Written by Arlene:
“It’s a boy!” The already-famous-in-Britain-and-American-colonies George Whitefield threw his hands wide. “I know God is blessing us with a son. He will be a great preacher. He will bring many souls into the Kingdom for God. Hallelujah!”
“How can you be sure?” his host asked. “Nobody knows until the moment of birth whether they are blessed with a son or a daughter.”
“Is not my wife Elizabeth?” George jumped up to pace the room. “Did not the angel Gabriel come to Elizabeth in the Bible and promise her a son – a miracle – in her old age? Ah, friend, I rest in faith. We shall have a son and name him John, just like the Bible story. Now…” He glanced out the window. “The time has come to spread the Good News.”
Whitefield and his host hurried to the town square where hundreds of people were gathering to hear one of his electrifying messages. He never allowed anything – including a pregnancy – to slow his preaching schedule. His only concession was to preach closer to home to pop in on his wife now and again.
The big day came. Elizabeth delivered a healthy boy, just as Whitefield had boasted. Nothing dampened his joy. He admired his new son, comforted his wife, then hurried back to his grueling schedule.
Before John’s fourth month, the Whitefields moved back to Elizabeth’s hometown. On the way, they stopped at George’s brother’s inn, where he left his family to preach elsewhere.
Whitefield had introduced a preaching style never before experienced in England or the colonies. After his radical conversion of God’s free grace to all, he felt compelled to share it with all humanity. Soon, the established church slammed every door against him. Shockingly, he chose to preach outside, as Jesus did. His open-air messages drew people from many miles away. He spoke to thousands, tens of thousands at a time. The burn to spread the message precluded anything else, including the creature comforts of home and family.
In his absence, John grew ill. Gravely ill. The doctors blistered the baby – a common practice at that time, to purify the blood. George’s friends panicked. Nobody knew how to contact the great preacher to call him home. Nobody.
The day came when Whitefield pulled up to his brother's inn, dismounted his horse and tossed the reins over the post. His heart pounded as he bounded up the few stone steps to throw open the door.
People clustered around Elizabeth, mute faces telling him all he needed to know.
“John?” he whispered.
Elizabeth shook her head, dabbing her cheeks with a dainty handkerchief. A friend grasped Whitefield’s shoulder. George sank into a chair. Days later, he and Elizabeth yielded their son back to God with the cry, "Thy will be done."
“Weeping must not hinder sowing.” With his son buried, Whitefield hastened back to London to preach. On the long, lonely ride, his boastful words haunted him, taunted him. The great preacher lay under the earth, in the churchyard of Whitefield’s own childhood.
How could I mistake the Lord’s voice? He pondered. How could I hear the voice of the devil and think him God? How is this possible? Mile after plodding mile, thoughts mocked him, tortured him. His heavy heart turned from the joyous story of Zachariah, Elizabeth and John to that of Abraham and Isaac.
I have been called by Almighty God to sacrifice my only son. Daily I preach of God’s boundless love to all. I see men and women transformed by his love. His grace. His forgiveness. Where is his love now…?
“No!” Whitefield exclaimed aloud, startling his horse. “I shall not think these thoughts. Isaiah wrote, ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts.’ I shall not allow my thoughts to question my God. Have I not seen his provision here as well as in America? Yes! He is always, always faithful. I may never understand until I see my son in heaven. Now, I echo Job’s prayer, ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.’ From this day forward, I choose to preach the true Gospel until my last breath. I will never quit sharing the greatest of all stories...God's endless love for all.”