FamilyLife This Week®

Mothers and Fear

with Barbara Rainey | May 9, 2020
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Barbara Rainey, mother of six and grandmother to 21+, encourages listeners to take their fears and worries to God in prayer.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Michelle Hill

    Radio has been ingrained in Michelle for most of her life. This love for radio has taken her to various radio stations and ministries in places like Chicago, Alaska and other snow covered terrains like her hometown in north central Iowa. In 2005 she landed on staff with Cru/FamilyLife®. While at FamilyLife she has overseen the expansion of FamilyLife Today® internationally, assisted with the creation of Passport2Identity™-Womanhood and is now the host of FamilyLife This Week®. For the last 15+ years Michelle has been mentoring young women and is passionate about helping them find their identity in God. She also has a fascination for snowflakes and the color yellow. Michelle makes her home in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Barbara Rainey, mother of six and grandmother to 21+, encourages listeners to take their fears and worries to God in prayer.

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Mothers and Fear

With Barbara Rainey
May 09, 2020
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Michelle: Are you feeling a little bit of unrest and anxiety during these days? You’re not alone. Here’s co-founder of FamilyLife®, Barbara Rainey.

Barbara: There’ve been days that I’ve been fearful with the Coronavirus. I’ve wondered, you know, “When’s it going to end?” I’ve wondered: “Is it going to come here?” “Is it going to impact us?” “Is it going to impact people that I know and love?” And we just don’t know the answers to that.

I think God is teaching all of us, and has been teaching all of us, in this new reality that we’ve all lived through—and are still living through in many ways—He’s teaching us that He is in control. He’s doing this for our good, and He wants us to trust Him in the middle of it. It’s not easy, but it’s very good.

Michelle: Barbara Rainey talks with us about how prayer is the essential piece of living in uncertain times on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.

Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. Moms, this is Mother’s Day weekend; and it looks different than any other Mother’s Day celebrations or weekends. You know, moms, you are heroic in so many ways, and especially now, as we face this worldwide crisis that has had your kids locked up with you for weeks on end. My hat’s off to you, moms.

Today’s program is for you; it’s encouragement for your soul today. In Proverbs 31, where they talk about that special woman, her children rise up and call her blessed. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking: “Michelle, that’s not my child today,” “That’s not my child last week; in fact, I don’t think they’ll ever call me ‘blessed’ again.” Well, you’d be surprised!

Today, I want to talk with a woman who has lived through some hard times in the past, and lived to tell about it. She is a wife, and a mom, and a Mimi to many granddaughters and grandsons. I’m talking about Barbara Rainey, who is the co-founder of FamilyLife; and she joins me here. So go get that cup of tea, and sit down, and join my conversation with Barbara.

[Previous Interview]

Michelle: Talk about prayer today. Was prayer a favorite topic of yours?—or has it been in the past?

Barbara: Oh, goodness! That’s kind of a loaded question for me. [Laughter] I think I’ve always wanted to talk to God; I’ve always wanted to know what He thinks. I remember, as a kid, wanting to know God, but not knowing how to do that. When I was a new believer in my early 20s, I remember thinking, “I really want to be a woman of prayer.” I don’t even think I knew what that meant; but I thought it sounded cool, and godly, and wise; so I wanted to be all those things when I was in my 20s.

Of course, I had no idea about prayer at the time when I had that thought. I certainly would not consider myself a wise, godly, woman of prayer by any means; because I think now, that I’ve had such an up-and-down journey with prayer—I would describe it through the years—I just think that it’s one of those things that’s unfathomable about knowing God.

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara: I mean, how can we really define having a conversation with someone who’s not definable? I mean—

Michelle: You’re right, because it says—

Barbara: —I don’t know.

Michelle: It says in Isaiah, and also in Job, “His thoughts are higher than our thoughts...”

Barbara: —higher than ours; yes.

Michelle: His ways are beyond what anything we can imagine.

Barbara: Yes, yes.

Michelle: So you have been on quite the journey.

Barbara: Yes.

Michelle: And out of that journey has been this new book on prayer.

Barbara: Yes.

Michelle: Take us back to where this journey started. Where were you with God at that time?

