“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11 NIV)
Fanny Crosby lived that Scripture—lived it so fully that she probably wrote more hymns than anyone else in history. Nearly every hymnbook in America has some of the more than nine thousand hymns she wrote. But Fanny never saw them, for she became blind at the age of six weeks. During the ninety-five years she lived, she saw nothing.
While some people in her situation might have sat around and expected pity, Fanny kept her hands and mind busy. Not seeing her colorful skeins of yarn and knitting needles didn’t keep her from knitting. She couldn’t see students or textbooks, either, but she could teach. Born in 1820, Fanny took advantage of the opportunities for women in the 1800s. When she was only fifteen, she enrolled in the newly-established New York Institution for the Blind to prepare herself to be a teacher. After her training, the school hired her and she taught English and history for thirty-five years.
After her years as a student and teacher at the Institution, she did mission work with poor people. Mission work didn’t provide an income, so she wrote hymns and poems to sell. Most sold for two dollars apiece—not enough to make her rich, especially when she put much of the money back into the mission work.
Fanny became a master at turning difficulties into advantages. She said writing was her occupation but told a friend she thought she could do just as well washing dishes in a restaurant.
This incredible woman knew how to thank God—perhaps not for her blindness, but in spite of it.
She was a delightful woman but had her low times, just like the rest of us. One day Dwight L. Moody asked her to give a testimony, and she said, “There is one hymn I have written which has never been published.” It was what she called her soul’s poem, for it brought comfort when she felt troubled. She quoted it to Mr. Moody. “Someday the silver cord will break, and I no more as now shall sing. But, oh, the joy when I shall wake within the palace of the King! And I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story—saved by grace!”
Fanny Crosby’s life is an example for each of us to follow. Just as she did, we must take Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians to heart—do our work so we won’t be dependent on others, and live in a way that wins the respect of outsiders. Then someday maybe our tombstone can say, as Fanny’s does, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!”
Father, guide me to turn difficulties into advantages and deliver more than others expect. In Jesus name. Amen
LeAnn Campbell is a retired special education teacher in Southwest Missouri in the United States. She has more than 1600 articles and columns published, including many devotionals.
Extreme Diva Media, Inc., published her two devotional books, Moms Over 50 Devotions to Go (co-authored), and Writers' Devotions to Go based on Proverbs. OakTara publishes her five-book Century Farm mystery series for kids.