I’ve always been fascinated by stories about people who seem to have been dealt a nasty blow in life, but rather than shake their fist at God, somehow they find in Him nothing but love, solace and purpose.
One such person was a woman named Fanny Crosby. Ever heard of her? Me neither. I first read about her in a book my friend, Marie, gave me a few years ago at Christmas. Let me tell you about her.
Fanny was born in Putnam County, NY in 1820. When she was 6 weeks old she developed a bad cold causing inflammation in her eyes to which a doctor applied mustard plasters. Fanny believed this was what damaged them but It may also have been congenital. However it happened, Fanny lost her sight.
At 15 she was sent to The NY Institution for the Blind where she eventually became a teacher. That's where she began to write song lyrics for Dr. Geo. F. Root and also some cantatas for which she received not even a nod of recognition.
While there she also met many famous people including President Martin Van Buren. Sound familiar? I wonder what she thought of the Red Fox of Kinderhook. She also had the honor of becoming the first female voice heard publicly in the US Senate Chamber in Washington. She even read one of her poems there. Pretty cool, huh?
She became a prolific hymn writer racking up an astounding eight thousand of them in her lifetime. She was most famous for her Sunday School songs and gospel hymns. In 1858 she married a fellow scholar, Alex Van Alstyne, and they had one child. But when her child died in infancy Fanny grieved so badly she only rarely spoke of her little one. Her hymn, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” is believed to be the result of that grief. How many other grieving mothers were comforted by that hymn? I'm sure there were tears all over the paper as she wrote.
She was an astounding woman for whom things could have turned out so differently. Instead of choosing the path of self pity or despair, she chose God. The next time you hear “Blessed Assurance” or “Pass Me Not Oh Gentle Savior” remember the woman who wrote them, Fanny Crosby, and whisper a prayer of thanks.
Image: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10831775