You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.
"Amy Carmichael was born in Northern Ireland, and after a brief period in Japan, arrived in India on 9 November 1895 as a [Keswick Convention] missionary. She never left India until her death on 18 January 1951...."
So begins one collection of Amy Carmichael's writings, Candles in the Dark: But what a clear-shining expanse of life lies hidden between those two sentences!
Early on, Amy Carmichael seems to have learned a spiritual secret that caused her spirit, if anything, to blaze even brighter in spite of the many difficult circumstances--friends would misunderstand and fail to support her work, physical danger threatened, and injury and pain would pin her to a bed for the last years of her life.
Through it all, she seems to have dug to find deeper and deeper spiritual gold in these words:
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.(Colossians 3:3)
Amy never understood this promise to mean a Christian is like a jewel in a velvet case, coddled and protected from every scratch. To her, the Christian life was more like being made a warrior and learning to suit herself in spiritual armor, ready to do battle.
And for Amy, "hidden with Christ in God," the battles would be great and hostile.* * *
Arriving in India in her late-twenties, she set out on her mission, travelling throughout the state of Tamil Nadu. For six years, moving among the small rural villages, she evangelized in the company of Indian Christian women. Great numbers were drawn to the light of Christ, not just by the teaching, but also by the love and simple goodness in these women. The bitter anger of Hindu priests was only held back--and barely--by the ruling British administration.
Then in 1901, a terrified little girl was brought to Amy at her mission compound in Dohnavur. Only seven years old, this child was one of thousands and thousands dedicated as infants to service in the temples of Hindu gods. Among other horrors, she was to be made a temple prostitute. The child could not be sent back--despite the tremendous danger of keeping her.
Some Christians disagreed with Amy's decision to provide this child--and others who escaped into her safe-keeping--with a home and love and a Christian upbringing. "Shouldn't missionaries just evangelize, and leave the rest alone? Why fight a centuries-old custom when you're sure to make enemies, and most likely fail?" Despite death threats against Amy and the mission, the British administration remained silent on the issue.
As danger mounted, Amy had to "tuck herself into God," as she put it. Fortunately, others heard of the child-rescue work and came to reinforce her.
And so the mission at Dohnavur grew. Eventually, hundreds of girls--and boys too--would join the large "family" that became known as Dohnavur Fellowship--men, women, and children learning together how to come daily under the protection of God, with need and fear surrounding on all sides.
Then came personal tragedy.
In 1932, Amy experienced a crippling fall. Internal damages were severe and left her in terrible pain. She expected to recover in weeks, perhaps months--unaware at first that she would virtually never leave her bed again. Even as the crushing truth of it dawned, her eyes were already fixed on a different light: the light of God's presence and His goodness.
Even through constant pain--her "fetters of iron"--Amy continued to pour forth devotional writings, brilliant in spiritual passion and plain wisdom. Effortlessly, she cites from numerous Bible versions and commentaries, some no longer in use. She also quotes at will from a procession of leading Christian voices, some of her spiritual "mentors," that come to us down through the ages: from Julian of Norwich, to Alfred the Great, to George Herbert.
To read Amy Carmichael is to find your own spirit rekindled by the intensity of her "vision" of God. At the bedrock of her faith lie these immovable principles:
God is, first and always, a loving Father.
Everything that comes to us is for our good, because it comes from a good Father, in whom there is no darkness.
When we come to know our "Father of Lights"--when we "tuck" ourselves into God by trusting Him as little children--He will carry us through.
May you find, in the company of Amy Carmichael, the burst of joy that comes when we can say to God from the depths of our being, "I come quietly to meet you."
LEARNING TO LIVE "AT HOME"
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
I think distractions in prayer are often because we have let ourselves wander too far from the things that matter most. And so we slip into an easily interrupted, easily distracted frame of mind.
We need to live more at home.
"In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). This means, simply, God is our home.
Home of my heart, lest I forget
My redemption's cost to Thee,
Let my earliest thought be set
Upon Thy Calvary.
Do you see what I mean? These words, which center my attention on what matters most, speak of something that I cannot drop out of my day without great loss to me.
I know without question that an earnest "look" at Calvary does more to help our life of prayer than we imagine:
So shall the sayings of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be pleasing continually before Thee, O Lord my helper and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14 Septuagint)
Edges of His Ways: p. 160
My Father, something inward tells me I have been living scattered. Sometimes anxious. Restless. Distracted. Wandering inside.
I fix my eyes upon the cross now--upon the post and crossbeam which became my one bridge back to your side.
And I lift my eyes beyond the cross, to the One who sits beside you--to Jesus, the Risen One! My Lord, my brother, with arms outstretched in welcome. Calling to me:"Come home." I come, Father, to hide myself in you.
The Lord spoke to me, like a firm grasp of the hand.
--ISAIAH 8:11, ROTHERHAM
Blessed be the Lord our God, who does--if we speak the honest truth--cause His word to come to us in just this way: like a strong hand reaching out for us to take hold of firmly, and to take hold of us.
Sometimes this firm grasp comes as He opens our understanding to a single word. His hand has grasped me, in recent days, as my understanding opens up to the word trust.
Trust, I have learned, means: to lean on, to place the weight of my confidence upon (Young's Analytical Concordance).... And after this discovery, I've found many verses in the Psalms that provide great comfort when translated in this way. For instance, "I have trusted in [leaned on, placed confidence in] your lovingkindness" (Psalm 13:5).
So I may say: That lovingkindness which has loved me with an everlasting love, which forgives and cleanses and will never tire of me--that lovingkindness, Lord, I lean on.
We know that this is not objectionable to the Lord, that He in fact welcomes it. As David sang: "The Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who [leans on] him" (Psalm 32:10).
Doesn't this tell us something about the love of God--and isn't it just like Him to let us know that He wants us to lean on, not only His lovingkindness, but on His very self? Consider these words, which will further open your understanding:
Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples whom Jesus loved.(John 13:23, kjv)
Whoso leaneth on the Lord, happy is he.(Proverbs 16:20, kjv)
He is indeed happy with us!
Now see what happens when we lean on Him:
Cause me to hear ... for on thee do I lean.
(Psalm 143:8, kjv)
It was when John was leaning that he heard the Lord's answer to the question that troubled others.
And this wonderful promise, so often repeated:
What time I am afraid, I will lean on thee.(Psalm 56:3, kjv)
I will lean, and not be afraid.(Isaiah 12:2)
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace ... because he leans on thee.... Lean on the Lord forever: for the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.(Isaiah 26:3, 4, kjv)
It is marvelous to me that God's Spirit led the writers of these words to the same special verb, to lean. By one simple word, He means to show us so clearly that it is never anything in us that accounts for the Lord's goodness to us. Everything we are given is all from Him.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart leans on him and I am helped. Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song will I praise him!(Psalm 28:7)
May the Lord of love make this word of His to be "like a firm grasp of the hand" to you today.
Thou Givest--They Gather: pp. 12
My Father, you welcome me into your presence--and that's a wonder in itself. More than I can imagine. Then you invite me to lean against you ... and a bolt of self-reliance in me resists.
But I want to trust you. To relax the weight of my fears and anxieties against you. To rest, to know how fully trustworthy you are. Help me, Father.
I reach for your hand, feel your firm grip ... and I lean my weight against you now.
I Come Quietly to Meet You by Amy Carmichael, arranged by David Hazard
Copyright © 2005; ISBN 0764200453
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.