Steven Furtick - I'm Still Grieving. How Do I Move Forward?
This is an excerpt from: The One Who Seeks... Finds!
There are seasons in your life where you come into a reality that what you went through is leaving you, but Ruth still had to make a decision once she got to Bethlehem to go into the fields and begin to glean. Did you see that in chapter 2, verse 3? She went into the field and began to glean. It says she started gleaning, but it doesn't say she ceased grieving. The first thing I want to talk to you about that might be like a point is gleaning in the grieving.
What we think is going to happen is that when our harvest comes of what we ask God for… How many times do you think they prayed, "God, bring bread to Bethlehem"? What they didn't know was that when the bread came back to Bethlehem, they would also be bringing their bitterness with them. Gleaning in the grieving. We think, "God is going to bless me, and I'm going to feel better. That's how I'll know I'm blessed".
Gleaning is like… I don't think any of us know that much about gleaning, so let me try to explain it. My agricultural knowledge is very low, but from the biblical perspective, they would go through the field, and it was actually required by Levitical law. You can check this out in Leviticus 19, because I know you've been looking for an excuse to dive into the book of Leviticus. You can go to chapter 19 of the book of Leviticus and read about how they commanded them in the law… They said, "When you, the wealthy landowners, are gathering your crops, you have to leave a little on the edges, and if you don't pick something through the first time, you don't get to go back through and pick it up again. That's for the gleaners".
Who are these gleaners? The gleaners consist of three categories. It's the destitute or poor, it is the widows, and it is the foreigners. Ruth is all three. She is uniquely qualified through her disadvantages to go through the field and glean. We keep thinking it takes stuff it really doesn't take for God to provide for us…you know, our educational level. But if you're good at gleaning, it doesn't mean you have stopped grieving. There is no indication… I defy you to find it in the text…you can seek, and you won't find…where Ruth danced and Naomi high-fived her. You won't find anything in the text that suggests that the sadness ceased. The bread was there, but so was the bitterness. That's why I told you last week, almost as a warning, it will come together.
The biggest blessing of your life might come at the worst time. You can have a great blessing at a horrible time…truly, surely. You don't believe me? Have some kids. I mean, they're a blessing from the Lord. Right? But they will walk in and want to talk to you at the worst times. They never come talk to you after you wrote in your journal this morning and prayed to Jesus and asked the Lord, "God, give me an opportunity today to speak wisdom into the next generation. God, I just want to train up my children in the way they should go". It's going to be when you are tripping over something that was on your schedule that day that you are going to have the opportunity to glean. Glean doesn't mean the field is full and you just go through picking. Glean means you notice what was left on the ground that somebody else didn't even see.
So, pop quiz. Are you good at gleaning? On a scale of 1 to 10, how good are you at gleaning? "What do you mean, Preacher"? I mean, how good are you at taking a regret in your life and, by the Spirit of God, turning it into a lesson and recognizing it maybe as the hand of God, even though you don't call it that? Are you good at that? I am not a graduate-level gleaner. Truth be told, God is teaching me to glean every single day. I just started back two weeks ago doing my gratitude journal again. I stand up here about once a year, and I say, "Y'all, keep a gratitude journal".
I do it for two weeks, and then I forget to glean. So, what usually has to happen to me is I have to get to a point of so much anxiety in my life and so much worrying about stuff that's stupid and doesn't matter and so much being mad about stuff that other people said or did or didn't say or didn't do or are going to do, maybe do, hypothetically do in the future at some point… I'm sitting there all tied up in knots about things I'm going through.
So, I just started back the practice a few weeks ago. I have to start my day with caffeine. I can't glean without caffeine. (It came to me on the spot. I just went with it.) The thing about that is it causes me to go back through my day and see what things I got to do that I thought I had to do. I need that constant training. I can't just do that once a week. Maybe you get all you need of that on Sunday. "Once a week, I come and worship God, and I thank him for all he has done". I can't do it six days without him. I can't, because if I do, grief will overtake gleaning. You don't live to be 42 and not have tears in the fiber of your faith. You don't pastor a church that just grows and grows and not lose a lot along the way. You don't believe with faith and expectation…
I know you know what I'm talking about. You don't live this long and not have some grief. The thing that really arrested my attention… I hope you see it. If you look for it, you'll see it in the text. It doesn't say they stopped grieving in order to start gleaning. I want to set you free. You might not feel better yet. That has nothing to do with God's hand on you or not. I love this. It said there was a man named Boaz on their side. They didn't know that yet. Read it in the text. It says they had a relative named Boaz. Naomi knew about Boaz. She didn't know he was still around. They had no idea, and neither do you, my friend.
