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Hymn History: “Take the World, But Give Me Jesus”

2 min

The crying infant rubbed at her swollen eyes with her tiny fists. The one doctor who served in the county was unavailable. So, in desperation, the infant’s parents called a man who claimed to have medical knowledge. He prescribed hot poultices to be applied to their baby’s eyes. The infection soon healed, but something was wrong. The parents later learned that the man was not a doctor at all, and his prescribed remedy had destroyed their baby girl’s eyesight.

The baby, Frances Jane Crosby, was affectionately called “Fanny.” When she was eight years old, she expressed her resolve to be content despite being completely blind:

Oh, what a happy soul am I!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.

Years later, Fanny Crosby wrote in her journal that her parents had taught her about God’s working in ways we do not understand:

When my dear mother knew that I was to be shut out from all the beauties of the natural world, she told me . . .  that sometimes Providence deprived persons of some physical faculty in order that the spiritual insight might be more fully awake. . . . I made up my mind to store away a little jewel in my heart, which I called “Content.” This has been the comfort of my whole life.

Fanny Crosby’s life reflected contentment, which is “realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness.” For example, one day as she was visiting a disgruntled neighbor, the man complained about having little money and not being able to do as he chose. Fanny Crosby and her husband were both blind and of limited means, so she understood the neighbor’s plight. Yet, rather than agree with him, she confidently replied, “Well, take the world, but give me Jesus!” Those words inspired her to write the hymn “Take the World, But Give Me Jesus.”

Fanny Crosby’s contentment enabled her to trust God. When asked about what had happened to her as a baby, she replied: “. . . if I could meet him [that doctor], I would tell him that he unwittingly did me the greatest favor in the world.” This steady reliance on God’s best was evident throughout her life. Shortly before her death, she shared: “I believe the greatest blessing the Creator ever bestowed on me was when he permitted my external vision to be closed. . . . The loss of sight has been no loss to me.”

Do we thank God for what He has given us and not covet the gifts He has bestowed upon others? Only as we focus on Jesus can we truly know contentment!

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