When one is in the initial stages of grief, the natural tendency is to take flight—flight from people and flight from God—pushing both away from you. After April 28, 1992, when Riverside County made their decision against our use of Spring Meadows, Idyllwild, California, we struggled with that tendency. We entered a grieving process—just as real as losing a loved one. Not only did we grieve the loss of the GTO Spring Meadows dream, but we also wrestled with feelings of embarrassment over being wrong in determining God’s will in our even having a marriage conference center. These feelings gripped us with a deep sense of aloneness.
But in the aftermath of shattered dreams, we learned that the time you FEEL like fleeing God and His people, is the very moment you must run toward His people and His Word. We received great encouragement from many brothers and sisters in the Lord, and much comfort from continuing to study God’s Word. In grief we DO need to take flight, but TO His Word and TO His people—not FROM them!
We want to share a few of the specific encouragements we received during those days of grief from the devotional book Springs in the Valley. Our prayer is that these will encourage you as they encouraged us.
WE ARE PILGRIMS IN THIS LAND WITH NO CONTINUING CITY (April 28) – For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
“Mr. Rothschild was the wealthiest man in the world, but he lived and died in an unfinished mansion. He had power to frighten a nation by calling for gold. Yet, one of the cornices of his house was purposely unfinished, to bear testimony that he was a pilgrim in the land saying, ‘Beautiful as this is, it is not my home; I am looking for a city.”
We need this reminder so that we do not hold ANYONE, ANYTHING or ANYPLACE here on this earth too tightly. Our grasp on Spring Meadows was pretty tight!
KEEP AT IT—DON’T GIVE UP OR QUIT (May 3) – No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)
“Suppose Columbus had not sailed! Suppose Anne Sullivan, discouraged, had lost hope for Helen Keller! Suppose Louis Pasteur, searching for a cure for rabies, had not said to his weary helpers: ‘Keep on! The important thing is not to leave the subject!’ Many a race is lost at the last lap! Many a ship is washed on the reefs outside the final port! Many a battle is lost on the last charge! … God cannot help us until we stop running away. We must be willing to stand somewhere and trust Him. He has reinforcements to send, but there must be somebody there to meet them when they come, and fear takes flight as well as fright. ‘Fear not’ is the first step.”
The loss of Spring Meadows had really taken its toll on our fortitude. The thought of “keeping on” with GTO seemed next to useless. But He reminded us through many friends that He has done, and will continue to do, great things in couples’ lives if “we do not grow weary and throw in the towel.” (Galatians 6:9 Phillips Translation)
WHEN YOU SEE THE WAGONS YOUR SPIRIT WILL BE REVIVED (May 5) – When he saw the wagons… the spirit of Jacob … revived. (Genesis 45:27)
“A very simple sight: just some farm wagons laden with corn—food for the starving household. It was these wagons turning into the courtyard that raised the fast-falling hopes of Jacob to expectancy. They remind me of other wagons laden and sent by another One greater than Joseph, even our Lord Jesus Christ. These wagons of His are a great stimulus to our faith. They come unseen to us in our hours of darkness—when things seem all against us—when our faith is shaken—when our hopes are dashed to the ground. Yes, when we are in the awful grips of spiritual starvation, how blessed are these wagons as they are seen approaching! Lift up your eyes! Look out for them! When they come they will not be empty! You will be fed and nourished with the choicest of His stores.”
And He nourished us with just that – choice stores of His Word. They were a great help in our time of need.
GOD’S TILLING AND SOWING MAY NOT BE PLEASANT, BUT IT’S NEEDFUL (May 11) – You are God’s tilled land (His field to be plowed and planted). (I Corinthians 3:9)
“The ploughing and harrowing are painful processes. And surely the Divine Ploughman is at work in the world as never before. He ploughs by His Spirit, by His Word, and by His providences. Though painful be the processes of cultivation, they are essential. Could the earth speak, it would say, ‘I felt the hard plough today; I knew what was coming; when the plough-point first struck me I was full of pain and distress and I could have cried out for very agony for the point was sharp and driven through me with great energy; but now, I think me, this means the blade, the ear, the full corn in the ear, the golden harvest and harvest-home.’