Barbara: Well, this all started, actually, when Dennis and I transitioned out of FamilyLife. We handed over the reins to David and Meg Robbins, whom we love; and we think they’re wonderful people, and they’ve done a really great job. But Dennis and I embarked—once we walked out of the building with FamilyLife—we embarked on a journey that was very unknown. We even would have said so at the time: “We have no idea what’s ahead.”

I think what surprised us both, early on in those first six months, was that it was harder than we thought it would be. What I finally came to realize, about a year into it, is that we were both struggling with a loss of identity.

Michelle: Yes, I’m sure.

Barbara: We were trying to figure out: “Who are we now that we aren’t FamilyLife?—now that we don’t have FamilyLife?—now that we aren’t with those people anymore?” That’s a quick description of where we were. In the process of that year, which became two years, and now is more than that, we both just struggle a lot.

Michelle: What did you learn about God through this season/through this journey that He had you on?

Barbara: Well, the thing that I learned about God—well, I learned a bunch. I began to write my thoughts in the form of prayers, because I had been reading through the Psalms. The Psalms spoke to me at a level that I hadn’t experienced in years. They identified their feelings/captured what they were experiencing in words that I think all of us can identify with.

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara: So reading that level of raw honesty and heart transparency caused me to say: “Oh! Then what am I really feeling?” “What state is my heart in?” and “How would I describe that before God?” As I started writing, I realized just putting words to it helped me understand what was really in my heart at its core. Instead of praying nicely, I recognized what was truly in my heart.

Michelle: Well, there’s almost a time in some of the Psalms—I know for me, I’ve started to memorize Psalm 86; because last fall, I went through a time of just feeling so restless and almost looking at God, and saying, “Where are You, God?!” [Laughter] “Are You in my life?” “What are You doing?” “What’s going on?!”

Barbara: Yes, yes.

Michelle: I started memorizing Psalm 86, which starts with “Answer me.”

Barbara: Yes.

Michelle: And it wasn’t just a kind, “Answer me, God.” You know, it was a demand!—

Barbara: It was a demand.

Michelle: —going, “Answer me!”

Barbara: Yes.

Michelle: At first, it felt like, “Who am I to go and demand that from God?”

Barbara: That’s right.

Michelle: God needed to hear me that way; He needed to see me cry; or He wanted to hear my cry, because He wanted me to take those tears to Him and not to someone else.

Barbara: Yes; and because He knew that’s what was in your heart,—

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara: —and He wanted you to see what was in your heart, and He wanted you to bring it to Him.

I think that’s what He wanted for me too. He wanted me to see what was really there and bring it to Him, because He was okay with it. And then [for me] to say, “Yet I will trust You.”

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara: You’re right! I mean, those prayers—where David says: “Answer me!” “Hear me!” “Where are You?” “What are You…?”—in our language, David would be saying, “What are You thinking, God?!” [Laughter] We have felt that way recently with the Coronavirus: “What are You doing?” and “Why are You doing this?”

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara: And we know that God knows what He’s doing. I have grown to trust Him and to rest in Him so much more.

Michelle: Yes; you just brought up the Coronavirus. I thought, “Let’s just go there.”

Barbara: Yes.

Michelle: You had mentioned that, about two or more years ago, your life was disrupted.

Barbara: Yes.

Michelle: There are a lot of women, right now, whose spring has been disrupted because of this virus: people who’ve lost their jobs; kids, who are home from school, and may not return this school year.

Barbara: Yes.

Michelle: There is just a lot of upheaval. A lot of people are having these “What if…” questions. Teach us what you’ve learned about really fighting through those fears, and how do we take every thought captive and really keep our eyes on the horizon?

Barbara: Well, one of my favorite lines from the Psalms—and I’m sorry I can’t remember which one it is—but it’s in the early 50s; 52/Psalm 53, maybe—it says, “When I am afraid, I will trust You.” I love that, because he’s not saying, “I’m not going to be afraid.”

Michelle: Right.

Barbara: He’s acknowledging that he’s going to be afraid. That’s so liberating to know that: “God knows that we’re going to be afraid, and it’s okay if we’re afraid; He just wants us to trust Him with that fear.” I think that really summarizes what I’ve learned about fear and about trusting God.

