Saturday, August 13, 2011

When God doesn't favor the straightest line between two points

“This was not the life I had pictured for myself.”—Gladys Alyward, on becoming a mule handler and foot inspector in China. 
Ha! Hardly the outcome a young missionary would have envisioned for herself, and for some of us, not the life we had expected either.

Don’t you love the possibilities with God? When He says His thoughts are not our thoughts, He means it. One of the things I delight in about His ways is not only are they full of promise, but they are often full of unusual surprises.

I’ve enjoyed re-reading some of the stories of extraordinary women such as Biddy Chambers, Gladys Alyward, and Amy Carmichael who dared to follow God even when the “doors shut” and the path lead over uncertain ground.

Gladys Alyward (1902-1970) wanted to be a stage actress, but after giving her life to Christ at a church meeting one night, she turned her passion toward the unsaved. When she heard about an elderly woman who had packed up and gone to China on her own because she couldn’t find anyone to go with  her, Gladys knew that was where she belonged.

She enrolled in a mission society college but after three months was dismissed on grounds that she was “unqualified.” Here she was, a young woman burning with a desire to go on the mission field and tell people about Christ, but who had just flunked out of mission school.

Man may affect our plans, but what appears as detours and barricades to us, are possibilities and pathways in the hands of the Lord. He was not finished with His plans for Gladys.

The school chairman recommended Gladys take a job caring for some retired missionaries. From them, she learned an important lesson—to wait and trust God with her dream. Her question was one we labor over in each of our lives: “How will I know when and where to go?” she asked.

The missionary couple’s answer was simple, “He will show you.”

I suspect we often want God to give us the answer all at once in a nice, tidy, clear way. We think waiting for His specific direction means just that—waiting without moving until it is all mapped out. But a moving object is easier to direct than a stationary one. And sometimes, oftentimes, we just have to do the next thing.

While reading from Nehemiah one night, Gladys realized that although Nehemiah was just a butler, he went and did the task the burned his heart.

She felt the Lord ask her, “Is Nehemiah’s God your God? Then go.”

 “I am not Nehemiah,” she countered.

“No, but assuredly I am his God.”

And that is, in the purest, most simple form, what we all need to remember when all else is complicated and cloudy. When others say we aren’t and we can’t.

He is God.
The issue resolved, with about two cents to her name, Gladys Alyward, a young woman in her twenties, moved to London and  began saving money for her passage to China.

To be continued

Alyward, Gladys.The Little Woman as told to Christine Hunter. Chicago: Moody Press, 1970.
Benge, Janet and Geoff. Gladys Alyward: The Adventure of a Lifetime. Seattle: YWAM Publishing, 1998.


  1. This post goes along beautifully with my lesson this morning in Jeremiah. Our culture demands instant gratification but God often has us wait for His answers. I appreciated your reminder that a moving object is easier to direct than a stationary one. Thanks for sharing, Marcia.

  2. I too liked the comment about a moving object, as long as we are moving in the right general direction: toward God. Doesn't really matter if we don't know which way He will point us. We just need to try all the doors until one opens. I am very interested in reading the rest of Gladys's story as I am unfamiliar with it. Thanks for the inspiring story.

  3. Love your title and the story! Just what I need right now! :)


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