Friday, July 26, 2013

a letter on enduring grief and entering eternal joy

This spring I got to read a friend's copy of Sharon James' biography, Elizabeth Prentiss:  More Love to Thee.  The entire book was a deep encouragement for me in is aiming to live for Christ and praying for more love, more love for Him! Elizabeth Prentiss had a personality that I understood very well and she loved the Lord with arduous affection, endured tragic losses all her life (her father dying when she was young, the death of two of her three young children five months apart), poured herself out for the sake of others until her health was completely weakened for it, and grieved deaths around her continually (as was common in that age.)  Through all of it, she wrote and wrote and wrote... letters to friends and novels that are still loved today.   

Here's just one excerpt to share here before I return the book to my generous book-loaning friend.

"In October, 1867,  Nelly Payson (wife of Elizabeth's brother Edward), died after a lingering and painful illness.  Nelly's friendship with Elizabeth dated back to their childhood... One of Elizabeth's last letters to Nelly illustrates her complete confidence that, for the Christian, 'to die is gain':
I have been so engrossed with sympathy for Edward and your children, that I have just begun to realize that you are about entering on a state of felicity which ought, for the time, to make me forget them.  Dear Nelly, I congratulate you with all my heart.  Do not let the thought of what those who love you must suffer in your loss, diminish the peace and joy with which God now calls you to think only of Himself and the home He has prepared for you.  Try to leave them to his kind, tender care.  He loves them better than you do; He can be to them more than you have been; He will hear your prayers... All your tears will soon be wiped away' you will see the King in His beauty; you will see Christ your Redeemer and realize all He is and all He has done for you;  and how many saints whom you have loved on earth will be standing ready to seize you by the hand and welcome you among them!  As I think of these things my soul is in haste to be gone; I long to be set free from sin and self...
 Dear Nelly, I pray that you will have as easy a journey homeward as your Father's love and compassion can make for you; but these sufferings at the worst cannot last long, and they are only the messengers sent to loosen your last tie on earth, and conduct you to the sweetest rest..." (p 136-137)
Side note:  Elizabeth Prentiss would never have written this letter to Nelly, assuring her of heaven, if Nelly's hope was rooted in her identity as a good person or a flag-flying American.  Our hope for heaven is Christ, the Ransom, the Redeemer, the promised rescuer of God for His people.  On Him we have set our hope.   In Him we assure ourselves...

Oh.... and just one more.  This is so much what I want my heart (and our journal here) to be about:
The more I reflect and the more I pray, the more life narrows down to one point-  What am I being for Christ, what am I doing for Him?  Why do I tell you this?  Because the voice of the fellow-traveller always stimulates his brother-pilgrim; what one finds and speaks of and rejoices over, sets the other upon determining to find too.  God has been very good to you, as well as to me, but we ought to whisper to each other now and then, 'Go on, step faster, step surer, lay hold on the Rock of Ages with both hands.'  You never need to be afraid to speak such words to me.  I want to be pushed on and pulled on, and coaxed on.

(And I agree.  I do too.)

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