Wednesday, July 31, 2013

More Grace from Annie Johnson Flint

Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) entered my life during my freshman year at university. At least daily, sometimes more frequently, I would work out my troubles in a practice room with a hymnal and a piano. During those therapy sessions, I discovered Miss Flint, in particular her hymn "He Giveth More Grace." Although none of my church homes over the years have included it in corporate worship, it deeply blesses me in private worship. Over the last two weeks it has sung often in my heart and given comfort.

When I searched for a little biographical information to share with you, I discovered that she suffered from severe, disabling arthritis. In fact, she only turned to composing poetry when her illness excluded her from teaching. Isn't it a kind encouragement of our Lord to bring us together with those who have preceded us along a particular road of affliction?

Today (Monday) I heard the words to this hymn two different places, on the Revive Our Hearts radio broadcast and in the Audible audiobook of Evidence Not Seen. I've shared this poem with y'all before, but it's worth sharing again. As I reviewed it just now, it was the third verse, the only one I don't know by heart, which most directly encouraged me, especially as some loved ones face daunting needs and heavy loads and I approach a second epidural pain injection Thursday morning. I love the contrast in this hymn between God's "more" and "full" and our exhaustion, failing strength, and "hoarded resources." How much time and energy I waste fretting that He will not give me aid the next time I need it! How gracious He is, and how much I value encouragement by the saints of days gone by. Perhaps Miss Flint and I may share a cup of tea together in the eternal Kingdom, and I can thank her for her testimony.

Whatever burdens, labors, affliction, trials, and needs you face today, beloved, may you discover in experience the truth of this song (and the Scriptures, before that): God giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. However dire your circumstances, however impoverished your resources, He is enough and more. Cry out to Him, and watch how His mercy and peace meet you in your need. May you taste and see that He is good.

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.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow'r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!
     ~Annie Johnson Flint

Here are two more of her poems, less familiar than the first perhaps but no less encouraging:

Better Than My Best

I prayed for strength, and then I lost awhile
All sense of nearness, human and divine;
The love I leaned on failed and pierced my heart,
The hands I clung to loosed themselves from mine;
But while I swayed, weak, trembling, and alone,
The everlasting arms upheld my own.

I prayed for light; the sun went down in clouds,
The moon was darkened by a misty doubt,
The stars of heaven were dimmed by earthly fears,
And all my little candle flames burned out;
But while I sat in shadow, wrapped in night,
The face of Christ made all the darkness bright.

I prayed for peace, and dreamed of restful ease,
A slumber drugged from pain, a hushed repose;
Above my head the skies were black with storm,
And fiercer grew the onslaught of my foes;
But while the battle raged, and wild winds blew,
I heard His voice and perfect peace I knew.

I thank Thee, Lord, Thou wert too wise to heed
My feeble prayers, and answer as I sought,
Since these rich gifts Thy bounty has bestowed
Have brought me more than all I asked or thought;
Giver of good, so answer each request
With Thine own giving, better than my best.


The Pruned Branch

It is the branch that bears the fruit,
That feels the knife;
To prune it for a larger growth,
A fuller life,

Though every budding twig be lopped,
And every grace
Of swaying tendril, springing leaf
Be lost a space.

O thou, whose life of joy seems reft,
Of beauty shorn,
Whose aspirations lie in dust,
All bruised and torn,

Rejoice, though each desire, each dream,
Each hope of thine,
Shall fall and fade; it is the hand
Of love divine

That holds the knife, that cuts and breaks
With tenderest touch,
That thou, whose life has borne some fruit
May now bear much.

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