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    Embracing God’s Will

    To accept the will of God never leads to the miserable feeling that it is useless to strive any more.

    By Amy Carmichael

    June 22, 2022
    • Ann Dayton

      Thank you for introducing me to Amy Carmichael. I had not known of her nor come across any books of her before. I loved that selection of her reflections - such deep wisdom in them, and so beautifully expressed.

    This article is a chapter from That Way and No Other, the writings of Amy Carmichael.

    In the earlier years of the work in Dohnavur we were constantly reminded of how there came a messenger unto Job and said … And while he was yet speaking there came also another, and said … (Job 1:13–19) – for trouble followed trouble very much after the fashion of those messengers.

    One evening, in a brief lull between the messengers, two of us spent an hour with a small telescope looking at the Great Nebula in Orion. As I looked into those deeps of darkness lighted by an infinitely far and faint pale flame, a sense of the eternal came upon me. “The world passeth away and the lust thereof” – and the grief thereof, and the wrong thereof – “but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:17), was the word of that breath of flame. The transitory appeared (as we know it to be) in comparison with the eternal of no account at all. I knew then that the only thing that matters when trouble is appointed is our attitude toward that trouble; and I turned from the telescope to meet the next assault with an entirely new peace. This that I must touch and handle and feel was nothing of real moment. A few days or months or years, and it would be forgotten utterly. But how I touched and handled it, how I felt and acted toward those who caused it – that belonged to the eternal order.

    To accept the will of God never leads to the miserable feeling that it is useless to strive any more. God  … asks for something vivid and strong. He asks us to cooperate with him, actively willing what he wills, our only aim his glory. To accept in this sense is to come with all the desire of the mind unto the place which the Lord shall choose, and to minister in the name of the Lord our God there – not otherwhere.

    Though through these months acceptance has been a word of liberty and victory and peace to me, it has never meant acquiescence in illness, as though ill health were from him who delights to deck his priests with health. But it did mean contentment with the unexplained. Neither Job nor Paul ever knew (so far as we know) why prayer for relief was answered as it was. But I think that they must stand in awe and joy, as they meet others in the heavenly country who were strengthened and comforted by their patience and valor, and the record of their Father’s thoughts of peace toward them. Hardly a life that goes deep but has tragedy somewhere within it; what would such do without Job? And who could spare from his soul’s hidden history the great words spoken to Saint Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9)? Such words lead straight to a land where there is gold, and the gold of that land is good.

    house sparrow perched on a branch

    Photograph by Aniket Solankar

    Gold – the word recalls Job’s affirmation, “When he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10); and Saint Peter’s “The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire” (1 Pet. 1:17); and the quiet word in Malachi, “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” (Mal. 3:3) …

    This picture of the refiner is straight from Eastern life. The Eastern goldsmith sits on the floor by his crucible. For me, at least, it was not hard to know why the Heavenly Refiner had to sit so long. The heart knows its own dross. Blessed be the love that never wearies, never gives up hope that even in such poor metal he may at last see the reflection of his face.

    “How do you know when it is purified?” we asked our village goldsmith.

    “When I can see my face in it,” he answered.

    There are times when something poignant brings home to us that we live in a suffering land. The mind faints before pain-smitten millions; and because the subject is so overwhelming, presently it does overwhelm, and crushes out even feeling. But just as where spiritual wrong is concerned, so it is here: lift one single suffering thing out of the mass, one small tormented child, and look at it, and the mind is numb no longer.

    It is never safe for a convert, or for a child who is practically a convert, to be unhappy for long. Behind him or her is a darkness. Phantoms haunt that darkness, and memories, like hands, are ever pulling, pulling. … For eighteen months, in tension of spirit, we waited; but such a time is timeless; it might have been eighteen years. And we learned to accept the mystery of a delayed answer to our prayers, even to such an urgent prayer as this had been. … And in the end, not gradually as it had crept over her, but suddenly as at a word of command, the gloom passed. And that dear child, fully delivered, became our fellow soldier in the battles of the Lord.

    “God asks for something vivid and strong. He asks us to cooperate with him, actively willing what he wills, our only aim his glory.”

    The lesson that had been set us was the willing acceptance of daily, nightly perplexity and disappointment without explanation. In the Gospels such a matter was always dealt with instantly, and we had seen instant salvation and had read of the same in books. Here was delay. And we were not told why, and have not yet been told. We learned to accept the silence of our God.

    Can you find a promise that if we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, life is going to be fairly easy? I do not think we shall find even one. But we shall find ever so many promises assuring us that however things are, we may count on strength to make us brave and peace to keep our hearts at rest.

    I want you to welcome the little difficult things, the tiny pricks and ruffles that are sure to come almost every day. For they give you a chance to say “No” to yourself, and by doing so you will become strong not only to do but also to endure.

    Whatever happens, don’t be sorry for yourselves. You know how our Lord met the tempting “Pity thyself” (Matt. 16:22). After all, what is anything we have to bear in comparison with what our Lord bore for us?

