Early lessons in the life of faith
When a very little child, so young I can remember nothing earlier, a severe thunderstorm passed over our home. Terrified, I ran to my mother, who placed my hands together, and pointing upward repeated over and over again and the one word “Jesus”.
More than fifty years have passed since that day, but the impression left upon my child-mind, of a Being invisible but able to hear and help, has never been effaced.
The most precious recollections of early childhood are associated with stories told us by our mother, many of which illustrated the power of prayer.
One that made a specially deep impression upon me was about our grandfather, who as a little boy went to visit cousins in the south of England, their home being situated close to a dense forest. One day the children, lured by the beautiful wild flowers, became hopelessly lost in the woods. After trying in vain to find a way out, the eldest, a young girl, called the frightened, crying little ones around her and said: ‘When mother died she told us to always tell Jesus if we were in any trouble. Let us kneel down, and ask him to take us home’.
They knelt, and as she prayed one of the little ones opened his eyes, to find a bird so close to his hand that he reached out for it. The bird hopped away, but kept so close to the child as to lead him on. Soon all were joining in the chase after the bird, which flew or hopped in front or just above, and sometimes on the ground almost within reach. Then suddenly it flew into the air and away. The children looked up to find themselves on the edge of the woods and in sight of home.
With such influences bearing upon one at an impressionable age, it is not surprising that I came even as a very little child to just ‘tell Jesus’ when in trouble.
Through the mists of memory one incident comes out clearly, which occurred when I was six or seven years of age. While playing one day in the garden, I was seized with what we then called ‘jumping’ toothache. I ran to my mother for comfort, but nothing she could do seemed to ease the pain.
The nerve must have become exposed, for the pain was acute. Suddenly I thought, ‘Jesus can help me’, and just as I was, with my face pressed against my mother’s breast, I said in my heart: ‘Lord Jesus, if you will take away this toothache right now, now, I will be your little girl for three years’.
Before the prayer was well uttered the pain was entirely gone. I believed that Jesus had taken it away; and the result was that for years, when tempted to be naughty, I was afraid to do what I knew was wrong lest, if I broke my side of what I felt to be a compact, the toothache would return. This little incident had a real influence over my early life, gave me a constant sense of the reality of a divine presence, and so helped to prepare me for the public confession of Christ as my Saviour a few years later, at the age of eleven.
About a year after my confession of Christ an incident occurred which greatly strengthened my faith, and led me to look to God as a Father in a new way.
When Easter Sunday morning came it was so warm only spring clothes could be worn. My sister and I decided at breakfast that we would not go to church, as we had only our old winter dresses. Going to my room, I turned to my Bible to study it, when it opened at the sixth chapter of Matthew, and my eye rested on these words: “Why take ye thought for raiment …. seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you”.
It was as if God spoke the words directly to me. I determined to go to church, even if I had to humiliate myself by going in my old winter dress. The Lord was true to his promise; I can still feel the power the resurrection messages had upon my heart that day so long ago. And further, on the following day a box came from a distant aunt, containing not only new dresses but much else that might well be included in the ‘all these things’.
An unforgetable proof of God’s loving care came to us as a family about this time, when my parents were face to face with a serious financial crisis. Isaiah 65:24 was literally fulfilled: “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear”.
At that time, it is necessary to state, we depended on a quarterly income, which came through my mother’s lawyer in England. Unusual circumstances had so drained our resources that we found ourselves, in the middle of the quarter, with barely sufficient to meet a week’s needs. My dear mother assured us that the Lord would provide; that he would not forsake those who put their trust in him. That very day a letter came from the lawyer in England, enclosing a draft for a sum ample to meet our needs till the regular remittance should arrive. This unexpected and timely draft proved to be a bonus, which did not occur again.
Rosalind Goforth (Mrs Jonathan Goforth)
Missionary in China
From Rosalind Goforth, How I know God answers prayer, Philadelphia, The Sunday School Times Company, 1921, pages 6-10
Rosalind Goforth (1864-1942):
Rosalind Bell-Smith Goforth was born near London, England, and moved with her parents to Montreal, Canada, three years later. Her Dad was an artist, and Rosalind graduated from the Toronto School of Art in 1885. In 1887 she married Jonathan Goforth. They served together as missionaries in China and Manchuria. They were married for forty-nine years and had eleven children (Gertrude, Donald, Paul, Florence, Helen, Grace, Ruth, William, [Amelia] Constance, Mary, and [John] Frederick), five of whom died as babies or very young children. She was the author of How I Know God Answers Prayer (1921), her husband’s biography, Goforth of China (1937), and Climbing: Memoirs of a Missionary’s Wife (1940).