Great Faith in Overcoming Grief by Hudson Taylor
Hudson Taylor was the nineteen century founder of the China Inland Mission, latter known as the Overseas Missionary Fellowship. He was born in Barnsley, England, on May 21, 1832 and died on May 1905.
On July 7, 1870, a son was borne, the seventh to the family. Due to an attack of cholera on the mother, the baby and mother died soon after. She was only thirty-three years old and Hudson Taylor was thirty-eight years old. Because of ill health three of the children were sent to England and three died in China.
The passages below are taken from Dr & Mrs Howard Taylor’s book “The Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor,” published in 1997 by Whitaker House.
“My thirsty days are all past,” Hudson Taylor had felt and said and written that very summer, rejoicing as never before in the Savior’s promise, “he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35 KJV). Would it prove true now—now that the joy of life on its human side was gone, and there was nothing left but aching loneliness and silence? Would it prove true now—when, under the pressure of continued difficulty on every hand, health began to give way, and, sleepless at night, he found himself scarcely able to face the suffering, not to speak of the labors of each new day? If ever the reality of the power of Christ to meet the heart’s deepest need was put to the test of experience, it was in this life, swept clean of all that had been its earthly comfort—wife, children [three died in China, three sent to England due to ill health and one small child with him in China], home, health to a large extent—and left amid the responsibilities of such a mission and such a crisis, far away in China.
Only a few days before his great bereavement, when there was no thought of immediate danger, Mr. Taylor had written to his mother at home:
I find increasing comfort in the thought that all things are really in our Father’s hand and under His governance. He cannot but do what is best.
And now, after all that had happened, he continued:
I have just been reading over my last letter to you, and my views are not changed, though chastened and deepened. From my inmost soul I delight in the knowledge that God does or deliberately permits all things and causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him (See Romans 8:28).
He and He only knew what my dear wife was to me. He knew how the light of my eyes and the joy of my heart were in her. On the last day of her life (we had no idea that it would prove the last) our hearts were mutually delighted by the never-old story of each other’s love, as they were every day, nearly; and almost her last act was, with one arm round my neck, to place her hand upon my head, and, as I believe, for her lips had lost their cunning, to implore a blessing on me. But He saw that it was good to take her; good indeed for her, and in His love He took her painlessly; and not less good for me who must henceforth toil and suffer alone—yet not alone, for God is nearer to me than ever. And now I have to tell Him all my sorrows and difficulties, as I used to tell dear Maria; and as she cannot join me in intercession, to rest in the knowledge of Jesus’ intercession; to walk a little less by feeling, a little less by sight, a little more by faith.
To Mr. Berger he had written some days previously:
And now, dear brother, what shall I say of the Lord’s dealings with me and mine? I know not! My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude and praise. My eyes flow with tears of mingled joy and sorrow. When I think of my loss, my heart—nigh to breaking—rises in thankfulness to Him who has spared her such sorrow and made her so unspeakably happy. My tears are more tears of joy than of grief. But most of all, I joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ—in His works, His ways, His providence, in Himself. He is giving me to prove (to know by trial) “what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). I do rejoice in that will. It is acceptable to me; it is perfect; it is love in action. And soon, in that same sweet will, we shall be reunited to part no more. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am” (John 17:24).
It was only to be expected that as the days wore on there should be some measure of reaction, especially when illness and long, wakeful nights came. Of these, he recalled:
How lonesome were the weary hours when confined to my room. How I missed my dear wife and the little pattering footsteps of the children far away in England! Then it was I understood why the Lord had made that passage so real to me, “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” (John 4:14, emphasis added). Twenty times a day, perhaps, as I felt the heart thirst coming back, I cried to Him:
“Lord, you promised! You promised me that I should never thirst.”
And whether I called by day or night, how quickly He always came and satisfied my sorrowing heart! So much so, that I often wondered whether it were possible that my loved one who had been taken could be enjoying more of His presence than I was in my lonely chamber. He had literally fulfilled the prayer:
Lord Jesus, make Thyself to me
A living, bright Reality;
More present to faith’s vision keen
Than any outward object seen;
More dear, more intimately nigh,
Than e’en the sweetest earthly tie.
