Whenever I hear Chuck Swindoll’s voice, it reverberates deep . . . within. Unwavering. Sound. Wise. Chuck speaks truth, and it feels like a cool breeze. It is clear to me that Chuck knows intimately the hair-raising twists and turns that is so common in our lives because in his recent book he takes up the topic: What If . . . God Has Other Plans: Finding Hope When Life Throws You the Unexpected. The story Chuck tells about little-known Amy simply stole my heart. It is about a girl who saw herself as ‘little, ugly, shy.’ Not someone who is the center of attention. A wallflower. Yet, look what God can do . . . It’s a grace to welcome Chuck to the farm’s front porch today…
Amy never would have dreamed God would choose her to do something great.
The shy lassie, born the oldest in a family of seven, grew up in beautiful Northern Ireland,
but not without pain.
She and her siblings lost their daddy when they were young, leaving the family virtually destitute. Eventually she was adopted by another family who had the means to clothe and feed her.
She saw herself as “a little, ugly, shy girl.”
In fact, she felt so unattractive while growing up that she shunned having her picture taken.
As a teenager, she was diagnosed with a degenerative nerve disease that stayed with her the rest of her years. Ultimately that disease led to a serious struggle with arthritis, a battle she would fight the rest of her life.
Then something happened that changed her entire life.
At the age of twenty, Amy was attending a Keswick Convention in England, listening to a man named Hudson Taylor share the story of his mission work in China. The year was 1888. The great missionary statesman told of what God had been doing in China and what he anticipated God would do in the future.
He mentioned several times how good God was to choose him, of all people, from among the outcasts of England. By God’s grace, he had learned another language and blended into a culture far different from his own.
Amy sat there thinking, “What if God could use me to do something such as this?”
And from that moment, God began to do something great through the shy, retiring Irish girl.
After a chain of events sovereignly orchestrated by her gracious God, Amy wound up at the southern tip of India, only a few miles from the ocean. She spent the next fifty-six years as a missionary in that faraway place.
Her calling was to invest in the lives of young boys and girls caught in the grip of human trafficking.
They were part of a horrifying slave trade that ravaged the lives of innocent, unsuspecting children. In those days, the trafficking was done under the guise of religion.
Young girls were required to “service” the Hindu priests and those who worshiped with them. Their bodies were used, and in the process, their spirits were broken. Boys and girls alike became helpless victims.
Amy’s heart went out to these broken little lives, and she invested the remainder of her years reaching out to them with the love of Christ as she freed them from prostitution.
Before her death, Amy rescued and ministered to more than a thousand victims.
The Irish woman was Amy Carmichael, who ended up publishing thirty-five books. At her request, not one originally bore her name. In fact, before she died, she made certain that her name would never be etched in granite.
Instead, the children she had rescued, now adults, placed a birdbath over her grave, which remains unmarked to this day.
It seems appropriate: an unmarked grave over a woman who was virtually unknown in her day.
That is, until you read her words and discover that they are filled with profoundly impactful statements.
From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.
From the subtle love of softening things
From easy choices, weakenings,
Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified,
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O, Lamb of God, deliver me.
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.
What makes Amy Carmichael’s words so magnificent is that many who read them likewise view themselves as little more than worthless “clods.”
Somewhere along the way, perhaps you have systematically talked yourself out of anything great God may wish to do through you.
Maybe it’s because you feel woefully inadequate or you lack training. Perhaps you’re shy and entertain thoughts of being completely insignificant.
You look at yourself in the mirror and ask, How could God ever choose somebody like me?
I mean, it would be unlikely for God to notice me, to say nothing of using me greatly. I’m simply not qualified.
Be honest, now . . . does that sound like you? Every time you look in the mirror, do you talk yourself out of something great God wants to do?
But what if God has other plans?
What if He wants to choose you to do something great?
Are you willing?
Would you run in the other direction?
Or would you respond in faith?
It’s a grace to hear the wise words of Chuck Swindoll. He has spent more than half a century faithfully teaching God’s Word and opening the eyes of countless people to the riches found in Scripture.
So I get it . . . life can be humming along just as usual, and then in a matter of seconds, everything falls apart. Maybe you have experienced sudden loss. Perhaps there is a heart-breaking betrayal. Maybe you are taking care of a family member with a disability and you never imagined in a million years that you would be doing such a thing. Life rarely follows our rules. There are U-turns and S-curves none of us are quite prepared to endure.
In What If . . . God Has Other Plans: Finding Hope When Life Throws You the Unexpected, Chuck Swindoll is at his absolute best, opening Scripture and finding hope for those of us who are struggling with the unforeseen, the unexpected, the unplanned. What if . . . God has other plans for your life? What if . . . you are designed for something more?
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]