One of the first great Christian missionaries I learned about as a child was Amy Carmichael. When she was young, she asked God to change her eye colour from brown to blue. He didn’t answer her prayer, or rather He answered it differently than she expected. He said, “No.” At that time in my life, I wanted my blue eyes to be green. I prayed a similar prayer and got the same answer, “No.” She, and I, learned that “No” is an answer from God. Since that time I have been learning more from Amy Carmichael. Another lesson from her is to focus on those things which are eternal. I have been reading a collection of her writings called Candles in the Dark. Here is one selection that I appreciated.
I think that in guidance God deals with us as He dealt with the Israelites. The first crossing of the sea was made very easy, the guidance could not have been simpler. The strong east wind blew and divided the sea before the people had to cross; not a foot was wet, except perhaps by the driving spray [Exodus 14:13-31].
But how different it was on the second occasion [Joshua 3:14-17], when God taught them to obey without, as it were, making it first of all impossible to disobey. The priests had to stand still in the water of the river. What a sight for men to scoff at, that standing still in the water! But it was not till they obeyed, and without a particle of visible proof that they were doing right, went on to carry the ark right into the river, that the water rolled back before them.
So, it seems to me, we may as we go on with God be called again and again to go right into our rivers, to wet our feet in them. We may be called to do what nobody understands but those to whom the word has come and the promise. But the word must come first and the promise too. We must be sure, with an inward conviction that absolutely nothing can shake.
In my own case again and again I have had to wet my feet in the water. But when the Red Sea kind of guidance is given I am always very glad, for then others can see, and that does help. You know those lines in Hannington’s Life;
He saw a hand they could not see
That beckoned him away,
He heard a voice they could not hear
That would not let him stay.
Only God and those who have to walk in that path know how hard it can be. But He does know, and when the people about us don’t hear the words of the voice, but only say “It thunders”, well, He comes near, and we know Him as we never knew Him before. At least it seems so to me.
I pray that this is some help to you. There will come times when to obey does not look easy, or even possible; but if we stick with God, He will bring us through.