Nineteen-year-old Hannah Hurnard longed for the courage to commit suicide. She had been raised Quaker, but found herself unable to believe that God was real. His promises seemed false. She repented but continued to do wrong. She prayed and got no answers. The Bible seemed dull to her. She lived with phobias and was humiliated when she tried to speak, because she stammered badly.
Hannah's mother and father loved to worship. To Hannah, however, religious services seemed endless and boring. She dreaded Sundays. When she was nineteen, her father insisted that she attend a holiness convention with him. Hannah resisted. To sit trapped in a tent, listening to sermons for a whole week appalled her. She finally agreed to attend one sermon each morning and one each evening session if she could be free to wander the lovely hills and lakes around Keswick during the day. After the convention, her father and she would take a vacation together.
Inside herself, though, Hannah thought that if she could find God anywhere, it would be at Keswick. However, nothing that she heard touched her heart. The happy faces of the participants left her in despair. She could not have what they did. Surely it was all a delusion!
And then the greatest humiliation. A speaker asked if anyone would like to offer a son or daughter for the mission field. Hannah fled when her father placed his hand on her head.
Alone in her room, her torment became too great to bear. "O God, if there is a God anywhere, You must make yourself real to me." There was no answer. She knew that God speaks through the Bible. She opened hers at random, asking God to speak through it. She had opened to the first book of Kings, the story of Israel's ancient kingdom. There could be nothing of relevance for her there, she thought and told God bitterly, "You never respond!"
But a thought said, "Why not at least give Him a chance?" Hannah read a few lines and saw that she had opened on the story in which Elijah challenged the people of Israel to choose between Baal and the living God. God caused fire to fall upon Elijah's sacrifice. To Hannah it seemed that God wanted a sacrifice: he wanted her stammering mouth for his use.
"No, I can't do that," she said. "I would rather go straight to hell." Then she realized that she was already in her own personal hell. She could not continue to live as she was. In the agonizing moments that followed, God brought her to surrender to him. Suddenly it seemed His very presence was in the room with her. On this day, July 26, 1924, about 1 p.m., Hannah found joy.
Afterward, through years of steady growth, she learned to move forward despite recurrent doubts and fears. The Bible became her delight. She overcame her fears and found that the secret to a joyful Christian life is to obey God--whatever He asks. She developed a listening heart. He took her stammer away whenever she spoke to others about him. He sent her as a missionary to Jews, a people she disliked. He made her rejoice as a housekeeper in a hospital--a kind of work she had detested. And he gave her books to write--books such as the ever-popular Hinds Feet in High Places.
Despite this awesome witness, later in her life Hannah showed the ever-lurking danger of trusting inner voices. She veered away from sound doctrine, embracing universalism (denying God's wrath), pantheism (God is everything) reincarnation and many new age ideas. Her last book is sold in New Age stores.
- Fisher, G. Richard. "From High Places to Heresy; evaluating the writings of Hannah Hurnard." (www.pfo.org/high-pla.htm)
- "Hinds Feet in Lowest Places; a second look at Hannah Hurnard." http://www.geocities.com/asterisktom/hurnard.html
- Hunard, Hannah. The Hearing Heart. Fort Washington, Pennsylvania: Christian Literature Crusade, no date.
Last updated July, 2007