Diary entries from William Carey, 1795:


            •February 3: “This is indeed the Valley of the Shadow of Death.”

            •February 7: “O that this day could be consigned to oblivion.”

            •February 17: “O that I had but the spirit to pray for myself.”[1]


             Carey, the father of the modern Christian missionary movement, wrote those words in India during great adversity. His setbacks make his achievements seem supernatural. He and his assistants translated the entire Bible into 6 Indian languages and dialects, and parts of the Bible into 29 more—despite a fire destroying his publishing facility. He set up schools and preached regularly, surviving serious illnesses and limited funds while coping with his first wife’s gradual descent into mental illness, and the deaths of two subsequent wives, several children, and coworkers. He labored years before seeing a single convert.

            Yet he also wrote: “I have God, and His Word is sure.”


Revelations of God During Troubles

            How can one be so tested, yet still declare God and His Word as true and ever-present? Because of the commitment to persevere through trials so the character of God can be revealed. And Carey persevered. It took two years before he was declared qualified to preach. In fact, he was never known for his preaching, but for his plodding. He said: “I can plod. I can persevere.”[2] What the Bible calls perseverance, Carey called “plodding”—that unshakable faith that if God doesn’t remove the trouble, He will move me through it. Throughout Scripture people discover God’s faithfulness and character amid trials. Job is the ultimate example, but consider the psalmist: “Your faithfulness endures to all generations.... Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction” (Psalm 119:90, 92).

            His point is that affliction revealed more of God. Instead of asking why God did this, he declared how God and God’s Word became clearer and sustained him through trials. “Why?” is a normal human response. God is not put off by that question. It may be a starting point that allows us to better understand His purposes in our life.


Reminders About God During Troubles

            The great preacher Charles Spurgeon, familiar with times of trouble, wrote, “I learned more of my Lord then than at any other time.” C. S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.” During adversity we learn that . . .

            •God gives permission. Nothing happens outside His will. The clearest example is Job. Satan had to ask God for permission to afflict Job, which God granted—with limits (Job 1:12; 2:6). Those limits are referred to in 1 Corinthians 10:13. God “will not allow you to be tempted [tested] beyond what you are able.” Once you understand that your troubles have arrived with God’s permission, it begs a new question: “God, what is the purpose of this trouble?”

            •God has plans. Theologians refer to Paul as the “apostle of God’s grace.” Paul mentions the grace of God over eighty times. He was the apostle to the Gentiles who, by grace, were invited to share the new covenant blessings of Israel. How better for the “apostle of grace” learn about grace than to be put in a position where grace was necessary to endure? That was God’s plan: “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:9). If you are suffering by God’s permission, it is because God has a plan for you (Psalm 139:16).

            •God has purposes. When God’s permission and plans result in pain, we ask, “How long?” God is not governed by time, but by purposes. When His purpose is accomplished, circumstances will change (Deuteronomy 8:16). We learn God’s ways are higher than ours. We can trust His purposes (Isaiah 55:8-11).

            •God is powerful. We learn through troubles that we are loved by God. Nothing, Paul wrote, can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39, ESV). Powerful forces work to separate us from His love. But God is more powerful. Whatever trouble you are experiencing today, God loves you.

            Our troubles may never be as stressful as William Carey’s. But regardless of the form or intensity of our adversity, the greatest benefit is learning and understanding more about the God who loves us.


David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church and the founder and host of Turning Point for God. For more information about Dr. Jeremiah or Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.


[1] Christian History, Issue 36 (Vol. XI, No. 4), 31.

[2] Ibid, 17.