|Posted by John Suttles on January 23, 2016 at 10:35 PM|
Just like Anna the New Testament prophetess before her, Anna Laetitia Waring steps out from the folds of history’s chronological pages to be unveiled with one specific attribute accompanied only by a simple blurb of biographical information. But if we look for godly examples of faithful women, surely we find them in these two Annas. Faithful and faithfulness are the keys to their description. If faithfulness needs any attending attribute, we could add that of unassuming humility and unpretentiousness as well as Paul’s demonstration of godly love. Their brief biographical bits verify love’s revered listing of such virtues as “vaunteth not itself” or “is not puffed up” or “beareth all things” or “believeth all things.” Is not this Christ-likeness, and is not Christ-likeness the endeavor to be like Christ? The very endeavor of bearing and believing requires the love of Christ working through us and nourishing us ultimately by our own personal love for Christ. Loving Christ with all our hearts and souls and minds may not record our names among the world’s current roles of recognition, but faithfulness to Christ is always recorded—indeed in the records that really matter.
Sometimes that record inserts the sparsest of biographies into the places of highest esteem. What greater honor could Anna have imagined than to have seen the Christ child as the culmination of all her years of patient waiting? But now her heart’s desire is heralded among Christendom recorded within the sacred Scripture. Luke afforded her three illuminating verses in the second chapter. “And there was one Anna,” he penned in verse thirty-six.
But then he packed in a tremendous recollection of her heritage. She was a prophetess. Very few women had been given such distinction. Like Huldah the prophetess before her (II Kings 22:14), Anna had been living in days of spiritual declension. Israel had heard no prophetic word from their God since the close of Malachi until John the Baptist came “crying in the wilderness” (Isaiah 40:3). Yet, now that understanding of prophecy was reviving; and here was Anna given that understanding in such a measure that she is called by Luke—a prophetess. She was the daughter of Phanuel (Penuel) of the obscure tribe of Asher in Galilee whose name meant “the face of God.” This was the name Jacob had given to his place of wrestling (Genesis 32:30); for he said he “had seen God face to face.” Now the long-awaited day had come for Israel when they would indeed see God in the Person of Jesus Christ. Her Lord would also bear the tarnish of a Galilean reputation among Israel (John 1:46; 7:41); but unlike Anna, they would not recognize Him.
This Anna was of a great age. She had been married only seven years; but whether her age was eighty-four or the years of her widowhood were eighty-four years, she was certainly an old woman who had devoted her life in widowhood to daily ministering in the Temple before God with prayers and fasting. Her faithful waiting bore its fruit as she came upon Simeon holding the Christ-child in his arms and blessing God. She, too, gave thanks to the Lord; but her joyous proclamation “to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:39) designated her as one of the first New Testament women to testify of the coming of the Messiah.
And so it is with the other Anna—Anna L. Waring. Every time the Church lifts her collective voice in praise to God singing one of Anna’s hymns of such grace and magnitude, they repeat the Christian testimony of the unpretentious poetess. Who is Anna Waring is a valid question for those of us who still sing from hymnbooks and cherish the poetry of hymns and psalms that direct our worship and echo our sentiments.
Anna Laetitia Waring was born in Wales on April 19, 1823, the third child of seven. Verse-writing seemed to be a family trait. Her father and her uncle both published literary works; but it is Anna whose hymns have remained through the years. Reared in a Quaker home, she was baptized into the Church of England in 1842. She studied the Hebrew that she might read the Old Testament in its original language.
Anna’s first published book of hymns was in 1850. Hymns and Meditations would be reprinted in several editions through the years. An 1866 Boston printing includes a forward by Reverend F. D. Huntingdon. Her hymns were gifts to the Church. The cherished words of “In Heavenly Love Abiding” bring comfort to every believer. In heavenly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear. And safe is such confiding, for nothing changes here. The storm may roar without me, my heart may low be laid, But God is round about me, and can I be dismayed? So also a comforting balm are the words of her hymn “My Heart is Resting, O My God”: My heart is resting, O my God—I will give thanks and sing” Another of her hymns—“Father, I Know That All My Life”—is based on Psalm 31:15: Father, I know that all my life Is portioned out for me, And the changes that are sure to come, I do not fear to see; But I ask Thee for a present mind Intent on pleasing Thee.
Anna remained unmarried. Her friend Mary S. Talbot wrote in a brief biography of Anna, that for many years, Anna was involved in work among the prisons and in supporting the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society. She once described her work among the prisoners as looking in a filthy gutter for a jewel here and there. Anna marked her eighty-seventh birthday and died on May 10, 1910—a long life of quiet and pious service.
Hers was an unassuming life, unmarked by fanfare and fame. Few of her life’s accomplishments were ever recorded. Yet the blessing of her hymns remains to comfort those who have followed. Go not far from me, O my God, Whom all my times obey; Take from me anything Thou wilt, But go not Thou away, And let the storm that does Thy work Deal with me as it may. Deep unto deep may call, but I With peaceful heart can say, Thy loving-kindness hath a charge No waves can take away: Then let the storm that speeds me home Deal with me as it may.
For all the many years of their lives, who would know these two women? Doubtless, they were unknown by the eminent in their day, nor did they spend many hours outside the bounds of humble and intimate acquaintances. Their lives passed through the transient times of an era as nothing more than an ethereal wisp of smoke and having no more current value than an infinitesimal unit of a multitude. The commerce of their day was transacted without the interference or hindrance of their opinions. But consider—it isn’t the names of the high priest or the prime minister of their day that we recall. We remember Anna and Anna and their deeds that were recorded for all the ages of posterity. Their faithfulness inspires us and calls us to worship and to service. Like Anna the prophetess, Anna Waring continues to faithfully testify of the preciousness of her Savior “to all those who have looked for redemption.”
Dr. Teresa Suttles