Where Are We Looking?

There is a wonderful Swedish song called, “I Look Not Back.” I learned it from a recording at a Lutheran college some years ago. Here are the words:

I look not back; God knows the fruitless efforts,
The wasted hours, the sinning, the regrets.
I leave them all with Him who blots the record,
And graciously forgives, and then forgets.

I look not forward; God sees all the future,
The road that, short or long, will lead me home,
And He will face with me its ev’ry trial,
And bear for me the burdens that may come.

I look not round me; then would fears assail me.
So wild the tumult of earth’s restless seas,
So dark the world, so filled with woe and evil,
So vain the hope of comfort and of ease.

I look not inward; that would make me wretched;
For I have naught on which to stay my trust.
Nothing I see save failures and shortcomings,
And weak endeavors, crumbling into dust.

But I look up–into the face of Jesus,
For there my heart can rest, my fears are stilled;
And there is joy, and love, and light for darkness,
And perfect peace, and ev’ry hope fulfilled.

The author of these lyrics is listed as that famous person, “Anonymous”, but the lovely tune is by Oskar Ahnfeld. I wish I could share a recording of it, but sadly, I couldn’t find a link.

The words underscore the importance of watching our view in life. Where we look can make the difference between despair and discouragement and having joy and hope.

Austin Sparks, an old path preacher from the last century, wrote a wonderful message on this theme, “Looking Unto Jesus.” The full message in print is at this link, but here is an excerpt:

“…Now this word is – adjust everything to the end, have all your affairs in life brought into line with God’s end. When you are considering a relationship, have God’s end in view. When you are considering the next step in your life, have God’s end in view. When you are deciding where you are going to live and do your work, have God’s end in view. When you are deciding what your business is going to be, have God’s end in view. Everything brought into line – that is the meaning of this “Make level the path of thy feet” or “Weigh carefully the path of thy feet”. We have to say to ourselves, ‘Now then, this is an opportunity, a prospect, that seems to hold a lot of good; but first of all, what is this going to mean for the Lord, how does this relate to the full end of God?’ Nothing less than that must weigh with us. “Let thine eyes look right on” – not just at this thing, not even at what it seems to promise, but right on. How does it relate to the end? In all things, look beyond; see what is the relation to the full end of God; and adjust accordingly. Get the vision, and adjust life as far as possible in relation to it. “Weigh carefully the paths of thy feet and order them aright. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left”. “Let thine eyes look right on”.

As things worsen in our culture and in the visible church, we need to make sure our eyes are firmly on Jesus. The enemy will try endless ways to distract us from the One who matters. Thousands of hours are filled on America’s airwaves each week documenting the collapse of everything that once stood firm in our society. As Christians, we work for what is right and do all we can to be lights in our culture, but whatever we do, we have to ultimately have our eyes on Jesus and His glory. This world is temporal. As Kipling put it, “Lo, all our pomp of yesterday is one with Nineveh and Tyre!”

God is eternal. Our souls are forever. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus.

(I wrote another post here 2 years ago on the same theme!)

3 thoughts on “Where Are We Looking?

  1. Becky says:

    I am a news hound, I get so caught up in reports that it can destroy my day. My husband told me a few days ago that I needed to take a break from it all, because he sees how it is affecting me. I so enjoy your posts and enjoyed your time on the radio, because you would break from all the headlines, turn and focus on God who brings peace to troubling times. Thank you for sharing!

  2. David Hagen says:

    Regarding, “I look not back” My father (born 1903) was Rev. E.O.Hagen, a Lutheran minister. My mother, Alma (Holm) Hagen, half Swede, half Norwegian, (born 1900) was my mother. Around the year 1995 I received the following letter from my dad’s first cousin, Marie,(Hagen) Ballner, with the lyrics to “I Look Not Back” attafched. The letter read, ” Alma Holm penned these words while attending Bible School in Grand Forks, ND. She lost the paper while going across the campus grounds.

    “Sometime later she saw these words in print put to music. Alma was born of Christian parents and raised in a community where the church played an important part. She decided tht when she completed her school in preparation for becoming a teacher she would put her application in a community where there were no churches to bother her. She found just what she wanted and thought that now I will have peace.

    “The peace did not come…she knew the christians at home were praying for her and she came under a deep conviction of sin.

    “Reflecting on her life these were the words she penned; “I Look Not Back”

    “This is as near, recalling what your dad, Elmer told me one day.”


    Mother knew of and appreciated the choice of music set to the words. They fit together very well. Some hymn books have attributed the words to Fannie Crosby, others to “Anomymous”

    Dave Hagen (79)
    Appleton, WI

  3. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Dave, this is very, very interesting! How wonderful to know who wrote these words, and the story behind them. I first heard the hymn a few years ago on a CD and was deeply moved by it. With all my heart, thank you, Dave, for sharing this information with Hope Blog readers. I will treasure this hymn while remembering the author of the words, Alma Hagen.

    P.S. My Great-grandmother was named Alma also (Eliason). She immigrated from Sweden in the early years of the 20th century. Her husband, Johann and she settled in northern Minnesota. Their son, Oscar, my grandfather, was musical and wrote a number of gospel songs.

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