“When the plough of God’s providence first cuts up a man’s life, what wonder if the man should exclaim a little; yea, if he should give way to one hour’s grief! But the man may come to himself, ere eventide, and say, ‘Plough on Lord! I want my life to be ploughed all over, that it may be sown all over, and that in every corner there may be the golden grain or the beautiful flowers. Pity me that I exclaimed when I first felt the ploughshare. But now I recollect; I put things together; I see Thy meaning; so drive on, Thou Ploughman of Eternity!’
“He does not use the plough and harrow without intention. Where God ploughs, He intends to sow. His ploughing is a proof He is FOR and not against you. ‘For, behold, I am for you and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown.’ (Ezekiel 36:9)
“Let us never forget that the Husbandman is never so near the land as when He is ploughing it, the very time when we are tempted to think He hath forsaken us. His ploughing is a proof that He thinks you of value, and worth chastening; for He does not waste His ploughing on the barren sand. He will not plough continually, but only for a time, and for a definite purpose. Soon will He close that process. ‘Doth the ploughman plough continually to sow? Doth he continually open and break the clods of His ground?’ (Isaiah 28:24) Verily, No! Soon, aye soon, we shall, through these painful processes and by His gentle showers of grace become His fruitful land. ‘The desolate land shall be tilled, and they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden,’ (Ezekiel 36:34,5) and thus shall we be a praise unto Him.”
This one was printed in its entirety—not much more can be said. Are we willing to be ploughed by God and willing to wait for the harvest fruit?
JUST AS AN EAGLE STIRS UP HER NEST TO FORCE HER EAGLETS TO SOAR, GOD STIRS UP OUR NEST BECAUSE HE WANTS US TO EXPERIENCE THE FREEDOM OF FLIGHT (May 12) – As an eagle that stirs up her nest, that flutters over her young, He spread abroad His wings and He took them, He bore them on His pinions. (Deuteronomy 32:11)
“Yesterday it was the place for us; today there is a new plan. He wrecks the nest, although He knows it is dear to us; perhaps, because it IS dear to us. He loves us too well not to spoil our meager contentment. Let not our minds, therefore, dwell on second causes. It is His doing! Do not let us blame the thorn that pierces us. Though the destruction of the nest may seem wanton, and almost certainly come at an hour when I do not expect it; though the things happen that I least anticipate—let me guard my heart and be not forgetful of God’s care, lest I miss the meaning of the wreckage of my hopes. He has something better for me.
“God will not spoil our nest, and leave us without a nest, if a nest is best for us. His seeming cruelty is love; therefore, let us always sit light with the things of time… .The breaking up of a nest an act of God’s benevolence? What a startling thought!
“Yet, here is an old writer who makes it a subject of praise; blesses God for it; declares it to be the first step of my education! I can understand praising Him for His gifts to body and soul; but I lose my breath in surprise when I am asked to make the first stanza of my hymn the adoration of His mercy in loosing the ties of Home! Nay, my soul, it is to strengthen these ties that my Father breaks up the nest; not to get rid of home, but to TEACH THEE TO FLY! Travel with thy Teacher and thou shalt learn that ‘The Home is wider than any nest!’… .Thy Father hath given thee wings in the breaking of thy ties!”
Our “nest” was definitely stirred up. We didn’t know which direction to fly, but were confident (at certain given moments) that He would show us IN HIS TIME. Harold’s teaching schedule was reduced to 1/2 because of budgetary restraints a few short months after Spring Meadows closed. It began to appear He might be booting us out of the nest entirely. And what should happen next was a complete mystery to us.
AFTER THE HARD CLIMB OF THE HILL GOD PROVIDES REFRESHMENT (May 13) – When David had gone a short distance beyond the summit, there was Ziba, the steward of Mephibosheth, waiting to meet him. He had a string of donkeys saddled and loaded with two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred cakes of raisins, a hundred cakes of figs and a skin of wine.(2 Samuel 16:1)
“It was a hard climb up that hill for a man with a burdened heart; he was tired and done. Then came God’s provision for him through Ziba. Are you a little past the top of the hill? Feeling tired and almost done? Take heart! God has something ready at the precise moment! God’s help will meet you!
