According to Dr.Peramangalam Porinju Job, known as Dr.P P Job, the lyrics come from on the last words of Nokseng, a Garo man, a tribe from Meghalaya which then was in Assam. This man and his family decided to follow Jesus Christ in the middle of the 19th century through the efforts of an American Baptist missionary.
The tribe he belonged before knowing Jesus wanted him to stop believing in Jesus Christ. For that reason, they called him to renounce his faith by the village chief.
But not paying attention to all the efforts the tribe did, including harmful aggression, the new convert declared courageously, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” His two children were killed and in response to threats to his wife, he continued, “Though no one joins me, still I will follow.” His wife was killed, and he was executed while singing, “The world behind me, The cross before me.”
This display of faith is reported to have led to the conversion of the chief and others in the village.
Who turned this testimony into a song?
The formation of these words into a hymn is attributed to the Indian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh. The melody is also Indian and with the title “Assam” after the region where the text originated. An American hymn editor, William Jensen Reynolds, composed an arrangement that was included in the 1959 Assembly Songbook.
An alternative tradition attributes the hymn to Simon Marak, from Jorhat, Assam.
Many Christians use this hymn during their services, some of them ignoring the background. If you love this song before knowing its story, you will love it even more because you know what it really means.
The story of the song is covered in the Book by Dr. P.P. Job “Why God Why”