What more can be added to experiences so sacred? Were it not that the correspondence of the period is too precious to be passed over, one would hesitate to dwell upon the intimacies of this stricken soul with its God. But letters remain that have a message, surely, for such days as ours. Let them tell their own story.
To Mr. Berger:
It is Sunday evening. I am writing from Mr. White’s bungalow. The cool air, the mellow, autumnal beauty of the scene, the magnificent Yangtzewith Silver Island, beautifully wooded, reposing, as it were, on its bosom—combine to make one feel as if it were a vision of dreamland rather than actual reality. And my feelings accord. But a few months ago my home was full, now so silent and lonely—Samuel, Noel, my precious wife, with Jesus; the elder children far, far away, and even little T’ien-pao in Yangchow. Often, of late years, has duty called me from my loved ones, but I have returned, and so warm has been the welcome! Now I am alone. Can it be that there is no return from this journey, no homegathering to look forward to! Is it real, and not a sorrowful dream, that those dearest to me lie beneath the cold sod? Ah, it is indeed true! But not more so than that there is a homecoming awaiting me which no parting shall break into, no tears mar….Love gave the blow that for a little while makes the desert more dreary, but heaven more homelike. “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2), and is not our part of the preparation the peopling it with those we love?
And the same loving Hand that makes heaven more homelike is the while loosening the ties that bind us to this world, thus helping our earthcleaving spirits to sit looser, awaiting our own summons, whether personally to be “present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8), or at “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour” (Titus 2:13). “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelations 22:20), come quickly! But if He tarry—if for the rescue, the salvation of some still scattered upon the mountains He can wait the full joy of having all His loved ones gathered to Himself—surely we, too, should be content, nay, thankful, a little longer to bear the cross and unfurl the banner of salvation. Poor China, how great her need! Let us seek to occupy a little longer.
To Miss Blatchley:
Nearly three weeks have passed since my last letter to you: a little lifetime it has been …. I cannot describe to you my feelings; I do not understand them myself. I feel like a person stunned with a blow, or recovering from a faint, and as yet but partially conscious. But I would not have it otherwise, no, not a hair’s breadth, for the world. My Father has ordered it so—therefore I know it is, it must be best, and I thank Him for so ordering it. I feel utterly crushed, and yet “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians. 6:10). Oft-times my heart is nigh to breaking …but withal, I had almost said, I never knew what peace and happiness were before—so much have I enjoyed in the very sorrow….
I think I sent you a few weeks ago a copy of some notes on John 7:37; precious thoughts they have been to me, and needed and true. I now see more and deeper meaning in them than then. And this I know: only a thirsty man knows the value of water, and only a thirsty soul the value of the living water.
I could not have believed it possible that He could so have helped and comforted my poor heart.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were all spent in bed, and part of yesterday—ague and affection of the liver this time. It throws me back very much, but the Lord’s will be done. Yesterday …in the cold stage of the ague, I was shaking until the bed shook under me, but I enjoyed such a vivid realization that I was altogether the Lord’s, purchased not with silver and gold—that I had not a particle of property, so to speak, in myself—that it filled my heart to overflowing. I felt, if He wanted me to shake, I could shake for Him; if to burn with fever, I could welcome it for His sake.
By the end of the month (August) the youngest of Mr. Taylor’s children, the motherless baby alone left to him in China of his family, was hanging between life and death. As the only hope of saving him, his father took him with Mrs. Duncan’s kind help to Ningpo and the island of Pu-du. A fortnight spent there, however, proved an anxious time, and to his parents in Barnsley Mr. Taylor wrote (September 25):
T’ien-pao has not improved so much as I had hoped. May the Lord help me to be patient and trustful. Long-continued anxiety and weariness from want of rest; sorrow from repeated bereavements and trouble in the work, from the state of China and the timidity of the workers; and other trials from without and within do make one feel the need of a strong arm to lean upon—aye, and a tender one too. And here, thank God, our great need is just met. “As one whom his mother comforteth” (Isaiah 66:13), so He comforts us. Strengthened by His power, though troubled on every side, we are not forsaken, nor left
to doubt either the wisdom or love of Him who is at the helm.
