He will tear it away

I’m currently caught up in a fascinating book called Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons, which chronicles the lives and ministries of Adoniram Judson‘s three wives (who were his wives in succession, not the same time, of course… they each passed away in turn).  Tonight I’m reading more of the story of his first wife Ann, who had the hard role of being the wife in the very start of his rough ministry to Burma. This book, which largely consists of many of her letters and journal entries, profoundly speaks to my heart as I have lived through and am living through so much that is like what they have experienced. It’s a very specific sort of life, and so touching when we find the rare occasion of having someone else understand it.

Well in tonight’s reading, Mrs. Judson had her first baby, a boy, who then died when he was eight months old. At that time they were totally alone on the field, and they struggled a lot to find daily joy. They had found much delight in their baby Roger.

In relating to their struggles, and rejoicing when they had a baby, it broke my heart to read of his passing (though I’ve heard their general story before, and know Mr. Judson eventually lost several children in his life). But more than anything, it touched my heart to read the words she wrote at the height of her grief, in a letter to her parents informing them of the loss. What a perfect perspective.

“But God has taught us by affliction what we would not learn by mercies — that our hearts are His exclusive property, and whatever rival intrudes, He will tear it away.”

What depth in such a time of raw emotion! What spiritual maturity!

Here are a couple other meaningful quotes from her in that time of trial and mourning:

“Our hearts were bound up in this child; we felt he was our earthly all, our only source of innocent recreation in this heathen land. But God saw it was necessary to remind us of our error and strip us of our little all. Oh may it not be in vain that He has done it. May we so improve it that He will stay His hand and say, ‘It is enough.'”

When speaking of all the nights of joy their son brought them, she concludes,

“Yet this is denied us, this must be removed, to show us that we need no other source of enjoyment but God Himself.”

Her spiritual depth really leaves me speechless, so I’ll just leave it at that.

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2 thoughts on “He will tear it away

  1. I think this story illustrates the importance of finding meaning in our suffering if we are to bear up under it, but I’m not sure I agree with Mrs. Judson’s conclusions in this situation. I think that death and suffering are results of the fall, of the presence of sin in our world. Certainly God uses them to refine us and teach us to draw close to him, but I don’t think infertility, miscarriage or child loss are typically the result of specific sin–I certainly can’t imagine suggesting that to someone going through that kind of suffering. Yes, God is sovereign in giving and taking life, we shouldn’t too highly value our own role–or the role of our sin–in bringing about life or death.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Laura! I agree with some of your thoughts — I would not say trials like death are always or even often punishment from God. I don’t think Mrs. Judson is saying this either. But I think people who are walking with Him need to face every trial by asking, “What is God teaching me through this? What is He wanting to do in my life?” For Mrs. Judson, she could honestly see that God needed to remove this idol of a child from them in order to return their focus to Him. The same trial could have a totally different purpose for other people, for sure. It’s all a matter of walking with Him daily, so we’re in tune with what He may be doing when a trial comes.

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