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Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and her husband, Robert, talk about the mysterious providence of God, and how He redeems the hard places and makes them new.
Bob: You’ve probably heard people quote Romans 8:28—that “God works all things together for good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” Sometimes, it seems like the circumstances we’re in aren’t working for what we think our good should be. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says, in those times, we have to remember that God’s ways are not our ways.
Nancy: God knows, with every one of us, exactly what is needed in our story for Him to be glorified in the long run, and for the gospel to be known, and for us to become more like Jesus. We say you can trust God to write—W-R-I-T-E—your story; and you can be sure that, in the end, He will right—R-I-G-H-T—your story. We can’t see what that’s going to look like or how that’s going to be, but it is.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 7th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Trusting God in the storms/in the trials doesn’t mean that things are always going to work out the way you want them to work out; but it does mean that God knows what’s best. We’ll talk more about that today with Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We were talking about this earlier—you guys said the same thing I said when you got a copy of this book. You started thinking, “I know somebody, right now, who needs this book—somebody who could use the book.” The book we’re talking about is a book called You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.
It’s written by friends we’ve got joining us in the studio again today, Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth. Guys, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Robert: Thank you, Bob.
Nancy: Thank you.
Bob: This is a book that’s all about God’s providence. It’s about those crisis times of life, where we wonder: “Is God good?” and “Is He still in control?”
Ann: Honestly, none of us will go through life without experiencing pain and heartbreak. When we’re in the valley, we’re all looking for encouragement: “I need help; I need hope.” I think this book does that. It really takes us back to where our hope lies—in Jesus.
Dave: You find out where your faith—really, where your trust is—in a valley.
Nancy: The subtitle for the book is Embracing the Mysteries of Providence. That word, “mystery,” is so important—because what God’s up to, what His plans are, the story He’s writing—it does seem so mysterious at times. We have no idea where He’s going, what He’s doing, what He’s up to. That’s when we have to say, “God, I know You and I trust You, even when I can’t see what You’re doing.”
Ann: I think that’s important, Nancy: “God, I know You and trust You”; because when we don’t know Him and trust Him, that’s when we begin to falter. I’ll never forget when my sister, who was only 44, was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was driving, and I was praying—I was like, “Lord, I need you to speak to me right now.”
I had turned on the radio, and Tony Evans was speaking. He was talking about building the foundation of your life. He said: “You never see somebody laying the foundation/pouring the cement of the foundation of the house when there’s a storm. You pour the foundation every day when things are going well.” I remember thinking, “Okay; God, I’ve built a foundation in these days prior to this that I can lean on that and sit on it; because I’m in the storm right now.”
How do we build that foundation? How did you guys do that?—because, as you talk, I feel God’s presence; I feel you’re grounded to the anchor of the truth of the gospel.
Robert: The subtitle starts with a great verb. Nancy and I collect verbs; we’re writers, so we collect verbs. [Laughter]
Embracing—let’s say you’re a parent, and your kid’s been in the backyard. Let’s say you’re dressed nicely, and they’ve been in the mud. You get down on your knees when they come in the back door, and you embrace them. You can choose to embrace them, regardless of the soiling that’s going to happen between their clothes and yours; you choose to embrace. You say: “I’m going to love you. I’m going to embrace you. I’m going to make you feel welcome in this home.”
You take God’s providence—you can choose to embrace it. You feel like fighting it; you feel like arguing with it; you feel like denying it, or just saying, “I don’t want this; I don’t like this.”
When Nancy and I—when we went through the title and subtitle: “What should we call this?” The word, “embracing,” is a choice you make: “I’m going to take my circumstances—I may not like them—but I’m going to embrace them; because I believe that God knows what He is doing.” Why?—“Because I trust Him. He loves me; He knows me. He made me; He sees the future. I’m going to embrace what He’s doing in my life right now.”
Dave: Here’s the struggle—I want to embrace the certainty, not some mystery.
Robert: Right; that’s perfect.
Dave: Obviously, you chose another word that’s very loaded as well. It’s something we don’t always embrace. I want to watch a great mystery movie; I want to read a great mystery novel—I don’t want my life to be a mystery—I want it to be certain; I want to know what the future looks like.
Robert: That’s so good.
Dave: To embrace mystery—talk about that.
Nancy: If we wrote books and produced movies in the way we want our lives to turn out, they would be boring; right? [Laughter] Easy-peasy street, no challenges, no problems; but life isn’t that way, and God isn’t that way in the story He’s writing for us. We live in a broken, sinful, fallen world.
