By: Jenni Walker
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
“What is the secret to great living? Entire separation to Christ and devotion to Him…” (Amy Carmichael)
* * *
Whenever I see titles like this one, an eye roll (and sometimes a deep sigh) escapes me. Another self-help post on the internet? you may be thinking to yourself. What does that have to do with being a wholehearted woman for God? The secret is so simple and yet something we can’t live without as followers of Jesus. It all has to do with how, and by whom, “great living” is defined.
Amy Carmichael knew the secret to great living. She was born in 1867 and became a tireless missionary to India for over five decades. She was the rescuer of over 1000 children who were sold into temple prostitution. She was the author of many books and poems. She was also a woman who did not trifle with fear. She was a real woman with both a heart that experienced loneliness and loss as well as a body that was susceptible to ongoing pain, illness, and injury. And yet, her entire being was consumed by passion to be used by her Lord for His purposes and by a holy love for the children that she was called to.
There were plenty of opportunities throughout the course of her lifetime for her to be stopped by fear or difficult circumstances. She could have given up missionary work for fear of failure after having to leave Japan just over a year after her arrival there in her early years. She could have easily grown despairing of the critical and unsupportive things often said of her ministry by fellow local missionaries. She could have become despondent in her efforts when one of the orphans in her care died of disease. She could have simply chosen to not even attempt to rescue children from being “tied to the gods” in temple prostitution for fear of it being too hard, of being discovered by local authorities, or from thinking herself ill-equipped or incapable.
Amy Carmichael’s life perhaps would not be described as “great living” by many people unless they, too, define it biblically as she and so many other courageous followers of Christ have done. She gives us this powerful thought: “What is the secret to great living? Entire separation to Christ and devotion to Him. Thus speaks every man and woman whose life has made more than a passing flicker in the spiritual realm. It is the life that has no time for trifling that counts.” It is because of this that we today know her story and the eternal fruit that was produced through her life’s work.
In this moment that we are in, as many of us are choosing social distancing or have been given specific state guidelines to reduce contact with others drastically, “great living” may not be your felt experience of life right now. Perhaps fear, doubt, confusion, or just ongoing frustration with life circumstances seem to stymie your confidence in the Lord. Yet, this same fearless wholehearted woman reminds us, “If you would live in victory…you must refuse to be dominated by the seen and the felt.” Dear wholehearted women, let us be intentional to pursue God’s definition of “great living” in this time out of devotion to our Lord in all things.
What is the “great living” God is calling you to in this hour? Perhaps you are a college student who is completing the semester virtually from your childhood bedroom. You may be a mother working part time from home while also trying to homeschool your school-age children who are out of school indefinitely. Maybe you were about to embark on a short-term mission trip that you know to your core that God had led you to be a part of, but now it has been postponed or even canceled; perhaps you are on the other end of the spectrum and still have to go to work with each day holding its own uncertainty, and you would just rather be home safely with your family. Maybe you are an empty-nester whose children and grandchildren live out-of-state, and your home has never felt emptier.
In all of it, our Heavenly Father is calling us to Himself. What does this look like in a practical sense in the face of fear, uncertainty, and shifting circumstances? It is cultivating a state of the heart that delights in the Lord and feeds on His faithfulness and love rather than nagging worries, the barrage of news headlines, or the complaints of others. It is cultivating a quiet heart that takes refuge in Him and that also pulses with the life of Christ and the beauty of our Lord in all things. Psalm 27:4–5 pens a prayer of the heart that draws our heart in this way to HIM:
One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the [a]beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.
As we focus on desiring God and hungering for Him in all things, with Him alone as our “perfect peace” and “rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:3–4), it is also important to view the season we are in as something we are called to. With circumstances beyond our control, we must put our personal preferences aside and ask the Lord what He has appointed us to in this unexpected season right now (John 15:16). Don’t do things just to stay busy. Keep a quiet heart, and embrace the simple blessings of daily life right now. The Lord will lead you as you seek Him! The following are just a few ideas for fearless and great living as you embrace the God-given beauty of each day:
*College students: When virtual classes are done for the day, plan a video chat with coffee and a favorite devotional book or Christian biography in hand such as The Wholehearted Woman or 7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness. Seek the Lord together, encourage one another, and share what you are learning with each other! Then, put all technology away, and spend time with whoever lives in the house you are staying in. Help clean, bake something, play a board game, or do some gardening. Focus on the relationship and the beauty of the ordinary!
