Eliza Edmunds Hewitt was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 28, 1851. She was the second child of six born to James and Zeruiah Hewitt. Eliza’s father was a sea captain of notable wealth. She and her siblings received a good education, and Eliza graduated from school as the valedictorian of her class. Upon graduation from school, Eliza became a teacher. She taught for a number of years before suffering a spinal injury at the hands of a student who hit her in the back with a slate. Eliza spent the next six months in a body cast. Although she eventually recovered from her injury, her life was never the same, and she suffered re-occurrences for the rest of her life that caused her to be bed-ridden for periods of time.
During the six months that Eliza spent in bed, she refused to focus on her inability to do what she loved . . . teach children, attend church, go on walks in the park with her friends, as well as many other normal daily activities. Instead she turned her attention to literature and began writing down her thoughts in poem form. One of her poems found its way into the hands of John R. Sweney, a well-known hymnist at the time, and he asked her to write some more poems for the purpose of turning them into hymns. Soon other musicians started asking her to write for them as well. Sometimes Eliza collaborated with other hymn writers, and her circle of friends included Fanny Crosby, another famous hymn writer, and Emily Wilson, a composer. In total, Eliza wrote more than 1,700 poems during her lifetime. Many of these were set to music, and some still survive today and can be found in our hymnbooks.
Although Eliza could never resume her teaching career due to her injury, she did take an active part in teaching children. She was a Sunday school superintendent at the Northern Home for Friendless Children, and she also worked with the Sunday school program at her church. At one point she had 200 students attending her Sunday school classes. Besides writing hymns, she wrote children’s stories, children’s Sunday school curriculum, and children’s poems. She wanted to reach as many children as she could through her writings and each one spoke of Jesus or the Gospel in some manner.
Had Eliza never gone through her terrible ordeal that caused her to be bed-ridden, she might never have taken up writing. One of Eliza’s greatest joys later in life was learning from so many people how her songs had brought them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and how they had comforted and impacted their lives. I’m sure she never imagined how her thoughts written down on paper during a time of suffering would still be affecting the lives of countless thousands today. Eliza died on April 24, 1920, at the age of 68. She was born, she lived, and she died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but her hymns reached all the way around the world. She was truly a woman of whom it could be said, “She hath done what she could.”
Her Story/My Story:
Eliza was thrilled to be rid of her body cast after six long months. On a warm Spring day shortly after that, her doctor consented to let her take a walk in a nearby park. She was so thankful and full of joy to be out of the house and be able to walk around again, that she returned home and wrote the song “Sunshine in My Soul.” This hymn alone has been published in 295 hymnals. Also, the lyrics of her song “Singing I Go” take on new meaning once you’ve learned of the life of pain she lived in.
As for me, I would say I have lived quite a healthy life. I mean there was the time I nearly died from Typhoid fever and the many times I had malaria. I did have TMJ as a teenager, but the doctor said that was caused by chewing too many pieces of gum at once for a prolonged period of time. Oh, Hubba Bubba, how I’ve missed you. Then there was the time I was in the hospital for eleven days with pancreatitis. I knew the situation was serious, but I didn’t think it was life-threatening, so I insisted my mother not fly out to Thailand to be with me at the hospital. When I was finally able to lift my head up off the pillow after about eight days after surgery, the doctor said to me, “You are better, this is not a bad case.” I responded, “This is not a bad case?” I couldn’t imagine someone being in more pain than I had been in for the past week. She said, “Well, you did not die.” I said to her, “I could have died?!?!” She smiled and walked away. I thought to myself, “If I would have died, my mother would have killed me.”
The Lord did, though, once use a physical trial in my life to bring about His purpose. I was a rebellious sophomore in high school hanging around with the wrong friends and getting into trouble. I was headed down a bad path. I traveled with my youth group on an 8-hour trip for a summer camp at the Wilds, a campground set in the North Carolina mountains. I had never been before, and I knew there would be some preaching, but I thought I could endure a bit of preaching in order to have all the opportunities the camp afforded like swimming, hiking to waterfalls, playing sports, doing crafts, and spending time with my friends. The very first day, though, during a tug-of-war competition, I just wouldn’t let go of the rope when my team started to lose, and I got pulled under everyone and dislocated my hip. It was too far for my parents to come and get me and none of our camp leaders could take me back home. So, I ended up in the infirmary which was at the top of one of the big hills right next to the chapel and away from everything else. Instead of swimming, hiking, or playing games with my friends, I spent the entire day . . . every day . . . listening to preaching. You see, there were several camps being run at the same time. The chapel sessions for each of the different groups were scheduled throughout the day. All I could do all day long was lie on my back and listen to preaching. At first, I was so irritated and couldn’t figure out what the purpose would be for this to happen, but by the last day, the preaching had done a work in my heart, and God’s purpose was fulfilled. I returned home a different girl.
