A black and white photo captures a weathered, open Bible resting on a wooden table, illuminated by a beam of sunlight streaming through a window, symbolizing the inspiration behind "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus."

Who Wrote The Hymn ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’

The classic hymn ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’ has become a staple in churches around the world. Its comforting lyrics remind believers to fix their eyes on Christ in the midst of life’s storms. But who penned the words to this timeless song?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The lyrics to ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’ were written by Helen Lemmel in 1922.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the history behind this beloved hymn. We’ll learn about its lyrics, the inspiration behind them, and the life of the writer Helen Lemmel. We’ll also explore the musical composition and how the hymn gained popularity over the decades.

Join us as we uncover the story behind the song that has encouraged generations to turn their eyes upon Jesus.

The Lyrics and Inspiration Behind ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’

The Lyrics Focus on Keeping Eyes on Jesus

The hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” powerfully expresses the importance of keeping our focus on Jesus Christ. The lyrics were written by Helen Lemmel in 1922 and implore us to turn our eyes away from the troubles and temptations of this world and fix them solely on our Savior.

Some key lines that capture this theme include:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”

This reminds us that when we behold the glory of Jesus, the attractions and distractions of this world fade in comparison. Another impactful stanza says:

“His Word shall not fail you-He promised; Believe Him, and all will be well: Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell!”

This encourages us to keep our eyes on Jesus’ promises and believe in Him, which will strengthen us to go out and share the gospel.

Inspired by a Tract Called ‘Focused’

The inspiration behind “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” came from a tract that Helen Lemmel read titled “Focused.” It contained this poignant message:

“So then turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”

Lemmel was very moved by this admonition to fix our gaze upon Jesus. Soon after reading this tract, she wrote the iconic hymn with its unforgettable chorus imploring us to turn our eyes upon Jesus.

Lemmel Wrote the Lyrics Shortly After Reading the Tract

Helen Lemmel was given the tract “Focused” in 1918 by a missionary friend named Robert Bretall who received it from his sister in England. Lemmel found the message about focusing on Jesus to be profound.

Within a few days in 1922, she picked up her Bible and began reading through the gospels, contemplating the life of Jesus. The words “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” suddenly came to her mind and she quickly wrote down the lyrics to the hymn.

She then mailed the words to a hymn-writer friend named Charles Weigle, who composed the music.

So in essence, the iconic gospel hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” was written just days after Helen Lemmel read the life-changing tract. The hymn has remained one of the most popular in churches worldwide for over 100 years.

The Life and Ministry of Hymn Writer Helen Lemmel

Helen Lemmel Was a Concert Vocalist Earlier in Life

Before dedicating herself to ministry work, Helen Lemmel pursued a career as a concert vocalist. She studied music in Berlin and performed across Europe, delighting audiences with her soprano voice. According to the Hymnary.org, Lemmel moved to America in her 30s to further her singing career.

She gave concerts in major cities and received critical acclaim. However, later in life, Lemmel felt called to use her musical gifts in Christian ministry instead.

She Dedicated Herself to Ministry Work in Her Later Years

In her 40s, Helen Lemmel devoted herself fully to ministry work. She began writing gospel songs and hymns with meaningful, thought-provoking lyrics. Amazingly, over her lifetime, Lemmel composed over 500 hymns and songs, including the famous “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” in 1922.

According to Christianity.com, many churches used her music in their services. Lemmel also hosted Bible studies, wrote for Christian publications, and spoke at revival meetings. Her passionate ministry impacted many lives across America.

The Musical Composition of ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’

The beautiful melody that we all know and love from the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” was written by prominent American composer George Coles Stebbins back in 1918. Through his masterful musical composition, Stebbins managed to perfectly capture the powerful lyrics penned by Helen Lemmel one year prior.

The Music Was Composed by George Coles Stebbins

The touching music accompanying Helen Lemmel’s lyrics for “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” has the very talented George Coles Stebbins to thank. Stebbins, considered among the top hymn composers of his era, crafted the memorable tune in 1918 after Lemmel had written the words in 1917 while working for the Moody Bible Institute Monthly.

The musical composition and heartfelt lyrics combined to produce one of the most impactful and enduring modern hymns.

Stebbins Was a Prominent American Composer

As a prominent figure in early 20th century American hymnody and sacred music, George Stebbins contributed many cherished tunes and arrangements found in numerous modern hymnals. In a prolific career spanning over 60 years, he wrote roughly 1,700 musical compositions for church and gospel music.

His works exhibit remarkable beauty, reverence, and musicality that have stood the test of time. “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” endures as one of Stebbins’ most popular and enduring musical achievements.

The Music Matches the Lyrics Perfectly

The poignancy and intimacy conveyed through Stebbins’ musical setting align seamlessly with the message behind Lemmel’s words. The memorable melody evokes a spirit of gentle encouragement and compassion, beckoning listeners to surrender earthly distractions and fix our gaze upon Christ.

This perfect pairing of lyrics and music has allowed “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” to become one of the most impactful and enduring modern hymns. Over 100 years later, those notes continue stirring hearts around the globe.

Release Year of “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” 1918
Hymn Writer Helen Lemmel
Composer George C. Stebbins
Hymn lyric theme Drawing closer to Jesus

Through his poignant musical setting, George Coles Stebbins elevated Helen Lemmel’s already powerful lyrics into one of Christendom’s most beloved hymns. For over a century, their collaborative work has guided countless souls to fix their eyes upon Jesus.

The Enduring Popularity and Influence of the Hymn

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” Quickly Spread Through Evangelistic Campaigns

The gospel song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” became very popular soon after it was written in 1922. According to the Hymnary.org, the song was frequently used in evangelistic campaigns in the 1920s and 1930s by preachers like Billy Sunday and Rodney “Gipsy” Smith.

It Has Been Translated Into Many Languages Worldwide

Thanks to global evangelistic efforts over the past century, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” has been translated from English into many other languages around the world. Some estimate it has been translated into over 200 languages and dialects – an impressive feat demonstrating the international reach of this classic gospel hymn.

The Hymn Continues to Comfort and Inspire Believers Today

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” endures as one of the most popular hymns sung regularly in churches across denominations worldwide. In times of hardship or suffering, lines like “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace” continue to comfort and inspire Christian believers with hopeful, worshipful theology.


For nearly a century, the hymn ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’ has pointed people to fix their eyes on Christ in the ups and downs of life. Though the lyrics were penned in just a few moments of inspiration, they have stood the test of time.

Whenever this hymn is sung, it serves as a powerful reminder to turn our gaze from earthly troubles to the One who can meet our every need. The writer Helen Lemmel gifted the church with this simple but profound hymn that continues to bless lives around the world.

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