This week I made a mistake and inadvertently deleted a document that I had spent hours researching and writing. After verbally abusing myself for a few minutes — and trying to recover it from Geheena — I resolved to be more grateful for what I did have than I was upset for what I didn’t. I began the work again while most of the material was still fresh in my mind. Can you relate?
Another Christian man is known for having lost work. His name was William Carey. The difference, however, between Carey and me is that, well, I’m no William Carey. My loss pails in comparison to his.
Carey was a missionary to India. He arrived there from England in 1793, but he would never return: he died in India in 1834. Did he experience loss? Yes. His wife became ill and died. He lost a 5-year-old son to dysentery. After having little success as a missionary, he realized that his real gift was as a linguist. So, he oversaw the building of India’s first printing press, constructed a workhouse (200 ft. by 50 ft.: to give you an idea, a 737’s wingspan is about 115 ft.), and began translating, writing, and printing with the help of approximately 20 other linguists. Sadly, on March 11, 1812, while Carey was preaching in Calcutta, a fire began in the workshop and his entire life’s work was lost: his completed Sanskrit dictionary, part of his Bengal dictionary, two grammar books, and 10 translations of the Bible. As if to add insult to this injury, the fire also claimed the type sets for printing 14 different languages, large quantities of English paper, dictionaries, deeds, and accounting records. You can probably imagine how costly this loss was in the 19th century. Carey is quoted as saying, “In one short evening the labours [sic] of years are consumed. How unsearchable are the ways of God. I had lately brought some things to the utmost perfection of which they seemed capable, and contemplated the missionary establishment with perhaps too much self-congratulation. The Lord has laid me low, that I may look more simply to him.”
When the apostle Paul wrote what we know to be 2 Corinthians, he penned a melancholy section; he wrote words with which anyone who has suffered loss can identify. “So we do not lose heart. . . . For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16, 18). Loss has a way or reminding us of what is temporary, and what is eternal.
As for Carey . . . sponsors heard of his plight and began sending financial support, volunteers helped to rebuild the workshop, and he began printing again. When he was done, he had done the entire Bible, or portions of it, in 44 languages and dialects.
Lesson: do not look to what you can lose. Look to Him who can never be lost — and get back to work!