When Susanna Annesley married young Samuel Wesley, she probably didn’t expect to give birth to nineteen children, eight of whom would die at birth. Nevertheless, as her life unfolded, making motherhood her main responsibility, Susanna learned to draw on her faith in God to gain strength to carry her through every trial and the world still benefits from her amazing example.
Eighteenth century England was a difficult setting in which to raise a family. One historian describes the conditions then as religiously stagnant and morally corrupt.
Churches were of little help to struggling families. Most sermons of that period are said to have lacked warmth and enthusiasm and were but dry, cold, colorless talks on morality. Furthermore, many ministers hobnobbed with the rich, neglecting their poorer parishioners.
Samuel and Susanna raised their children in a coarse and brutal society. Drunkenness was common, which, not surprisingly, compounded the problems of crime, poverty and domestic violence.
Susanna’s husband became the pastor of a church in rural Epworth, England, increasing her responsibilities to include serving in the church and setting a good example for the women in the congregation.
There must have been times when this mother of so many felt like throwing in the towel; like giving up in he face of her many duties. But Susanna had discovered a great stress reducer that carried her through the pressure periods: she had learned to give her daily difficulties to her Lord and expressed her secret of successful living and mothering in what has become one of her best known quotes: “Give others the sunshine. Give Jesus the rest.”
Samuel had a happy wife and his children had a happy mother.
When Susana’s eighteenth child, Charles, later wrote the well known hymn “Oh for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemer’s praise” he was drawing on his childhood memories. He had grown up under the loving influence of a mother who was known for praising rather than pouting no matter what was going on around her
Susanna’s faith and discipline paid off. Her fifteenth and eighteenth children (John and Charles) shook their century for God and the tremors of that historic spiritual earthquake still rumble through churches around the world.”
So deep was Susanna’s devotion to her Lord that she prayed daily for her children to serve Him and her prayers were eventually answered. John and Charles finally entered into the genuine faith their mother had longed to see in them and for which she had prayed. They became the prime movers in what is now known as the Wesleyan Revival, a movement that changed their nation, impacted the world and gave birth to the Methodist Church.
Today, millions around the world worship God singing hymns composed by two men whose mother had a sunny disposition and a singing heart.
Roger Campbell is an author, broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org