One of the things that has helped my own faith/my own foundation of faith, over many years, is to see, in the Scripture, the number of heroes of our faith—we think they were incredible men and women of faith; a lot of them get written about in Hebrews,
Chapter 11—that great “Hall of Faith.” They were magnificent characters; but they all had things in their lives: twists and turns in the plot of their lives.
When you take those pieces—I’m in the book of Daniel right now, reading in Daniel—I’m seeing the fiery furnace; and the king’s wrath; and living in a pagan culture, where they’re being persecuted for their faith. It’s hard; but you see God taking these hard places, these mysteries, these parts of the script that seem off-course, and you see God redeeming them, and making things new, and working even—not in spite of the problems—but even through the problems to shape these men and women and make them men and women of God.
You look at the outcome of their lives and you say, “Wow; I want that!” I look at somebody—like a modern-day character, Joni Eareckson Tada—who wrote the forward for this book, has spent over 50 years in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic. We’ve all [those in the studio] been around her—she’s a woman of joy, indomitable faith; she’s always singing hymns—and you think, “Wow; I’d love the richness of this woman’s faith.” But she didn’t get there without going through some really hard places.
You say: “I want the outcome, but I don’t want to get there the way she got there. So, Lord, could you just get me to the glory and the sanctification, and my faith being like gold without the fire?” God says: “No; you want the outcome?—you want the gold/the intimacy with Me?—then let me walk you through places, where you think you have no hope, except to cling—in raw, naked faith—to a God, who is writing a story, the outcome of which you cannot see at this moment.”
Robert: The other two wonderful words in this cover are Your Story. Everybody has a story. It would be fun, Nancy, if we had totaled them up: “How many people have we asked, ‘Tell us your story’?” Everybody has a story; this is what this book has become—it started out just being our story. Every chapter in this book/every story in this book is about somebody that we know very well.
Bob: One of the places you go in this book—after you share your story and after we see God’s hand of providence in your lives—you go right to the issue of trusting God to write your story when your marriage is in trouble. I’m thinking, “How do you see the goodness of God when a marriage is falling apart?”
I’m thinking of friends I know who are in the middle of that right now, and it’s survival mode. It’s grit-your-teeth kind of faith just to get up today and face today. They’re thinking: “How am I going to pay this bill?” “How am I going to take care of this?” “What do I say to the kids?” How do you trust God to write that kind of a story when you’re going, “This is not the kind of story I ever hoped to walk through”?
Nancy: The same questions could be asked about the person who’s never had a mate and is longing for that/about the person who’s got a prodigal child. We tell those stories—financial loss; physical terminal illnesses. Many of the stories in this book—most of them—don’t have like put a bow around the story and give it a pretty, happy ending.
There are some amazing stories of God restoring and repairing marriages; but often, there are stories about marriage that did not end up with a marriage being restored. The person talking to us longed for that—wanted it/sought God for it—but didn’t get that desire of their heart. God doesn’t always give us those things we think we want or need right now. But He is still writing a story in us, and through us, and for us that we can trust, in the end, will be beautiful; it will be good.
Sometimes, you just have to—you know, your goal is not—if your ultimate goal is for this marriage to work; or to get a mate; or to get healing; or to get financial/get a job, or whatever, then you’re going to be disappointed more often than not. But if your goal is to know God, to be right with Him, to be in the story that He is writing—because ultimately, this is not our story; this is His story as He is redeeming this broken, fallen world. If that’s what you care about, then that’s what you’re willing to lean into.
We talked with these people. We talked with a dear friend of ours, who went through the horrible pain of divorce after years of a very dysfunctional marriage with a very broken man. We heard in his wife, this now divorced woman, a sense of knowing God, and trusting God, and experiencing God’s presence in her life in these really hard places that she’s living in now, as a single mom. She wouldn’t trade it. I mean, it sounds weird; it’s counter to everything that’s intuitive—to say, “My marriage didn’t get put back together.” Of course, she longed for that; she still longs for it. If God would grant that, she would be thrilled; but more than that marriage being restored, she wants God to write a story of grace in her life. God is doing it. She is a beautiful woman; she is full of grace. She has evidence of God’s hand and anointing on her life.
And you say, “…at the expense of your marriage?” Well, God knows with every one of us exactly what is needed in our story for Him to be glorified in the long run, and for the gospel to be known, and for us to become more like Jesus. We say you can trust God to write—W-R-I-T-E—your story; and you can be sure that, in the end, He will right—R-I-G-H-T—your story. We can’t see what that’s going to look like or how that’s going to be, but it is.
