nearly a half century of her life to teaching public school, she taught Sunday school as well. But what we know of her talents lie in the hymns she wrote. While most of her hymns were written for children’s services, we often sing them during worship.
You may be familiar with We Have An Anchor, written by Ms. Owens in 1882. Considering she was over 50 years old when she wrote this hymn, I can only imagine what her life experiences had taught her, inspiring her to write these songs. As a teenager and a new Christian, these were not my favorite hymns. I felt they were old, for lack of a better term, and technically they are. Yet now that I have had a few more revolutions around the sun, allowing me to also teach public school, Sunday school, get married and become a mother, I cherish these songs. (Maybe it’s because I am old now too.)
As a teacher and a mother, I spend much time observing the world around me while I try to mold the minds of young children. I admire the valuable words that Ms. Owens penned. While I teach these songs to my children, I am sowing the seeds of essential biblical principles even before they can realize the true depth of their meaning. The longer you live, the more you realize the wickedness in the world, and that is why these songs have become such a source of strength to me. What better way to remind myself and teach my children Scripture than through song?
I encourage you to look up the lyrics to We Have An Anchor. The refrain is as follows:
We have an anchor
That keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure
While the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock
Which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep
In the Savior’s love.
This past year our nation, along with the rest of the world, has faced and continues to face many challenges. Job and food insecurities as well as problems with school and childcare are just a few ways this pandemic has affected our nation. We continue to face many political and cultural issues that challenge our Christianity. It is no surprise to me that our nation is in duress at this time. In so many ways, our nation has cut loose the anchor. We have taken God out of homes, out of schools, out of communities, out of courthouses, and even out of some churches. Thus, the nation is losing its moral compass, resulting in a confused sense of what is right and acceptable and has forgotten how to love its neighbor. The effect is that we have a divided nation, divided because there are still those of us who hold on to God. Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation” (Matt. 12:25). The billows are upon us now. Do you have The Anchor, or are you being tossed to and fro?
The beauty of God’s love extends to us a security guaranteeing that no matter what is happening in our lives, whether in calm or raging seas, we have a promise of salvation. This promise has already been fulfilled, yet is conditional. It is conditional not on God’s part, since His part has already been fulfilled, but rather on our part. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1). If you do not want your sins held against you, the conditions are that you must be in Christ Jesus and you must walk according to the Spirit. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). When we are baptized, our old man is crucified with Christ and we are no longer slaves of sin; we have newness of life and are free from sin (Rom. 6:2-10). To walk according to the Spirit means we stop living only for ourselves, and instead we put God first and serve Him by being instruments of righteousness (v. 13).
As Christians, we struggle with sin. This is a good thing, because that means we are fighting against sin reigning in our lives. Yet the guilt of sin can cause us to have insecurities and cause us to fear that we will not make it to heaven. If we are in Christ, then we have The Anchor. Because of this Anchor, we can boldly approach “the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Also, we are “fastened to the rock which cannot move.” As followers of Christ, He has given us eternal life. We shall never perish, nor shall we be snatched out of His hand because God, who has given us to Jesus, is greater than all and therefore we are secure (John 10:27-29). We have received the Spirit of adoption; God has accepted us as His children and He is never going to return us if we act up (Rom. 8:14-16). God has said “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
We have a tendency to change our minds, but God does not change His mind. God gave His only Son, the only one of His kind, to be delivered up for us as a propitiation for our sin. How shall God not with Jesus also freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:32; John 3:16). Do not doubt the love that God has for you. I have two sons. Though I would give my life for them, I would not give their life for anyone. That puts God’s love for me and everyone else into perspective. We cannot even comprehend how much He loves us and how much He wants us to take the salvation He has given us. Moreover, Jesus will not change His mind. He already died for us, and when He rose from the dead He guaranteed full payment for our sins. He is now at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf, making good on His promise.
If you are in Christ, then He, your Anchor, “keeps your soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll.” We are assured that “all things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). This promise does not excuse us from the troubles of life, which come in all forms. Rather, during trials and tribulation there is help and hope. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (v. 35). God will use whatever is happening in our lives to bring us out stronger in faith and wisdom on the other side.
After four years of marriage, my husband accepted a job that moved us 1,000 miles from home and our families. A few years later, after our second son was born, my husband’s job had him traveling the globe and I was very often by myself, taking care of two small children. I would get so angry because I felt like a single parent. I was going full steam taking care of everything and I was so exhausted. My husband was working hard at his job to provide for us and he was working hard at home too and was just as exhausted as I was. I began to pray like never before and I saw just how much power it had over my life. I saw how God used my church family and neighbors to fill in and support me. I am never alone because of God. I have often wondered if moving was the right choice, but I look back and see how much I have grown spiritually because of the people that have surrounded me here in South Carolina and because of what my life’s experiences have taught me. I feel like my family has been a blessing to others here as well. I cannot deny the instruments that God has used to shape my spiritual life. My Anchor has helped my soul be steadfast and sure through it all, and I can be confident that He who has begun a good work in me will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).
If we are in Christ, “we are grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.” “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). Not even Satan can undermine what God has provided. “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (v. 33). In addition, our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. He has saved us not according to our works, but according to His purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Tim. 1:7-9).
With these securities comes the peace of Christ that is undisturbed when adversity strikes (Col. 3:15). These securities give us spiritual power, the power of Christ, even when we are physically weak (2 Cor. 12:9). Lastly, these securities fortify our endurance. “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor. 4:8-10).
Remember, if you are for God, then God is for you and your salvation is secure.
Samantha and her family live and worship in Florence, SC.