    There is a secret discipline appointed for every man and woman whose life is lived for others. No one escapes that discipline, nor would wish to escape it; nor can any shelter another from it. And just as we have seen the bud of a flower close round the treasure within, folding its secret up, petal by petal, so we have seen the soul that is chosen to serve, fold round its secret and hold it fast and cover it from the eyes of man. The petals of the soul are silence.

    It was so with Kohila when she saw some of her schoolfellows married and with dear children about them, and felt that for her that was not to be; for she knew and was sure that for her the other way was appointed; and he who had called her to that other way satisfied her heart.

    Deuteronomy 2:3: “Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.” It would take too long to tell what this word has said to me. I will only say it spoke about a mountain of thought round which I have walked rather often. It is time to stop compassing that mountain.

    After settling that matter, I remembered one who for two whole years has been walking round a certain mountain of desire. When the desired thing was not given at the expected time, there was great disappointment. Perhaps the Lord is saying to that one and to others who are constantly praying about something personally desired, “Leave the matter to me: you have prayed enough about it. You have compassed that mountain long enough.”

    “There is a secret discipline appointed for every man and woman whose life is lived for others.”

    I know another who always seems to be walking round a mountain of rubble. Self and the feelings of self, doubts and questions, grumblings, little piled-up ingratitudes – what are these but rubble? Is it not very dull to keep on compassing so dull a mountain? Hear the heartening word of the Lord, “Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.”

    More than half the troubles that come to us come because of words. There is a question that has often helped me: “Wherefore hearest thou men’s words?” (1 Sam. 24:9).

    I suggest that next time you are afflicted by words you should let that quiet question do its work in your heart. No one yet did anything worth doing without finding, sooner or later, that words buzzed about him (or her) in a most distressing way. May the Lord help us to go on lovingly, peacefully, steadfastly. “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” (Ps. 57:7). One look up into the face of our Lord, and the thought of any hurting word melts like a little cloud in the blue of the sky above us.

    The son said, “I am nothing.”

    His Father said, “Did I ever tell thee that thou wert something?”

    The son said, “But I do not feel fit for this that is given to me to do.”

    His Father said, “Canst thou not trust me to make thee fit?”

    The son said, “But I am not successful.”

    His Father said, “At the end of the day will my word be, ‘Come, thou good and successful servant?’ If only thou wilt walk humbly with thy God it will be, ‘Come, thou good and faithful servant’” (Matt. 25:21).

    The son said, “But I do not care for what I have to do.”

    His Father answered, “At last thou hast touched the root of the matter. Did thy Savior ‘care for’ Calvary?”

    Then the Eternal Spirit opened to him those terrible scriptures which show Gethsemane and Calvary, till all his paltry “buts” were shriveled as withered leaves in the fire. And he saw him whom he followed as he set his face like a flint; and he was utterly confounded and ashamed.

    O Lord, why? Why didst thou make flesh like a field threaded all over with roads and lanes where burning feet continually do pass? Men, women, children, beasts, birds, and some of the water-creatures – why, knowing what was to be, didst thou make them so? And the spirit of man, tuned like a delicate stringed instrument to the lightest touch, why, when it was to be smitten as by red-hot rods, didst thou make it so? Why build the house of life with every door set open to the devouring flame? …

    What, then, is the answer? I do not know. I believe that it is one of the secret things of the Lord, which will not be opened to us till we see him who endured the cross, see the scars in his hands and feet and side, see him, our beloved, face to face. I believe that in that revelation of love, which is far past our understanding now, we shall “understand even as all along we have been understood” (1 Cor. 13:12).

    “No one yet did anything worth doing without finding, sooner or later, that words buzzed about him (or her) in a most distressing way.”

    And till then? What does a child do whose mother or father allows something to be done which it cannot understand? There is only one way of peace. It is the child’s way. The loving child trusts. …

    There is only one place where we can receive, not an answer to our question, but peace – that place is Calvary. An hour at the foot of the cross steadies the soul as nothing else can. “O Christ beloved, thy Calvary stills all our questions.”

    It is for God to choose how he will heal. Our part is to cooperate, to set the forces of the will toward health, and to refuse to be dominated by the feeling of illness, depression, selfishness, weariness. If that be done, the prayer of faith is answered. The sick one is made sound so that he himself is well. (We are not our bodies.)

    One day, deep in the forest, we came upon a rock in midstream scooped by the backwash of immemorial waters to a hollow like the palm of a man’s hand. Over this rock fell a crystal sheet of water, and through that moving clearness we saw maidenhair fern growing in lovely profusion in the hollow of the hand. It was not the place where we should have planted a fern; at any moment it might have been tossed, a piteous, crumpled mass, down the shouting river – this is how it seemed to us. But it was safe. The falls flowed over it, not on it. And it was blessed. When the fern on the bank shriveled in heat, it was green, for it was watered all the year long by dust of spray. So does our wonderful God turn that which had seemed to be a perpetual threat to a perpetual benediction. Is there anything to fear with such a God?

    Contributed By AmyCarmichael Amy Carmichael

    Amy Carmichael, a Christian missionary to India, spent fifty-five years being a mother to hundreds of orphaned children and writing books on discipleship.

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