Bible Study: For This Purpose
Sometimes it can be easy to forget for what purpose we were created. All throughout history discovering our “purpose” has always been man’s greatest quest. The question “What was I put on this earth to do?” haunts many people. Some never get their answer because they are looking in all the wrong places. As Christians, we know we were created for one sole purpose . . . to bring honor and glory to God. As our Creator, God has the authority and the right to bring circumstances into our life for His own purposes. It is we who choose to accept them or to fight against them. If we learn to accept the trial, the tragedy, or whatever it might be, we can find joy in it and bring Him honor and glory through it.
Here are three Biblical examples of times the Lord used difficult circumstances in someone’s life solely for His purpose:
1. Hosea – Hosea was a prophet whose life God used to represent the unfaithfulness of His people.
Hosea 1:2,3 – God instructed Hosea to marry a woman who was an idol worshipper who would be unfaithful to him in order to represent the unfaithfulness of the children of Israel to God.
Hosea 1:4,6,9 – God selected terrible names for Hosea’s children. A son whose name meant “avenger of death,” a daughter whose name meant “no mercy,” and a son whose name meant “ye are not My people.”
Hosea 2:5 – Hosea’s wife was unfaithful to him, left him, and ended up selling herself into slavery.
Hosea 3:1,2 - God did not take from Hosea the heartbreaking love he had for his unfaithful wife, instead he sent him to buy her back from slavery, picturing the day when Jesus would redeem us.
2. Ezekiel – Ezekiel was a prophet whose life God used to represent His judgment on His people. Ezekiel 24:24
“Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign: . . . and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the LORD GOD.”
Out of 48 chapters in Ezekiel, 25 of them contain some form of this statement. In those 25 chapters, this statement is made 64 times. God asked Ezekiel to endure many things in his life in order to be an example to the Israelites. Here are just few:
Ezekiel 4:4,5 - God told Ezekiel to lie on his left side for 390 days. . . one day for every year that the tribes of Israel had been backslidden.
Ezekiel 4:6 - As soon as he finished the first task, Ezekiel was to lie on his right side for 40 days . . . one day for every year that the tribes of Judah had been backslidden.
Ezekiel 24:15-19 - God took his beloved wife away from him and forbid him to show any mourning for her in order to represent that God would also not pity nor spare the disobedient Israelites.
3. A Blind Man – John 9:1-3
When the disciples asked, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” they were asking a question that mankind has been asking for years when a trial or tragedy comes into their lives . . . ”Why is this happening to me?” “What have I done to deserve this?”
Jesus’ answer to His disciples was, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”
I remember the first time I read these verses and really realized what Jesus’ answer meant, and I remember thinking, “Really? This man had to suffer His entire life for this one moment in time?” It seemed a bit harsh to me. I mean couldn’t Jesus have just made the man have an accident the week before so that he was blind and then Jesus could heal him . . . therefore still having an opportunity to show He had power and was the Son of God. As I’ve gotten older and gone through my fair share of trials, I have learned it is not for me to figure out the “why” of the situation. Sometimes our temporary sufferings allow us to glorify Him more than if our paths were made easy. God had a purpose for this man to be born blind, and he had a choice. . . He could accept it, or he could fight against it. I’m not sure if this blind man did accept the situation or if he fought against it his entire life; the Bible doesn’t tell us. But I can attest to the fact that sometimes I have failed and fought against things the Lord has allowed in my life before finally coming to the point of accepting them.
What “thing” in your life has the Lord allowed that finds you asking the question, “What is the purpose of this?” Are you fighting against it, or have you accepted it and are waiting for the time when the “works of God will be made manifest” in your life? You may never know your “For This Purpose” in a particular trial that you are going through until you get to Heaven, but rest assured God does have a purpose, and He wants to fulfill it in your life if you will let Him.
Serving the Master joyfully,
https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/eliza-edmunds-hewitt-songs-from-a-bed-of-pain-11630486.htmlhttps://bereanbibleheritage.org/extraordinary/hewitt_eliza.phphttp://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/h/e/w/hewitt_ees.htmThere is no picture of Tarore. This is a photo of Maori girl circa 1900 (https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/1074851)
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