Word’s From Vivian

I met Joel in May 2009 at a Miami Youth for Christ Banquet. He was dressed like a pirate. That was the Banquet theme that year. If someone had told me that night that I would be married to that quazi-pirate by the end of the year, I would have laughed like Sarah did when the angel told her she would give birth to a son in her 90's. But, that's exactly the way the Lord works, in such unexpected ways. 

Our lives can really change in 9 months. Joel & I went from being strangers to married in 9 months, people have babies in 9 months, and it was 9 months from the time Joel had his transplant to the day the Lord called him home. 

Joel always liked to quote that verse that says, "life is like a vapor." I think he said it just about every time he spoke at Catalyst. He wanted everyone to know how important it was to make peace with God. Now, not later because you really never know when your time is up. 

In spite of everything that was going on, we didn't think Joel's time was up. Honestly, as crazy as it may sound, I never thought things would end like this. In my mind, God was going to heal Joel and he would be able to continue his work here on earth. But again, the Lord works in unexpected ways and He chose to answer our prayers for healing in a different way. And, as hard as it is to accept, He answered our prayers in the best way; by giving Joel a new body. 

I was surprised when I read that verse the Lord gave me the day that Joel passed from this life to the next. (I don't used the word died, because the Bible teaches that when someone dies in Christ, they don't really die, they just fall asleep and wake up in the presence of the Lord.) Anyhow, I had read those verses in 2 Corinthians 5 many times before, but I had never noticed until that moment that it says, 
"For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down... we will have a new house in heaven, an eternal body, made for us by God Himself... We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. FOR WE WILL NOT BE SPIRITS WITHOUT BODIES!" 

That blew my mind! I had never realized that we would have bodies in heaven. Much like Jesus' body after the Resurrection. The thought of Joel in his new body truly brought me such joy & comfort because, to be honest, he was weary in his present body. He was fighting as hard as he could to keep going, but he had said to me about a month ago that he felt trapped in his own body. His mind was strong, but his body was failing. 

This is very surreal on multiple levels. Here I am standing in the very same place where we were married almost 7 years ago. I still can't believe he's gone. I keep telling myself he's just on a long trip. He always reminded me of a soldier, so he's been deployed on a special mission. And, really, that's exactly what it's like. I know I will see him again. It's just a matter of time. Even if God allows me to live until I'm 100, this life is just a blink of an eye compared to eternity. Then, we will get to spend forever together, which is much longer than any amount of time God could have given us together here on earth. 

I would have much rather have had 7 years together here than to never have met him at all. I remember that for 8 years I prayed for God to bless me with a husband that was a Man after His own heart, someone who loved the Lord with all of his mind, heart soul, and strength; and who served the Lord with his life. And, sometimes I would cry at the thought that this man I was praying for might not want a girl like me, with a past. He would probably want a girl who grew up in the church, who wasn't a single-mom, etc. But, God blessed me with Joel. He never cared about my past, as a matter of fact, we never really talked about it. He said that he saw me the way God did, as a new creation. And, that's the way he loved me. Just like Christ did. Joel was one of the most Christ-like people I've ever met and I felt so privileged to be his wife. Joel was my best friend and I sure am going to miss him. 

You know when Jesus died, all of his followers were so confused. They couldn't understand how it could be better for Him to die than to carry on His earthly ministry. But, if Jesus had not died then God's ultimate plan of redemption would not have been fulfilled. In the same way, we do not understand why God felt like it was better for Him to call Joel home instead of allowing him to continue his work here on earth. But, I take comfort in knowing that God sees the big picture and although today we may be unable to see the final outcome of His beautiful plan, my faith rests in the assurance that God is still sitting on His throne and because of this, we can calmly await the time when we will see how things have worked together for good. And that's the very message God gave me on the morning of August 14th, when I flipped to that day's page in the devotional that I've been reading through this time. It said, 
"Isn't it glorious to know that no matter how unjust something may be, even when it seems to have some from hell itself, by the time it reaches us it is God's will for us and will ultimately work for our good."

Those are the ways God reminds me that in spite of the pain we feel, His tender love & mercy is comforting us through it all. The Bible talks about God giving us "peace that surpasses all understanding" and I'm here to tell you that is a very real thing.  In 1 Thes. 4:13 the Apostle Paul wrote, "We do not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns He will bring back with Him the believers who have died." Joel is not in heaven because of all the good he has done, everything good Joel did was because of his faith in Jesus Christ. And, it's because of his faith in Jesus that he is in heaven today. And, I believe with all my heart that those of us who have made peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ, will see Joel again and we will all spend eternity together. That is the hope we have in Christ. And what a wonderful hope it is!

I want to express my deep gratitude for your prayers for us over these many months. We could not have gotten though this without your love & support. 

Finally, I want to share with you a poem from that same devotional that God has used to speak powerfully to my heart. I pray it encourages you also: 

"Dear restless heart, be still; don't fret and worry so; 
God has a thousand ways His love and help to show; 
Just trust, and trust, and trust, until His will you know. 

Dear restless heart, be still, for peace is God's own smile, 
His love can every wrong and sorrow reconcile; 
Just love, and love, and calmly wait awhile.

Dear restless heart, be brave; don't moan and sorrow so, 
He has a meaning kind in chilly winds that blow; 
Just hope, and hope, and hope, until you braver grow. 

Dear restless heart, recline upon His breast this hour, 
His grace is strength and life, His love is bloom and flower; 
Just rest, and rest, and rest, within His tender power. 

Dear restless heart, be still! Don't struggle to be free; 
God's life is in your life, from Him you many not flee; 
Just pray, and pray, and pray, til you have faith to see."