Pain and Suffering 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]
Pain and Suffering
CHRIST suffered in the flesh.
If those who follow Him in obedience now
are called to suffer (as they will be),
they can conquer if they `arm themselves
with the same mind’ (1 Peter 4:1)
He looked on to the glory which should follow.
Prayer for healing
Your prayer for perfect healing went to my heart. God knows how I long to be well and able to do more. But yesterday as I read Psalm 84:11, `No good thing will He withhold from them that live a godly life’, I wondered if He would not rather the emphasis were laid on this: `Draw us so into accord with Thyself that no good thing shall be withheld’, instead of: `Health is a good thing. Lord, give it.’
More than three times I have prayed Paul’s prayer, but so far always the answer has been the one that came to him: `My grace is sufficient for thee’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Any day that might change. What is any illness to Him? One touch and it would be gone. But I wonder if the Lord is saying not only to me but also to you, `See to it that you are in perfect accord with Me and then trust Me to withhold no good thing.’
If health be that good thing, oh, how joyful it will be! Every morning I waken with the hope, `Perhaps today’. But I want first to want His will, be that will mine or not. It is there that prayer can help most.
I have only heard today of how very far from well you are. I won’t say what I feel about that. You are dearer to your Lord than you are to me, and no good thing will He withhold.
Life can be difficult. Sometimes the enemy comes like a flood. But then is the time to prove our faith and live our songs. A day or two ago when everything was feeling more than usually impossible I opened on Psalm 40 with its new song. `He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise.’ How like Him it is to `put’ it there. We couldn’t find it for ourselves, so He puts it. And when He puts it we can sing it.
I have felt much with you during these days. Pain is never easy to bear, and you have had so much of it. But help comes, doesn’t it? Strength for the day, strength for the minute. And it will never fail us if only we look up.
Perhaps His word to you just now is the word He has often spoken very tenderly to me: `Let Me see thy countenance, let Me hear thy voice’ (Song of Songs 2:14).
Written when a friend was in great pain
What a light from heaven your words brought! Your letter came in a rather desperate hour, one of those hours when the power of fear seems to be allowed to attack and weaken one. Beside me stood N., saying over and over in agonizing tones all that could be said about M.’s pain—and suddenly I seemed to go right under. And then your letter came, and as I read your verse it was as if the Lord spoke aloud: `These are My words to you. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings, his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.’
Those words swung me up out of that abyss of distress and fear. And an hour later I heard that M. was out of pain—asleep.
Letters to one often ill
Life is a battle and always will be; we wouldn’t wish it to be otherwise. But I don’t like pain for you, or overtiredness. I can only ask Him to fill your cup so full of joy that it will overflow over the tiredness, even as it did for Him when He sat by the well.
I am troubled about your sore throat and fever. I understand your perplexity. Why was Paul recaptured after being set free? Surely the Church had need of him? I often wonder so little is said of what must have been so terribly disappointing and perplexing.
But all our problems are open to Him and all will fit into His plan. In the end we shall see that what seems so hindering does not hinder but helps.
Now be at rest. This illness is not your doing. It is Satan’s, and Satan can’t chain the least of us without a word of permission from Him, and why He gives it we shall know one day. So let us claim again the blessing of the unoffended.
Occupied in Thy statutes
Did you notice the words `Occupied in Thy statutes’ in Psalm 119:23 Prayer Book Version? It is a beautiful word. I have nothing to do today but to please Thee.
That is true of you, for this weariness is part of life, bonds that are allowed to be. But I do hope for health and ask for it. He knows what He is doing. `Jesus Himself knew what He would do.’ There will be a lovely ending to this story of frustration, something worth all it has cost.
In His care
Trials are not `chastisement’. No earthly father goes on chastising a loving child. That is a common thought about suffering, but I am quite sure it is a wrong thought. Paul’s sufferings were not that, nor are yours. They are battle wounds. They are signs of high confidence—honours. The Father holds His children very close to His heart when they are going through such rough places as this.
‘Thy care hath preserved my spirit’—a lovely Revised Version Margin which helped me a few days ago—is my word for you (Job 10: 12). Think of it; all day long you are being cared for, you are in His care.
A note to one who was ill
You have had a long, long trial of faith. One comfort is, it is only a minute at a time and there is grace and patience given for each minute as it comes. I do trust the medicals will find the cause. There must be one.
I do understand (and so, and far more, does your Lord) the temptation to discouragement. Don’t fear. It is only that the devil doesn’t want you here at all. And in the end he is always beaten at that game.
The way to God’s Best
You don’t need words to tell you how I am feeling about this weary pain. It seems sometimes that there is no way to God’s Best but through pain, and yet how earnestly one longs to save a dear one from it.
Don’t be disappointed about not being fit for work just yet. `Let patience have her perfect work’ has been one of the words set to me to learn by heart. I never found patience easy, being by nature a most impatient mortal; even one week in bed seemed impossible in old days. Well, I only tell you so to help you to know that I understand the ache to be well and up and out. And He understands far better than I do. I often think of those hours on the cross—helpless hours. He understands.
And the depression that follows pain He understands too. `My soul cleaveth to the dust’: no truer words were ever written. Sometimes just to know one is understood helps.