It doesn’t mean that I’m not, because I have been afraid. There have been days that I’ve been fearful with the Coronavirus. I’ve wondered, you know, “When’s it going to end?” I’ve wondered: “Is it going to come here?” “Is it going to impact us?” “Is it going to impact people that I know and love?” And we just don’t know the answers to that.

I think God is teaching all of us, and has been teaching all of us, in this new reality that we’ve all lived through—and are still living through in many ways—He’s teaching us that He is in control. He’s doing this for our good, and He wants us to trust Him in the middle of it. It’s not easy, but it’s very good.

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara: It’s very good for our faith.

Michelle: “I will trust in You,”—

Barbara: Yes.

Michelle: —that’s what we’re supposed to be doing. We sing that song; we memorize that verse—

Barbara: That’s right.

Michelle: —“I will trust in You.” 

Barbara: Yes.

Michelle: My sound engineer wanted to remind me that those are King David’s words from Psalm 56.

Barbara: There you go! I knew it was in the 50s. [Laughter]

Michelle: You know, one thing that I appreciate so much about the Psalms is that it gives voice to our emotions. You know, we talked a little earlier about anger, and frustration, and just being mad at God. Now we’re talking about fear, and just how we’re allowed to be fearful, in a way, as long as we keep looking up and keep seeing Him as our Provider.

Barbara: Yes; it has just been a very good reminder to me that my relationship to God is a parent/child relationship. I’m His child. I feel so much more like a child now that I’m older than I did when I was closer to being one, because I realize that I really am a child at heart; and God loves me that way.

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara: Just like it didn’t bother me when my kids were afraid—it was a normal part of growing up—being afraid of bugs, or being afraid of the dark, or being afraid of different things. I welcomed them when they came to me and said they were afraid. In fact, I wanted them to!

Michelle: Yes, that’s so important.

Barbara, there is somebody, who’s listening today, right now, who is struggling with God. You know, there has been loss, frustration, confusion—

Barbara: Yes.

Michelle: —you know, trust has been broken; that foundation has been shaken. God seems so far away! He was once near, but now prayer is the farthest thing from their mind. As an older, wiser mentor, how would you guide her or him through this valley that they are walking?

Barbara: Well, I think my encouragement is: “It’s okay to be dry for a while; it’s okay to be in the desert for a while.” I have been through seasons when I didn’t pray very much. I remember one season, in particular, that was a real crisis in our lives; and I just couldn’t pray. I couldn’t find words for it; I was so overwhelmed with what we were going through. I discovered, later on, that there were people, who were praying for us; and that really meant a lot to me.

I don’t think God is as concerned about the fact that we sometimes have dry periods, or we forget to pray because the day just got away from us and it was crazy. I just think He loves it when we come to Him; I think He loves it when we come back. I would say: “Don’t be hard on yourself”—but also—“Don’t be afraid to go to God. Don’t worry that He’s going to scold you, because you haven’t prayed a lot lately; or because you wandered away for a while; or because you were hurt by this experience with the Coronavirus, and you haven’t taken it to God.” I think we put a lot on God that is not who He is.

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara, this is such good stuff; this is gold. I hate to do this, but we need to take a break.

Barbara: Okay.

Michelle: On the other side, I would love to talk more about prayer; because I think it’s becoming one of my favorite subjects.

Barbara: Well, good! I like that! That’s fun to hear.

Michelle: Okay. We’ll be back in two minutes.

[Radio Station Spot Break]

Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill.

I am talking with Barbara Rainey today. We’re talking about prayer, and especially, prayer during uncertain times. Barbara, you probably have gone through many uncertain times in your marriage with Dennis. How long have you guys been married now?

Barbara: It’s like 47 [years].

Michelle: Oh, wow! Okay.

Barbara: I know! I know, right?

Michelle: Almost 50!

Barbara: Almost, yes.

Michelle: So you’ve been married for a long time. You’ve seen the hard times come and go. What would you say to a young mom, who’s basically on the verge of panic right now in this season?

