12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
I Kings 17:7-24
When my season of pain, which began almost exactly two years ago now, stretched from somewhat-normal and barely-tolerable to declaratively-bizarre and beyond-barely-tolerable, a dear friend who has suffered such sent me a dear book by Amy Carmichael, a strong, independent woman who had experienced the loss of her physicality and lived with stabbing, dulling, chronic pain that is hard to describe to anyone who has not experienced it. Amy was a missionary in India and persevered in doing great works there despite a debilitating injury to her back which literally left her flattened many days at a time. One of her greatest gifts among the varied kingdom seeds she sowed is a book written by one in pain for those in pain. (As I struggle through typing this short entry because my dictation program isn’t working but I’m determined to get this down, I awe even more at her ability to write while she suffered so. Thank you, Lord, for allowing her that privilege!).
What prompts me to share a brief portion of this wonderful work is an email I received from a dear friend who is experiencing as an onlooker and caretaker the overwhelming, beyond-belief agony of a beloved family member. Because I have been where I’ve been, I believe I really can know and understand her pain. But for those who may not have experienced these days, I want to share Amy’s writing, because it gives you a tiny bathroom window view into some days of suffering. I know you care, but it can be bewildering to understand. This particular entry by Amy, which is based on the story above in I Kings 17, speaks so well to what happens to people as the days of grief get long. As you read this, think of someone you know who has or is suffering loss, and go to your knees and beg God to show up — it is such a kind mercy to give…
“I do not think we reach the place where we have ‘not anything in the house’ until he whom men call Pain has raided us more than once or twice. The hardest days of the trouble that follows accident or illness are not the first days. They are the days later on, when a new assault of that strangely dreadful power finds us, as it were, at his feet defenseless.
On such days we are like the sailors of the psalm who do business in great waters: they mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble. And as the pretty songs of the Pippas of the earth ripple past us, we are only moved to a weary negation of their easy assertion. For though the lark’s on the wing, the snails on the thorn, and though well our hearts know that God’s in His heaven, all’s not right with the world….
But we have a God whose love is courageous. He trusts us to trust Him through the blind hours before we find our pot of oil, which indeed is always in the house. ‘Some of Love’s secrets reveal others, and therefore between lovers there is recognition,” so it is written in Ramon Lull’s Book of the Lover and the Beloved. And it is one of the dearest secrets of love, that the lover can recognize as by some heavenly instinct the Presence of his Beloved, although he does not see Him. ‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, ye rejoice” — thank God for the secrets of love.” Amy Carmichael, “Not Anything in the House,” Rose from Brier
I have left out so much of what Amy wrote — I do recommend strongly you find a copy of this book and read the entirety. Many blessings and much gratitude to all of you who care so deeply for someone who sees only a handful of flour and a little olive oil in their jug today.