“Just a little farther on—and all who honor Me, with joy shall prove My promise true; they too shall honored be. Full well I know thy heart’s desire, the heights to which thou dost aspire; thy love which burns with holy fire—and all to honor Me. Just a little farther on—the ‘Victor’s song’ will then be sung by all who honor Me. Thou hast done well, yet still press on—and greater works I’ll trust to thee, and grander glories thou shalt see; thus thou shalt fully honored be—a little farther on! (John 12:26; Psalm 91:15)
“God never permits any of His children to come up a steep hill along life’s pathway without having provided at the foot of the hill a cooling spring from which the traveler may drink in refreshment and strength ere he be – to climb. He climbs beside you; lean on Him!”
At that point in our lives that’s we could do—lean on our Lord and keep on going—looking for that refreshment at the foot of the hill.
IMMEDIATELY AFTER OUR PERIOD OF SORROW GOD WANTS US TO GET ON WITH WHAT HE HAS COMMANDED (May 16) – … in the evening my wife died and in the morning I did as I had been commanded. (Ezekiel 24:28)
“The light of the home went out. Darkness brooded over the face of every familiar thing. The trusted companion who had shared all the changes of the ever-changing way was taken from my side. The light of our fellowship was suddenly extinguished as by some mysterious hand stretched forth from the unseen. I lost ‘the desire of mine eyes’ I was alone. ‘At even my wife died and … in the morning …’ Aye, what about the next morning, when the light broke almost obtrusively upon a world which had changed into a cemetery containing only one grave? ‘In the morning I did as I was commanded.’
“The command had been laid upon him in the days before his bereavement. Life in his home had been a source of inspiring fellowship. In the evening-time, after the discharge of the burdensome tasks of the day, he had turned to his home as weary dust-choked pilgrims turn to a bath; and immersed in the sweet sanctities of wedded life he had found such restoration of soul as fitted him for the renewed labor of the morrow. But ‘at even my wife died.’ The home was no longer a refreshing bath, but part of the dusty road; no longer an oasis, but a repetition of the wilderness.
“How now shall it be concerning the prophet’s command? ‘At even my wife died, and in the morning’ the commandment? How does the old duty appear in the gloom of the prophet’s bereavement? Duty still, clamant and clamorous now in the shadows as it was loud and importunate in the light. What shall the prophet do? Take up the old burden, and faithfully trudge the old road. Go out in his loneliness, and go on with the old tasks. But why? You will find the secret of it all in the last clause of the chapter: ‘Thou shalt be a sign unto them, and they shall know that I am the LORD.’
“A broken-hearted prophet patiently and persistently pursuing an old duty, and by his manner of doing it compelling people to believe in the Lord! That is the secret motive of the heavy discipline. The great God wants our CONSPICUOUS CRISES to be occasions of CONSPICUOUS TESTIMONY; our seasons of DARKNESS to be opportunities for the UNVEILING of the Divine. He wants duty to shine more resplendently BECAUSE of the environing shadows…. He wants us to manifest the sweet grace of continuance amid all the sudden and saddening upheavals of our intensely varied life. This was the prophet’s triumph. He made his calamity a witness to the eternal. He made his very loneliness minister to his God. He made his very bereavement intensify his calling. He took up the old task, and in taking it up he glorified it. ‘At even my wife died; and in the morning I did as I was commanded.”
God spared me (Harold) the pain Ezekiel suffered in losing his wife. I faced the possibility of losing Bette to cancer in 1984. But God healed her and she continues to be my partner through all of life’s joys and struggles. I praise Him for that! And we thank Him He gradually made the MORNING dawn after our “evening of MOURNING” for Spring Meadows. He assured us that work with couples is what He had called us to and what we needed to “get on with.” So as the morning dawned, “we did as we were commanded.” We kept ministering to couples in whatever way God opened to us.
God used these devotionals (though written many years ago) in our lives at a time when we felt bereft and grief stricken. We wanted to share them with you because they meant so much to us. If you are experiencing an “evening of mourning,” we know God will comfort and strengthen you through His Word, just like He did for us. HE IS FAITHFUL!
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