With poetic lyrics, such as "I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin/I wouldn't let my dear Savior in," the song was written about Williams' Christian religious convictions and hope for redemption despite his alcoholic vices. Scripture references and allusions to the Bible in the song, include Matthew 7:13-14 "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it," and1 Thessalonians 5:2-4 "for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night," and Revelation 22:5 "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." and Jesus' healing the blind at birth John 9:1-9 "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the [blind] man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing."
Though the song was not a commercial success upon its first release, it has become one of the songs most closely associated with Williams.
Since its release, the song has been covered by numerous artists, including Crystal Gayle for her album Someday (1995), Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Acuff (1948), Bobby Bare (1966), Merle Haggard (1971), Etta James (2001), Bill Monroe(1958), Jerry Reed, Willie Nelson (1979), The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (No. 56 on Billboard Country Singles charts, 1971), Earl Scruggs (1972), Mason Proffit (1973), Hank Williams, Jr. (1969), Dash Rip Rock (1987), The The (1995), Johnny Cash (in the Columbo episode "Swan Song") (1974), David Crowder Band (2005), and The Charlie Daniels Band (2001). Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins recorded a live version on their album The Survivors Live (1982).This Train also recorded a version of this song on their album Mimes of the Old West (1998).
The Hank Williams version of the song reached No. 1 on CMT's 20 Greatest Songs of Faith in 2005.