God’s Involvement in Pain, Grief, Despair “Gold by Moonlight” by Amy Carmichael (Jan. 2009)

Susan's Thursday morning note January 8, 2009
God's Involvement in Pain, Grief, Despair (Gold by Moonlight by Amy Carmichael)

Good morning!  I’ve got my favorite mug (Holly Hobby colors from the 70s!) and a perfect filler/coffee ration, along with two mad cats that won’t purr or come near me as I try to think for you & type what will be worth your reading.  For some reason they think that since they’re in for the winter they can include all of us in their play time at about 2:30 a.m.  They were conveniently put out in the cold garage (with plenty of blankets) for the night.  I didn’t even know they had the capability of the look they’re giving me from afar right now after bringing them in!  Maybe they should read today’s writings from a “cat’s hard life of experiences”.

Last week I began to read the book Gold by Moonlight by Amy Carmichael.  I have been captivated by her writing all week, having never read her before.   This book discusses “Where is God in the midst of any hardship…death, pain, hurtful situations with loved ones, guilt…”  She wrote this in 1935, having worked her life with saving children in India and working with children and prostitutes being used in temples.  She writes full of joy and spirit – reminding me almost of Anne of Green Gables if she was working in an orphanage as an adult.  Here are some of the thoughts I underlined.  They won’t do justice to this book, but they will hopefully get your mind focused as we all begin a new year.  Today I will write our focus on God.  So many goals we’ve made at the beginning of this new year – but these thoughts have seemed to put all other thoughts aside.  I hope what I pick out for you brings you new perspectives this year, regardless of where you are in your life…time of joy, or time of sorrow, for regardless of where we are, we all have friends or family that can use our example of continually trying to look up to the heavens.

The illustration of the Chladni plate beautifully shows how circumstances can be caused to work together.  You sprinkle sand on a brass plate fixed on a pedestal, and draw a bow across the edge of the plate, touching it a the same time with two fingers.  Then, because of this touch, the sand does not fall into confusion but into an ordered pattern like music made visible.  Each little grain of sand finds its place in that pattern.  Not one grain is forgotten and left to drift about unregarded.  There is nothing in the vibrations of the bow to make a pattern.  Suffering, hunger, poverty, baffling circumstances cannot of themselves make anything but confusion.  But if there be the touch of the Hand, all these things work together for good, not for ill, not for discord, but for something like the harmony of music.

 If it be loss, there is still an aching absence; if it be difficult circumstances, they still dominate the landscape, it be limitations, they still confine us.  

 “I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an future and a hope.  If we wait till we have clear enough vision to see the expected end before we stay our mind upon Him who is our Strength, we shall miss an opportunity that will never come again: we shall never know the blessing of the unoffended.  Now is the time to say, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed…” It is possible to gather gold, where it may be had, with moonlight.  By moonlight, then, let us gather our gold.

 God’s involvement in our circumstances: Where others see merely a decorous exterior, God sees a soul, sometimes a tortured soul, looking up into His eyes for courage and grace to live triumphantly a moment at a time.  “Thy flesh and thy heart faileth?  I know, my child, I know.  But I am the strength of they heart and thy portion for ever.  Thou shalt not be forgotten by me. 

 On grief from mistakes we’ve made:  But God sees the whole man, and He has a tender way of looking at a soul at its highest, not its lowest.  He does not do as we so often do, misjudge it because of what its diseased mind made its body do in a blind and broken hour.  And we have to do with a Love that can grasp the poor hands as they reach out to Him in that darkness – what father would not do that?  And He is our father.   

On anxiety of unknown days ahead – what is out of our control:  Faith reaches out to what it does not grasp.  Even now, Even there, Even so.  I know that even there, in the uttermost places, shall Thy hand lead me and Thy right hand shall hold me.  And most tender, most intimate of all, Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight.  Even so means simply “Yes.”  “Yes, Father,” yes to everything, to every challenge of faith, to every mystery.

On pure heart-wrenching grief and sorrow:  Grief is a companion with whom you must learn to become acquainted.  “Acquainted with grief” – the words become real now.  Pure sorrow of those left behind.  “Anything but that, Lord” has been your earnest prayer.  And then, perhaps quite suddenly, you found your feet set on that way, that and no other.  Do you still hold fast to your faith that He maketh your way perfect?  It does not look perfect.  It looks like a road that has lost its sense of direction; a broken road, a wandering road, a strange mistake.  And yet, either it is perfect, or all that you have believed crumbles like a rope of sand in your hands.  There is no middle choice between faith and despair.    We are facing a crisis in life.  Every hour of that day is etched in memory like an etching on ivory.  We know then what it is to be rent.  We have no words for what it is.  Till suddenly we look up and see – something not of earth.  That bright hour never fades for us.  Not that He has left us, for that can never be, but that for love-reasons He has withdrawn something that was ours before , and which we miss.

Self-pity: Again and again the temptation to wish for what is not given will spring upon us and the straining, softening thought of self, and sympathy with self, will try to creep into the circle.  But if the moment the soul is conscious of that influence it looks to its Lord there will be peace.  So let us be of good courage, for each hour brings the hour nearer, when we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.   His face.   It was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God.  And after a little while spent in that quiet place we find our peace in prayer.

After the sad days have passed you will look back and wonder how you were carried through.  It will not always be so hard as it has been of late; for after darkness cometh light and after tempest cometh calm.  This is no fantasy.  It shall be so.  God’s words – the least of us can understand them, the weariest can use them.  “I flee unto Thee to hide me.  Hide me under the shadow of Thy wings.”  Long prayer is not needed, short prayer pierceth heaven. A word, a look is enough. 

