Today’s guest blogger is Susan Verstraete. Susan is a children’s Sunday school teacher and leader of a book discussion group at Faith Community Church in Kansas City, North,
where she also serves as church secretary. Susan and her husband Michael have two adult
sons, Patrick and Christopher. Susan’s book, Your
People: Stories from Church History is
available from Amazon. Find more articles by Susan at www.susansbookgroup.com. This post appears with the permission of the author.
was an awful thing for anyone to watch, but especially difficult for a
sensitive eight year old girl. Elizabeth’s father was in great pain as he
suffered with tuberculosis. First it was the constant, wrenching cough. Then
his stamina failed and he had to give up preaching. Finally Edward Payson was
confined to bed, and they knew that the end was near.
all this, Payson’s faith never wavered. He trusted God’s plan for his own life
and for his family. In fact, by the end he said he had no will at all in the
matter of living or dying. He wrote, “There can be no such thing as
disappointment to me, for I have no desires but that God’s will be might be
a few days before Elizabeth turned nine, her father died. She did not react
with the calm acceptance that he modeled. Over the next months, Elizabeth had
terrible temper tantrums. She resented people who tried to help, misbehaved and
tried the patience of her grieving mother.
Elizabeth grew older, she longed to trust God as her parents did. Her romantic
personality, given to extremes, caused her to believe she loved God more than
life at one moment, and plunged her into deep despair about her standing with
Him at the next.
married a minister like her father, Rev. George Prentiss. They had a happy
marriage and loved each other deeply. By 1852, God had blessed them with a
daughter, Annie, and a son named Eddy. Elizabeth was expecting their third
child when Eddy got sick.
first, the doctor didn’t think it was serious, but he was proved wrong. Today,
doctors would diagnose meningitis—they called it “water on the brain.”
Elizabeth showed unimaginable courage in preparing little Eddy for death,
telling him stories about what Heaven would be like and urging him to trust
Jesus. He died on January 16th. At the funeral, the choir sang
the hymn, Thy
Will Be Done. Elizabeth wrote, “It was like cold
water to thirsty souls. This was all we had to say or could say.”
three months later, on April 16th, little sister Bessie was born.
She appeared the picture of health, but on May 18th, Bessie suddenly
became desperately sick. She died the next day. The family lost two
children in five months. “My faith has staggered under this new blow,”
Elizabeth wrote, “and I blush to tell how hard I find it to say cheerfully ‘Thy will be done.’…Oh how I do wish, do long to feel an
entire, unquestioning submission to Him who pities while He afflicts me.”
grieved deeply, but trusted God through these two heart-wrenching losses.
Unlike the little eight-year-old version of herself, she would not rail against
God in her grief. But why not? What had Elizabeth learned that caused her
to accept this difficult providence with faith?
I have been thinking that this [suffering] might be God’s way of preparing His
children for very high degrees of service on earth or happiness in heaven.”
Elizabeth learned to be deeply sympathetic with other grieving parents through
her own losses; comforting them with the comfort she received (2 Cor. 1:4). She
wrote a book titled, How
Sorrow was Changed into Sympathy, that
was widely distributed as a help to those who had experienced the same kind of
with grief. She preached to herself constantly, repeating over and over, “God
never makes a mistake. God never makes a mistake.” She knew that the same God
who watched over the sparrows (Matt. 10:29) watched over her children with
tender care. She compared God to a master gardener, who intentionally plucked her children as a gardener might pluck a beautiful
blossom from a flower bed.
Bible and experience. Elizabeth
wrote, “We have to read the Bible in order to understand the Christian life,
and we must penetrate far into that life in order to understand the Bible. How
beautifully the one interprets the other!” As a result of this combination of
learning and experiencing, Elizabeth could say, “My heart sides with God in
everything, and my conception of His character is such a beautiful one that I
feel He cannot err.”
have a steadfast faith in God, who carried her through every difficulty (James
1:2-4). Her trust in the God she knew so well inspired her to write her most
famous hymn, More
Love to Thee, which included the following
love, O Christ, to Thee;