I sang “Jesus Loves Me” to Liam a few evenings ago. It’s not a song I sing to him often because I sing other songs to him as part of our bedtime routine.
This night, however, I was praying once again that Liam would understand and accept the Gospel message at an early age, and I felt compelled to sing “Jesus Loves Me” to him after praying.
The simple refrain nearly brought tears to my eyes as I remembered a Christian radio program I had heard that explained the origins of the song. Anna Bartlett Warner was its composer, and she was a simple woman who didn’t think much about herself or feel like she had much to offer God. Nonetheless, she offered Him all that she had and was content to do menial and mundane tasks for Him.
In her mind, her older sister Susan was the talented one whom God would use mightily. She was writing an important novel, after all! Anna merely saw herself as a woman playing a supportive role to others making an eternal impact. She did this specifically with her sister by creating the words to a song that her sister could use in her novel—the song that we now know today as “Jesus Loves Me.”
Little did Anna know that, as the years went by, mothers around the world would be singing her song to their young children as they tucked them into bed at night. Little did she know that her song would create a foundation of faith in children, helping them to believe in God’s love for them even as they grew and became adults. And little did she know that her song would long outlive her, still so widespread, well known, and loved even more than a century after her passing.
Thinking of Anna’s story that night caused me to think about another one from more modern times. This story took place with a group of American college students that went to Chile on a mission trip during their summer break. Since they didn’t speak much Spanish, they were happy to run into a student that was studying English on the campus where they were ministering. This student, however, was disinterested in what they had to say and didn’t feel shy about letting them know it! The students gave this young woman a Gospel tract before leaving campus that day.
Although I can’t be certain how they felt, I imagine that particular day left them feeling discouraged and wondering if they were making any real impact. Little did they know how God was working in their midst!
Months later, that same young woman was cleaning out her sock drawer and found the Gospel tract the students had given her. She read it and came to faith in Jesus that day. Shortly afterwards, she joined staff with the same organization with which the American students had gone to Chile. And years later, she is still working in full-time ministry alongside her husband (my brother) and her sweet children. That day in Chile had an impact. The small gesture of giving a Gospel tract to a disinterested English student had an impact. And that impact has made way for further impact of the Gospel to people of different nations. Many have been blessed as a result of my sister-in-law’s faith in Christ. My family and I have been too.
Stories like these touch me deeply, because in a time of life where I feel largely unseen and unknown, I wonder if I am making any real impact in the world myself. I believe that I am planting seeds into my young son’s heart, but what will become of those seeds? Will they bring forth fruit? Will there be a plentiful harvest as a result of all this planting?
Sometimes I wonder if Billy Graham’s mom had these same questions. When her son was a young boy, did she wonder if God was using her too? Did she go about her day completing her daily tasks and praying that God was somehow using her to make an eternal difference in the midst of it all?
The stories of Anna Bartlett Warner and the American college students help me to believe afresh that God is often working in ways far beyond what we can see and that He could be using me in ways that I do not yet comprehend, and that really encourages me.
These stories, however, also cause me to believe that perhaps my focus should not be so much on how I can make an impact on this world but how I can glorify God while I’m here. This seems to have been Anna’s focus, and she gained so much in living this way.
The truth is, I may never know the full impact of my life here on earth. But ultimately I don’t need to. What I need is to know that I am living each day to please God. In doing so, He could use me in ways far beyond my wildest dreams.