For me, one of the most sobering lines from old hymns comes from Isaac Watts’ Our God, Our Help. “Time like an ever-rolling stream,” Watts writes, “bears all its sons away.” The point of the song is to remind us that God is the source of our hope and our help in the midst of these fragile, temporary lives.

Our God, Our Help
Isaac Watts
Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home:
Under the shadow of thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God,
To endless years the same.
Thy word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men”;
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.
A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by thy flood,
And lost in following years.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
Like flowery fields the nations stand,
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering e’er ’tis night.
Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.