Reading the title above brings a beautiful hymn to mind that some of you may recall. It was one of 8,000 gospel songs and hymns written by Fanny Crosby, America’s most prolific hymn writer who was born in 1820. A quick overview of her life could cause one to wonder how such lyrics could come from someone who lived with blindness after a poorly trained doctor applied a mustard plaster poultice to her eyes at 6 weeks old.
Fanny’s father died not long after this and her mother was forced to work as a maid leaving Fanny in the care of a Christian grandmother who read the Bible and various poetry to her. Fanny began to memorize vast amounts of scripture early and wrote her first poem at 8 years old that echoed her lifelong love for Jesus and a determination never to feel sorry for herself.
In 1873 she was visiting a friend’s home that was having a large pipe organ installed. The organ was not finished but the friend’s mother began playing a new melody on her piano and asked Fanny what she thought the tune said. Fanny responded, “Blessed assurance. Jesus is mine.” That assurance was evident in all her lyrics and birthed the beloved hymn. (There were so many hymns by Fanny that some were written under a pen name.)
How much we all long for assurance in our lives, that positive declaration meant to give us confidence, a promise so sure we can lean on it with all our weight. Perhaps we are born with that longing. It is a lifelong trait within us. We want to know we are safe, cared for, protected, and more. The chaotic and dangerous world in which we live makes that desire even stronger.
We want the assurance we can make it in what we are pursuing, the assurance we have what it takes to meet the challenge, that we will survive. The list of things for which we might have need of assurance can be long indeed. If we are a person of faith, we (perhaps a bit like Fanny) look to God to be our provision in such times if we are rooted in the truth of his love for us and what the scripture teaches us. We may not know how things will turn out, but we know whom we believe in.
But uncertainty often hangs over us like the cloudiest of days when storms rise on the horizon. We look for the support of others during such times that can strengthen us. It is then we most need their presence, not with casual words of positive assurance based on their own hope, but words as well as silence birthed from the confidence of faith that has grown in them through their own journey. When we receive this, it buttresses our own faith. When we give it to someone else, we are most like the Lord.
Often it comes from someone we would not expect, and it reminds us the Lord has provision we sometimes miss, and it widens our vision of the larger body of faith.
Sometimes we most need the reassurance that comes from an expert. Sometimes that may be a financial advisor. Other times it may be an attorney who can guide us through the maze of a contract we cannot comprehend. Many times, it is reassurance and understanding from a physician about us or someone we love to comprehend symptoms or results of surgeries or tests far beyond our knowledge. Any of these “experts” can be a help or a hindrance based on not only what they say but how they express it to us. In most cases when we look to any of these or other experts, the situation is serious, and their communication can make all the difference to us.
These types of connections do not tend to include words of the faith journey of the expert because that is not the counsel we have primarily sought from them as a professional so when it is unexpectedly included, we are impacted a great deal.
So, it was such a surprise for me recently when a physician who was performing a procedure on someone I love came to share the report with such faith-filled care for the person and me as the listener that it seemed the Lord was present in the moment. He was smiling and assured as he told me what he had learned but went on to speak of his pursuit of medicine as a desire to be the best he could be and to care for all of “God’s kids” because it was God whom he would need to give account to for his decision and actions.
And it didn’t stop there as he spoke of how much we need to appreciate life and live it with an assurance of stepping into eternity one day that only God knows. Here was this physician whom I had never met sharing his faith journey in the midst of his professional knowledge. What a difference he made to the concerns I felt.
It was a powerful witness to my faith and caused me to reflect on how I communicate to others who intersect my life. Am I patient enough to listen long as my first response? Do I offer my presence and words as a cup of cool water rather than misapplied words of advice that was never sought? Do I risk sharing the source of my own confidence if I have never met them previously or do I hold back the reason for my own “blessed assurance?”
Each day wherever we live and whatever we do we have the opportunity to offer hope, the assurance Fanny Crosby penned in 1873. Do we? Will we?
“Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you,”1 Peter 3:15b (GNT)