Lilias Trotter 1853-1928

“Satan knows well the power of concentration.” Do we? Do we dare to focus on Christ with such genuine intensity that His glory is our only motive and consideration for every choice we make?

In October 1876, John Ruskin, a famous English painter and severe art critic, consented to evaluate a young woman’s artwork. Astonished by her exceptional portrayal of artistic elements and principles, Ruskin immediately offered to train the artist. As time progressed, he declared that she was a rare talent destined to become one of the century’s greatest English artists.

The young artist, Isabella Lilias Trotter, was born on July 14, 1853, to an affluent family in London. Her godly parents intentionally instilled spiritual truths in her life which blossomed following her salvation. Lilias’s love for art was matched only by her passion for ministry. When faced with a choice between the fortune and fame of an artistic career and a simple life of service, Lilias chose to relinquish her rights to her talent and follow Christ. In 1879, she journaled: “Are our hands off the very blossom of our lives? Are all things—even the treasures He sanctified—held loosely, ready to be parted with without a struggle when He asks for them? It is a loss to keep what God says to give.”

After she surrendered her life and talents to Christ, He opened His way before her. At a mission conference in 1887, Lilias clearly knew that God wanted her to go to Algeria, North Africa. The following year, she moved to Algeria where she ministered to Arabs until her death in 1928. Although she worked closely with North African Mission, the ministry never accepted her as a missionary because her heart was weak. However, Christ was Lilias’ focus; nothing could dissuade her obedience. For the next thirty-nine years, she faithfully ministered to Algerian women and children through Bible studies, prayer meetings, and literacy classes. Her artistic and literary talents enabled her to write and translate many tracts, parables, Christian literature, and Scripture portions into both classical and colloquial Arabic. During her later ministry, Lilias and her team pioneered work among the Arab Sufi mystics in the Southlands of Algeria. When her weak heart left her bedridden, she continued writing. The famous hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” was inspired by Lilias’ booklet Focussed, in which she wrote: “Dare to lay bare your whole life and being before Him, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His glory.”

Lives are legacies, yet only Christ-focused lives leave legacies of faithfulness. Focused lives fearlessly follow Christ without hesitation at the cost to oneself, family, friends, or ministries. “Christ—Christ—Christ—filling all the horizon. Everything in us: everything to us: everything through us. ‘To live is Christ.’—Amen.”

Is our focus changing our lives? Do we dare?

Quotations from A Passion for the Impossible by Miriam Huffman Rockness

Winter 2022-23