“Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked.” Ecclesiastes 7:13
Often God seems to place His children in positions of profound difficulty, leading them into a wedge from which there is no escape; contriving a situation which no human judgment would have permitted, had it been previously consulted. The very cloud conducts them thither. You may be thus involved at this very hour. It does seem perplexing and very serious to the last degree, but it is perfectly right. The issue will more than justify Him who has brought you hither. It is a platform for the display of His almighty grace and power. He will not only deliver you; but in doing so, He will give you a lesson that you will never forget, and to which, in many a psalm and song, in after days, you will revert. You will never be able to thank God enough for having done just as He has. (Streams in the Desert)
“But God is the God of the waves and the billows, and they are still His when they come over us; and again and again we have proved that the overwhelming thing does not overwhelm. Once more by His interposition deliverance came. We were cast down, but not destroyed.” ~Amy Carmichael
Once a household name among mission-literate believers the world over, relatively few today are familiar with Amy Wilson Carmichael, and we are the poorer for it. Amy was born in County Down, Ireland in 1867. In many ways she was an unlikely candidate for missionary work, suffering from neuralgia, a disease of the nerves that made her whole body weak and achy and often put her in bed for weeks on end. While attending the Keswick Convention of 1887, she heard J. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission speak about missionary life. Soon afterwards, she became convinced of her calling to missionary work, and applied to the China Inland Mission. She was ready to sail for Asia at one point, when it was determined that her health made her unfit for the work. She postponed her missionary career with the China Inland Mission and decided later to join the Church Missionary Society.
Initially, Carmichael traveled to Japan for fifteen months, but she became ill and returned home. Then, after a brief period of service in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), she went to Bangalore, India for her health and found her lifelong vocation. Carmichael’s most notable work was with girls and young women, some of whom were saved from customs that amounted to forced prostitution in which young girls were dedicated to the gods in Hindu temples, then forced into prostitution to earn money for the priests. Amy founded the Dohnavur Fellowship in 1901 to continue her work, transforming Dohnavur into a sanctuary for over one thousand children who would otherwise have faced a bleak future. Respecting Indian culture, members of the organization wore Indian dress and gave the rescued children Indian names. Carmichael herself dressed in Indian clothes, dyed her skin with dark coffee, and often traveled long distances to save just one child from suffering.
Amy received a letter from a young lady who was considering life as a missionary. She asked Amy, “What is missionary life like?” Amy wrote back saying simply, “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.” A fall in 1931 severely injured Carmichael, and she remained bedridden for much of her final two decades; however, it did not stop her from writing. Biographers differ on the number of her published works, which may have reached 35 or as many as six dozen, although only a few remain in print today. Despite frequent pain and constant hardship, Amy Carmichael served in India for 55 years without furlough. She died in India in 1951 at the age of 83. She asked that no stone be put over her grave at Dohnavur; instead, the children she had cared for put a bird bath over it with the single inscription “Amma”, which means “mother” in the Tamil language.
Hardship is not indication of God’s disfavor or abandonment. Those who push through discover divine intimacy reserved for those who turn toward the Father rather than away from Him while suffering.