As we approach Christmas, let’s look at the sheer joy of the season. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). That’s reason to celebrate! And we can use our joy-filled celebrations to reach out to those who haven’t heard “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10).
But really, we don’t have to wait every year for pine needles, peppermint, and presents to spread our joy. Here’s one woman who had wonderful insights into living a joyful life of praise for the Lord despite her circumstances.
In 1820, six-week-old Fanny Crosby caught a cold that caused her eyes to swell. A man masquerading as a doctor placed a mustard plaster poultice on her eyes, damaging her optic nerves. She was rendered completely blind. Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, her father died six months later.
Instead of sinking into darkness, Fanny wrote a poem that captured her outlook on life as a nine-year-old:
O what a happy soul am I,
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t.
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t.
Fanny’s mother and grandmother raised her. Both were strong women of the faith and taught her how to memorize long passages of Scripture. When she turned 10, Fanny memorized five chapters of the Bible every week. By age 15, she had memorized the four Gospels, the Pentateuch, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and many of the Psalms.
That same year, Fanny received a scholarship for the New York Institution for the Blind. She studied there for ten years, becoming proficient in several musical instruments. She remained at the school for many years teaching English and History.
After her graduation, Fanny traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby for support of education for the blind. She became the first woman to address the United States Senate. She met all the presidents of her lifetime, becoming acquainted especially with Grover Cleveland, who once served as secretary for the Institute of the Blind.
At age 60, Fanny renewed her commitment to serve the poor. “Aunty Fanny,” as she became known, spent the next thirty years ministering at several inner city rescue missions. She counseled everyone she could in the Word despite age, race, or economic status.
Fanny is best known for writing more hymns than anyone else in history, almost 9,000 in total. Publishers worried about having so many hymns written by a single person in their hymnals, so Fanny used around 20 different pseudonyms at their request. She also published multiple books of poetry and two autobiographies.
Fanny once said, “I never undertake a hymn without first asking the good Lord to be my inspiration.” She could write six or seven hymns a day, composing them entirely in her mind before getting the opportunity to dictate them to someone who could write them down. Her work was often criticized for being too sentimental and focusing too much on human experience. Today, her hymns are world-renown as classic hymns of the faith.
Fanny’s lack of vision didn’t keep her from living a joyful life to the fullest. And she spread her joy to everyone she could as a teacher, in ministry, and through her hymns. How can you spread your God-given joy to others and live to the fullest? Share in the comments below!
Family Radio Staff