In his book Amazing Grace, Eric Metaxas says, “Now in his seventies, Wilberforce – formerly a very wealthy man – found himself nearly destitute.”
William Wilberforce lived most of his life as a rich man. A British Parliamentarian of the highest honor, and the one man most responsible for the abolition of the slave trade throughout the British Empire, William ended his life with little personal gain.
The end characterized the whole. Giving was an attribute built into William from the moment of his conversion. God gifted William with the gift of giving. Whether giving of his own time, effort, influence, or money, he gave to those in need and to those causes that had need.
An important lesson can be learned from the grace that accompanied William in his latter years. It provides a model; one I want to fully embrace. One of the things I desire my children to learn is that our circumstances don’t control our attitudes. Or, at least, they shouldn’t. Too often (f I am honest about my own life) they do.
Having sold his estates and being forced to live with one of their sons, Wilberforce and his wife found themselves in a new situation. In the midst of this trial, William saw the gracious hand of Providence.
“A kind Providence has enabled me with truth to adopt the declaration of David, that goodness and mercy have followed me all my days. And now, when the cup presented to me has some bitter ingredients, yet surely no draught can be deemed distasteful which comes from such a hand, and contains such grateful infusions as those of social intercourse and the sweet endearments of filial gratitude and affection.”
Metaxas says, “Toward the end of his days, Wilberforce’s marked habit of perpetual gratitude in all circumstances actually seemed to increase.”
One of the reasons I love reading biography is to see this kind of example and be challenged. God gave men like William Wilberforce to the world – not only to accomplish things themselves, but to be an example to us in many wonderful ways.
Oh Lord, help me to be the kind of person who sees your hand over the circumstances of my life. Let me have that sweet disposition of William Wilberforce. No matter what my station in life, allow me to see and to savor your grace and mercy. Let this overflow into the lives of my children as they observe me in good times and bad times. Amen.