Amy Carmichael was truly one of the most amazing and inspirational women in the history of modern Christianity. Being a devoted follower of Christ from a young age, she did not hesitate to give her life to missions when she felt God telling her to “go.” She is most known for her incredible life-saving work in India, where she rescued children from temple prostitution and founded a home for them.
But throughout all her amazing journeys and work for the kingdom of God, she was always enduring some sort of physical pain. For most of her life, she suffered from a nerve condition called neuralgia, which caused chronic pain, fatigue, and migraines. Then, due to a spine injury, she was bedridden and in severe pain for the last twenty years of her life.
During those bedridden years, Amy wrote many letters to friends and family, which are collected in a book called Candles in the Dark. Her words teach us a great deal about what it looks like to endure physical suffering faithfully and truths we can gather from examining her life.
Below are three things we can learn about pain and suffering from Amy Carmichael.
1. God Gives Us Enough Strength for Each Day
To one friend, Amy wrote, “Pain is never easy to bear, and you have had so much of it. But help comes, doesn’t it? Strength for the day, strength for the minute. And it will never fail us if only we look up.”
Her words encourage us to remember to rely on God for our needs daily. When Jesus instructs His disciples to pray that God will meet their needs, they are not told to ask for yearly bread or weekly bread, but daily bread (Matthew 6:11). Amy knew that God provides the strength necessary for us in each moment or each day. Psalm 73:26 reminds us that our mortal feeble flesh will fail us, but God is our strength. He will sustain us.
2. Seasons of Pain and Suffering Allow Us to be More Compassionate
Writing to a very sick friend, Amy said, “Life is a battle and always will be; we wouldn’t wish it to be otherwise. But I don’t like pain for you, or overtiredness. I can only ask Him to fill your cup so full of joy that it will overflow over the tiredness, even as it did for Him when He sat by the well.”
She knew what this kind of sickness was like, having experienced chronic illness herself. Therefore, she was able to truly empathize with those who also suffered. In our search for purpose in our physical suffering, let us not forget that it grants us perspective to show more compassion and care to others.
Even if it is just a mere word of encouragement to someone else—like that of Amy—it can be exactly what that person needs. Proverbs 12:25 says that uplifting words are like medicine to a weighed-down heart; they may not remove suffering, but they can offer relief.
Christ Himself suffered, was tempted, and experienced grief, loss, physical pain, and even death (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore we can look to Him for comfort in our own suffering and as an example of how we are able to show compassion to others through our suffering.
3. God Holds Us Close to Himself During Seasons of Pain and Suffering
Amy reminds us of the goodness of our Father when she writes, “Trials are not ‘chastisement’. No earthly father goes on chastising a loving child. That is a common thought about suffering, but I am quite sure it is a wrong thought. Paul’s sufferings were not that, nor are yours. They are battle wounds… The Father holds His children very close to His heart when they are going through such rough places as this.”
God is near to us. In this life, we will experience many hardships. Our physical pain and suffering are just one of many reminders that the world is broken and not as it should be. But God has not abandoned His creation, and He has not abandoned us.
Scripture tells us in Psalm 34:18–19 that, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit. One who is righteous has many adversities, but the Lord rescues him from them all.” Through every season we may face—whether joy or sorrow, bounty or loss, health or pain and illness—God is near to us and cares for us as a perfect loving Father.
Amy Carmichael sets an example for us as someone who cares for the lost and for those who have experienced injustice. She sets an example for us as someone who was willing to go to unknown places for the sake of the gospel and the kingdom of God. And she sets an example for us as someone who—like many of us—experienced great suffering and physical pain. Through all her sufferings, she never lost sight of the perfect faithful nature of God and His constant care for her.
Carmichael, Amy. Candles in the Dark. Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1982.
- Candles in the Dark by Amy Carmichael
- Two Promises in Our Pain
- A Prayer in the Midst of Physical Pain