Reviewed by Barb Reisinger
The old saying goes, "Behind every good man is a great woman" and such was the case of one of America's first foreign missionary couples, Adoniram and Ann Judson. Ann Hasseltine Judson was truly a remarkable and godly woman and the book, My Heart in His Hands is a wonderful biographical account of her life. Sharon James masterfully selects numerous extracts from Ann's own diary entries and various letters to tell the story of this devoted wife and consecrated Christian.
The author's narrative along with Ann's own memoirs work as a magnifying glass giving the reader a clear and intimate look into the heart and soul of this dear Saint. The book leaves the reader admiring and loving Ann Judson, but more importantly, it shows how Ann's life brought glory to God. The reader will gain a renewed sense of awe and amazement of God's majesty, mercy and grace.
At 16 years of age, God saved Ann Hasseltine during the Religious Revival of 1806 in the New England town of Bradford, MA. Her piety, fervor and depth of understanding at this young age reflect the gracious influence of God's Spirit. In her testimony Ann articulates her heart-felt convictions. Deserving particular attention are the profound theological truths she expressed. She writes,
A view of his purity and holiness filled my soul with wonder and admiration. I felt a disposition to commit myself unreservedly into his hands, and leave it with him to save me or cast me off, for I felt I could not be unhappy, while allowed the privilege of contemplating and loving so glorious a Being (p. 25).
Unlike many Christian biographies, this book takes seriously the theological convictions of its subject. Sharon James clearly demonstrates that Ann's life was built on the theology that she held so dear.
Subjective experience (what she felt) was always based on objective reality (what she knew to be true, this knowledge being based on Scripture) (p. 15).
Ann's letters and diary entries written during dark and difficult days, such as the death of their beloved son or Adoniram's two-year imprisonment, clearly demonstrate her belief in God's sovereignty and providence. In the midst of trials and suffering Ann would humbly submit herself to the Lord's will praying that His purpose in the affliction would be accomplished.
Ann was keenly aware of the depravity of her own heart. Her humility and zeal in serving God came from her sincere belief that she was an unworthy servant of a majestic God. In a letter to her sister she wrote:
If I have grown any in grace since I have left America, it has consisted entirely in an increasing knowledge of my unspeakably wicked heart. . . (p. 102).
Ann's religion was totally God-centered--not relying on what she could do but rather, what God promises to do. Ann confronted everything with total confidence in God and relied solely on the promises in His Word.
This book stands as a clear testimony against those who falsely claim that "Calvinism kills missions." The Judsons not only espoused the great truths of God's sovereignty in salvation but they were also motivated and strengthened by them. The book gives repeated evidence of this.
Sharon James is to be commended for her literary contribution in My Heart in His Hands. Appreciation for this book is so great that one would hesitate to even mention two minor areas of criticism. However, this reviewer sensed a disappointing loss of ambience in chapters 13 and 14--almost as if they are two pieces of a different puzzle. Secondly, the appendices in the back of the book are extremely informative and interesting, so much so that much of the information found in them could be more beneficial to the reader were it woven into the story.
In closing, My Heart in His Hands is recommended reading for not only women, but men and serious young people as well. This work will stir the emotions and thrill the soul as it exalts the God that Ann Judson gave her life to serve.