- The Wisdom of James
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Devotion provided by Joy MacKenzie
The life of hymn-writer Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) is a story of both heartbreak and triumph. Born on Christmas Eve in the small town of Vineland, New Jersey, she was welcomed by Eldon and Jean Johnson as their greatest earthly gift. Three years later, little Annie would lose her mother, who died as she gave birth to Annie’s baby sister. Mr. Johnson, who himself was suffering from an incurable disease, willed the children to the Flint family who would bring them up in the Baptist faith.
It was during a revival meeting at the age of 8 that the Spirit of God brought Annie’s young heart to faith in Christ. She always believed that at that time, she was truly converted. She strongly opposed the idea that young children cannot comprehend spiritual truths. She felt that divine mysteries were often plainer to the simple faith of a child than to many adults, blinded by their own prejudices and intellectual doubts. It was not difficult for her to endorse the words of the Master… “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” Luke 10:21
Whether by nature or through her early Christian experience, Annie was generally disposed to be cheerful and optimistic. She looked on the bright side of life and was able to get much enjoyment out of life. Her forwardlooking, lifted-up head was a characteristic attitude and was typical of the courage she was to manifest in later life. She certainly learned to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
After high school, she spent one year in teacher training and had a position offered to her. Later in her second year of teaching, arthritis began to show itself. She grew steadily worse until it became difficult for her to walk at all, and she was soon obliged to give up her work, followed by three years of increasing helplessness. The death of both of her adoptive parents within a few months of each other left Annie and her sister alone again. There was little money in the bank, and the twice-orphaned children had come to a real “Red Sea place” in their lives.
Picture if you can the hopelessness of Annie’s position when she finally received the verdict of the doctors from the Clifton Springs Sanitarium — that henceforth she would be a “helpless invalid.” Her own parents had been taken from her in childhood, and her foster parents had both passed away. Her one sister was very frail and struggling to meet her own situation bravely. In later years, she always stated that her poems were born of the needs of others and not from her own need; but one knows full well that she never could have written as she did for the comfort and help of thousands of others if she had not had the background of facing those very crises in her own life.
Her verses provided a solace for her in the long hours of suffering. Eventually she gained new understanding and learned how to share the hard moments of her life with others who could not understand the hardships of their lives. She put into poetry words that she titled, “What God Hath Promised.” And through those words and many others, she became convinced that God intended to glorify Himself through her in her weak, earthen vessel; and like Paul, she gained real assurance and could say with the apostle, the promise granted to him: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” She could also say with Paul, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” She believed that God had laid her aside for a purpose, even though that purpose was obscure to her at times.
What a marvelous example it is that Annie’s faith never faltered, one of her most popular songs has ministered the love of Jesus to thousands in times of pain.
“He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase,
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men,
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.”