Ann: I like that you’re talking about that; because you talk, in the book, about when someone sins against you. If you lose a loved one, there’s not a lot we can control in that situation sometimes. But if you have someone that’s treating you poorly—that you feel they’re not walking with God; they’re not following Him—and “Maybe if they were, my life would be different; because they would treat me differently.”
It can feel like: “Is God in control of them? How can I weigh that?” “Lord, if You would just…” I used to think that about Dave: “Lord, if You would get Dave right on track, and he would be a better husband—
Dave: Can you believe she would think that about me? [Laughter]
Ann: [Laughter] Robert!
—“I would be happier.” We put our happiness on the person—of how they’re treating us.
You’re saying, “No; you can find that joy and trust in the mystery of God, even when that person—it may seem like they’re controlling you—but ultimately, God is in control”?
Nancy: We’re walking with a precious friend right now through her story, which involves years of sexual abuse. That man has never repented—the men, actually, multiple ones—never acknowledged their wrongdoing; there’s no evidence of change in them. It’s messy; it’s hard. There’s no quick run to the finish line to see how this story’s going to end.
We’re watching God make this woman into a work of art/into a work of grace. Would we ever have scripted that for her, or for anyone we love, or for ourselves?—no! In the mystery and wisdom of God, all evil will be addressed; all wrongs will be righted, including the men who have so sinned against that woman. In the process, God is writing a story in her to make her a trophy of grace and mercy.
I don’t understand it; I don’t get it. I hate it! I hate what sin does—we all do. But God sometimes, as Joni Tada has reminded us, God will sometimes use what He hates to accomplish what He loves in our lives and in the lives of those that we love.
Ann: I think, as one who’s been through sexual abuse, I would say that same thing. Where Satan meant to take this and destroy me, God has used it in helping other people get free. In realizing that, it makes me want to show off my scars; because God has transformed me as a result of my scars.
Nancy: This woman texted me last night, and she’s still in the throes of walking through this. She said, “Satan sure picked the wrong little girl.” [Laughter]
Nancy: Because God is now using this woman in ways—I won’t go into details—as He’s using you, Ann—in ways that—how would the course of your whole life have been different?
Ann: It has shaped me for good, rather than for evil, when we trust God and His mystery.
Bob: The person, who’s in the pain, in the marriage that’s not working out—the husband or the wife, who is still being vindictive, or uncaring, or whatever—they’re thinking: “I’m to trust God that He’s here; He’s good. He could stop this; He could change that person’s heart; He’s not doing that. I’m supposed to trust that it’s all going to be for my good at some point?”
Robert: You make peace about the fact that you have no control over this other person. What God does in us is—He makes us ready for whatever happens to us. My happiness/my joy does not depend on that other person coming around. I have to find completeness—Colossians 2: “I am complete in Him,”—I’m not complete as a result of things going my way; I’m complete in Him.
There I stand, independent of anything else, knowing God’s grace is sufficient for me. I am a sinner; I am a total sinful man, and all of this is an image of God’s grace in my life. God has given me the joy of seeing what He can do in the lives of people around me—what He can do with the circumstances of my life, standing next to my wife’s casket, and thinking, “How in the world can this turn out in any way that would be joy-filled?” Now, I sit here next to Nancy; she’s a picture of God’s grace.
Dave: So, Robert, answer this because I know someone’s thinking this: “You’re sitting here with Nancy—of course, you can have that perspective; but I’m a guy, who lost my wife; and I have never found another soul mate. How do I have that same perspective?” because I have a sense you’d have this perspective either way.
Robert: I would hope so.
Robert: I would really hope so, because it’s not up to Nancy to make me happy; it wasn’t up to Bobbie to break my heart. This is something I’ve got to reconcile myself, on my own.
I would say to that guy, “I’m so sorry for your loss. Then, by God’s grace, you say: ‘What’s next for me? I trust You to write this story. What’s next for me?’” Gary Smalley, years ago, used to say, “I get up in the morning and say: ‘Lord, here I am. I’m standing in line. When it’s my turn to step up to the desk, I’m going to take whatever You give me; and I’m going to be grateful for it.’”
