This woman is one of my heroes. I’ve written about her before, but wanted to again, after studying her more at a women’s retreat in April.
I just wanted to say a few points on who she was, and what makes her so inspiring to me.
– She left all she knew for the unknown, for the same cause as Christ left His home – to bring salvation (or news of it).There were no guarantees of anything, but there aren’t conditions guaranteed in the Great Commission. Such bravery.
– And those conditions weren’t easy. She was the only white female. She left everything and more for Christ and His glory – watching friends die, perhaps never seeing her family again, losing children, health, and earthly comforts and even “needs” like food and shelter.
– She was a true helpmeet to her husband. She worked alongside him, translating, discipling, teaching, and then when he was in prison, she worked for his freedom and poured out herself to keep him alive as she walked four miles a day in the heat while pregnant to bring him food.
– She put God’s glory above her husband, when she went back to America by herself to seek medical treatment, allowing him to continue on with work there – and then she told many in America about the work there, inspiring others to come.
– Death was always imminent (they put the missionaries in separate boats in case one sank!) but they never thought about going back.
– Her father also showed courage and faith in letting his daughter go for a greater cause. While I agree there should be some degree of protection for women, I think we often take this too far in conservative Christian circles, but I am unsure of what the best/most biblical position on that is.
– Her labors lasted beyond her death. Because of how she helped her husband in his time of need, he lived on to keep working, and her translations spread, and their work continues to bear fruit to this day.
A striking quote from Ann that is good to think on in trial:
“God has taught us by affliction what He could not by mercy.”
In an age of ease, this is important to remember. I am reminded of the laments in the Psalms and Job, in contrast with our “happy” Christianity. Michael Card wrote a book asking “What do miserable Christians sing?” We can’t sing, if we think all will be well. But Ann knew that we learn different things in affliction.
Perhaps she felt like Psalm 88, where the pain doesn’t resolve. We question why, we mourn and weep and feel alone and abandoned, sometimes even by God.
Or perhaps it was like Psalm 89, where there wasn’t doubt, but the truths of remembering what God has done in the first part turn to begging for mercy in the second part – the Psalmist can praise even in difficulty because he knows who God is and that God won’t change, but that His lovingkindness will come.
I think Ann knew God’s love and nearness in affliction. She knew that while mercy was good, affliction wasn’t without worth.
And I am glad she knew that, because that is one important thing I glean from her – going forward with immense faith and trust in God even when it seems impossible, knowing that He is working in affliction just as He does in mercy.
Ann and Tricia and many others are real-life examples.
And I would even say that what He teaches us in affliction is mercy. But it is mercy in that rather than relieving – what we always want – He draws us near in our suffering.
Knowing these stories doesn’t make it any easier to think about death, disease, and suffering. When you think about them so close together you can’t help but wonder if there’s something specific you’re being prepared for – or is it just that you’ve been holding onto life too tightly and He’s putting your perspective back where it belongs?
But that’s not for us to know, until it happens.
What is for us to know is that like the Psalms, and Job, and the Judsons, Lawrensons, and many others, God is always there and always there in our suffering, even if He feels far away.
And there is mercy even in affliction, whether in the big picture of how He is remaking us, or in the new joy we find in little things and the moments we treasure that we never thought of treasuring before.
God is good.
These people are a testimony to that.
And they can be helps to us, when we wonder how we could ever make it through if something did come, or when we are going through trial and wonder if we’ll make it through.
They show that, whether in death or in life, God is powerful enough, good enough, and is enough for us, even if everything else – friends, family, possessions, health – is taken away from us.
Your courage asks me
what I’m afraid of
what I’m made of
and what I know of love.
– Sara Groves, “I Saw What I Saw”