Frances Ridley Havergal—A Life Freely Offered
by Ruth Babbel
A.W. Tozer might have included her in his “army of fragrant saints.” Though her life was brief—she died of severe lung inflammation at age 42—the woman who penned the words to “Take My Life, And Let It Be” continues to speak through her hymns, poetry, and devotional writings.
Frances Ridley Havergal was a well-known hymn-writer by the time she reached her mid-30s. Eventually she had 71 hymn lyrics to her credit. Though she had no formal theological training apart from her diligent, daily study of the Scriptures, coupled with a strong prayer life, her words have a humble weightiness about them, often piercing the heart.
Havergal was born into an English clergyman’s family in Astley, Worcestershire, in the Christmas season of 1836. With a knack for languages, she studied Latin, French, German, Greek, and Hebrew. At the piano, she played Bach with skill and grace.
One of her most noteworthy qualities is that she filled her heart and mind to the brim with God’s Word. Perhaps this was what made her life not just fragrant, but fruitful (Psalm 1). Even in her youth she memorized vast portions of the Bible—from Isaiah to the Minor Prophets, from the psalms of David to the New Testament.