After her conversion, Frances surrendered her life fully unto the Lord. Wherever she went, and at every opportunity, she told of Christ’s love and saving grace. She engaged in philanthropic work and gave of her time to serve the needy.
Of the Lord’s sanctifying work in her life, she wrote: “I want to make the most of my life and to do the best with it, but here I find my desires and motives need much purifying; for even where all would sound fair enough in words, an element of self, lurking pride, may be detected.”
Frances faced many adversities in life, the most trying of which was her failing health. But she rejoiced that God’s comfort in her afflictions fitted her for “the Master’s work” of comforting others (II Cor 1: 3-5). She recorded in her journal: “‘Even in very painful spiritual darkness it has sometimes comforted me to think that God might be leading me through strange dark ways so that I might be His messenger to some of His children in similar distress.’ … One day in a churchyard she found a mother crying while putting flowers on her daughter’s grave. Frances put her hand on the woman’s shoulder and quietly said: ‘Think of the meeting, not of the parting’” (www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/2943).
Though she was a brilliant pianist “with a voice so pleasing that she was sought after as a concert soloist” (101 More Hymn Stories – Kenneth Osbeck), Frances rejected worldly fame. She resolved that her life’s mission was to sing and labour only for Christ. Her books, hymns and poems were well-received; many readers on both sides of the Atlantic were greatly blessed by her works.
Though Frances received a few proposals of marriage, she turned them down. The man she deeply loved was not a believer “so she obeyed her King by denying herself and not marrying an unbeliever. She called this ‘God’s withholding’”.
Throughout her brief life, Frances was plagued by ill health In fact, she spent most of her life in an invalid’s chair. But Frances did not allow her physical frailties to deter her. Living an active life, she continued to trust God daily for strength, and her hymns flowed with words of praise, joy and victory. “An innumerable host of little things to be done for others continually oppressed her; yet she always wrote pleasantly and cheerily, refreshing others, although she was only too literally wearied to death herself” (http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/bhavergal4.html).
How did Frances Havergal come to write her much-loved hymns? Let us look at the inspirational story behind one of her best known hymns:
“Take my life and let it be”
In February 1874, Frances was visiting a home occupied by ten residents. Though she had been praying long for these friends, some were still unconverted, while others were believers but were not joyful Christians. Saddened by their spiritual state, Frances prayed: “Lord, give me all in this house!” The Lord heard her prayer, and blessed her with this hymn.
“Before I left the house everyone had got a blessing. The last night of my visit I was too happy to sleep, and I passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration, and these little couplets formed themselves and chimed in my heart, one after another, till they finished with ever, only, all, for Thee” (Treasury of Great Hymns and their stories – Guye Johnson). The first, third and last stanzas of this meaningful hymn read:
Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord to Thee;
Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages for Thee;
Take my silver and my gold –
Not a mite would I withhold
Take my love, my God, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only all for Thee
Frances Havergal’s life was one that was wholly consecrated to her Lord. Her daily life reflected her deep devotion to Christ. Of her prayer in the third stanza – “Take my silver and my gold – not a mite would I withhold”, she wrote to a friend in August 1878 that the Lord had shown her another step of faith – one which she had taken “with extreme delight. ‘Take my silver and my gold’ now means shipping off all my ornaments to the Church Missionary House, including a jewel cabinet that is really fit for a countess, where all will be accepted and disposed of for me … Nearly fifty articles are being packed up. I don’t think I ever packed a box with such pleasure” (101 More Hymn Stories – Kenneth Osbeck). (to be concluded on 6th November 2016).
(Unless otherwise stated, all other quotations are from https://havergal.wordpress.com/).