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Thoughts From Hannah Hurnard

Dear Friends,

I’m always encouraged when a Christian (especially a well-known and well-respected Christian) is very honest and transparent about their personal flaws and struggles. Maybe it's because I’m so well-aware of my own that I find it comforting to know I’m not alone! After all, it strengthens one’s resolve to realize that others carry similar burdens. We find in the honest testimony of fellow-strugglers a friend in the fight. It gives us hope that change is possible. In fact, when we see that the Lord persevered with them – often for many years – and despite their flaws, it assures us of the Gospel promise that God is with us for the long-haul. He does not discard His people because we struggle with what the Puritans called “besetting” or long-standing sins.

That’s why I share today’s “thought.” It is a very honest confession by a very well-known Christian missionary and author named Hannah Hurnard (1905-1990) who wrote a best-selling Christian allegorical novel entitled, “Hinds' Feet on High Places.” Our struggles may be different in nature, but the lesson is the same – our God perseveres with us. May her willingness to be transparent help you. This selection is found in the book, “Practical Christianity.” Enjoy.

The Language of Heaven
“For many years I couldn’t talk without stuttering and hesitating. This was very humiliating to me. That changed when I was forty-five years old, after I had known the Lord for twenty-five years. I had been on the mission field for nearly twenty years when the Lord told me I must now learn to talk like the people of heaven. That meant I must not grumble and complain anymore. I must not talk about other people’s faults. I must not say things behind their backs that I wouldn’t like them to say about me.

At that time, I was accustomed to saying to a fellow missionary: “Let’s have a little prayer together to help you change… to see if God will help you stop stumbling.” The Lord Jesus said to me, “In heaven we don’t talk about faults. When you pray like that, I have to get up quietly and go out of the room. That leaves you talking to the four walls.”

I said, “Lord, I’m forty-five years old and my habits are fixed, but you help me alter them.” He said, “Hannah, you’re an addict. You find fault and talk about other people’s faults and criticize others all the time. There are plenty of other people to talk about faults – I don’t need you to do so. But you’re like an alcoholic. Don’t dare to give in to it once. If you promise not to make any exceptions, I’ll help you.”

“Well,” I said, “only your grace could do that, Lord.” And the Lord said, “I’m going to ask for one of the heavenly beings to take a coal from off the altar and to touch your lips with it.” Jesus then told me all the things I should say – the kind, helpful, and good things they talk about in heaven. The language of heaven is called blessing. He taught me how lovely it is always to draw attention to what is good.

Whenever Jesus spoke, the people “were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips” (Luke 4:22). “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6).

As soon as I stopped criticizing others, I was able to talk normally without hesitating and stammering. But whenever I fell back into my old habits, my stuttering came back. I’m a person who loves to talk. If God had allowed it, I would have gotten up on platforms and showed off. I would have spoken in my own strength instead of in his. I would have gone on criticizing and talking about people. And so I had to wait until I had grown sufficiently in spirit and in grace to understand a better way.”

The struggle may be different in different believers (since sin evidences itself differently in us all), but the Lord is always the same. He is a faithful Father to His children. A Father of whom Paul could say in Philippians 1:6, “I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Sometimes it takes a long time to get some things into our heads and hearts, especially (if like Hurnard) we are addicted to them. Thankfully God is more patient with us than even the best of our friends, and often more patient with us than we are with either ourselves, or we are with others. He works in us slowly but persistently, breaking down our resistance as He convicts and forms and molds and chisels; through trials and hardships and sometimes letting us fall flat on our face. Anything by which He can get our attention. At those times He often seems to speak the most clearly, and hopefully we listen, surrender, trust, and are changed – by the grace that was always there for us all along.

Your in the Hope of the Gospel, Pastor Jeff


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