Barbara: Well, I know what that feels like, because I’ve got some girls/some daughters, who are—some of them are anxious about this virus—some of them are more anxious than other ones are. There isn’t—you know, when you ask that question, “What would I say?”—I don’t know that there really is a one thing to say. I think the answer is: “Oh, I don’t even know what to say on that”; because it’s so much more complicated than, “It’s going to be okay”; because, well, we don’t know if it’s going to be okay.

I think, sometimes, we forget that part in our pat answers: “God is in control,” “He’s going to get us through this,”—it’s true!—but I think, because we’re fallen and because we’re human, our capacity to see God is so small. He’s trying to expand that; He’s trying to grow that vision of who He is; He’s trying to help us see Him for who He is. Sometimes it takes really hard things, like this virus, and like a lot of people dying.

I think, in answer to your question, that would be what I hope I could say. Our kids need to know that God is in control—and not as a flippant answer; not as a cure-all; not as a: “Oh, just trust God. He’s in control; you’re going to be fine,”—I think we say those kind of things sometimes to young women/young moms—just like the one you described hypothetically—“It’s going to be okay; God’s in charge.”

I don’t know if God wants us to be saying that, because we don’t know that it’s going to be okay. We do know that He’s in charge; but what do we mean by, “It’s going to be okay?”

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara: It could mean different things for different people.

I think, ultimately, what God is trying to do through this pandemic—what He’s been trying to do since it started and is continuing to do—is I think He is trying to say to His followers/to His children, and to those who don’t know Him: “I want you to look at Me as I am—not as you think I am, not as you want Me to be, not as you hope I will be—but I want you to see Me for who I am and love Me for who I am.”

Michelle: Barbara, I just want to thank you for that answer. From a woman, who has looked up to you as a woman of God for many years, for you to say: “I don’t know how to answer that question,” and “I don’t want to just give you an answer, but I want to show you how we should be looking at God,” I just—that just speaks volumes!—when you don’t give a pat answer; but you say, “Okay, let’s just sit down, and let’s talk through this.”

I’m just thinking there are a lot of women, right now, who are feeling lonely and feeling like: “I used to have a friend, but I don’t,” or “I can’t see my friend right now,” or “I can’t be with my friend like I used to.” In your book, there is a prayer called, “Holy Spirit, My Friend.”

Barbara: Yes.

Michelle: That is something that I don’t always think of when I’m talking to God is that: “The Holy Spirit is my friend.” Where did that prayer come from?

Barbara: Well, we know that Jesus called Himself our friend. He makes that really clear in the Book of John. In close conjunction with that statement that Jesus made about Himself to His disciples—not long after that—He said, “I’m going to ask the Father; He is going to send someone to be with you, who will be with you forever.” And then He began to teach about the Holy Spirit.

I started thinking that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus; and the Holy Spirit is God; and the Holy Spirit is [in] the Trinity. That’s who’s in me?! I’ve never forgotten the title of Francis Chan’s book about the Holy Spirit; it’s called Forgotten God.

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara: I think the title says it all. We don’t think of the Holy Spirit as God. We don’t talk to Him like we talk to the Father or to the Son; we basically ignore Him.

I’ve just started thinking a lot in the last few years about how much the Holy Spirit does for me. The Holy Spirit is the reason that I’m redeemed. The Holy Spirit lives within me; the Holy Spirit is the one who is reminding me of Scripture. The Holy Spirit is the one who’s whispering, “This is what I want you to do.” The Holy Spirit is the one who gives me life!

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara: If it weren’t for the Spirit, I would be dead!

I have just started consciously helping myself remember Him and helping myself talk to Him as a member of the Trinity. I talk about Jesus, and I use His name. I talk about the Father, and I talk to Him. Why not talk about the Holy Spirit and talk to Him too?

It’s hard for our brains to wrap around that—and that’s part of the problem; we’re not going to—I think we think we need to be able to wrap our brains around it. Well, we might as well just forget it, because we’re not going to. But it has helped me so much to think about the presence of the Holy Spirit within me, and to recognize that He is here to help me—that’s what Jesus said—He said, “I am going to send you a Helper.”

Michelle: That’s beautiful! That’s what it is.

Barbara: And so, actually, I dedicated the book to the Holy Spirit; because I am

100 percent convinced that it was His idea in the first place. It wasn’t my idea to write my prayers. He wanted me to commune more with Himself, and with the Father, and the Son; and He’s the One who gave me the idea to begin writing down what I was feeling. It wasn’t my idea; I’m not that smart!

