Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another was compiled by Donna Kelderman from the writings of “twelve godly women from both Great Britain and America who lived from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries” (from the Preface).
Some of these women’s names are familiar. Susannah Spurgeon was the wife of oft-quoted pastor C. H. Spurgeon and had a thriving writing ministry herself. Frances Ridley Havergal was the author of several hymns we still sing today, like “Take My Life and Let It Be.” Harriet Newell and her husband sailed out with Adoniram and Ann Judson to India as America’s first foreign missionaries, and she died just a year later. Her writing was published posthumously.
I did not know the rest of the ladies, but Donna has a page-long biography of each one at the end of the book. She says in the preface that the ladies came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were married, some were single. Some had children, some did not. Some were widows. Many faced a variety of health issues. Some faced persecution. Some were published authors in their day. Some of the writing is taken from journals or letters.
One thing true of all the women is that their writing is saturated with Scripture. Donna notes that some of the letters and journals were written informally with Scripture, hymns, etc. incorporated from memory without chapter and verse notations. That’s my biggest takeaway from this book: to minister to others spiritually, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and filled with His Word.
I have many places marked, but here are just a few quotes (there are no page numbers, so I’ll note the dates the quotes are from:
Sermons, instruction, and good books are all useful and blessed of God, but do not only be contented with what good men say or write about the Bible. Read it for and apply it to yourselves, seeking the help of the divine Spirit. Thus, draw water for yourselves out of the wells of salvation. Take each of you your own pitcher to the eternal fountain … the “water of life,” which we are to take so “freely,” is far best also at its source. Search the Scriptures, therefore, for yourselves. Despise no helps to understand the Scriptures, but above all read God’s Book quietly and with prayer, and think about it (Elizabeth Julia Hasell, January 28).
Shine on us, shine in us, shine through us—and in such light there will be living warmth (Ruth Bryan, February 28).
To know that He is ours, and that we are His. To draw near in faith telling Him all that is in our hearts, conscious of having the ear and heart of Jehovah toward us. Is this not true substantial happiness? (Mary Winslow, March 16).
May this trial be as a lattice through which Jesus will show Himself to your soul … [Concerning those delivered through the parted sea] It might be that “little faith” looked at the walls of water and feared they would give way, but those fears did not make the promise of no effect, though they might rob the soul of comfort (Ruth Bryan, March 26, emphasis mine).
Many times the Lord has had to disturb our nest and bring us out of some earthly refuge that was becoming too easy and too dear to our soul. But, as music sounds the sweetest when heard across the waters, so do God’s dealings make the purest harmony in our hearts when they reach us over the waves of trial and affliction (Susannah Spurgeon, April 7).
The ground of Paul’s belief was not something, but Someone. Simply, I believe God! This belief, of course, includes all His messages … (Frances Ridley Havergal, May 8).
It is no light matter when He calls the understanding, the will, and the affections each to bring their favorite objects and deliver them up to the fire that must either purify or consume, but this He will do to everyone that He has formed for Himself (Sarah Hawkes, May 9).
Time has not altered Christ’s heart, no, nor all the weaknesses and provocations He has seen in you; but having loved you freely and fully, He will love you eternally (Anne Dutton, May 29).
We often pray, “Lord, increase our faith.” In answering this prayer, the Lord places us in such circumstances as call it forth (Mary Winslow, June 6).
Oh, never shrink from the probing of our beloved Physician. Dearer and dearer will the hand become as we yield to it. Sweeter and sweeter will be the proofs that He is our own faithful Friend, who only wounds that He may perfectly heal (Frances Ridley Havergal, June 13, emphasis mine).
If by many poor attempts I may be used to stir up but one warm loving remembrance of Him, I shall be thankful. Satan is ever striving to divert the mind from this object. He will allure or alarm, he will use what is pleasing or painful, anything to keep the soul from delighting in Jesus, from looking unto Jesus, and believing in Him for life and salvation (Ruth Bryan, July 16, emphasis mine).
The soul that has learned the blessed secret of seeing God’s hand in all that concerns it cannot be a prey to fear; it looks beyond all second causes straight into the heart and will of God and rests content because He rules (Susannah Spurgeon, August 3).
I cannot tell you how sad it is to my heart when I find this savor lacking in some who have been long in the Lord’s ways, and active in serving Him too. They are cumbered with many things, and too little alone with Jesus, without which we shall become like salt which has lost its savor. It matters not what great works there be if the spice of love be lacking (Ruth Bryan, October 23).
Religion composed of mere desires will not do for a dying bed (Mary Winslow, October 27).
The spiritual sloth that arises from indifference and the spiritual debility that arises from unbelief are equally dangerous to the soul (Susan Huntington, November 6).
Like as the natural sun may be obscured from our view by some passing cloud, so may the comforting rays of the Sun of righteousness be for a time obscured by some mental cloud through which our faith is unable to penetrate. And then we soon begin to fear and say, “My beloved has withdrawn Himself!” To the law and to the testimony, therefore, we will turn rather than to sense and feeling, and, under the darkest cloud, rest upon His blessed word of promise—”I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” It is in order to produce, or rather to exercise, this stability of faith that we are suffered sometimes to walk in darkness. Every true Christian has his winter and summer seasons. It is only in that blessed country, toward which we are hastening, that there is one unclouded day (Sarah Hawkes, November 12, emphasis mine).
Praise has the power to lift the soul above all care as if on wings (Susannah Spurgeon, November 25).
There is no true separation from the things which Jesus calls us to leave without a corresponding separation unto things which are incomparably better (Frances Ridley Havergal, November 26).
Donna said that she “lightly updated” the language from the originals. I looked up the original sources of some of these in order to quote them, and that made me immensely appreciate Donna’s editing. In just a few places, the language is still a little hard to plow through, but it’s not insurmountable.
My one slight disappointment is that, this being a book by women for women, there were hardly any passages pertaining specifically to women. I believe women’s books shouldn’t just focus on what are called the “pink passages” of the Bible relating to women. We should read and study the whole counsel of God: all of it speaks to us. But since it does contain some special passages for women, it would have been nice to have little Titus 2 teaching.
Nevertheless, in encouraging a close walk with God, diligent study of His Word, faith in Him through every circumstance, and vigilant combat against sin, this book will touch all areas of life. This is a book I can highly recommend.