“I’ve learned to trust in God’s love”
Sometimes trusting in God can be a challenge. Veteran missionary Elizabeth Goldsmith talks to Amanda Pilz about her own struggles and what she has learned through them
“We were living in North Sumatra. My husband was away and Andrew, my week-old baby, had been given the wrong medication. He was going very pale and then he suddenly went stiff and started to scream. So I ran to a friend and said, ‘Something’s really wrong with him!’ She told me there was a hospital five minutes away by landrover or I could take him to the hospital where he was born, but that would take us half an hour. I just cried out to God, ‘What shall I say?’
“I felt the Lord telling me, ‘Go back to where he was born’. So we got into the landrover, bumped and jolted over the pot-holed roads and arrived at the hospital, only to be told the doctor was having lunch! I didn’t care about that and ran straight into the dining room with Andrew in my arms and cried ‘Look!’ By this time he was white and limp. The doctor quickly put Andrew into a little oxygen tent which slowly revived him.
“Afterwards, I was told another quarter of an hour and my baby would have been gone. He also could have been damaged for life, but the biggest miracle was I later discovered that in the whole of North Sumatra this was the only hospital that had oxygen.”
This is just one of many extraordinary experiences Elizabeth Goldsmith has had through 50 years of Christian service. Born to missionary parents in China, separated from them at age six, losing her mother, being held prisoner as a child for three years in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, and later called into missionary service, she has been through things which might have broken some people.
Yet Elizabeth exudes a joyful serenity and certainty in God. How did she experience such adversity and remain comparatively unscathed?
“When I look back, I can see that God was in control,” she reflects. “As a child in the camp, I first began to learn he can be trusted because, again and again when our Christian teachers were short of things, the Lord provided. There was no epidemic, which there could easily have been because the sanitation was appalling! After the war when we returned to England, my father, my five siblings and I only had the clothes we stood up in and yet the Lord provided for us in absolutely every way.
“But the first occasion when I personally felt challenged to trust God was when I was 16. I was at a youth camp and the vicar was speaking on 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ‘You are not your own, you were bought at a price’. It dawned on me that until then I’d been a Christian for what I could get, but this verse was telling me I belonged to God, not to myself. I realised I needed to say, ‘God you are Lord of my life and I am willing to do what you want and go wherever you want’. That was the basis of my missionary call.
But was trusting God really all plain sailing? I ask. “Not at all”, she replies. “As we finished university and all my friends were applying for jobs, I realised that wasn’t going to be my line. Of course, most of my friends were pairing off too, but whenever I told any male friends I felt called to mission our budding relationship seemed to just melt away! I thought then that I would never get married, as I had seen so many single women working as missionaries overseas. That was my struggle and I told God I wasn’t willing to go as a single person.
“Then one day we had a Christian Union meeting at university. I found myself sitting next to the speaker and I blurted out that I was having a battle with God. I’ll never forget what he said. He looked at me and said, ‘Elizabeth do you believe that God is love? You might have read it, but do you actually believe it? If God is love then everything that comes into your life comes from his hands of love. He knows whether you will be more fulfilled as a single person or as a married woman, and he will do the absolute best for you. Trust his love.’ I had to get on my own and say to the Lord I do believe you are love and whether I get married or not it’s up to you.”
Even though Elizabeth appeared to have overcome her struggle, there were many more challenges to trust God over the years, including times when things appeared to be going seriously wrong, such as her husband Martin’s severe asthma attacks whilst they were living in Sumatra. How did she cope in these situations? “Well it wasn’t easy,” she responds, but when we step out in faith we find that things work out. They may not work out in the way we expect them to, but in the end it’s always fine.
“For example, just recently when we were carrying out speaking engagements in Malaysia, Martin came down with a heavy cold. I had to step in to cover a session on a subject I don’t normally teach! There was nothing for it but to trust God, take Martin’s notes, think it through and go and present it. God gave me the words and they listened and appreciated it.”
Reflecting on what she thinks can prevent Christians from wholeheartedly trusting God she says, “I think because in some ways it’s so nebulous; we can’t see God, we can’t hear him, we can’t feel him. It’s only when we step out in faith and experience him that we realise he is to be trusted. Also we so often think we know best”, she adds, smiling. “We like to plan our own lives and we’ve got our own goals where we feel we’ll be fulfilled and the Lord’s plans for us may not fit in with that.
“Also,” she continues, “Christians in the West may be more prone to not fully trust in God because our whole society is geared towards getting an education and climbing the ladder, which are seen as indicators of being a successful person. I think sometimes Christians in developing countries know they can’t have material wealth, but they do know God is with them and perhaps they pray more.
“Why should we trust God?” I enquire. “Oh, because of his wonderful character!” she enthuses. “He is a God of faithfulness. All the way through the Bible we see he’s always there, always loving, always providing; and when we turn to him he will help us, I mean, very often he’s keener to help us than we are to be helped!” she adds, laughing.
“We just need to step into God’s will. I’ve seen over and over again that God knows what’s going to happen and he helps us to do things we would never have dreamt of doing. I look back now to when we went overseas in 1960 and if I had not followed God I would have missed out on so much! When we trust him, he gives back to us ten times more than we’ve ever given to him. He just wants us to look to him and however little we reach out to him he’ll be there.”
Take it further
Elizabeth Goldsmith is an international conference speaker, author, associate lecturer at All Nations Christian College, counsellor and lay minister. She is married to Martin Goldsmith, has three children and 7 grandchildren.
To learn more you may like to read:
* God Can Be Trusted (An autobiographical account of Elizabeth’s childhood and years as a missionary in S.E. Asia) Authentic Media £6.99
* Roots and Wings (The story of Elizabeth’s ancestry: 5 generations of missionaries) Authentic Media £8.99
* Against All Odds (The current situation in Malaysia) Authentic Media £8.99