To his children, Hudson Taylor wrote:
You do not know how often Papa thinks of his darlings and how often he looks at your photographs till the tears fill his eyes. Sometimes he almost fears lest he should feel discontented when he thinks how far away you are from him; but, then, dear Jesus, who never leaves him, says: “Don’t be afraid. I will keep your heart satisfied. You know it was your Father in heaven who took them to England, and who took Mamma to her little Noel, Samuel, and Gracie in the better land.” Then I thank Him and feel so glad that Jesus will live in my heart and keep it right for me.
I wish you, my precious children, knew what it was to give your hearts to Jesus to keep every day. I used to try to keep my own heart right, but it would be always going wrong; and so at last I had to give up trying myself, and accept Jesus’ offer to keep it for me. Don’t you think that is the best way? Perhaps sometimes you think: “I will try not to be selfish, or unkind, or disobedient.”
And yet, though you really try, you do not always succeed. But Jesus says, “You should trust that to Me. I would keep that little heart, if you could trust Me with it.” And He would, too.
Once I used to try to think very much and very often about Jesus, but I often forgot Him; now I trust Jesus to keep my heart remembering Him, and He does so. This is the best way. Ask dear Miss Blatchley to tell you more about this way, and pray God to make it plain to you, and to help you so to trust Jesus.
To keep their confidence and love, even at so great a distance, Mr. Taylor toiled many an hour long after body and mind craved rest. Returning to Shanghai, for example, amid other letters penned in his comfortless, third-class quarters were the following:
My Darling Treasures—It is not very long since my last letter, but I want to write again. I wonder if you will try to write me a little answer? …I have been thinking tonight—if Jesus makes me so happy by always keeping near me, and talking to me every minute or two though I cannot see Him, how happy darling Mamma must be! I am so glad for her to be with Him…. I shall be so glad to go to her when Jesus thinks it best. But I hope He will help me to be equally willing to live with Him here, so long as He has any work for me to do for Him and for poor China.
Now, my darling children, I want you to love Jesus very much, and to know that He really does love you very much. Don’t you think your far-off, dear Papa would be very pleased to see you and talk to you, and to take you on his knee and kiss you? You know he would! Well, Jesus will always be far more pleased when you think of Him with loving thoughts and speak to Him with loving words. Don’t think of Him as some dreadful being. Think of Him as very good and very great, able to do everything, but as very gentle and very kind. When you wake, say to Him, either aloud or in your hearts:
“Good morning, dear Jesus. I am so glad you have been by me all night, and have taken care of me. Teach me how much You love me. Take care of my heart; make it think good thoughts. Take care of my lips; only let them speak kind, good words. Help me always to know what is right and to do it.”
He likes us to talk to Him. When I am walking alone, I often talk aloud to Him. At other times I talk to Him in my heart. Do not forget, my darling children, that He is always with you. Awake or asleep, at home or elsewhere, He is really with you, though you cannot see Him. So I hope you will try not to grieve so constant and kind a friend.
And to Mrs. Berger he wrote:
No language can express what He has been and is to me. Never does He leave me; constantly does He cheer me with His love. He who once wept at the grave of Lazarus often now weeps in and with me. He who once on earth rejoiced in spirit and said, “Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Matthew 11:26), daily, hourly, rejoices in spirit in me, and says so still. His own rest, His own peace, His own joy He gives me. He kisses me with the kisses of His love, which are better than wine. Often I find myself wondering whether it is possible for her, who is taken, to have more joy in His presence than He has given me. If He has taken her to heaven, He has also brought heaven here to me, for He is heaven. There is no night, no gloom, in His presence. In His presence there is “fulness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).
At times He does suffer me to realize all that was, but is not now. At times I can almost hear again the sweet voice of my Gracie, feel the presence of little Samuel’s head on my bosom. And Noel and his mother—how sweet the recollection, and yet how it makes the heart ache! …And then, He who will soon come and wipe away every tear, comes and takes all bitterness from them …and fills my heart with deep, true, unutterable gladness. I have not to seek Him now; He never leaves me. At night He smoothes my pillow; in the morning He wakes my heart to His love. “I will be with thee all day long: thou shalt not be alone, nor lonely.” I never was so happy, dear Mrs. Berger; I know you sympathize, and I feel I must tell you of His love.
