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Tests and Trails by Amy Carmichael
All the passages below are taken from the book, “Candle in the Dark” by Amy Carmichael, printed in 1981 with this edition printed in 2001.
Love and Trust by Amy Carmichael
All the passages below are taken from the book, “Candle in the Dark” by Amy Carmichael, printed in 1981 with this edition printed in 2001.
Amy Carmichael was born in Northern Ireland and after a brief period in Japan arrived in India on 9 November 1895 as a Keswick missionary. She never left India till her death in Dohnavur on 18 January 1951. At first she worked in the villages of South India. Then in 1901 she began to make a home for children in need of protection and care. Others came to help her and the Dohnavur Fellowship was born---named after the village in which it is situated. For fifty years she was Mother ('Amma') to an ever-increasing family and saw many of her children grow up to serve the Lord by serving others.
In 1931 an accident led to illness and increasing physical limitations. For the last years of her life she was confined to bed, but her indomitable spirit never failed. She continued to counsel and encourage all who came to see her and wrote many books and innumerable letters.
The following letters, written with no thought of publication, have been selected from many hundreds treasured by members of the Dohnavur Fellowship, either her colleagues or her Indian children. Her power to help those in need came from her times of listening to her Lord. `Sometimes,' she wrote, `it is as if another Hand were turning over the pages of my Bible and finding the places for me.' Her language is steeped in the older versions of the Bible (she died before many of the modern translations appeared), and a lifetime spent in India gave her an Indian mode of thought.
`Pray for me, that the Lord would give me house room again to hold a candle to this dark world', wrote Samuel Rutherford, and this was Amy's prayer. It is our prayer too, as we share the riches she passed on to us through her close personal walk with the Lord and utter devotion to Him.
B. M. G. TREHANE
Dohnavur Fellowship [ix-x]
Tests and Trials
`Glorify ye the Lord
in the fires' (Isaiah 24:15),
not when they have passed
or you are out of them
and they are only memories,
but in them.
I understand the buffetted days and the days of no small tempest, when neither sun nor stars appear. And it is good to pass through such days, for if we didn't we could neither prove our God nor help others. If any experience of ours helps to bring others to our Lord, what does any buffetting matter?
But we are not meant to live in a perpetual stormy sea. We are meant to pass through and find harbour and so be at peace. Then we are free from occupation with ourselves and our storms---free to help others.
I want to live in the light of the thought of His coming, His triumph---the end of this present darkness, the glory of His seen Presence. This bathes the present in radiance. You won't be sorry then that you trusted when you couldn't see, when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared and no small tempest lay on you (Acts 27:20). No, you won't be sorry then. So I won't be sorry now. I am believing. `All joy and peace in believing': the words ring like a chime of bells.
Dry times are in a way trusted times. My word this morning was in Psalm 65:12, about the drops of His blessing falling on the pastures of the wilderness. It is a most comforting word.
Life, any life, can be stifled by the pettiness of the daily round. But yours won't be. One quick look up in the dullest moment and you are with Him whom your heart loves, your Life, your All.
All sorts of days come and go---they go, that's the best of them. Don't let the dull days pass without giving you what only dullness ever can give. It isn't the days of high tension that try us most, and so give us most; it's the days that seem all grey and dull. They test the quality of the gold. They prove it. `Salute Apelles, the approved in Christ.' `God knows, not we, the tests he stood' is Moule's note on Romans 16:10. I shall think of you as Apelles.
I never noticed before the amazing way our Lord Jesus went through the trial of aloneness. I had thought of Him as surrounded by disciples after John 1:37-51, but I don't think it was so. I think He had them for a while and then sent them back to their ordinary work and alone went up to Jerusalem and alone was rejected at Nazareth. But He came through that trial of spirit unclouded. The people only saw `a great light'. The Lord so bring us through whatever trial of spirit is appointed that at the end of the time there may be only a shining memory of a great light.
Isn't it lovely to see how every single trial that ever comes to us came to Him first? Hebrews 4:15 is a great word. He has been `in all points' tempted just as we are.
This morning I feasted on a very familiar word, but it came freshly: John 17:20 RV, `Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on Me through their word.' How much we value the prayers of one another; how dear they are to us. But His are dearer, far more precious. Oh, what manner of people we should be, prayed for by our Lord Himself!
