Let not your hearts be troubled: a sonnet revisited

I recently had a request from some one, bereaved in this Coronavirus crisis, who had read this sonnet in my book Parable and Paradox  and wanted permission for her grandson to read it at his grandfather’s online funeral. Of course I granted that permission immediately and freely, and it prompted me to repost the sonnet here, in case their might be others to whom it might bring comfort or for whom it might express what they needed to say. If you, or someone you know would like to use this sonnet, either the text or the recording or both for an online general or memorial please feel free to do so, it was written for just such an occasion.

The sonnet itself is a reflection on John 14:1-3.

 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

This saying was not uttered on some sunny morning when all is going well, but on the night Jesus was betrayed, the night before he died, and in that poignant scene he shared their pain, and shares with all us the sheer tragedy of our mortality. But even as he prepared them for the sorrow of parting  he also instilled in them the hope of resurrection, the hope of Heaven and homecoming which they could not yet see.

This passage in John is very often chosen, and rightly so, as a reading at funerals, because it expresses both empathy and hope, and when I came to compose this sonnet I was gathering together the thoughts and prayers of the many funerals I have taken and hoping to write something that might be helpful, in opening these verses for people who choose to have them read at a funeral.

I have also developed these ideas a little in a sermon I preached this last Sunday at Girton which you can listen to here

As always you can hear me read the sonnet by clicking on the title or the play button

Let not your hearts be troubled

 Always there comes this parting of the ways

The best is wrested from us, borne away,

No one is with us always, nothing stays,

Night swallows even the most perfect day.

Time makes a tragedy of human love,

We cleave forever to the one we choose

Only to find ‘forever’ in the grave.

We have just time enough to love and lose.


You know too well this trouble in our hearts

Your heart is troubled for us, feels it too,

You share with us in time that shears and parts

To draw us out of time and into you.

I go that you might come to where I am

Your word comes home to us and brings us home.


Filed under imagination

16 responses to “Let not your hearts be troubled: a sonnet revisited

  1. Eileen Pheiffer

    What a lovely and fitting poem to be read by that grandson in memory of his grandfather. Thank you for your generous spirit, Malcolm. Your poetry is a gift that you share freely.

  2. Quite beautiful and well stated!

  3. So beautiful, and true, Malcolm. And a great comfort in light of the tragedy that has just occurred here in Canada. (19 people killed by a lone gunman). Such pain and sadness, yet such hope. Marcia

  4. Your word comes home to us, and brings us home. ~ Malcolm Guite
    I had this picture of Jesus gathering me up in his arms, like my dad did when I was little, and just walking into my room, and gently placing me under my covers after removing my shoes…So comforting. Thank you Malcolm.

  5. Agnes Groves

    Malcolm You know only too well what this poem means to me and my family as you were so kind as to read it at Ian’s service of thanksgiving. I thank you again for the comfort to gave us.

  6. Julia Thomson

    Thank you Malcolm, that grandson is my son. Really appreciate all your kindness

  7. lovely, I will put it on our Church Facebook page. I will pm you the link.

  8. Eric Locke

    Thankyou. Like a squirrel I will bury this not too deeply for future reference.
    One day….

  9. Ruth Andre

    thank you for the deeply meaningful words you wrote, Malcolm. My husband went to be with the Lord 6 months ago and I found the words you wrote of comfort and encouragement. We live in hope for the day we will come face to face with the One who brings us home. Ruth Andre

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