So, you cannot let the grief overtake the gleaning. There is still something left on your life. There is still something left in your life. The process of gleaning… I mean, you have to go through the field. You have to learn how to not only go through somebody else's field, but go through your own field and see what's on the ground. That's what the gleaners would do. They would follow behind. You could either follow at a distance or, if you got special permission, you could glean among the sheaves. That means you could get close. You could get more than six feet close to the sheaves, and whatever fell out, you could grab that too. They didn't have the permission to lay a hand on you, because you were gleaning among the sheaves. That means you get to stay close to the reaper.
That's what Ruth wanted. She said, "I want to glean behind the reapers among the sheaves. Just let me see what they miss, because I can live on what they miss". You will meet somebody, every once in a while, who is so good at gleaning it'll make you feel guilty over how grumpy and gripey and ridiculous you are. I'm speaking from personal experience. I meet people all the time going through things that would grieve me so much… I know my tolerance level. People say, "I have a high pain tolerance". That's a sign they don't. True story? Chunks used to be a physical therapist. He said, "When you hear somebody come and say, 'I have a high pain tolerance,' they are a wimp".
That is sign number one. Because they're deceived. They think they have a high pain tolerance. But when you meet somebody who truly gleans while grieving… Like when Laymon texted me this week, and he was like, "Oh, thank you for that word". How do you lose your son while you're in church…? It has been about a decade, about 10 years, about the same amount where Naomi had lost Elimelek. I know he's still grieving. How can he be grateful to a God who let his son be taken so soon? He never stopped grieving. He just started gleaning. His son loved to fish, so he started a fishing club in his son's honor.
Do you know how many people they bring to Christ through Riley's Catch? Look it up…Riley's Catch. You'll see it. Shout-out. Free advertisement, Tom Laymon. You're welcome. I always text him, "You're my favorite Laymon," like, the play on words, laymen and clergy. Because he teaches me to glean, going through my own life just recognizing… That's the thing about gleaning. I want you to know that somebody else could walk through the field of your life and find 10 things to be grateful for that you take for granted. I'm not trying to make you feel bad. Trust me. God gave me this message early last week, and he whipped me with it all week. Just over and over again. I was listing a bunch of things to Holly that I was stressed about this week. All of them were things I put on my own schedule. All of them were decisions I made.
Many of them were blessings I prayed for, just full grown. They're not puppies anymore. A scheduling commitment is a puppy, but when the appointment comes, it's a full-grown dog, and it has to be walked. By the way, Graham said he's naming his dog, apparently, this Boston Terrier, Boaz. So that's good. It's going to take a while. Even when he was begging me for a dog… If you missed it last week, it was a whole thing. Don't worry about it. When he used to ask me for a dog, he said, "All you do is bring up all of the things about the dog that we're going to hate". I said, "That's right. And all you do is think of all of the things with the dog that you're going to love. I'm accurate, and you're ignorant". But sometimes you can know too much. Sometimes you can know too much, where you get to a point where you stop looking for the Lord. "Don't call me Naomi. Call me Mara".
Now, when you name yourself Bitter, Mara, you become magnetic for Mara. So, the second thing that's kind of like a point in this message is the mind on a mission. That's what I told Elijah the other day. He was going on and on and just complaining. I said, "Son, is your mind just on a mission trip to be miserable today? Did you just wake up this morning and say, 'Dear mind, here's what I'd like for you to do for me today, you fascinating computer called the human brain. I want you to collect everything I can be stressed about and sad about today and put it all in one big pile. I am gleaning everything today that I can feel terrible about. I don't want any good thoughts. I don't want any grateful thoughts. I'm going straight to misery incorporated. Call me Mara.'"
I asked him that. I said, "Did you just wake up today and tell your mind, 'We're going on a mission today. We are going to find misery. Wherever we can find it, we will nurture it in its various forms. If we see potential misery, we will feed it. We will nurse it at our breast until it becomes full-grown misery. We will look for offense, and we will nurse it at our bosom until it becomes full-grown resentment, until it takes over and we are depressed at the end of the day, praying for God to give us peace.'"