The way of the Cross
Don't be surprised if you are set at nought. It is part of the way of the Cross. Mark 9:12 says, `The Son of Man must be set at nought.' If we follow in the way He went, we also must be set at nought. You will find this truer every year as you go on. And anything is easier. Scourging is easier. `He must suffer many things, and' (as if this had to be mentioned very specially) `be set at nought.'
Have you ever gone through your New Testament marking the places where the iron of suffering in one form or another is mentioned? It's wonderfully enlightening. The book is full of joy I know, but it is also full of pain, and pain is taken for granted. `Think it not strange. Count it all joy.'
We are meant to follow His steps, not avoid them. What if the suffering is caused by those whom we love? Was His not caused by those whom He loved? Oh, what a book the Bible is! If only we steep our souls in its mighty comfort we can't go far wrong---we shall never lose heart. 1 Peter 2:21: `For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow His steps.'
You will find the joy of the Lord comes as you go on in the way of the Cross. It was one who had nobody all his own on earth who said, `If I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice' (Philippians 2:17 RV). It is no small gift of His love, this opportunity to be offered upon the sacrifice and service; something you would not naturally choose, something that asks for more than you would naturally give. That's the proof of His love. So rejoice! You are giving Him what He asks you to give Him: the chance to show you what He can do.
The only safe place
You are both, by His grace, counted worthy to follow the Crucified in the way of the Cross. So few are ready for that. They preach about it, sing about it, but when it comes to doing it, then they just don't. But I should not say `they', `I' is the pronoun. What do I know of this way? I shrank from it for you. That wasn't following.
What J. says is true, `The Cross and the place of the fellowship of Christ's sufferings is the only safe place for those of us who have a responsibility for the souls of others.' Never will you regret the fellowship of sufferings.
I have been thinking today of our Lord's teaching in Mark 8:34 and kindred words. There is nothing offered on earth but a cross (and yet what joy is folded up in that offer!). `He said unto all, If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.' The Lord who did that Himself help us to do so too, not in word and prayer only but in deed---common deed. Isn't it comforting, sometimes, to know that His eye sees a cross in something that doesn't look like anything of the sort to others?
And after all, is there anything in all the world to be compared with the joy of doing His will? I know of no joy like it.
Reviled, we bless
We are never likely to be under the curse that comes when all men speak well of us. In this case it is all so unexpected that we must keep low before our God and not wonder `Why?' Faith never wonders why.
Just now the word I am saying over and over to myself is `Being reviled, we bless'. That whole passage in 1 Corinthians 4 is speaking deep into me, for we are on the scrap-heap now, utterly and entirely, perhaps for the first time in our life. And I do think it is much easier to enjoy in prospect than in reality. `Let my good name go hang, if only Christ be glorified.' Yes, that's it.
Aren't you glad that we need never stop loving? We may be disappointed, but love can go on. Only of course one can't depend in the old way. I think God lets such things happen partly that we may learn to discern. I find that difficult where I love, but one has to learn the lesson. Our dear Lord loved, but He did not commit Himself to all, for `He knew what was in man'. Sometimes we, who do not know, do what He did not do and suffer for it.
There are times when spiritual discernment is the chief gift of the Spirit. The praised and made-much-of seldom have it. But those who have suffered the loss of all things, even their reputations---these, if they live with their Lord, have this gift.
Led by His gentleness
I was wakened early this morning with you on my heart. All this that is asked of you is so much too much (from the human point of view) that I cannot forget it. Thank God, He doesn't either.
As I was praying I was led to Gideon's story, Judges 6:12-16. `The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour'---the last thing he felt himself to be. Then the question that comes if we allow it: `If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? Where be all His miracles?' (Why is one person allowed to do such serious harm to His work?) `And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might . . . Surely I am with thee.'
The `why?' and the `where?' are not answered. Perhaps they never will be answered on this side of eternity. But it was enough that He looked upon His son and was surely with him. So I will trust that the greatest of all miracles will be wrought once more. The humanly impossible will become the divinely possible, to the greater praise of His glory. The exceeding greatness of His power to you who believe will be made manifest.
But you will need a very quiet mind, a restful mind; so I will ask for this, as well as for strength of body, that you may go peacefully from one thing to the next---led by His gentleness.
A Very Present Help
Which is harder, to do or to endure? I think to endure is much the harder, and our Father loves us too much to let us pass through life without learning to endure. So 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' (Matthew 16:22 AV margin). After all, what is anything we have to bear in comparison with what our Lord bore for us?
