What a difficult life. She was the twenty-fifth child in a Dissenter’s family. Though brilliant, she procured little education. Though strong-willed, she lived in a male-dominated age. She married an older man and bore him 19 children. Nine of them died. Her house burned up, her barn fell down, her health failed, and she lived with a wolf at the door.
She was Susanna Wesley.
Samuel and Susanna, married in 1689, began pastoring in dreary little Epworth in 1697. They served there 40 years, enduring hardships like these:
• Samuel’s salary was so small (and he was so incapable of managing it) that he was thrown into debtor’s prison, leaving Susanna to fend for herself.
• The two were strong-willed and argumentative. Samuel once prayed for the king and waited for Susanna’s “Amen.” She didn’t say it. “I do not believe the prince of Orange to be the king,” she said spiritedly. “Then you and I must part,” replied Samuel, “for if we have two kings we must have two beds.” They separated, to be reunited only after the king’s death.
• They also disagreed about Susanna’s ministry, for her Bible lessons drew more listeners than his sermons.
• Susanna gave birth to a daughter during the election of 1705. The nurse, exhausted by overnight revelry, slept so heavily the next morning that she rolled on the baby and smothered it.
• Susanna herself was often bedfast, having to delegate home duties to the children. But several of her children were so wayward that she called them “a constant affliction.”
• Her brother, having promised her a sizable gift, disappeared mysteriously and was never heard from again.
• Finally, on July 21, 1731, Susanna described an accident in which her horses stampeded, throwing Samuel from their wagon and injuring him so that he was never well from that day.
A difficult life. And yet …
And yet the parsonage at Epworth was destined to become the most celebrated in English history, for from it came two of the greatest evangelists of all time, John and Charles Wesley. And the mother who raised them shook the world.
… it looks like nothing. But cheer up! Because I, the Lord All-Powerful, will be here to help you with the work, just as I promised your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt. Don’t worry. My Spirit is right here with you. (Haggai 2:3b-5)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). July 21.