He Giveth More Grace
The Life of Annie J. Flint
Few have experienced agony like Annie Johnson Flint (1866–1932). Both of her parents died during her childhood. She grew up an orphan — fortunately, in a family where she was taught the Scriptures, reading, writing, and music. But even then, Annie’s childhood dream of becoming a concert pianist was quickly dissolved when she developed severe rheumatoid arthritis in just her early-twenties. The arthritis was so severe that by Annie’s thirtieth-birthday she could no longer walk. Her hands were disfigured, her body was twisted, and she was rarely able to sleep because of the extreme discomfort she experienced throughout her joints.
Though her physical body became more deformed with each passing year, Christ was powerfully being formed in Annie through her agony and suffering. Despite the intense pain it brought to her contorted fingers, Annie was a prolific writer and poet. She regularly reflected upon God’s Word, his promises, and his abiding presence in her life through poetry and prose. Though she spent most of her life stuck inside her little room in a Sanitarium, she rarely—if ever—complained about her condition. Those who knew her best described her as bright, encouraging, and surprisingly humorous. In fact, it was her heart for people that started her writing career as she created cards and gift-books containing her poetry for friends who needed encouragement.
Poetry Born From Pain
As the Lord blessed Annie’s writing ministry, her works were published and widely distributed. People marveled that such beautiful lyrics could be composed by hands so compromised by constant pain. The dominant theme of her writing was God’s goodness. His goodness in creation, his goodness in his being and character, his goodness in his works, and his goodness particularly amid trials and adversity. We see this in her poem, “What God Hath Promised,” in lines like:
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky and steep
Never a river turbid and deep.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
Annie was ruthlessly honest about life’s difficulties. She refused to gloss over pain and suffering, and in her poetry, she never minimized the experience of living in a world marred by sin. But Annie also resisted the equally strong tendency to become cynical and pessimistic. She, better than most, wrote with one eye on the present hardships and the other on God’s eternal goodness and purposes in them. By doing so, she lifted her readers’ hearts above their present misery to behold from God’s perspective his sovereign goodness in their trials and the nearness of Jesus through every tribulation.
He Giveth More Grace
A few months ago, while reading through an old hymnal, I stumbled across Annie’s hymn “He Giveth More Grace.” At that point, I did not know Annie’s story but was immediately heartened as I read lines like, “…to added afflictions he addeth his mercy, to multiplied trials he multiplies peace” and “…for out of his infinite riches in Jesus he giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.” Her lyrics vividly captured the promise of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” and left me contemplating the infinite generosity of our God. I walked away from the lyrics with renewed hope to face the trails of the day armed with the truth that in my afflictions and trials God is meeting me with his mercy and grace.
I couldn’t get the lyrics out of my head, but I struggled to find a tune for the song that I felt adequately captured the spirit of the poem, so I endeavored to write my own. I wanted to write something that had a bit of a swing-feel — offering appropriate levity to the otherwise dense lyrics — but I didn’t want the song to feel too busy with melodic movement. I also thought that the hymn would benefit from a very simple refrain that explicitly drew from the promise of 2 Corinthians 12:9, so I added the lyrics, “Grace all sufficient / Grace given for free / Grace all sufficient / for our every need.”
Over the past month at Cities Church, we’ve begun singing the version of “He Giveth More Grace” that I retuned. As we continue to learn and internalize the song, I hope that the lyrics and the author’s story serve as a comfort and encouragement as you face trials of various kinds. I also hope that hearing Annie’s story will inspire you to serve Jesus out of your weakness. I’m often amazed that such powerful words were penned by such weak hands. Annie’s poetry is proof that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness.” How easy it would have been — understandable even — for her never to pick up a pen and write, but I am so glad she did. And I encourage you likewise to trust the Lord to use your weaknesses for his glory as you act in faith.
In closing, here are the final lyrics for the Cities Church Music version of “He Giveth More Grace.” We are currently working on a recording of the song that will be released later this year.
He Giveth More Grace
Original Lyrics: Annie J. Flint
Music & Refrain: Nick Aufenkamp
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater
He sendeth more strength when labors increase
To added afflictions, he addeth his mercy
To multiplied trials, his multiplied peace
When we have exhausted our store of endurance
When strength has run dry and day is half-done
When we reach the end of our earthly resources
Our Father’s full giving has only begun
Grace given for free
For our every need
For our every need
Fear not that thy need shall exceed his provision
Our God ever yearns his blessing to share
Oh lean on the arms everlasting, availing
The Father both thee and thy load will upbeat
His love has no limits, his grace has no measure
His power no boundary known unto men
For out of his infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again