I know that each one of you is in need of continual help if you are continually to conquer. I have splendid words to give you. They are from the first verse of Psalm 46---a very present help.
Our loving Lord is not just present, but nearer than thought can imagine, so near that a whisper can reach Him. You know the story of the man who had a quick temper and had not time to go away and pray for help. His habit was to send up a little telegraph prayer, 'Thy sweetness, Lord!', and sweetness came.
Do you need courage? 'Thy courage, Lord!' Patience? 'Thy patience, Lord!' Love? 'Thy love, Lord!' A quiet mind? 'Thy quietness, Lord!' Shall we all practise this swift and simple way of prayer more and more? If we do, our Very Present Help will not disappoint us. For Thou, Lord, hast never failed them that seek Thee.
A cheerful giver
Don't offer grudgingly. That word came to me yesterday with dreadful force, for it was just what I was doing secretly in my heart. And the Lord does not love a grudging giver but the other kind. `Not of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver' (2 Corinthians 9:7 RV).
Believe me, this pain of yours will turn to a golden key. Only keys of pure gold will open the innermost room of hearts. I had a sorrow, and for years nothing happened which in the least explained it. And then, I forget how many years afterwards, a guest came here in dreadful trouble. It was hidden under a bright, even gay manner, and yet there it was. And if it had not been for the key that my own grief gave me I could never have done anything for her. That key opened the door. `Not in vain in the Lord' is written over suffering as well as over work.
Accept with joy
I once wrote that God always answers us in the deeps, not in the shallows of our prayers. Hasn't it been so with you?
One of the hardest things in our secret prayer life is to accept with joy and not with grief the answers to our deepest prayers. At least I have found it so. It was a long time before I discovered that whatever came was the answer. I had expected something so different that I did not recognize it when it came.
And He doesn't explain. He trusts us not to be offended; that's all.
The fellowship of His sufferings
The biggest wounds are wounds of the spirit, when the evil one seems to prevail and your heart is sore for some who will not turn to the Lord their Strength, but go on failing when they need not fail.
We share His grief then. I think we may feel glad that He isn't lonely over the souls who disappoint Him and us. We share in the fellowship of His sufferings over that soul. We share in the travail. But there is always `more than an overweight of joy', especially in all work among precious little children.
It takes all the sting out of a disappointment if we see it as Paul did. Isn't it interesting that never once does he call himself Nero's prisoner, though he was chained by Nero's chain and in Nero's cell? This has been a great comfort to me. We don't admit the domination of Nero---no, not for an hour. We have to do only with the sovereignship of Christ.
The garden near the cross
How tangled life can be, and nobody can disentangle such tangles. Sometimes I wonder how I can spend one single moment on trifles; I should be all the time praying for those who are in tangles. But I do believe it is true that whatever I am doing, awake or asleep, the underlying thought is always there for those who are going through hard ways.
`Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden.' It comforts me to know that you have found the garden---the garden that for ever lies so near the cross. And you will find it a place where the south wind blows as well as the north. It isn't all north wind.
But my chief word for you these days is the Song of Songs 8:5, `Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?' I have just noticed afresh that He on whom we lean did Himself `come out of the wilderness'. He doesn't ask us to walk in any path where He has not walked before.
Now may His joy be yours. As that beautiful book, Religio Medici, has it, `Dispose of me according to the wisdom of Thy pleasure. Thy will be done through my own undoing.' In what different ways, but how truly, those words fit you and me. I shall feast on this book today. But oh, to live it!
Even the death of the cross
To each of us there is something which seems simply impossible to get on top of. I know my special foe and all this week I have had to live looking off to Jesus, the Author and (thank God) the Finisher of our faith. (I have just now turned to Hebrews 12:2 to make sure that word is really there.) Psalm 138:8 is another standby. Oh! blessed be the eternal word of God. Feelings may change (they do), we may change and fall (we do), but His word stands steadfast. It cannot fail.
Don't you think that some of us must know the trials of misty weather if we are to be enabled to understand when others are in the mist?
My word yesterday was `Even the death of the cross'. There is an `even' in most lives. God help us not to shrink back from that `even' (Philippians 2:8).
