She was indeed troubled just now. The blessing she had always wanted was to be herself a blessing, but [her patient] Joe Diggar had died. It was true he had died peacefully, with no distress,...but still he had died, and she was disturbed by her own failure to heal him. Was her power to bless leaving her? Parson Hawthyn, when she had sympathized with the failure of his [prayer] vigil in the church [for Joe], had replied tartly, "Failure? How can I fail when I am nothing? There is but one power that is our own, Froniga, the power to offer the emptiness that we are, and we make idols of ourselves if we think we are the only instruments of salvation ready to God's hand."Elizabeth Goudge, The White Witch, pp. 160-161.
Occasionally Goudge makes, through her characters, the most astonishing pronouncements, all the more shocking because she means them literally. Here she is saying that the only way we can be used by God is if we offer ourselves to God as empty, to be filled and then used by God, This is very difficult to understand, because at the same time, if we are honest, we usually believe that we have at least some natural gifts. Given to us by God, to be sure, but still there, still real, part of ourselves. Are we not offering God those powers? Are not those powers, those talents, those gifts, our own to use in God's service? How then can it be true that the only power that is our own is to offer our emptiness?
I think both are true. It is true that God has given most of us some visible gifts and abilities that can be used for Him. To some He seems to have given more than to others. But the Bible repeatedly warns us of the danger of taking pride in these: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass and tinkling symbol." "My speech...was not with enticing words of man's wisdom...that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ."
So we must constantly be making a double movement. On the one hand, we are bound to hone our skills, whatever they might be, and thus to offer them as the best possible instruments to be used for God's glory. But on the other hand, we are bound constantly to turn away from selfish pride and to recognize that God can and often does use ministries that appear unworthy to accomplish His ends.
Is there someone for whose salvation you are praying? It may be that God will bring that person to Himself through someone else, someone whose arguments seem less than ideal, someone who has not striven in prayer for that soul's salvation as you have. But in the end, what matters is the soul's salvation.
"There is but one power that is our own,...the power to offer the emptiness that we are, and we make idols of ourselves if we think we are the only instruments of salvation ready to God's hand."