Dr. Edward Payson, known as "Praying Payson," was a pastor in Portland, Maine, nearly 200 years ago. In 1806, just a few years after the Declaration of Independence, America was devastated by a severe depression. It was a dark period and Dr. Payson vividly recorded the tragedy in his area. He wrote:
"Business has stagnated, many are failing. Hundreds . . . have been thrown out of employment, and they are destitute. I tremble for my poor country. I fear our sins have helped call down judgment upon us. Some of our wonderful young converts have lost their all, and had their homes stripped away; but it does my heart good to see them cheerful and quiet under it all. Others, who have no God, have lost their reason, they worry incessantly, and are apparently dying of a broken heart."
Dr. Payson and his congregation suffered the spoiling of all their goods. Dr. Payson himself lived on pennies during those hard times. On December 28, 1807, in a letter to his mother, he wrote:
"Conditions worsen. A large number of the wealthy merchants live in poverty now. Businesses are failing daily. The poorhouse is already full, and hundreds are yet to be provided for. Many who have been brought up in affluence are now dependent on others for daily food.
"Perhaps, Mother, you will grieve for me and say, ‘Poor Edward!’ But you never had more reason to rejoice on my behalf, and cry, ‘Rich Edward!’ than now. Blessed be God, my faith does not stand on such tottering foundations as to be shaken by these commotions. God keeps me quiet, resigned, and even happy in all these troubles. I do not mean I don't feel pain—I do. All my worldly hopes are destroyed. In these circumstances it is impossible not to feel pain. I thought I knew before that this world is treacherous, and its enjoyments but for a moment; but these hard times have taught me to wean myself from creature things and pursue the things of God. It is my prayer, that if God has any worldly blessings in store for me, He would be pleased to give me His grace instead."
Edward Payson had quit trying to run the race of life on his own (see Hebrews 12:1). He could take joyfully the stripping away of all he possessed, because he was in this world but not of it.
”My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).