*Moms of school-age children: Don’t just look for things to “keep kids occupied.” Without the barrage of extracurricular activities, social gatherings, piano lessons, after-school clubs, and school projects (none of which are bad things!), it may feel like there is so much time in the day. Rather than finding ways to “fill it up,” change your perspective to see what a gift this time can be! Create some new rhythms of your home intentionally: Make meals together, clean up together, put on some music and have a laundry-folding party (or competition!), GO OUTSIDE without a structured plan, make bird feeders out of pinecones and peanut butter, read a LOT, and keep phones and devices put away. Don’t make it about the next experience but about deepening relationships, reflectively considering the needs of your child(ren)’s development, growing in godly character, and just enjoying genuine family affection!
*Women who still have to work outside the home or who had previously-scheduled ministry opportunities that are on-hold: Things like postponed mission trips, virtual church services and small groups, temporarily-canceled Bible studies, and nursing homes not allowing visitors can leave us feeling like our hearts are in the lurch. We were ready to go. We were in the thick of fruitful discipleship of others. We were experiencing God powerfully in corporate worship at church. We had taken a step of obedience to join or lead a church small group. We were just starting to develop relationships with nursing home residents and even had an Easter craft in mind to share the gospel. But now…it is all on-hold.
Or you may be in a line of work that requires you to continue going to work such as the medical field, and although you love helping people, the daily uncertainties for you, your family, your community, and even the world are taking a toll on your heart. Both of these situations can leave this lingering question in our hearts: What are we to DO? I do not have all the answers, but God does! Spend time processing what is in your heart (sadness, disappointment, urgency, uncertainty, pulsing passion without the outlet you planned for!) as you spend time at the feet of Jesus. Do not allow yourself to become “worried and troubled about many things” like in the story of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha. Rather, spend time at His feet, choosing “that good part, which will not be taken away…” (See Luke 10:38–42.)
*Empty-nesters or women with limited daily interactions due to health concerns: This can be so hard on the heart! You may find yourself feeling lonely, disheartened, a little stir-crazy, overlooked, or even forgotten. Let the Lord draw your heart close to Him (Psalm 34:18). Your suffering is not a surprise to Him; give Him your burdens (1 Peter 5:7). He is with you! Despite visiting restrictions, do not pull away from those in your family or your church. And remember that there are also those who need YOU! 2 Peter 3:9 reminds us, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that nay should perish but that all should come to repentance.” How can you pray in this time for others? Who can you write letters to? Who needs a heart-to-heart phone conversation with you as she also navigates this unique season? May this be a time of intimacy with the Lord, of encouragement from (and for!) others in times of need, and of fruitfulness in the kingdom of God as He is at work in and through you!
As we close, consider once more what this “great living” of wholehearted devotion to Jesus look like in a practical sense in the face of fear, uncertainty, and shifting circumstances? It is cultivating a state of the heart that delights in the Lord and that embraces the season we are in as a holy calling. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God has not given us a spirit of fear [or timidity] but a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” In all of this, our Heavenly Father is calling us to Himself. Do not trifle with anything that might distract from that. There is nothing greater, more delightful, or truly satisfying than experiencing Him and helping others do the same!
Time to Reflect
1) What “seen and felt” areas of your life are dominating your thoughts? Your emotions? Your actions? Your focus? Be honest with the Lord and with yourself. How does Luke 10:38–42 inform your response in these areas?
2) “Great living” as followers of Jesus requires all of us. As Amy Carmichael reminds us, it is a life of “entire separation to Christ and devotion to Him…It is the life that has no time for trifling that counts.” Read Psalm 27:1–5, and ask the Lord to speak to and strengthen your heart about the specific season you are in right now.
*****What are some of the things that easily produce fear in your heart and mind? There are several negative habits that often leave us “feeding our fears” instead of our faith in God. We invite you to dig deeper with us HERE as we take a closer look at Amy Carmichael’s life and some important biblical principles that can bring both practical and powerful transformation in our lives!
* * *