For his first two years in India William Carey got no mail. During his first seven years he got no converts. The British Indian press said “papists” had arrived instead of “Baptists.” After nineteen years of labor a fire destroyed his precious manuscripts of a polyglot dictionary, a Sikh and Telugu grammar and ten versions of the Bible. He had an accident and was lame to the end. He lost two wives in death. And he never went home—for 41 years.
What kept him going? Incredible faith in the sovereign goodness of God.
When I left England, my hope of India's conversion was very strong; but amongst so many obstacles, it would die, unless upheld by God. Well, I have God, and His Word is true. Though the superstitions of the heathen were a thousand times stronger than they are, the example of the Europeans a thousand times worse; though I were deserted by all and persecuted by all, yet my faith, fixed on that sure Word, would rise about all obstacles and overcome every trial. God's cause will triumph.
When he saw the smoldering fire that destroyed his work, tears filled his eyes and he said,
In one short evening the labours of years are consumed. How unsearchable are the ways of God! . . . The Lord has laid me low that I may look more simply to him.
Why did he not rage at Satan for destroying the Word of God and the godly labor of years? Because he had learned the truth of James 4:13-16:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain”; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. . . . Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
In the end it is God who decides if you live or die tomorrow. It is God who decides if your life's work will end up in ashes or down in history or (as with William Carey) both.
And God is good! When the tragedy strikes, you may say with Carey, “How unsearchable are the ways of God!” But you need never—never—doubt his goodness.
You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful (James 5:11)
Carey rose from his knees and “looked more simply to Christ,” and at the end of his life he said, “I had scarcely a wish ungratified.” He wrote his own epitaph: “On Thy kind arms I fall.”
Falling there already with you,