Comforted and Comforting

“The question is not whether you ever gave yourself to God, but whether you are His now” Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward


Elizabeth Prentiss, née Elizabeth Payson, daughter of an American Congregational preacher, Edward Payson, well known for her hymn “More Love to Thee, O Christ” and the religious novel Stepping Heavenward was deeply impacted by the death of her father who suffered from from tuberculosis for over a year.  She was eight at the time.  During that time, her father’s faith never wavered.  He wrote, “There can be no such thing as disappointment to me, for I have no desires but that God’s will be might be accomplished.” He died a few days before Elizabeth turned nine.

Elizabeth couldn’t calmly accept her father’s death as he had.  She threw temper tantrums, resented those who offered to help and misbehaved, causing her grieving mother great stress.  As she grew older, Elizabeth had conflicting emotions when it came to God.  She longed to trust Him as her parents did.  She was in between two extremes, one moment she believed that she loved God more than life itself and the next, she sank into deep despair about her standing with Him.  In May of 1931, after the family moved to New York City, Elizabeth made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ and joined the Bleecker Street Presbyterian Church.

In 1838, she opened a small girls’ school in her home and took up a Sabbath-school class as well. Two years later, she left for Richmond, Virginia, to be a department head at a girls’ boarding school. It was during her years of teaching and in her twenties, when Elizabeth was in agony because of her conviction of her sinfulness and lack of concern for the things of Christ.  She believed herself to be a hypocrite although the evidence showed otherwise.  She was deeply concerned for the salvation of her pupils, many of whom she led to Christ. When this crisis was over, she experienced a greater joy than she had before.  “Sometimes my heart feels ready to break for the longing it has for a nearer approach to the Lord Jesus than I can obtain without the use of words, and there is not a corner of the house which I can have to myself.”

In 1845, she married George Lewis Prentiss, a brother of her close friend Anna Prentiss Stearns.  The couple settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where George became pastor of South Trinitarian Church.  For a while Elizabeth enjoyed her duties as a pastor’s wife and a housewife and then in 1852, when she was expecting their third child, their son Eddy got sick.  He had “water on the brain”, which we know today as meningitis.  Elizabeth prepared her son for death by telling him stories about what Heaven would be like and urging him to trust Jesus.  Then, he died and at his funeral, the choir sang the hymn, Thy Will Be Done.  Elizabeth wrote, “It was like cold water to thirsty souls. This was all we had to say or could say.”

Three months later, Eddy’s little sister, Bessie was born and appeared to be in good health but a month later, she got seriously ill and died the following day.  So, within five months, the family had lost two children. “My faith has staggered under this new blow,” Elizabeth wrote, “and I blush to tell how hard I find it to say cheerfully ‘Thy will be done.’…Oh how I do wish, do long to feel an entire, unquestioning submission to Him who pities while He afflicts me.”

As a mother, I can relate to how devastating it is to lose a child.  However, I can’t imagine losing two and at such young ages.  It is said that when Eddy died, it was one of the darkest days in her life.  The little boy had broken into a rash and fever. Elizabeth did the little that the doctors could suggest in a desperate attempt to save his life but to no avail.  After Eddy died she recognized that going to Jesus was a great blessing for him in spite her own pain and she wrote lines, urging him to, “O, hasten hence! to His [Christ’s] embraces, hasten!”

Despite her struggles with chronic health problems, Elizabeth was able to to have three more healthy children.  During that time, she wrote a poem which became a children’s classic and a book.  In 1856, following the nearly fatal illness of her daughter Minnie, she wrote the hymn “More Love to Thee.”

Elizabeth, despite her frailty and battle with chronic insomnia, was described as a bright-eyed woman with a keen sense of humor.  With her life wholly dedicated to Christ, she purposefully lived a life of joy.  She said, “Much of my experience of life has cost me a great price and I wish to use it for strengthening and comforting other souls.”

In 1878, at the age of 59, Elizabeth died and her hymn “More Love to Thee” was sung at her funeral. After her death, her husband, George, published The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss (1882), using for the book’s preface, her words, “Much of my experience of life has cost me a great price and I wish to use it for strengthening and comforting other souls.”  Elizabeth had six children, four of whom survived infancy.  Elizabeth was the fifth of eight children.  She was one of the six who survived infancy.

When her two children died within months of each other, Elizabeth, through her grief continued to trust God.  She believed that there’s a purpose in suffering.  She said to a friend whom she was counseling, “We can’t understand it, but I have been thinking that this [suffering] might be God’s way of preparing His children for very high degrees of service on earth or happiness in heaven.” She learned how to be deeply sympathetic with other grieving parents through her own losses by comforting them with the comfort she received.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

