Lately I’ve been reading the journals of both George Whitefield and William Carey. A well-written biography can capture the whole sweep of a life in a couple hundred pages, but such books are of necessity presenting an “edited” life. Take William Carey, for example. If you summarize his 40-year pioneering ministry of preaching, translating, teaching, and travel into a few pages, Carey may seem like Elijah in a fiery chariot—caught up from one spiritual height to another. But that’s not really an accurate picture, as Carey’s journal reveals. Sure, Carey was a gifted, fruitful, missionary trailblazer, but he was also a man who wrote the following entries in his journal:
Had a miserable day, sorely harassed from without, and very cold and dead in my soul. I could bear all outward trials if I had but more of the spirit of God” (February 2, 1795).
I sometimes walk in my garden and try to pray to God, and if I pray at all, it is in the solitude of a walk; I thought my soul a little drawn out today, but soon gross darkness returned; spoke a word or two to a Mohammedan upon the things of God, but I feel as bad as they” (March 6, 1795).
This is not an effort to discredit Carey or diminish his service. It is, in fact, an effort to magnify Carey’s Savior, for our God takes and redeems weak sinners who are just dust, really, or, as Paul put it, “jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” It is immensely encouraging to know that even in our weaknesses and through all the unknowns ahead, Christ our Refuge is in us and with us and for us!