Discouragement can be a crippling form of soul sickness. It stalks those who serve in hard places and in unyielding spiritual environments. And lately, I’ve felt the dark creep of discontent that, if unchecked, can bleed into despair. Over the years, I’ve learned how dangerous it is to nurse feelings that can become poisonous to fruitful ministry. Time with Scripture and in prayer is always part of the cure, but sometimes it also helps to hear from others who’ve been in these trenches and implicitly understand the difficulties and dynamics of missionary life. So, I pull a thin volume wrapped in a disintegrating book cover off the bookshelf by my bed—Gold by Moonlight by Amy Carmichael. First published in 1960, the insights in this book are just as relevant today as when they were written. This Christian classic speaks to anyone wrestling with discouragement, illness, or painful circumstances.
Amy Carmichael had more reason than I’ve ever had to feel discouraged. In 1895 when she was a young woman, Amy moved from her home in Ireland to South India. Once there, she served for fifty-five straight years without ever returning home. For the last twenty years of her life, she was bedridden with debilitating pain, the consequence of an accidental fall into an uncovered pit. During the long years of uninterrupted suffering following her injury, she continued to serve as a spiritual mother for the community she founded called the Dohnavur Fellowship, a haven for the most vulnerable members of society, in particular for children rescued from temple prostitution. I’ve often wondered how Amy could maintain such supernatural joy in the face of “griefs which can come down like an avalanche over the soul.”
Reading her writings has taught me that there were four main things that bolstered her spirit and her faith—saturation in Scripture, delight in the presence of God, the support of a Christian community, and the glorious beauty of the natural world.