“It does sometimes seem almost unbelievable that the soul of man can pass through so many devastating experiences and yet not be devastated. The explanation lies in such words as these: ‘He knoweth the way that I take’ (Job 23.10).” (Amy Carmichael)
The psalm for tomorrow’s Liturgy is Psalm 18, written by David when God saved him from the hand of Saul. It begins “I love thee, O Lord, my strength.” Here is Amy Carmichael’s commentary on this and the next verse.
Let us pray for one another that we may not go into caves. [cf. Ps 142] Any one of us might do it at any moment, but for the grace of God. The heading of this Psalm says that it is the Song which David spoke to the Lord . . . when he was delivered from his enemies—those enemies who had driven him into the cave.
There are many caves besides the cave of selfishness and self-love . . .; but whatever our cave is, the moment we get out, the devil is sure to tell us we shall soon be back again, and so the second verse in the LXX is delightful: ‘The Lord is my firm support’.
Is that not just what we want? We know our weakness, we have proved it many a time; but we need not fall, for ‘the Lord is our firm support’. I have noticed that some of the happiest people are not by nature the strongest, but they are those who love the Lord their Strength with a confident, joyful love; and they are not constantly thinking of themselves and their weakness, nor do they ever dream of not enjoying what He gives them to do, for ‘the joy of the Lord is [their] strength’, and their Lord is their firm support.”
A quick method of discerning what to do with those agitating, discouraging thoughts:
“As a general rule, you ought to regard as coming from the enemy any thought which agitates you, throws you into perplexity, which diminishes your confidence and narrows up your heart. The best thing in such cases is just to put the matter that perplexes you out of your mind, saying to yourself, ‘When I have the opportunity I shall ask the solution of this difficult from some priest,’ and then go on in peace as you were before.” (Dom Marmion)
I’m sure Dom Marmion would allow the substitution of “a wise person” for “some priest,” someone who is spiritually mature and whose discernment you trust.
Remember Amy Carmichael’s wonderful advice as well:
“The reason why singing is such a splendid shield against the fiery darts of the devil is that it greatly helps us to forget him, and he cannot endure being forgotten. He likes us to be occupied with him, what he is doing (our temptations), with his victories (our falls), with anything but our glorious Lord. So sing. Never be afraid of singing too much. We are much more likely to sing too little.”
From my old friend, Amy Carmichael:
Mt 14.30-31 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him.
“And beginning to sink.” Only four words, but they bring us the certainty that we will never sink, for Peter never sank. It is like that word in Psalm 94.18, When I said, My foot slippeth–yes, in that very moment–Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.
Sometimes a single word may make all the difference to us, lifting us up, strengthening and refreshing us. Let us be careful not to miss these words of life, which come so suddenly, perhaps in the midst of the day’s work.
Samuel Rutherford wrote: “In your temptations, run to the promises: they may be our Lord’s branches hanging over the water, that our Lord’s silly, half-drowned children may take a grip of them.” And those boughs never break.
I was doing some study on Psalm 5 this morning and came across this comment by Amy Carmichael on verse 3:
“’And will look up’, will keep watch, like Habakkuk on his watch-tower. Have you ever found that your Father has answered a forgotten prayer? I have, and I always feel so ashamed; it is so rude to forget. A ‘Prayer-and-Answer Notebook’ helps one to remember. It is evidence, which even the devil cannot dispute, of traffic with Heaven. It kindles love; ‘I love the Lord because He hath heard’ (Ps 116.1). How often we have had cause to say that. My first note-book turned up among some old papers lately. To read the notes was like finding sprays of verbena between the leaves of a book; you know how astonishingly fragrant they can be. There was one little sentence that belonged to a rainy Sunday morning when I was, I suppose, about ten, so that leaf was about sixty years old, but it might have been only just picked, for as I read the words I remembered every detail of that prayer and that answer.
“If any of you keep such a book do not forget that the answer to many prayers is ‘Wait’, or sometimes, ‘No, not that, but something else, which, when you see Me, you will know was a far better thing.’”
It is so easy to grumble, isn’t it? Here’s a little encouragement from Amy Carmichael to choose another way of looking at your life:
Num 11.5: We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic.