Nancy: In the midst of crises, whether it’s the little daily things or the monumental things that knock us off our feet—I think it goes back, Ann, to what you were saying about laying a foundation for your life on the trustworthiness of God, and washing our hearts in His Word—in passages like this one that just came to mind, Dave, as you were talking: “Nevertheless, I am continually with You. You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel; and afterward, You will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? There is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever [Psalm 73:23-26].”
If you soak your heart/if I soak my heart in the Word of God/the promises of God’s Word—day after day, week after week, year after year—then, when these storm wash over my heart—as Jesus said they would in Matthew, Chapter 7—if I’ve built my life on the Rock/the foundation of God’s promises in God’s Word, then the storms are going to come, and I’m going to feel them; but they’re not going to knock my house down.
If I’ve built my life on my emotions, on my circumstances, on how others treat me, or how life goes, then when those storms come—as they will—they’re going to devastate me. Again, I go back to: “In the good times—in the earlier years of your life/in every moment of life—learning to soak and saturate my heart in the promises of God’s Word/in His faithfulness—there’s no better way to prepare for standing at that graveside, dealing with that loss/dealing with that pain.”
It doesn’t answer all the questions; but in that moment, it gives me a life preserver/an anchor for my soul. The anchor is not a change in my circumstances, but it’s the character of Christ.
Dave: And I found, reading your book—you know what surprised me?—is I got through your story, and then I start reading story, after story, after story—and all these situations that we all face—marriage, singleness, financial pressures, people sinning against us, you name it—I was so inspired.
Dave: Not all these stories end with a nice little red bow at the end; they don’t all work out; but I was inspired to trust God to a whole other level just by reading story after story. That’s what stories do—they inspire my faith—like: “Yes, God can be trusted!” It was such a beautiful—
Robert: I’m so glad you saw that, Dave.
Dave: I’m sure that’s what you’re hoping for; it’s true.
Robert: The last thing we want is for us to be the hero of this book. When we’d finish these conversations—when we’d hang up or leave their presence—we would say: “We’ve just been given this amazing gift. These people have opened their hearts and told us, not only the story, but the pain and the struggle. They’ve entrusted to us this incredible gift. We are now stewards of this gift.” Can you imagine? They’re the heroes—these parents that are still waiting for their prodigals.
We were with a woman, last night, whose story is in this book. Her husband is still very, very sick; we were with his wife. She’s the hero, not us; she’s the one who’s walking by faith, not by sight. If this book gives us a chance to highlight the faith, the patience, the love for Christ in other people besides us, that’s a win for us.
Bob: If there’s somebody, who’s listening and thinking: “I’m in the dark place/in the valley. I don’t see the goodness of God, and I need to see it,” this book will point you to it. That’s where I hope a listener will get a copy of Robert and Nancy’s book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story: Embracing the Mysteries of Providence. Order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329 to get more information about the book. Again, the number is 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
By the way, there’s information on our website about Dave and Ann Wilson’s new Vertical video series that FamilyLife® has put together—five sessions that you and your small group or Sunday school class can go through—all about how to go vertical in your marriage/how to keep looking to God in the midst of marriage challenges. Check that out when you go to our website; or if you have any questions about that, give us a call.
Finally, we want to mention something we’re doing this week, for free, for FamilyLife Today listeners. We were talking recently about the fact that, with a new year, lots of people make new resolutions about spending more time in God’s Word, following a Bible reading plan. We talked to our friends at Logos Bible Software. We said, “We’d like to find a way to give our listeners your software.” They loved the idea; they put together a library of more than $2,000 worth of books; there’s even a video study course on marriage that’s a part of what they’ve put together.
They’re making this available for free. I know you’re thinking, “What’s the catch?” There’s really no catch. When you get this system, you can go to work with it right away and start using it for Bible study on your phone, on your mobile device, on your tablet, on your computer. That’s one of the great things about Logos—is how it’s portable like that.
They’re hoping that, as you start to use this resource, you’ll want to add books to your library, whether it’s additional commentaries, or additional translations of the Bible, whatever it is. They’re hoping you’ll get engaged, and you’ll continue to be a customer. We just want to see you start off with a great basic library of resources you can use that can help you be in God’s Word more often, starting at day one. Again, it’s all free. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com; click the link you see there for the Logos Bible Software system. You can download it today and start using it right away. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information.
I hope you can join us, again, tomorrow. Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth are going to be here again. We’re going to continue talking about the importance of understanding God’s providence in the middle of what are often stressful, challenging, difficult marriage and family situations. I know some of you are in those right now. We’ll continue the conversation on that tomorrow. I hope you can be back with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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