One of the books that has challenged me most in my faith, my ever-present battle against selfishness and my attitude toward death is a book called ‘Stepping Heavenward,’ a journal written by Elizabeth Prentiss (1818-1878).
I have read it twice, and both times, I hoped that I would remember a certain excerpt when the time came to release my mom from this binding world into eternity. Thankfully, the Lord did in fact bring it to my mind, and I originally wrote this post two weeks after she died (now two years ago).
I hope the following excerpt will be a blessing and a challenge to you as well.
Reflecting back upon her mother’s illness, Elizabeth writes:
I saw that she was failing but flattered myself that her own serenity and our care would prolong her life still for many years. I longed to have my children become old enough to fully appreciate her sanctified character; and I thought she would gradually fade away and be set free,
As light winds wandering through groves of bloom,
Detach the delicate blossoms from the tree.
But God’s thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor His ways as our ways. Her feeble body began to suffer the rudest assaults of pain; day and night, night and day, she lived through a martyrdom in which what might have been a lifetime of suffering was concentrated into a few months. To witness these sufferings was like the sundering of joints and marrow; and once, only once, thank God! my faith in Him staggered and reeled to and fro. “How can He look down on such agonies!” I cried in my secret soul. “Is this work of a God of love, of mercy?” Mother seemed to suspect my thoughts, for she took my hand tenderly in hers and said with great difficulty:
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15). He is just as good as ever.” And she smiled. I ran away to Ernest crying, “Oh, is there nothing you can do for her?”
“What should a poor mortal do where Christ has done so much, my darling?” he said, taking me in his arms. “Let us stand aside and see the glory of God with our shoes from off our feet.” But he went to her with one more desperate effort to relieve her, yet in vain.
Mrs. Embury came in just then; and after looking on a moment in tears, she said to me:
“God knows whom He can trust! He would not lay His hand thus on all His children.”
Those few words quieted me. Yes, God knows. And now it is all over. My precious, precious mother has been a saint in heaven more than two years and has forgotten all the battles she fought on earth and all her sorrows and all her sufferings in the presence of her Redeemer….
… My steadfast aim now is to follow in my mother’s footsteps; to imitate her cheerfulness, her benevolence, her bright, inspiring ways; and never to rest till in place of my selfish nature I become as full of Christ’s love as she became. I am glad she is at last relieved from the knowledge of all my cares; and though I often and often yearn to throw myself into her arms and pour out my cares and trials into her sympathizing ears, I would not have her back for all the world. She has got away from all the turmoil and suffering of life; let her stay!