Ps 40.10 (BCP): I should fulfill Thy will, O my God: I am content to do it.
To think of nice things one can’t have is to become discontented and grumpy. Is there something you want and can’t have today? Are you tempted to grouse about it? repeat that little string of six words to yourself quite slowly and solemnly: “Fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic.” If you haven’t time for all six just say, “Cucumbers,” and see what will happen. First you will laugh. Then in a flash you will remember those foolish and ungrateful people whose story you know so well. You will remember, too, how patiently God bore with them; and you will be ashamed that even for one moment you joined forces with them.
We are all sure to be tempted by thoughts of fish, cucumbers, melons, onions, leeks, and garlic–things we would like but cannot have at present. But there is another set of six words which is as happy as the first set of six is unhappy. They were spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ about His Father’s will: I am content to do it.
Which set of six will you take for your own? You can’t have both; they won’t mix. So choose.
An encouraging meditation from Amy Carmichael:
Luke 4:40 He laid His hands on every one of them, and healed them.
This verse took life for me one day lately. I was reading in the Revised Version and looked up the Authorized, to see if I was reading something new, for it felt new. But no, I must have read it hundreds of times before.
On every one of them. It comforted me to know that He does not look upon us as a mass, but as separate needy souls. I remembered the terrific attack that is always on the love that should hold us together, and I read over and over again John 15.9-17. I know well that the devil hates and fears strong love. If he can weaken us there, all goes. For us, to weaken means to perish. I found rest in remembering the hands laid on every one of us, not one of us overlooked, and the hands laid upon us are wounded hands.
I’m on an Amy Carmichael role, can you tell?
1 Thess 3.3. (Weymouth): That none of you might be unnerved by your present trials: for you yourselves know that they are our appointed lot.
Have you difficulties? They are our appointed lot. Have you trials? They are our appointed lot.
Those five words were written to people who might any day find themselves in prison, tortured, lonely, oppressed. Her if we have to have a tooth out, we have an injection. There was no injection for the Christians of Thessalonica. Let us not forget that when we are tempted to fuss over trifles, and call things trials which are mere nothings.
Still, there are trials sometimes, and they may look very big. But they are our appointed lot–we were never promised ease. The early Christians were not taught to expect it. Don’t let us slip into the expectation of the easy. It isn’t our appointed lot.
But for us there is always another word (2 Cor 12.9): My grace is sufficient for you.
Amy Carmichael starts this piece by asking: “Do you ever find prayer difficult because of tiredness or dryness?” If your answer is yes, read on.
Ps 31.5 Into Your hands I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.
Do you ever find prayer difficult because of tiredness or dryness? When that is so, it is an immense help to let the Psalms and hymns we know by heart say themselves or sing themselves inside us. This is possible anywhere and at any time.
We can’t be mistaken in using this easy, open way of prayer, for our Lord Jesus used it. His very last prayer, when He was far too tired to pray as He usually did, was Psalm 31.5. Every Jewish mother used to teach her child to say those words as a good-night prayer.
Hymns, little prayer-songs of our own, even the simplest of them, can sing us into His love. Or more truly, into the consciousness of His love, for we are never for one moment out of it.
I just had to dig Amy Carmichael out today to look for something of hers to share. She just has such a wonderful way of saying things and hitting the nail right on the head.
Ps 116.1 I love the Lord because He has heard my voice and my supplications.
As we look back on past years, they are full of memories of great sorrows and great joys also. If I were asked to give the sum of the years in a sentence I would write this: I love the Lord because He has heard my voice and my supplications. Never, never did He not hear. Never was He far away.
It will be the same with you. Just now you are in the midst of the pressure of life. One thing follows another so closely that you have hardly time to think, hardly time to realize how much you are being helped. But looking back, it will be different. If there have been sorrows, you will see how marvelous His lovingkindness was. If there have been joys, it will be the same. If the time held just one steady round of service it will still be the same. Every day, every hour will seem to you than as if these words were written across it: I love the Lord because He has heard.
So love Him now, rejoice in Him now, however things are because it is true today–He hears your voice and your supplications.