To one in trouble
I want to give you a word that helped me all yesterday and will help me today. It is the `through' of Psalm 84:6 and of
Isaiah 43:2, taken with Song of Songs 8.5.*
We are never staying in the valley or the rough waters; we are always only passing through them, just as the bride in the Song of Songs is seen coming up from the wilderness leaning upon her Beloved.
So whatever the valley is, or however rough the waters are, we won't fear. Leaning upon our Beloved we shall come up from the wilderness and, as Psalm 84:6 says, even use the valley as a well, make it a well. We shall find the living waters there and drink of them.
*Psalm 8q.6: Passing through the valley of Weeping they make it a place of springs (AV---make it a well).
*Isaiah 43.2: When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.
*Song of Songs 8.5: Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?
You are sitting on the well-side with your Lord who once was weary and sat thus on the well. You don't see Him, but He is there. You are His honoured one: `Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.'
The bog myrtle you gave me is in my Daily Light, and every day its sweetness is a special little joy to me. It knows nothing of that. It only knows it is dried up, a withered thing. I wonder if in its freshest days it was sweeter than it is now.
Times of dryness are times when we are meant to live in the middle line of Zephaniah 3:17 RV margin: `He will rejoice over thee with joy, He will be silent in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.' Our dear Lord does not misunderstand silence. Offer Him your silence and accept His, `I will be silent in My love.' Songs are not far away. They are on either side of the Silence. It is folded up in song.
Now be at rest. He is not looking at you with dis-pleased eyes. Oh no, I can all but see just the opposite.
How you are trusted, and you will not disappoint Him who is trusting you. I suppose one of His greatest trusts is a big disappointment. This is that. So we will look up and praise Him and sing to Him. `What a God who out of shade nest for singing bird hath made.' Any bird will sing in the sunlight, but there are some who sing in the shade; bulbuls do. I have often heard them in the dullest, rainiest weather. You are God's bulbul.
You are right not to write details about the pricking thorns of life. It only makes them prick more sharply. Look at the roses on your brier, and as you think of them your heart will lighten. I used to thank Him, when my skies were a bit cloudy, that there was so much more blue than grey. I know the same is true of your skies, in spite of these horrid injections and other things.
I understand about your dread of pain. And He understands, He who bore pain unimaginable and unforgettable. Our scars won't be eternal. His are.
`Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden' (John 19:41). This is my Easter word for you. You will find your garden very near to the place where you will be crucified.
`Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also of, Jesus might be made manifest in our body' (2 Corinthians 4:10). Whenever we have been most earnest and most sensitive about bearing about in our body that dying, we have known most of the power and sweetness and unearthly joy of the life of our Lord.
This is a wonderful day. The more we think of it, the more wonderful it is. But somehow I keep going back to what led up to this day of joy. The true triumph of love was not on Easter morning; it was won on the cross when the Lord said, It is finished.
The choir sang `The suffering night is over' to me. Ever since, the lines
Forgive me, Lord, if I
My small griefs magnify
have been in my heart. I do pray that I may not magnify my small griefs. Don't magnify yours. They will be so soon over, it is not worth while. Also if we do so, they lose their power to perfect us. When we accept them as His good, lovable and perfect will, then, I believe, they work together to make us more usable to our beloved Lord. And isn't that all that matters?
Bodies are curious things. My favourite word came in my reading today. `As we have borne . . . we shall also bear' (1 Corinthians 15:49). We certainly have borne the image of the earthly; there isn't any doubt about that. And as certain as that is, so certain is the wonderful truth whose meaning we cannot fully understand: we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
That's something to look forward to!
You know how the four Gospels tell the story of Gethsemane. Each is a little different, but all are true. They fit into one another and make a picture that, if you ever have to suffer, will mean everything to you. I will take words from only two Gospels. In St Mark we read that our Lord said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from Me: nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt' (Mark 14:36). And in St John we read that He said, `The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?' (John 18:11).
You will have no peace until you pass from those first words to the second. But this may not come in a day. Be patient. He who prayed in an agony that the cup might be removed will be patient with you, for He understands just what you are feeling. Yet He will not rest until He brings you to the place where He stood when He said, 'The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?'
I find much comfort in Psalm 138:3, `In the day when I cried Thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.' `In the day that I cried': that does not mean the day after, or an hour or two, or even a minute after, but that very day, that very hour, that very minute. God hears us the moment we cry and strengthens us with the only kind of strength that is of any use at all.[63-83]
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