She was brought home from Switzerland to die, but she lingered on.
That is severe suffering. Here was a young woman who had never gone off into sin, and instead spent every bit of her energy serving God and reaching out to others. She had intelligence, anointing, and skill ... and yet the Lord allowed her to become deathly ill. However, she never ceased to trust in God. She might not have understood the ways of the Lord, but she would cooperate with Him anyways.
During the time of her illness, Miriam became engaged to Gordon Simpson, her childhood sweetheart. The story of their first encounter, and the instant he fell in love with her, is very sweet.
He had been visiting her family as a friend of one of her brothers. Joining them for a meal, he was asked to pray, or say grace. Gordon was terrified, and bravely tried to pray but couldn't get any words out. Sensitive little Miriam figured out what was wrong. She finished the prayer for him, and Gordon testified that during her prayer was the first time he had ever felt the Lord. That night, Gordon knelt down by his bed and gave his heart to the Lord.
He loved Miriam from that very first prayer onward. During their younger years, he had felt a similar call to consecration and began studying to be a Salvation Army officer. He was commissioned before Miriam, and during her illness he was appointed to serve in South Africa.
Gordon had a good idea of just how serious Miriam's illness was, and worried that she might pass before he would see her again. Torn, he sought the Lord and spent a day in prayer and fasting. The next day, without saying a word to anyone, he received revised orders. They took him to the area where Miriam was recovering. The Lord had heard his prayer.
He never spoke a word to Miriam about how he felt toward her. He spoke with is father about it, and then spoke with Bramwell Booth about it. They both felt he should wait until Miriam finished her officer training before telling Miriam how he felt. As we know, however, Miriam's health went downhill. Then Bramwell asked him to wait until her health improved. The problem is that Miriam's health never really improved. Gordon waited SEVEN YEARS before he told Miriam that he loved her. To his delight, he discovered that she loved him, too.
As Miriam's illness worsened, she could only speak to her fiancee Gordon by letter. She was concerned about the negative effect her illness was having on his work for the Lord in the Salvation Army. She told him that the engagement should be broken off because she felt certain she would not recover.
Gordon, needless to say, refused.
Reaction to Pain and Suffering
Miriam lived in constant pain for a matter of years. Doctors offered to give her morphine to get the pain under control, but Miriam refused. Her reasoning was that so many of her converts had struggled with such an addiction, and she didn't want to make use of something that her converts couldn't. Even in pain, her mind didn't go to what was best for her, but what was best for others.
Miriam became an invalid, which was difficult for such an extroverted young person. People that were close to her during this time, however, said she never complained and rarely ever cried. Instead, she worked hard to be brave, and to be grateful for the help given to her by others during her illness.
One of the people that helped her was her childhood nanny. Zazzie, as the children called her, was hired after Miriam's mother Florence received money from an inheritance. The children loved Zazzie, and we can only imagine how much comfort she provided to Miriam during her illness.
Miriam would say, "O Zazzie, darling, I feel almost as if I must give up, and I wish it was all over."
Zazzie would reply, "But Mira, darling, think of the great blessing you are to us all."
Miriam would then reply, "But sometimes I am so tired, so weary of the pain, weary of trying to be patient, weary of everything ... but I have so much to be thankful for." And that would be the end of Miriam's short complaint.
A Trial of Her Faith
Miriam believed in Divine Healing, and prayed for it. But the Lord did not heal her.
Here is what Miriam had to say concerning that: “I can only feel that God is teaching me that the highest form of faith is to trust His will and His love to be the best, and to submit myself to Him. This is the only way to true peace, the peace that passeth all understanding. I must leave the matter there.”
One day doctors announced to Miriam that all she needed was one more surgery, and she would recover. She was taken to a hospital and the surgery went as planned. Things seemed to be going well, but the day before she was to return home she succumbed to heart failure. She was barely 30 years old.
She had asked long before that no flowers be present at her funeral, because she didn't want anyone spending money they didn't have. Miriam Booth was buried with the Salvation Army flag, in her sergeant's uniform. She resides next to her grandmother, Catherine Booth, in Abney Park Cemetery.
Lessons from Miriam's Life
Miriam committed her life to God at a young age. When things didn't turn out as she had hoped -- when her dreams were shattered, and she was lying on a bed in terrible pain, she never took back that commitment. In fact, these words of hers explain her viewpoint quite well: "“We are often tempted to want a different kind of work; we sometimes feel that we are so much better suited to some other post than that where God has placed us -- not realizing that the vital matter for us to seek after is not so much the accomplishing of some mighty task, as the doing of God's will; that is, the fulfilling of His purpose for us."
Miriam Booth: a sketch by Minnie Lindsay Rowell Carpenter
William and Catherine by Trevor Yaxley
Sara McCaslin is an engineer, a computer scientist, and a freelance writer.