Pastor Joel shared with us Sunday the story of Annie Johnson Flint.  I was intrigued by the snippet he gave, so I did a little further research…

Annie was born in New Jersey on Christmas Eve in 1866.  Unfortunately, her mother died during the birth of her younger sister when she was three.  Their father apparently didn’t believe he could properly care for the girls, so he left them with another widow.  But money was tight and the girls were never welcomed wholeheartedly by their foster mother who seem far more concerned about the wellbeing of her biological children.

Thankfully, a kind neighbor was able to find a new family for the girls.  Mr. and Mrs. Flint were devout Christians who truly loved the girls.  Shortly after they moved to the Flint’s home (when Annie was around six), their father died.

When Annie was eight years old, the family left the farm and moved into Vineland, New Jersey, When they reached their new home in town, revival meetings were in progress, and she attended. It was during one of those meetings that the Spirit of God operated upon that young heart and brought her to saving faith in Christ.

About the time she came to saving faith, she also began to take an interest in poetry.  She loved to read, and her new parents also taught her character and the importance of being hard working, self-reliant, and living within her means.  They gave her a healthy horror of debt and a powerful distaste for waste.

After high school and one year of higher education, she was offered a teaching position.  Her adopted mother was in failing health and she and her income were needed at home.  So Annie signed a three-year contract to teach at the primary school where she had attended as a girl.

By the time she was the second year into teaching, however, arthritis began to riddle her body.  She went from doctor to doctor, but it steadily grew worse until it became difficult for her to even walk. She had a hard time finishing her third year.

Both of her adopted parents then died within a few months of each other, and Annie and her sister were once again all alone in the world with very little money to spare.

Annie rented out the home and moved to a treatment center in New York hoping to find help and healing there. Unfortunately, when she finally received the verdict of the doctors, it was that she would be a helpless invalid. With her parents gone and her one sister also with frail health, Annie needed to hire someone to take care of her and she had no money to do it.

Sometimes life just stinks.

With a pen pushed through bent fingers and held by swollen joints, Annie began to write.  At first, she wrote without any thought that it might be an avenue of ministry or support.  Writing poetry provided a solace for her in the long hours of suffering.

Then she began making hand-lettered cards and gift books, and decorated some of her own verses.  Her “Christmas Carols” became popular. Two card publishers printed these greetings and this helped to get her foot in the door for publishing. It gave her the larger vision of possibly securing openings through some of the magazines, by which her poems could be a wider blessing, and at the same time bring some little return that would minister to her own pressing need.

Readers began to write of ways they had been blessed by her poetry, so in 1919, the first small booklet of her poems, “By the Way, Travelogues of Cheer” was published.  That became the first of seven, each being circulated more widely than the last.

Bingham (one of her publishers) said of her: One wonders how she could ever get a pen through those poor twisted fingers; but she was a beautiful writer, and a wonderful correspondent. Her letters were unique, bright and breezy, though written from her bed of affliction. They were as rich as her poems, and whatever the stage of her affliction, or however great the pain through which she might be passing, she always had a touch of humor that was refreshing. One of her great regrets in the after years was that the progress of her affliction made it necessary to dictate the messages to her friends and of course this added to her expense.

Even with her writing, life continued to be an exercise of faith, especially in the area of provision for needs.  She wanted to be independent and self-sufficient; she cut expenses everywhere she could and took in boarders for extra income.  But God chose to keep her dependent on Him for supply.  At times, she had to hire skilled nursing or make extra doctor’s visits which would quickly drain away her attempts as self-sufficiency into times of trial and testing.

Annie’s writing began to draw attention and from time to time, visitors.  While most of them were gracious and well-meaning, some adamantly claimed that anyone walking obediently with Christ would be delivered from physical infirmities and bodily sickness.

Annie listened, but after painstaking study and prayer, concluded that while God can and does heal in some cases, in others, He sees fit to leave the most triumphant saints with physical affliction.  God at times brings himself glory through weak earthly vessels saying only, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

I have long loved this hymn, penned by Annie, perhaps at such a time as this.  When she was sick, broke, and criticized.  Annie knew grace.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Annie’s biography concluded: No one but God knew what suffering she endured as the disease became worse with the passing of the years, and new complications developed. But through it all her faith in the goodness and mercy of God never wavered. There were many times, no doubt, when her soul would be burdened with the mystery of it all and the why and wherefore of the thing that she was called to endure. In that respect she was most human like the rest of us, but the marvelous thing is that her faith never faltered, and that she was at all times able to say “Thy will be done.” For more than forty years there was scarcely a day when she did not suffer pain. For thirty-seven years she became increasingly helpless. Her joints had become rigid, although she was able to turn her head, and in great pain write a few lines on paper.

On September 8, 1932, at the age of 65, Annie left her curled and crumpled body on earth for a new and perfect one in heaven.  The faith that had gently sustained her was made sight and she was welcomed in the precious arms of the Savior she knew so well.

But she left something else behind as well.  A simple legacy of hymns.  A testimony of grace.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Sometimes life just stinks. That’s when He gives more grace. 

AnnieJohnsonFlint

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