Meanwhile, there was no lessening of the pressure of outward difficulties. Politically, the aspect of affairs had for months been darker than Mr. Taylor had ever known it in China. The Tien-tsin massacre, in which twenty-one foreigners had lost their lives, including the French consul and Sisters of Mercy, was still unsettled, and the Chinese authorities, knowing that Europe was involved in war, took no steps to allay anti-foreign feeling. Mr. Taylor had written of it:
In the event of any riot now, not only a few plunderers are to be feared; all the people are roused …. Unless something is done about the Tientsin murders before long, I fear you will learn of even more serious troubles. The Chinese generally are satisfied that only consciousness of guilt, and weakness, have prevented vengeance from reaching the perpetrators of those crimes: in other words, that foreigners do really eat children, etc., and are now unable to defend themselves.. ..But the Lord reigns.
It was scarcely to be wondered at that the long strain of excitement and danger should tell on the nerves, and even the spiritual life of lonely missionaries; but it was no little sorrow to Mr. Taylor when an inland station was abandoned that might have been held, and when some dear fellow workers seemed to fail in faith and courage. He knew the weakness of his own heart too well to be harsh toward others and sought, as far as in him lie, to strengthen their hands in God. The last day of the year was set apart as usual for prayer and fasting, in arranging for which Mr. Taylor wrote to the members of the mission:
The present year (1870) has been in many ways remarkable. Perhaps every one of our number has been more or less face-to-face with danger, perplexity, and distress, but out of it all the Lord has delivered us. And some of us, who have drunk of the cup of the Man of Sorrows more deeply than ever before, can testify that it has been a most blessed year to our souls and can give God thanks for it. Personally, it has been alike the most sorrowful and the most blessed year of my life, and I doubt not that others have to a greater or lesser extent had the same experience. We have put to the proof His faithfulness, His power to support in trouble and to give patience under affliction, as well as to deliver from danger. And should greater dangers await us, should deeper sorrows come than any we have yet felt, it is to be hoped that they will be met in a strengthened confidence in our God.
We have had great cause for thankfulness in one respect: we have been so placed as to show the native Christians that our position as well as theirs has been, and may be again, one of danger. And they have been helped, doubtless, to look from “foreign power” to God Himself for protection, by the facts that (1) the former has been felt to be uncertain and unreliable, both with regard to themselves and to us, and (2) that we have been kept in calmness and joy in our various positions of duty. If in any measure we have failed to improve for their good this opportunity, or have failed to rest for ourselves in God’s power to sustain in or protect from danger, as He sees best, let us humbly confess this and all conscious failure to our faithful, covenant-keeping God….
I trust we are all fully satisfied that we are God’s servants, sent by Him to the various posts we occupy, and that we are doing His work in them. He set before us the open doors into which we have entered, and in past times of excitement He has preserved us in them. We did not come to China because missionary work here was either safe or easy, but because He had called us. We did not enter upon our present positions under a guarantee of human protection, but relying on the promise of His presence. The accidents of ease or difficulty, of apparent safety or danger, of man’s approbation or disapproval, in no wise affect our duty. Should circumstances arise involving us in what may seem special danger, I trust we shall have grace to manifest the reality and depth of our trust in Him, and by our faithfulness to our charge prove that we are followers of the Good Shepherd, who did not flee from death itself …. But if we would manifest this calmness then, we must seek the needed grace now. It is too late to look for arms and begin to drill when in presence of the foe.
With regard to funds Mr. Taylor continued:
I need not remind you of the liberal help which, in our need, the Lord has sent us direct from certain donors, nor of the blessed fact that He abideth faithful, and cannot deny Himself (see 2 Timothy 2:13). If we are really trusting in Him and seeking from Him, we cannot be put to shame; if not, perhaps the sooner we find the unsoundness of any other foundation, the better. The mission funds, or the donors, are a poor substitute for the living God.
So great was the pressure on Mr. Taylor at this time that he wrote early in December that he had never known anything like it, save just before leaving England with the Lammermuir party. [273-284]