The biography of Frances Ridley Havergal (1836 to 1879) is, to me, a most fascinating one. She was the youngest daughter of a family of six. Her father was a Rector in the Church of England in Worcestershire. Her mother died when she was almost twelve. Her mother’s last words to her affected her deeply: “Fanny, dear, pray to God to prepare you for all that He is preparing for you.” This did become her life’s prayer. At the age of fifteen, she gave her life unreservedly to Christ, realizing that what she had given to Christ, He would be well able to keep.
During her short life of only 42 years, she achieved some amazing things. Reading at a very early age, she began writing verses at seven. She committed to memory the entire New Testament, Psalms, Isaiah, and the Minor Prophets. She studied, and in most cases mastered, French, German, Italian, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. At the seashore she acquainted herself with nautical information. She taught herself harmonics by reading a treatise. In spite of extremely poor health, she tutored her two nieces.
Although her poetry was better known, she was also an accomplished musician: a skilled pianist, proficient in the works of all the Masters, and a popular soloist at the Philharmonic Society. She mastered harmony and counterpoint, wrote tunes for her own hymns, and prepared a volume of her father’s Psalmody after his death. “Music must have been her next love after God, composing some of her own, and using the music of Handel and other composers to carry the Gospel message into many homes and social gatherings.” She published a number of books of hymns and poems, taught music, led prayer groups, and other such work at various societies including the Y.W.C.A.
One of her later hymns, “Take My Life and Let It Be” written in 1874, was virtually her autobiography in poetry, each couplet describing a definite experience in her life.
At this, the beginning of another new, fresh year, I would like to share with you one of Frances’ poems, most appropriate to the season:-
What shall I wish for you? Treasures of earth?
Songs in the springtime, pleasures and mirth?
Flowers on your pathway, skies ever clear?
Would this ensure you a Happy New Year?
What shall I wish for you? What can be found
Bringing you sunshine all the year ’round?
Where is the treasure, lasting and dear,
That shall ensure you a Happy New Year?
FAITH that increases, walking in Light;
HOPE that abounds all happy and bright;
LOVE that is perfect, casting out fear;
THESE shall ensure you a Happy New Year!
PEACE in the Savior, REST at His feet,
SMILE of His countenance radiant and sweet;
JOY in His Presence! CHRIST ever near!
THIS will ensure you a Happy New Year!
“PEACE be to you, and LOVE with FAITH, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. GRACE be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” (Eph. 6:23-24)
“Happy are those whose HOPE is in the Lord their God.” (Psalm 146:5)
I pray that, throughout the whole New Year, “God, the giver of Hope, shall fill you with continual Joy and Peace because you trust in Him – so that you may have abundant Hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13 Wey)
In Agape, Eulene