“Don’t go, Daddy!” The girls clung to their dad as he tried to go, walking towards the gangplank. Flo tried to think that it would only be a short time before Eric would join her and the girls in Canada. WWII had begun, and the roil in Europe and the Pacific was demanding many sacrifices from everyone.
The Japanese invaders had given foreigners in China the option to leave or to stay in “internment camps.” The Liddells had both felt that the Lord wanted Eric to stay and help with the work as much as he could, but Flo, expecting their third, and their two precious girls would head to Canada for safety.
Eric and Florence had met in China, both being from missionary families. Eric had used his athletic prowess to further the gospel. Although an Olympic champion, he chose to spend his life on the mission field in China, where he was born.
Eric Liddell would never see his dear wife and beautiful girls again. He died in the Japanese internment camp. I will not spoil it for you, but wow, this was a good biography.
How Flo Reacted
The news of Eric’s passing would be brought to Flo’s door in Toronto, Canada.
She had been able to have contact with Eric to a degree, but things had become more sporadic as the war progressed. There was such hope and vision of being together again in the near future. The news came as such a heavy loss. Eric had succeeded in being a humble, cheerful, and encouraging person who was full of optimism even in dire circumstances in that internment camp. Now she had to find a new normal without him. She had to provide for the girls. The mantle was daunting.
As I read this biography of a person David and I highly admired, I was impressed with the words that Flo penned shortly after his death.
“I have been numbed and overwhelmed by a sense of unreality – of pain – of fear for the future and then there has come welling up from within that power of faith which has carried me through. My faith has been wonderfully strengthened. In looking back I have so much to be thankful for. God has provided so wonderfully – we have been so happy and I know that He is working out His purpose and that good can come out of even this.”Florence Liddell
The grieving process took its time with great challenges, but underneath were the everlasting arms of her Savior.
She chose to think thanks even when ambiguity and anxiety could have drowned all hope.
When reading about Flo’s response to the horrific news that her husband had passed away, I could not get over the grace that seemed to pour into, and then out of, her.
She utters her numbness and feelings of being overwhelmed, but she also expresses her faith being strengthened, and she notes how many things she is thankful for, like having enjoyed as much happiness in a few years as many couples did in a whole lifetime.
My husband and I have admired Eric Liddell for a long time. He is one of our heroes. His humble and kind way with believers and nonbelievers, his mediating disputes between people in the internment camp, his counseling of teens, and and his organizing activities for teens and children in the internment camp were evidences of his dogged commitment to Christ and to being Christlike.
When visiting our daughter and her husband in China back in 2018, we had the privilege of seeing the place where Eric died in that Japanese internment camp. It is in Weifang, China. There is a lovely Chinese memorial to all those who lived and died in that camp, and a special statue to Eric, whom the Chinese claim as the first person from China to win Olympic gold.
Learning more about Florence Liddell has given me fodder to have two Liddell heroes; not just Eric but his wife as well.
I wonder how I would have responded in similar circumstances? How would you have?
Fostering a thinkful habit of always looking for things for which to be thankful is beneficial indeed. In everyday life, it bolsters our perspective and strengthens our faith as we joyfully obey the I Thessalonians 5:18 command of giving thanks in all circumstances.
But when those once-in-a-lifetime heavy blows come, thinking thanks is a matter of life and death – of angst, bitterness, and even insanity on one hand, and of perspective, trust, and recovery on the other. Unless we have a relationship with the Sovereign One who can be trusted in all the unexpected (for us) events that come, we are doomed.
So what about you? Do you have a heavy, big blow that has come into your life? Has it already passed? Perhaps it has not come yet? What are you doing to prepare yourself to weather the storm that surely will present itself?
Put into action today the pieces that build a strong foundation in your mind when the battle engages. It is almost impossible to start forming a godly habit as the bullets fly, the cannons flare, and the missiles howl. You must have forged those convictions before the combat begins.
Develop a daily habit of recording things for which you give thanks…. from the mundane to the big.
Exercise a Psalm 50:23 way of life:
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me: to the one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.”Psalm 50:23