"I must faithfully, patiently, lovingly, and happily do my part – then quietly wait for God to do His.”
Ruth Bell Graham, who died Thursday, said this in reference to being a mother, but she exhibited this patient, quiet strength and complete trust in her Creator throughout her life.
Wife of world renowned evangelist Billy Graham, Ruth was called to be a mother and wife first, but Mrs. Graham was also an accomplished author and gifted poet in her own right. Christian women, especially the wives of pastors, are thankful for her contributions and credit her as an inspiration and role model.
Born to missionary parents in 1902, Ruth was raised through adolescence in China. Moving to the U.S. when she was 17-years-old, she attended Wheaton College in Illinois where she majored in Bible and joined several evangelistic ministries. While there, she also met Billy Graham a fellow student and her future husband. They were married shortly after her graduation in 1943.
In a statement released from Wheaton College Thursday, Dr. Duane Litfin, president of the school, remarked, “Strong, steady, and dauntless, Ruth Bell Graham was the glue that held the many of the parts of their lives together.” Understanding the importance of his calling, Ruth joined Rev. Graham willingly in his ministry, though she preferred her role to behind the scenes.
Rev. Graham’s love and respect for his wife was evident in her final days. In a statement released by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) the day before her death, he said, “Ruth is my soul mate and best friend, and I cannot imagine living a single day without her by my side. I am more in love with her today than when we first met over 65 years ago as students at Wheaton College.”
Preaching year after year to millions of people through the Billy Graham Crusades, and serving as a spiritual counselor to political leaders, required much of Rev. Graham’s time and energy. While he was ministering to presidents and diplomats, Ruth was ministering to him. Rev. Graham once said, “I have been asked the question, ‘Who do you go to for counsel, for spiritual guidance?’ My answer: my wife, Ruth. She is a great student of the Bible. Her life is ruled by the Bible more than any person I’ve ever known.”
Billy Graham was often on the road while Ruth remained the stable force back home. Her presence left a lasting impression in the lives of her five children and 19 grandchildren, many of whom currently serve with the BGEA or other ministries. Ruth’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz, remarked on her mother’s example, “I believe that our heavenly Father, our Savior, saved my mother from loneliness because of her daily walk with the Lord Jesus – He was the love of her life. I saw that in her life. It was her love for the Lord Jesus, with whom she walks every day, that made me want to love Him and walk with Him like that.”
Battling with the loneliness of an evangelist’s wife and the hardships of turbulent times, she spiritually recharged through prayer, Bible study, and writing. In her book Footprints of a Pilgrim, she explained, “Sometimes, I wrote to capture a moment or reflect on a thought. Sometimes, I wrote because I had to. It was write or develop an ulcer. I chose to write.”
The poetry she wrote, books she authored, lives she touched, husband she loved, and the godly children she raised, are all testaments to Mrs. Graham. Ruth Bell Graham left a godly heritage here on earth and a legacy vividly pointing to the God she loves, and the place she now calls home.