When Adoniram and Ann Judson set sail for India in 1812, they had no idea of the hardship that lay ahead of them. After being denied access to India, they sailed to Burma. On the way there, their first child was born on the ship. He was stillborn and buried at sea. Their second child, Roger, was born in Burma. He died before his second birthday. Their third child, Maria, was born while Adoniram was being held in a Burmese death prison under suspicion of being a British spy. After he was released to interpret between the British and the Burmese, his wife Ann died, and two months later baby Maria followed her to the grave. Adoniram poured himself into his translation work to drown the pain, but eventually fled to the jungle to live as a recluse, contemplating death. But he did not go over the brink. God returned him to useful service in Bible translation and itinerant evangelism, keeping him faithful to the end. What kept Adoniram and Ann going in the midst of such hardship and repeated devastating loss? Why did they not go crazy under the pressure and grief like Dorothy Carey did?
Both Adoniram and Ann Judson knew that they were called to the mission field. Ann was not following on her husband’s coat tails. Ann went to the mission field not because of “‘an attachment to an earthly object,’ meaning Adoniram, but because of ‘obligation to God... with full conviction of its being a call.’”1
Dorothy Carey, on the other hand, did not have that sense of call. Her husband, William Carey, felt called to go to India and Dorothy only reluctantly agreed to go with him. And once they got there, Dorothy and her sister Kitty were (in Carey’s words) “constantly exclaiming against” him.2 Both the Judsons and the Careys faced sickness, local opposition, difficult living conditions, and the death of children. The Judsons persevered, as did William Carey. But after the Carey’s five year old son Peter died of fever, Dorothy Carey lost it. Her health continued to decline and she became mentally unstable. Missionary co-workers described her as “wholly deranged.”3 Dorothy never recovered.
What made the difference? Why did Dorothy Carey go crazy but Ann Judson did not? Ann was convinced of God’s call upon her life and she was confident that God was good... in spite of circumstances that said He was not. Listen to what Ann Judson said after the death of their second child:
“Our hearts were bound up with this child; we felt he was our earthly all, our only source of innocent recreation in this heathen land. But God saw it was necessary to remind us of our error, and to strip us of our only little all. O, may it not be in vain that He has done it. May we so improve it that he will stay his hand and say, “It is enough”
It is easy to say that God is good, and that God is sovereign. But Ann Judson really believed it. And in the crucible of grief and adversity, that trust made all the difference.