Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Presence: Sarah Edwards

Exodus 33:14
And he said, My presence shall go with thee,
and I will give thee rest.

I dearly enjoy studying the lives of countless women throughout history with all their diversities and their challenges. I am so humbled and inspired when reading of great heroines of the faith who valiantly faced unimaginable torture and death as a result of simply trusting Christ as their Savior. There are stories of women who were jeered and ridiculed, yet stood steady in their faith. There are stories of women who endured pain of every kind. But I have also stumbled across a group of women who never faced the same challenges as Jane Grey or Vibia Perpetua. They faced a different kind of battle. Though they were not arrested and dragged to prison, they worked and served and struggled in their pursuit of living a consecrated and set-apart life. It would be rather easy to conclude that they never made much of an impact in the world, because of their absence from the limelight. But in truth, these women possessed the key to it all: the very Presence of the Creator.

Through their simple dedication to being Christ’s hands and feet, they altered the world in a heavenly, eternal way. They loved and served their husbands. They helped rear up Godly children. They worked in their community and sought to help all who were in need. Though they tended to shy away from the spotlight and the crowds, those who came into contact with these women saw the light of God glowing in their eyes. That light was a result of the presence of God Himself in their daily life. I don't know about you...but I want to be like that!

Several years ago, I was at a Bible Conference in Mississippi where I heard a powerful preacher tell the story of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. Never before had I heard of a woman so in love with Christ that it spilled over into every area of her life. I remember the conclusion of his message, as he finished outlining those two great followers of Christ. He leaned against the podium and said, "I’m just there any among us like that?" As I sat dumbfounded in my seat with tears in my eyes, I was filled with a burning desire to pursue that kind of existence; to abandon myself completely to Christ. I realized that it takes far more than living well, doing good deeds, being faithful to Church, and working hard not to sin. The foundation for it all was the presence of God in a life - in my life. Many of us, including myself, have a great desire to be in the presence of the Lord, to have Him near, yet we just can’t seem to make it work. We have little time to devote to enjoying His company. To justify our spiritual procrastination, we sometimes think that it’s the thought that counts, when it is not. Let me tell you the story of Sarah Edwards.

She was the wife of the great Reformation preacher, Jonathan Edwards. Sarah came from a well-to-do family and was taught all the social graces of a lady. Her father was the founder of Princeton college, where Jonathan Edwards graduated. Growing up into adulthood, they both saturated themselves with the Word of God. They both had a strong, unshakable belief in a big God who could do big things. They believed that man was depraved and God was divine and sovereign.

In their marriage, Sarah managed the home. She grew, produced, and cooked everything they ate. She was in charge of sheering the sheep, and sewing everything her family wore. She raised up eleven Godly children; eight girls and three boys; and she nursed and schooled all of them. No matter how many children the Lord decides to bless me and my husband with, I pray that I can be a mother like her!

Along with Jonathan, she taught the children the Scriptures and the ways of the Lord and instilled in them a deep respect for God and for others. The children admired their parents so much that they demonstrated their respect by rising from their seats when their mother or father entered the room. Sarah was fervent in dealing immediately with sin, ridding herself of ungodliness and instructing her children to do the same. There was always a calm and a happiness in the home, so much so that when guests would come over, they marveled at the peace and the love that was clearly seen. Sarah was a beautiful example of a helpmeet to her husband, clearing adoring him. One of her highest goals was to be a strong pillar for her husband, holding him up high in the home and out of the home. My, how I want to be a wife like that!

Jonathan spent long hours every day studying, many times working thirteen hours a day. Although such choices would typically often result in some kind of resentment, Sarah counted it her greatest glory in being a part of his ministry, serving God and her generation. She worked hard to make the home a peaceful and pleasant place, so Jonathan could devote the maximum amount of time to his work. Sarah spent her days tending to the home and teaching the children while Jonathan spent hours in deep study of the Scriptures. The late afternoons and evenings were spent in the company of each other, visiting, sharing, encouraging, and playing. Jonathan and Sarah would go horseback riding every afternoon, and each night, he would spend time with his children, playfully conversing with them. Sarah loved visiting and writing friends. She served the needy and, when her town was affected by Indian wars, she aided and helped feed the refugees. From the very beginning, it was Sarah’s deep commitment to God that drew Jonathan to her. Godly men of old would spend weeks at a time in the Edwards home and one man of God remarked that Sarah Edwards was the most holy lady he had ever met. She was a praised wife, an admirable mother, a hard-working servant, and a friend to all, yet those traits and commendations were a direct outflow of her time spent seeking the wonderful face of Jesus. What a role model!!

How many of us are truly content sitting still and quiet and fellowshipping with our Savior? How many of us smile when we think of Him, or glow with excitement and joy when we speak of Him? How many of us count Christ as our dearest Companion and our sweetest Lover? Many wish to raise their hands and say, "I do!" but, in truth, very few actually pursue His presence in their lives. I know I utterly fail so often. 
In many Churches today, there is such a grand parade of worship, that it has almost been made into a game. Programs, routines, conduct, dialogue - it all goes under the secret code of Church performance. We have become too well adjusted to the “feel good” religion and the “experience” of worship and praise that has taken the place of truth, that we fail to see much error anymore. We sing the mandatory songs, we pay the required tithe, we greet the members of our Church clique, and sit through the enforced sermon, and then we leave with no change of heart. It’s no wonder many reject Christianity after observing our actions each Sunday that is more out of obligation than eagerness. They are searching for something exciting and life-changing and, sadly, our version of the Gospel is far from that. The bells and whistles of our Sunday mornings attract attention, but they fail at gripping hearts. Our example of Christianity has become more of a mirage than a reality. In summation, we have lost the presence of God in our Churches, in our homes and, ultimately, in our lives. The great women of old had no power, no passion, and no ability without our Lord’s presence. They spent hours in prayer, they devoted their lives to seeking out His will, and they were in constant pursuit of His face.

I want to be like that!!

"But my God lives; and He has my heart. We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be." - Sarah Edwards


Rachelle said...

What a testimony!!!! " there any among us like that?" May it be! God, give us hearts that seek WHOLLY after You! Help us not to seek our own ways but Your Presence! May we be constrained by Your love (2 Cor 5:14) and find our delight in You (Psalm 43:4)!

Anonymous said...

I have a book called Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. This post has made me want to pick it up and read it, thanks. (o:

Lisa said...

Good thought-provoking post. Thanks for the thoughts. :) <3

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I'll admit - I knew of Jonathan Edwards, but hadn't even considered a wife to know about.... my desire to be a better wife and mother is made stronger by learning of Godly women who lived like I want to live. Thank you.

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