A Wretch by Any Other Name

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I was once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.

What do you think of when you hear the word “wretch”? If you are like me, and of course everyone is, you think of a base person, someone who is lowly, despicable, riddled with sin that oozes from the inside out.

Webster’s dictionary and Strong’s concordance give as the first definition of wretch a meaning that has far less to do with my actions as it does my circumstances. In Webster’s, the first definition is “a deplorably unfortunate or unhappy person,” and in Strong’s concordance, the first definition is “enduring trials and troubles.”

It is only in the second definition in Webster’s that we find the definition “a person of despicable or base character.” Whew, that gets me off the hook, or does it?

I am the wretch the song refers to.

~ Todd Friel

You see, I was always a “good person,” not a goody-two-shoes, mind you, but a person that every mother would want to have as a daughter and everyone would want to have as a friend, at least by all outward appearances. But on the inside, I was the wretch who was unhappy because of my rebellion and my dependence on myself rather than God.

When I gave my life to Christ, I wasn’t turning from a life of outward sin and debauchery; I was turning away from a life that was empty, one that left me unhappy (definition 1), lacking in joy, one where my despicable and base character (definition 2) was known only to me and to my God.

I gave up the life of a wretch to live victoriously as the daughter of the King, a princess.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

The redemption found in “Amazing Grace” is undergirded in God’s word: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way,” whether in word or deed, whether outwardly or inwardly. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.”

In line with Webster’s definitions, God’s grace saves us from a life of “a deplorably unfortunate or unhappy person,” and for those of us who are willing to admit it, His grace saves us from our own “despicable and base character” because of His great love and grace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Praise God for his amazing grace that saved a wretch like me, and like you.

Yours for the celebration of life,


This week’s In Other words is hosted by Esthermay at The Heart of a Pastor’s Wife. Join in the discussion by writing your own post or just by reading what other women have to say.


6 thoughts on “A Wretch by Any Other Name

  1. Yes, that well-hidden, inner wretchedness is the hardest kind to repent of, isn’t it? It’s easy to excuse it because nobody else is even calling attention to it. But God sees it all.

    I’d rather be the tax collector than the Pharisee any day! (Luke 18:10-14)…but I fear I’m more the Pharisee anyway. So glad God saves wretches like me!

  2. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.”

    Amen on that!

    My daughter still thinks Amazing Grace is a lullaby song – she’s 8 – b/c I sang it to her as a lullaby as a baby and toddler. She knows the principle of that Amazing Grace b/c I have taught it to her from birth. Thank God she did receive that Grace for herself at an early age b/c God called to her.

  3. His grace is truly amazing. I went off today on the wretch subject. I may need to do it again and hit on the grace part too cuz that’s important as well.

  4. I love how you used both definitions of the word, Claudia. It brought more meaning to this quote. I am wretch, not only for my despicable ways, but also because without Him my life would be unfortunate and unhappy. And thanks for bringing attention to the inner life of sin. We like to pretend it isn’t there, don’t we?

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