Several years ago I spent two months in bed diagnosed with the onset of Multiple Sclerosis. Although many people took care of me, one woman in particular ministered in a way that challenged me to change the way I viewed my illness. I never met this woman, but in the dark hours I found comfort in the words of her books. Why? Because she had lived where I lived. She had suffered more than I could ever imagine, and she spoke honestly about her frustrations. Yet still she kept a vibrant faith in God. That woman was Amy Carmichael.
All Amy Carmichael ever wanted to do was serve, but in God’s perfect plan she had to learn an even harder lesson—to be served. She said with a touch of humor, “I had so fully expected to be like the old ox in Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, who ‘kep’ a’ goin’ an’ a’ goin’ till he died a-standin’ up, an’ even then they had to push him over.’” Amy Carmichael spent her life rescuing children in India from the Hindu practice of temple prostitution. The care of these orphans demanded everything she had. Yet Amy loved the work so much that she hoped to do it until she died. But God had another plan.
Although she prayed for healing many times, Amy spent her last twenty years confined to bed. When she could do nothing but stare at the ceiling, she still kept the motto, “Servant of all.” How could she serve from bed? By writing. Amy Carmichael wrote hundreds of letters to encourage others.
Feeling useless, Amy called herself “a slug on a cabbage leaf.” She prayed, “Take from me all slothfulness that I may fill up the crevices of time and truly finish all He wants me to do.” Amy “filled the crevices” of her time by writing more than thirty-five books. She might never have written them had she kept “a’ goin’” like the old ox. Yet because Amy could do nothing but write, we still appreciate her thoughts today.
As a young missionary, Amy had two words written on the wall: “Yes, Lord.” Little did she know that “Yes, Lord” would include so much pain. In her book Candles in the Dark she writes to a friend, “‘All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness’ (Ps. 25:10). All does not mean ‘all but these paths we are in now.’ All must mean all. So your path with its unexplained sorrow, and mine with its unexplained sharp flints and briers . . . are just lovingkindness, nothing less.”
Amy lived the principle that life is not about avoiding suffering; it’s about learning to suffer well. For those who are on a painful path, Amy’s words bring comfort “not by the well to the ill, but by the ill to the ill” all over the world.
Lesa Engelthaler is married to Mark (ThM, 1984; DMin, 1994) and is a freelance writer in Garland, Texas. She has written for Discipleship Journal, Moody Magazine, and the Dallas Morning News.