Floyd has been having a good week. We've had some sunny, warm days which make his room especially pleasant. He's been cheerful, and has really enjoyed the visits of the carers.
I've been going through some old photos lately. I shared a bunch of them with Floyd. He smiled at some. Teared up at others. But overall seemed very enthralled as he looked at them. We've had lots of adventures through the years - and been blessed with wonderful people in our lives. Truly the people God has brought into our lives have been the greatest treasure we've had. I'm so thankful for each and every person!
In recent weeks a number of people have sent me words of encouragement about Floyd. The theme of all of them is that even though he is laying quietly in a hospital bed, his life is still producing fruit. He is still ministering to people through his books and sermons. Even though he cannot physically speak at the moment, his "voice" is not silent.
These words have rung true in my heart as they are what I have felt from the Lord as well. In a way that only God can orchestrate in His unique ways - Floyd is being used by the Lord to "speak" around the world.
So when I received a photo from 2 friends that seemed to be a visual expression of this - my heart leapt! I thought immediately "that is what is happening with Floyd." The photo is above. It was a visual "amen" to what I had been feeling in my heart. My gentle giant (like the giant tree) is fallen, but I believe there is still wonderful life flowing from Him by God's goodness and grace.
I love how God can take us in our "fallen" condition, and bring life. Not just life - but vibrant, thriving, rich, growing life!! He uses us in our weakness and brokenness. He doesn't give up on us. He doesn't say it's over - He finds a way to still help us grow and produce fruit.
I find this visual very encouraging to my heart for me too! I have felt weak, broken, fallen in many ways. So much has changed in my life the last few years. My "new normal" looks nothing like the past. And yet I find God speaking to me that He has life, growth, and fruit for me too. I can identify both with the fallen tree......and with the rich, green branches. God is so good.
"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, through the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior." Habakkuk 3:17,18
"Let the weak say, 'I am strong!' " Joel 3:10
"The Spirit helps us in our weakness." Romans 8:26
"But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9,10
"My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever." Psalm 73:26 NLT
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:15,16
The Bible is full to overflowing with verses that assure us God will meet us in our weakness, and use us in spite of it! Hudson Taylor, the great missionary, said: "All God's giants were weak people."
Thank you, Lord, that you don't give up on us when we fall. You help us and bring new life!
Floyd made a statement in one of his messages that I listened to recently that I have been pondering over for weeks now. "If we can't grieve well, we can't grow well." We have to be able to grieve the losses in our lives in order to keep growing. Without doing that, our souls won't be "well," and we will carry pain around with us.
Being able to grieve well means we have to be honest with ourselves and with the Lord about things we have lost. Floyd is still alive, but I have losses on this journey. I've lost my fellowship and friendship with Floyd. I mourn losing his leadership. I grieve that everything happened so quickly and unexpectedly without a chance to say goodbye. I am sad that I couldn't ask him a few more questions about things. I grieved having to walk through last year's cancer battle without him. The list could go on and on - much has been lost.
Without fully understanding the process - or even the need for it - I think the Lord has helped me to grieve. I have been able to speak out every thing that has been lost to Him. I've poured out my sadness. I have confessed how hard some things have been. I've been completely honest with God about my heart. God designed us to grieve when we lose things that are precious to us. Whatever the loss is in our lives, we need to take time to grieve. And He helps us in that grieving process.
The Holy Spirit in us loves truth. When we are honest with God, the Holy Spirit is honored and responds by encouraging us, comforting us, and giving us grace and help with our pain.
If we don't mourn what is lost, we can easily become angry, bitter, and resentful. We can blame God. We can slowly close off our hearts to Him - the One we need to heal and grow. And we will eventually close off our hearts to people around us too. We build walls around our hearts and retreat from the pain and hard places. Grieving protects our heart, keeps our heart open, and helps us survive the loss.
Grieving doesn't mean we get answers - or miracles. It just means we keep our hearts receptive and tender to His love and intimacy. It means we can receive His "help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
Fear can hold us back from facing our loss and grieving. None of us like the feeling of being "exposed" - of having our hearts revealed. It feels so very vulnerable when we express our grief. There are times when I've written in these updates about things I'm facing, things I'm processing - and I feel raw afterwards. I feel lonely. I feel so very tender.
And yet being known - being open, is actually a protection to us. It keeps us from being isolated. It allows us to receive prayer, support, encouragement, and love from our "family." Being open and facing our loss and grief is so worth the momentary discomfort.
No one has grieved more than God Himself. His heart has been broken over mankind. "The Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart." Genesis 6:6
Jesus himself "wept" when His friend Lazarus died. When He sees our suffering, He grieves with us just as He did with Mary and Martha.
But God always has a plan to bring life out of pain, goodness out of suffering. He redeems what is lost. He doesn't "waste" any of our sorrows. I am trusting and believing for that on our journey.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Matthew 5:4
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3
"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13
"I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry." Psalm 40:1
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart." Psalm 73:26
"The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles." 2 Corinthians 1:3,4
This unexpected journey we're on has been painful. There has been, and continues to be, loss. There is suffering. I want to learn the lesson of grieving well so I can grow well. I don't want this journey to be a setback. I want it to be a time of pressing into the Lord and growing. Thankfully I don't have to do that alone. As the verses above state so clearly, He helps us! He is so faithful!