“…God notices the most trivial act, accepts the poorest, most threadbare little service, listens to the coldest, feeblest petition, and gathers up with parental fondness all our fragmentary desires and attempts at good works. Oh, if we could only begin to conceive how He loves us, what different creatures we should be!”
Elizabeth Payson Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward
“What grieves me is that I am constantly forgetting to recognize God’s hand in the little, everyday trials of life, and instead of receiving them as from Him, find fault with the instruments by which He sends them.”
Elizabeth Payson Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward
“…if God chooses quite another lot for you, you may be sure that He sees that you need something totally different from what you want.”
Elizabeth Payson Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward
“I see that if I would be happy in God, I must give Him all. And there is a wicked reluctance to do that. I want Him–but I want to have my own way, too. I want to walk humbly and softly before Him and I want to go where I shall be admired and applauded. To whom shall I yield? To God? Or to myself?”
Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward [with Biographical Introduction]

Sources:  Wikipedia;; Good Reads; Encyclopædia Britannica; Bulletin Inserts;

Gender-Selective Infanticide

Over 50,000 baby girls are aborted every month in South Asia – just because they were girls – Gospel for Asia

According to writer and gender-activist Rita Banerji,  “Females are being killed in India at every stage of life, before and after birth, only because they are female”  It has been said that the three deadliest words in the world are “It’s a girl”.  The birth of a girl is not celebrated.  It leads to infanticide or trafficking.

UNICEF states that the killing of baby girls has reached genocidal proportions. It is a practice that has gone on “in central India for a long time, where mothers were made to feed the child with salt to kill the girl.” Various other gruesome methods of murder are employed, many dating back to the 18th Century: stuffing the baby girl’s mouth with a few grains of coarse paddy causing the child to choke to death is one, poisoning, using organic or inorganic chemicals, drowning, suffocation, starvation and breaking the spinal cord, as well as burying the child alive.

What possible reasons could families have for murdering their baby girls?

  • Extreme poverty.  The inability to afford raising a child.
  • The dowry system.  This practice was supposed to have been abolished but it still exists.  Poorer families in rural regions fear being unable to raise a suitable dowry and being socially ostracised.
  • Children conceived from rape
  • Deformed children born to impoverished families
  • Unmarried mothers not having reliable, safe and affordable birth control
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Low income
  • Lack of support coupled with postpartum depression

A girl is seen as an economic burden to her family–an unwanted expense while the boy is seen as their source of income.  What about the women who have generated income for their families through the use of a sewing machine?  Girls can be and are sources of income for their families. All they need is to be given the opportunities.

The girls are murdered for two reasons–the dowry, as mentioned earlier and the unwillingness of their families to marry them to men from a rival caste/tribe.  Parents would rather murder their daughter than to allow her to marry someone from a lower caste.  And the girls who survive are mistreated and neglected.  They are unloved, uneducated and kept at home where they are forced to do household chores.  For them the future is bleak and hopeless.

From the time they are born, South Asian women face pain, rejection, cruelty, suffering and discrimination.  The Veil of Tears:  Hope is on the Way is a documentary film which gives us a glimpse into the lives and hearts of these women for whom adversity is the norm.  Take a look at the behind scenes video of “Veil of Tears:  Hope is on the Way”.

I was deeply affected when Natalie Grant shared what she saw when she went to the Red Light District in Mumbai.  Little girls as young as 5 were for sale.  She and her husband had an opportunity to tour a brothel where they saw tiny rooms with beds lined up and one of them had a rope tied at the end of it.  At first she was hesitant to ask about this but when she did, she was told that there was no daycare . These were working women but there was no where for them to drop off their children.  “This woman has her 18 month old daughter that she tetters to the end of the bed while she’s forced to work so that she knows where she is.  These are the things my husband and I say wrecked us for life”  As a mother, can you imagine working in a brothel and having your child right there in the room with you?  Yet, women are forced to turn to prostitution i order to take care of their children.  And there is no one who will take care of their children while they work.

On CBN, Natalie shared another heartbreaking story, “I was walking down the street in Mumbai, in broad daylight, when my eyes locked on a little girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, peering out of a cage, looking at us on the street below. It was beyond my imagination.  I’ll never forget that moment. That was her life. Every day people walked by, and they didn’t even notice her.”

Can you imagine you or your daughter being kept in a cage like an animal and people are just walking by as this is nothing out of the ordinary?

When we see how these girls and women are treated by society, we realize that the problems we face are nothing compared to what they have had to endure.  This why God has brought their stories to our awareness so that we can tell others.  We can be the voice of the voiceless.

“Veil of Tears” tells the stories of women who are just like every other woman in the world, except that these women are brutalized, they’re despised, they’re persecuted culturally, simply because they are women and this has been going on for generations – Kenny Saylors

Thankfully, there is hope.

…God is restoring dignity to the women who have been utterly just downtrodden – Kyle Saylors

And God is not just changing their hearts, He’s changing their lives.  He’s changing their everyday lives – Kenny Saylors

We can bring hope to the girls and women of South Asia–the hope they can find only in Jesus by supporting the Veil of Tears film.  Here are ways you can make a difference.  Take action today. Get the word out about the plight of women in Asia.

The most overwhelming part of the whole trip was visiting a village and seeing women who had been restored and seeing what true hope actually does in the life of someone that it actually can make them new, that no matter how broken, no matter how desolate, there is still hope – Natalie Grant

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; World and Media; Wikipedia; Counterpunch