LOVE LIFTED ME was written and published in 1912. James Rowe wrote the lyrics and his friend, Howard Smith, composed the melody.
Rowe’s daughter recalled how they had worked together. “I can see them now, my father striding back and forth humming a bar or two, and Howard playing it and then jotting it down. The two huddled together, working line by line, bar by bar. Howard’s hands were severely twisted with arthritis, yet he still managed to play the piano.”
The hymn is based on two biblical accounts. The first is in Matt. 8. While Jesus was asleep in the boat, His disciples were terrified by a fierce storm. They woke Him and appealed for help. Jesus rebuked the wind and raging sea and immediately everything was calm.
The second account is in Matt.14. The disciples were out on the sea when they saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. As He came near, Jesus commanded Peter to join Him. Peter stepped out onto the water and walked toward Jesus. But when he looked down at the water, he became frightened and began to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately, Jesus stretched out His hand, lifted him out of the water and asked, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When they got into the boat, the wind suddenly stopped. Then those who were in the boat worshipped Him, saying, “Surely, You are the Son of God!”
(Some have criticized this hymn because the 6/8 tempo seems too upbeat and unfit for the seriousness of the lyrics. However, it can be much more worshipful when played or sung in 3/4 time.)
There is a simple, three-point Gospel message in this hymn.
The first verse describes our redemption. In our natural condition, as lost sinners, we were in imminent danger and in need of a Savior to rescue us.
Verse two describes our new life. Only in Christ can we live, serve, and praise, Him.
The third verse is evangelistic. It is a warning to others and a plea for them to look up to and trust Jesus Christ, the only One who can save them.
The refrain declares our testimony; “When nothing else could help, LOVE LIFTED ME.”