Isabella Lilias Trotter was born into a wealthy London family in 1853. Although wealthy, her heart was given to serving God. While others in her station of life were living a life of indulgence and luxury, Lilias could often be found combing the streets late at night searching for prostitutes and other women who might be looking for someone to help them.
She eventually found her way into the mission fields of Algeria. She learned Arabic, wrote books and poetry for the locals and used her artistic abilities to reach out to others. Her most impactful writing, however, was not a book. It was a small tract that made the following statement: “Turn full your soul's vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.”
That pamphlet, entitled “Focussed,” found its way into the hands of Helen Lemmel, in 1922, as she traveled around the Midwest singing in various churches. As she read those few words, a hymn began to form in her mind. She wrote the following in her memoirs:
"Suddenly as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still. Singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus of the hymn, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme or note to note to make melody."
In three weeks time, Helen Lemmel had written three verses and a chorus of what would become one of the church’s most treasured hymns, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”
Here are the lyrics and a link to an online copy of the original pamphlet which inspired it.