To one who had just had an operation
I seemed to spend all night writing to you. The loving Lord rests you now, and refresh and strengthen you. I shut the doors of my mind when thoughts came about what the days just after the operation must have been. I can’t bear to think of them. I have never had a major operation in my life but have often nursed those who have had one, so I know what these days can be. I shall not be easy till I hear the next news.
These may be very tired days. It isn’t easy to pick up after such doings. But take the resting verses such as Zephaniah 3:17 and John 15 (‘Continue ye in My love’, abide there, like a child at home) and those psalms and verses in the Gospels which show that side of life. `Return unto thy rest, 0 my soul.’ `Come unto Me and I will give you rest.’ `My God shall supply all your need.’ There are hundreds such; take them as yours in a special way just now, and don’t tire your spirit and retard your recovery by pressing against the limitations which for the present are your fence of feathers. `With His feathers has He made a fence for thee’ is a lovely rendering of Psalm 91:4. Nestle under those feathers (He shall cover thee with His feathers), and when you are tempted to press against the fence, remember it is a fence of feathers—soft and downy, and yet strong as the feathers of great birds are.
May those feathers be very comforting to you through these days.
To one whose father was ill
I have just come upon this jewel (in a most uncomfortable setting, but a jewel all the same): `Know now that there shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the Lord’ (2 Kings 10:10). I thought of one who is going through a bitter time—every possible arrow the archers can produce is being shot at that soul—and then I thought of you, and of your father and mother. Nothing of the word of the Lord spoken to you about your dearest shall fall unto the earth. Nothing they have ever known as His word to them shall fall.
Your brave mother will be marvellously strengthened, I believe, to help your father through this new trial of his faith. (How precious faith must be to the Lord.) He will be, I pray and believe for this, comforted by the God of all comfort.
Yes, I understand; how much easier it would be if one could bear pain for others—instead of them, I mean. I have often prayed that I might, for Colossians 1:24 RV seems to give ground for such a prayer, but never once has that joy been mine. So now I am learning to be content. Perhaps those of whom I am thinking specially would never have known Him as they know Him now if they had not suffered. Indeed it must be so. `I never knew the comfort of God as I know it now’, one said to me yesterday.
Peace in Him
I have heard of your father’s passing and can realize what this means to you.
As I thought of you I happened to see the words on the page of the Psalms which was open beside me. `In the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge until these calamities be overpast.’ They will not last for ever; it is always `If for a season’. One day they will be overpast. And then verse 7 of Psalm 57 is yours too. `My heart is fixed, 0 God, my heart is fixed. I will sing and give praise’—yes, however things are.
God bless you and guide you in all your ways. It is so good to be sure of your peace in Him.
What an awakening!
I have felt alongside you through these days. What an awakening one who has walked with Him in the twilight must have, when suddenly she awakes in His likeness and the light is shining round her—all shadowy ways forgotten.
Concerning a loved one’s suffering
Don’t forget when you imagine, all but see and hear and desperately feel, your loved one’s pain, there is one thing that eludes you. That is the grace that is being given, the Presence that is there. But well I know how hard it is to carry on just as if all were going smoothly at home.
Yes, He often trusts us to trust Him when it does not seem as if He were providing. I have been through this rough stretch of road and so I can understand and walk it with you; and, best of all, He can, and He is nearer than near. Give your father my sheet anchor again, Job 34:29: `When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?’ It’s such a victorious `who’!
I think the Lord must find it difficult to teach us that here have we no continuing city. `This is not your rest’; I often think of that. We know it, but we don’t find it easy to live as if it were true. More and more I feel that we are what the Bible says we are—strangers and pilgrims. And all the things that happen are meant to emphasize that. But the pilgrim’s God is very close to you and your father through these days.
This is for any of you who have those whom you love far away and in need of comfort.
A few nights ago I woke myself saying over and over again, Fear not. Fear not. One of those vivid dreams of friends in distress which somehow leave one in distress oneself was troubling me. A book usually distracts my mind when all else fails, but I couldn’t read. So I asked Him who is `about my bed’ to let me have some good music. The wireless was by my bed, and I just touched the knob. Instantly the room filled with `The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want’. The whole lovely Psalm was read in a full clear voice—and with it the benediction in Hebrews, `Now the God of Peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep . . .’
I cannot tell you how wonderful it was and how close it brought Him, our Lord Himself. And I felt, if He can do this for one like me in so small a need, time so exactly the speaking of words six thousand miles away, cause the wireless to `happen’ to be tuned to catch them at that exact moment (2.15 a.m.), what can He not do for all His children everywhere?
Is there anything too kind for Him to do? No, there is nothing too kind for Him to do. So none of us needs fear for our dear ones. He who was so near to me then is as near to them, always.
Praise ye the Lord
Last night a wonderful thing happened. I can’t remember the last time it happened, it is so long ago. I slept practically all night and did not wake once in pain.
When I woke I could hardly believe it was morning, and I thought for a minute, `Perhaps the bars are down and I am well!‘ I read Psalm 116, and everything in me was a song of hope and expectation. Then I found the bars were still there. But look at verse 19: `In the courts of the Lord’s House’—there are no iron bars, no suffering there—‘praise ye the Lord’. [49-62]