Sacred Music Sunday: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

wooden cross, Jesus, symbol

Isaac Watts sure knew how to write a hymn. So many of my favorite hymns were written by him. One that I really love that I wish were in our hymnal is When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. I was first introduced to this hymn when I was in the MTC. I was in the choir, and we performed this hymn for a devotional one week.

I like how the music is simultaneously joyful and haunting. It captures my feelings about the Atonement perfectly – joy at the love that motivated Jesus to do it, and a haunting feeling of the reality of the suffering involved and my part in that suffering.

Rather than simply dwelling on the suffering, the hymn concludes with an admonition to devote our lives to Christ. So many times in the world today, we hear of terrible suffering, and a lot of times the story stops there, with little to no instruction on how to do something about it.

Here, we are told to give our whole souls to Christ. And that gives us some marching orders. We give our whole souls to Christ by following His commandment – to love our neighbor. If we do that, we will not only properly respond to Christ’s Atonement, but we will also be able to properly respond to the suffering in the world.


Trudy is a lawyer living in the southwestern US. She has two cats who allow her to live in their house in exchange for a steady supply of food and treats.

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1 Response

  1. I learned this one in choir, too! Thanks for reminding me of it.

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