Just in the process of talking to Him more—asking Him to speak to me more; asking Him to help me, which is what He was sent to do—I feel like I’ve gotten to know Him more, so I dedicated the book to Him. I also wrote a prayer about the Holy Spirit, as you mentioned. I want women to know that—no matter how lonely you feel, no matter how abandoned you feel, what you’re going through—you are not alone.

It’s because of the presence of the Holy Spirit that you’re not alone. It’s because Jesus left and ascended to the Father. We just celebrated Easter and Ascension Day; it’s because Jesus left and went to the Father that we have the Holy Spirit with us.

Michelle: It’s such good news!

Barbara: It’s such a wonderful thing; that He came, and He was willing to live within us.

Michelle: I’m going to change gears right now a little bit, because it is Mother’s Day this weekend. You recently lost your mom.

Barbara: I did.

Michelle: What was the legacy your mom left for you?

Barbara: Oh, goodness! I think her legacy to me was her faithfulness and her constancy. Interestingly, one of her friends said to me, after she died, “Your mother was the most peaceful person I’ve ever known in my life.” I thought: “What a great description! I would have never thought of that.” In her own way, she trusted God; she really did. Even though, in those last couple of weeks of her life, she shared that she was afraid, I still think she was faithful; I still think that she was very peaceful.

Michelle: Now what kind of legacy are you hoping to leave for your girls?

Barbara: I think the legacy that I want to leave for my girls—and my boys for that matter too/my sons—is I just want them to know that their mom always chose to believe in God and really was grounded in Him, and that I trusted Him with all the stuff that came.

I just want them to know—and they know that we’ve been through hard stuff through the years. I just want them to see that enduring constancy, I think, more than anything; because I know they’re going to go through hard stuff. I wish there were another way. I wish they didn’t have to, but I know they’re going to have hard stuff in their lives. I want them to remember that my husband and I—Dennis and I both—chose to trust in God, no matter what—that’s really the essence of faith. That’s really what David modeled in the Psalms.

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara: He was saying, in all of the Psalms, “No matter what, I will trust You.”

Michelle: Yes.

Barbara: And I think that’s really what we want them to see in us too.

Michelle: That’s amazing.

Barbara, once again, thank you! Thank you for the example that you leave for so many. You are leaving, not only just a legacy for your kids, but for so many of us, who have grown up with you and who have heard your teachings. We’re excited about reading your book.

Barbara: Good!

Michelle: So thank you.

Barbara: Well, you’re welcome. It’s a privilege to be able to do this with you. And I do hope that my rawness, and honesty, and transparency in my book will encourage women to do the same.


Michelle: Moms, I hope that you have been encouraged by Barbara’s words. I know this is a different Mother’s Day than you probably envisioned a while back, but I pray that you’ve been encouraged in your prayer life and in your walk.

As we close out our time together, I just want to read from Barbara’s book. You know, we talked about a prayer that she had written for the Holy Spirit, called “My Dearest Friend”; it goes like this:

Holy Spirit, Author of all grace and comfort,

We think You silent, if we think of You at all, Forgotten God.

You were sent, a gift, to Me to be with me forever,

To never leave me or forsake me.

I am not an orphan.

You are my Helper, my Teacher, my Guide.

In my daily forgetfulness, You help me remember

All that Jesus spoke to me in His Word.

My constant Companion,

My promise, my Purifier, my Power;

You keep me secure.

Refine me as silver,

Strengthen my faltering faith.

Breath of life, my very oxygen,

Strengthen and guide me today and always.

I worship You, my dearest Friend and closest Companion.



And, again, that was a prayer from Barbara Rainey’s latest book, My Heart, Ever His.

Hey, next week, we’re going to hear from Lore Wilbert. It might be a little bit weird, because we’re going to talk about touching. That is an odd subject to talk about next week; because, you know, we’ve been handling this social distancing for so long; but COVID or no COVID, human touch is an essential part of human life. We’re going to talk about that next week.

Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and also to Marques Hold, our producer. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our faithful production coordinator.

Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.

I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.


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