Stepping Heavenward

stepping heavenward

A while ago I read the book ‘Stepping Heavenward’, by Elizabeth Prentiss, and thought I should write a short review about it.

(For those of you who are Dutch readers, this book is availble in Dutch, titled: ‘Verlangen‘).

Elizabeth Payson Prentiss (Portland, Maine, 26 October 1818 – 13 August 1878) was an American author, well known for her hymn “More Love to Thee, O Christ” and the religious novel Stepping Heavenward (1869). Her writings enjoyed renewed popularity in the late 20th century.

This is what Elisabeth Elliot had to say about the book:’ “How dreadfully old I am getting! Sixteen!” So begins Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss, the journal-like account of a nineteenth century girl who learns, on the path to womanhood, that true happiness can be found in giving oneself for others. This book is a treasure of both Godly and womanly wisdom told with disarming candor and humility, yet revealing a deep hearts desire to know God,’ says noted Christian speaker Elisabeth Elliot. ‘I do not hesitate to recommend it to men, who need to understand the wives they live with, and to any woman who wants to walk with God.’

It is a somewhat autobiographical book about Katy, who starts writing her memoirs at the age of 16. She writes about her growing up years with her godly mother and the dread she felt at living a religious life. She is trying, but with all her trying she is not getting anywhere. “Today I feel discouraged and disappointed. I certainly thought that if God really loved me, and I really loved Him, I would find myself growing better day by day. But I am not improved in the least.” 

She openly tells of her spiritual struggles, but also of the deepening of her spiritual life through all the hardships she has to endure. The ups and downs of her thoughts and feelings make way for the solid foundation in Christ.

Regarding her role as a mother and the pressures that accompany motherhood at times, she writes: “I only wish I had understood this years ago,” I said. “I have made prayer too much of a luxury, and have often inwardly chafed and fretted when the care of my children at times, made it utterly impossible to leave them for private devotion – when they have been sick, for instance, or in other similar emergencies. I reasoned this way: ‘Here is a special demand on my patience, and I am naturally impatient. I must have time to go away and entreat the Lord to equip me for this conflict.’ But I see now that the simple act of cheerful acceptance of the duty imposed and the solace and support withdrawn would have united me more fully to Christ than the highest enjoyment of His presence in prayer could.”

I could quote more, but I highly recommend this book for you as moms, for your daughters, friends, but also husbands. Even though it was written in the 19th century, it is an easy read, contains funny passages, and will resonate within many hearts.

Here is the well known hymn written by Elizabeth Prentiss: ‘More Love to Thee’:

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