Bodies were piling up in the streets. Thousands of people were dying. Those who came in contact with a sick or dead person were exposing themselves to the highly contagious disease that could kill within twelve hours. Cholera was sweeping across England.
If one wanted to avoid cholera, they’d lay low, stay far from crowds, and avoid anyone that might be infected. Yet each day, George Müller left his pregnant wife Mary and the safety of their home to minister to the people of Bristol. He’d then travel from one side of the city to the other — comforting the sick, spending time in infected people’s homes, and helping move dead bodies for grieving family members. And every morning he would meet with a couple hundred people from his church to pray.
George Müller knew each meal could be his last. He knew every home he entered, every child he hugged, every widow he comforted made him exponentially more vulnerable to cholera. And Mary knew it too. Morning after morning, she would watch her husband walk out the door and head straight into danger.
Biographies tell us this wasn’t easy for Mary. She didn’t like the idea of George choosing to put himself at such high risk. Like most wives would, she feared being left alone. She worried her daughter would grow up fatherless. She battled letting go of the one she loved so that he could do what God was calling him to do.
A Woman Worth Imitating
In the middle of reading Mary’s story, a lump formed in my throat. I instantly thought of a red backpack sitting in my garage. It isn’t any old backpack; it’s the “emergency backpack” our church gave my husband and other pastors several years back. Living in Southern California, one of the most seismically active regions in the world, we never know when the inevitable “Big One” will hit. Thus, the backpack contains helpful essentials for aiding church members in the case of some massive earthquake, or any other catastrophic event.
We have had this bag for almost a decade and, thankfully, it has never been put to use. But it sits there as a reminder that my husband might, in fact, be called into a similar kind of mission — one that involves ministering to the church amidst very real danger.
Perhaps, this bag will never get used. But when I heard Mary’s story, I put myself in her shoes. I had to ask myself: Would I willingly let my husband do what he’s called to do, or would I try to hold him back? Would I courageously follow in Mary’s footsteps?
The Call of Christ
While Mary’s context is quite different from mine, our calling is the same.
As a Christian, I know I am to love Jesus more than any relationship, and I’m to place God’s priorities above my own (Luke 14:26–27; Matthew 10:37–39). I know following Jesus may be costly for me and my loved ones (Matthew 16:24). I know I need to embrace sacrifice when it’s for the good of others (Philippians 2:3–8). And ultimately, I know that every hardship endured for the kingdom will be entirely worth it (Matthew 19:29).
My calling is clear. I must resolve to be like Mary, regardless of the cost.
But the challenge from Mary’s life doesn’t stop there. A willingness to sacrifice for the kingdom doesn’t hinge on our response during a crisis. It’s the daily sacrifices that show what we are made of (Luke 9:23). In fact, Mary didn’t make one singular decision; Mary entrusted her husband to God every day as he walked out the door to minister to the people of Bristol.
It’s my guess that nobody knew of Mary’s daily struggle to relinquish her husband. It was likely in the quiet of her home, in the solitude of her heart, for an audience of one, that she chose to let go of her “rights” for the sake of the kingdom. And this is exactly how we can fight to be like Mary every day. For when no one is watching, and when no dramatic event is lurking, we can choose to quietly die to our self instead of defending what feels like our rights (2 Corinthians 5:15).
When there is a fork in the road — dividing kingdom work from our comforts and preferences — what will we do? What will I do? Will I grumble in my heart when my husband’s ministry brings him home an hour later? Will I encourage my kids to follow Jesus even if it hurts their reputation (or eventually leads them somewhere far away)? Will I sacrifice sleep, money, or best-laid plans to help a sister in need? Will I speak up and share the gospel when I might get laughed at (or worse)? Will I gladly give up a night at home for the sake of serving the church?
While there may never be an opportunity to test if I’d willingly watch my husband walk into danger, there are dozens of daily opportunities that will test my willingness to sacrifice for the kingdom — small sacrifices, but sacrifices nonetheless.
We Need More Marys
This world needs more courageous men and women like Mary — people who entrust their loved ones to God and don’t hold them back from costly obedience.
More than that, we need people who are courageous enough to sacrifice themselves in everyday kinds of ways. We need people who willingly, in the quiet of their home, in the solitude of their heart, for an audience of one, put following Christ above all else (John 12:25–26).
We need more Marys. I hope to be one of them.