On asking “Why?”  How do you account for it?  We do not attempt to account for it.  We only know the outskirts of God’s ways; and how small a whisper do we hear of Him.  As well try to capture the motif of a symphony from a few bars imperfectly heard, or imagine the finished picture after seeing the colors on the palette, or master the argument of the book of Job after reading a few paragraphs, as presume to imagine that we who see only a fragment of the thought of God can understand the hole or interpret it to another.  But we shall not be disappointed when we are told the secret of the mysteries of this present.  The word stands true.  And ever best found in the close.  The enemy will contest our confidence at every point; he will remind us the cause of our trouble.  But faith looks above the human.  Desperate things can happen – things that are in every way wrong – but faith overlooks the earthly.  Faith sees God. 

When we can’t even pray: But there are times when we cannot; at least, we cannot attempt sustained prayer.  For we cannot gather our thoughts to pray.  Set a little child in the midst of your thoughts.  Se it when it is ill.  It cannot say much to its mother, but it can look its love, and the mother understands.  The frequent little looks of love passing between mother and child, the frequent little touches of love, these are the signs of love.  The Maker of mothers is not less understanding than the mothers He has made.  “O more than mother’s heart, I come, a weary child, to Thee.  If we come, perhaps not so much praying…He whom our soul loveth…the inmost thoughts of the heart are understood and answered.

You will look back at a certain moment (news of a terminal disease, death of a loved one, hurt by someone) which changed everything.  But moment is too long a word; was it a period of time at all?  Nothing will ever be again as it was before…and the road will grow duller and darker with every mile you go – is that your thought?  “But I am here in the room with you: I am nearer than those becking, calling things.  I come between them and you.  You have nothing to do, now, but to please me.”  Trust ye in the Lord forever.  We know Him present as we know the presence of a fragrant flower in the room. 

What if God is not real?!?  Not involved?: The question is sure to come – the kind that wrings soul or body with giant hands, is all of this a mere jumble of words?  a religious lie?  most despicable of lies?  It is not a lie; it is true.  We do not build our faith on the baseless fabric of a dream.  We look up into the sky at noon and know that familiar constellations are passing over us, but we do not see them.  Empty blue, or grey, or masses of cloud – that is all we see.  Why should we not be comforted where the spiritual is in question by remembering that there also we only see in part?  We dwell perpetually in the presence of far more than we can see.  How can this be? we ask.  God declares it is, that is enough.  Love kindles faith.  Love strengthens faith.  Love nourishes the full assurance of hope.  And then Love leads us into prayer.  

Seek ye My face.  Thy face, Lord, will I seek.  The end of true prayer is always joy.  The sorrow is turned into joy.  Our joy shall be full when we see what Eternal Wisdom wrought for us through the difficult days of time.  And throughout those days the soul that refuses to be offended is marvelously comforted.  The Father draws His shattered child very close to His heart.  The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him – the covenant of peace will never be removed.  Peace I leave with you, My peace I give e unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Our hearts are quiet then: “I trust to rest in Thy great hallowing.”  “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart.”  It is possible to gather gold by moonlight.  “Nearness of God is too distant a word…he was an abiding strength” But I know it is not the sense of His presence that is our strength and stay. And yet it is comforting when a mother makes some little sign or speaks some little word to a child who does not see her. And when our Father deals so tenderly with us, then we are very humbly grateful and we store such memories in our heart. And when there is not any feeling we rest on His bare word, “Lo, I am with you always, all the days, and all the day long,” and are content. , it is the fact of His presence

Peace  He has peace even the moment of keenest anxiety in remembering the sovereignty of his Lord.  And if he has to take action and knows not what to do, the words He that is perfect in knowledge is perfect with thee, trusted to the full, will be like the Lord’s “Peace, be still.”  There will be a great calm.  If something must be done immediately then a way will be shown.   If it be possible to wait there will be peace until clearness comes, and when it is given there will be strength to act.  The vast design of Providence is design, not accident. 

Future This for today; what of tomorrow?  We have no doubt about tomorrow: there is always something in the thought of our Father that ism ore profound and more beautiful than anything that we can imagine.  Who has seen, who has described the lilies that grow in Hi Garden of Tomorrow?  Not even the angels of God, who from time to time have told so much to man, have ever told him anything about those lilies.  As my mom said, Who can imagine heaven – the beauty, the absolutely beauty of creation (if God can make Hawaii, imagine his own home!).  The moment of death – the peace we will have when we get to look into His eyes.  And see his pride in our hope in him.  Upon death there will be no need for the words hope or patience or faith any more.  We will have arrived and know. 

This was a lot, but when at 5:30 this morning I decided not to write any of this and write you a great quote, knowing it was all too much, I couldn’t.  I was affected and didn’t want you to not have the chance to think on all of this with me.  Have a great week.  Remember the child glancing at his mother…just the glance, with no words brought him comfort.  We don’t need to know what to say to God, or even be able to pray.  All we have to do is glance and KNOW that he is there.  

I hope you find peace and comfort no matter what is thrown at you this year.  We have a peace that passes all others’ understanding, just by glancing up and knowing.  Knowing that He is God.  Have a great weekend.  Smile and make eye-contact with those you meet.  All have a story.  Be proud of decisions you make that no one even knows that you’re making.  Let’s try over & over to live with goals in our minds, not being too hard on ourselves, but continually trying to remember why we’re here – so that when we do see God’s eyes the second of death – he will look at us with great pride.  Have a great weekend!  Thank you so much for letting me enter your Thursdays.  I hope what I try to find to write helps you live a life of excellence.  Susan

Latin for this week:
Desiderio Domini - I long to be with my Lord.

Works Cited: 
Carmichael, Amy.  Gold by Moonlight.  1935.  Donaver Book.  Great Britain.