A woman weaned from the world

Ann Hasseltine received a marriage proposal from an aspiring missionary, the acceptance of which would ensure a life spent in a foreign land. As she considered her “opportunity” she wrote the following in her journal (which is too good not to quote in full):

Sept. 10. For several weeks past, my mind has been greatly agitated. An opportunity has been presented to me, of spending my days among the heathen, in attempting to persuade them to receive the Gospel. Were I convinced of its being a call from God, and that it would be more pleasing to him for me to spend my life in this way than in any other, I think I should be willing to relinquish every earthly object, and in full view of dangers and hardships, give myself up to the great work.

A consideration of this subject has occasioned much self-examination, to know on what my hopes were founded, and whether my love to Jesus was sufficiently strong to induce me to forsake all for his cause. At times I have felt satisfied, that I loved him, on account of his own glorious perfections, and have been desirous that he should do with me, as he should please, and place me in that situation, in which I can be most useful. I have felt great satisfaction in committing this case to God, knowing that he has a perfect understanding of the issue of all events, is infinitely wise to select the means best calculated to bring about the the most important ends, and is able and willing to make the path of duty plain before me, and incline me to walk therein. At other times, I have felt ready to sink, being distressed with fears about my spiritual state, and appalled at the prospect of pain and suffering, to which my nature is so averse, and apprehensive, that when assailed by temptation, or exposed to danger and death, I should not be able to endure, as seeing Him who is invisible. But I now feel willing to leave it entirely with God. He is the fountain of all grace, and if he has designed me to be a promoter of his cause, among those who know him not, he can qualify me for the work, and enable me to bear whatever he is pleased to inflict. I am fully satisfied, that difficulties and trials are more conducive than ease and prosperity to promote my growth in grace, and cherish an habitual sense of dependence on God. While the latter please my animal nature, and lead me to seek happiness in creature enjoyments, the former afford convincing proofs that this life is designed to be a state of trial, and not a state of rest, and thus tend to wean me from the world, and make me look up to heaven as my home. Time appears nothing when compared with eternity, and yet events the most momentous depend on the improvement of these fleeting years. O Jesus, direct me, and I am safe; use me in thy service, and I ask no more. I would not choose my portion of work, or place of labour; only let me know thy will, and I will readily comply.

-Ann Judson, Memoir of Mrs. Ann H. Judson, 37-38 (Forgotten Books, 2012)

Ann Hasseltine married Adoniram Judson in 1812 at the age of 23. Two weeks after their marriage the couple left home to serve on the mission field and eventually settled in Burma (Myanmar). In 1814 Ann gave birth to a son, Roger, who died the following year at 8 months. In 1824 her husband, suspected of being an English spy, was imprisoned by the government for 17 months during which time Ann gave birth to a daughter, Maria. Increasingly unable to care for the baby due to her failing health, she bribed the guards and “obtained leave for Mr. Judson to come out of prison and take the emaciated creature around the village to beg a little nourishment from those mothers who had young children” (Telford, Women in the Mission Field). Ann Judson died in 1826 at the age of 37. Little Maria would die six months later.

She left all entirely with God, the fountain of all grace.

‘It’s a God thing’

Our church recently had a staff member who surprised everyone by taking a position at another church. In and of itself such moves aren’t all that shocking except that in this case said staffer’s tenure hadn’t even reached a full six months. Mr. X, we hardly knew ye.

Before I continue I should go on record as saying that I don’t have any ill-feelings toward the man nor is this post intended to critique the circumstances & decision surrounding his departure. I do, however, want to consider his primary rationale for leaving because so many other Christians have expressed a similar justification for a host of other moves executed in dating, marriage, career choice, church choice, procreation, recreation, etc.

You’ve seen it & heard it. It’s the Christian trump card. How & when to play the card will vary but the player who lays it down will declare something like “it’s a God thing”, “it’s the Lord’s will”, or “the Lord is leading me/has told me to…” Some thoughts:

1. “It’s a God thing” isn’t a unique insight. Everything is a “God thing” (Job 37:6-13; Prov 16:33; 20:24; Acts 17:28). The expression shouldn’t preempt discussion & inquiry; it should solicit further explanation.

2. Claiming “it’s a God thing” doesn’t leave us unaccountable for our actions. God works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11) and we’re responsible for our actions (see Gen 50:20; Acts 4:24-28).

3. If “it’s a God thing” we shouldn’t fear exposure to the light. When we feel the need to maintain secrecy or to move in the shadows we cast doubt on our claim to be enacting God’s will (Jn 3:20). What would we have to hide?

4. “A God thing” is about more than just the end result. God is certainly concerned with what we do/choose but He’s also just as concerned (in some cases more so) with how we act/choose (Zec 7:5-6; 1Cor 13:1-3; James 1:20; 4:3). 

5. Claiming “it’s a God thing” is often a cover for intellectual laziness.
If we can’t ground our actions/decisions on Scripture we’re just moving by human impulse. As Christians, we’ve been given access to God’s mind by the ministry of His Spirit through His written word  (1Cor 2:12-13; Rom 12:2; 2Tim 3:16-17).

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