Fanny Crosby wrote church hymns…over 8000 of them. Titles trickle through memories with ease. They include Pass Me Not and Blessed Assurance.

With such a gift and exuberance for words of hope, you would assume, Crosby lived a charmed life.

And you would be wrong.

She lived most of her life in darkness. When she was 6 weeks old, she caught a cold which developed into conjunctivitis. The source of her blindness was either a doctor’s error or parents not noticing her weak and dim eyes at birth. Either way, she grew up without sight in a world of darkness.

How would you interpret that condition? Would you be bitter?

Blame a doctor? Think of what “might have been” if you had been “lucky?” Shake your fist at God?

The human condition is facing disappointment and difficulties. Bones break. Red ink litters bank balances. High tech pink slips text the message “you are not needed.” Shadowed x-rays steal peace and replace it with danger.

All events in life are real. The lens we use to view them is self-chosen. In the end, we give them their meaning.

It was true for the Israelites. They were part of the greatest liberation movement in mankind’s sojourn. From slaves to freedom to the promised land, they experienced miracles. They saw a mighty nation crushed by plagues and a sea parted with sandals caked with dust, not mud. 

But the desert was unwieldy. It gave travelers struggles.

One is hunger, and another was thirst. Those are real events, but Scripture records their meaning-laden gripes.

On a particularly hungry day, their bellyaching reached a fever-pitch.  

“Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:3).

Was that true or was that how they chose to color their travelogue coloring book?

Forty years later, you hear another interpretation of the same event, this time from God.

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.? (Deuteronomy 8:3).

In their arrogance, they believed that life hung in the balance of their stomachs. I’m hungry, then feed me. That was their meaning imposed on the stomach-growling. Instead, God wanted them to lower their own importance and realize where food came from. It wasn’t from complaint but compliance. Their lives were not about eating but about living. The only way to teach that lesson is to take away the food and leave only God’s voice.

So what do we do with life’s barbs and briars? What meaning do you give the X-ray, the fender dent, or the negative bank balance? Is life unfair? Is someone out to get you?

Can we not impose a different meaning on them?

  • They are educational. Problems teach me something.
  • They humble. Struggles remind me of my actual position.
  • They discipline. I am raw wood needing 100 grit sandpaper to smooth my ego.
  • They are. Such is the human existence.

While some will call such an approach pollyannish, which helps your life? To feel like you have a target on your back and life is holding a cannon or explaining it in the best possible light?

How you choose to interpret your situation is how you will handle it. You can climb or complain…it is up to you.

And what of Fanny Crosby? What meaning did she give to her unfathomable lifelong blindness?

“It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow, I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.” She also once said, “when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

For someone so blind, she could see so well.




The quotes from Fanny Crosby can be found in the links below.

Fanny Crosby; America’s Hymn Queen”, Glimpses of Christian History 198, and The Sunday-School World.