Where to Put the Pain
Life never turns out with a happily ever after. What do you do with the pain that inevitably rolls through? Dave Wilson, Ron Deal, Kyle Idleman, Lacey Buchanan, and Mary Kassian tell their stories of hurt and disappointment, and their biblical source of hope.
About the Guest
- Lacey Buchanan talks about the birth of her first son, Christian, who was born with severe facial deformities, and blindness. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/through-the-eyes-of-hope/
- Check out all that's available on the FamilyLife Podcast Network. https://www.familylife.com/familylife-podcast-network/
- Learn more about becoming a Legacy Partner, a monthly supporter of FamilyLife. https://www.familylife.com/legacy
Dave Wilson, Ron Deal, Kyle Idleman, Lacey Buchanan, and Mary Kassian tell their stories of hurt and disappointment, and their biblical source of hope.
Michelle: Throughout Lacey Buchanan’s pregnancy, she was told that something was wrong; but when baby Christian was born, it was obvious.
Lacey: It was pretty much just devastation at first. We sort of knew, by looking at him, that he was blind; but it was one of those things like we were just holding out until the doctors could confirm something for us. That news of his blindness, being delivered so callously, almost felt as if the doctor were speaking to his quality of life as well.
Michelle: When you get that kind of news—harsh news—and medicine just can’t seem to fix it, we’re going to talk about that—where to put the pain—on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. You know, life seen through the eyes of a two-year-old is just good! They may get into trouble many times a day, but for the most part, they have a roof over their head; they have food in their belly; and in their minds, they are in control of everything they see. Life is good!—it’s all about “Mine!”
If you watch a movie or read a fiction book, you start off with a plot and life for the characters. It may be somewhat a little hard; but really, it’s okay until the build-up, or the tension, or the fight with the two main characters. By the end, the issue is resolved. In the closing credits, well, you see this life lived happily ever after.
What about the person, who is introduced to Christianity and comes to know Christ as their Lord and Savior, but thinks that God is going to wipe away all their troubles in the here and now? They’re confused when the troubles keep coming. Have you ever known that type of person?—or maybe you’re there right now?
You know, we grow up believing that life is good! Yes, there will be troubles; but maybe not so many bad ones that really take us down. So then, when troubles start piling up and it starts taking us down, we usually have two questions: “Where is this God in all of this?”—the God we’re trusting—and “Where do we put that pain?!” That’s what we’re going to talk about today—the pain of those existing troubles and where we put that.
Life for FamilyLife Today®host, Dave Wilson, was idyllic as a small child. He grew up in a gated community, because his dad was an airline pilot. He had a mom and a dad and a sister and three brothers. Yes, his mom and dad fought at times; but life just seemed normal. Actually, it was pretty good for a little kid growing up in the ‘60s in New Jersey until that day. Here’s Dave Wilson, explaining the day that things changed in his family; he’s talking with Ron Deal.
[Previous FamilyLife Today® Broadcast]
Dave: The night it happened was Christmas Eve. The whole family went to church. I mean, it’s one of these picturesque moments; I can see snow falling, walking in at the midnight mass type deal. It was probably ten o’clock at night. My little brother, Craig, and I got baptized that night. The whole family is there. We all came back to the house—again, big house. We walk in; and while we were gone, Santa had shown up—I thought. The entire family room was just presents everywhere—more presents than I have ever seen in my life!
We were told: “Open them! Tonight, not tomorrow; tonight!” So of course, a little five-, six-, or seven-year-old kid is just ripping things apart. Every gift I could ever imagine, we got it that year.
Dave: You can imagine why; I didn’t know. The next morning, Christmas Day, I woke up and Dad was gone.
Ron: Do you remember any particular emotions at that point in time? I know you are still making sense of it; you are seven, and it’s hard sometimes to make sense of things when you’re that age. But looking back, do you remember any particular emotions that stood out?
Dave: Again, a lot of it I don’t remember. I didn’t get angry; I was discouraged. I just remember thinking, in one way, “Well, he’ll be back. He’s not ‘gone’ gone.” But I do remember, over time, he didn’t come back; he didn’t come back. When he did, it was pop in/pop out. I can remember fights again. It was not a fun moment when he would come in. I also remember he didn’t seem to pay any attention to me and Craig. He was there to talk to my mom, whatever, and go.
There was, obviously—now, I know they are still working through the details—what this is going to look like; but he was off.
Ann: Well, it’s interesting, Ron, too, that I think is one of the pieces that Dave didn’t mention was something that happened to his brother very soon after the divorce.
Dave: Yes, well, the short story was my mom, now, is a single mom. Again, back in the ‘60s, not a whole lot of help for her.
Dave: She’s like, “How am I going to rebuild my life?” My two brothers and older sister were off to college and beyond; they were that much older. It was really Mom and myself and Craig. We moved to Ohio. Why Ohio?—that’s where her parents lived. We moved to get help and start a new life, so that’s traumatic.
Dave: Again, the only thing I’ve known is my really nice home. We move, and I do remember the drive—talk about traumatic! You would think nothing; but at that time, I had a dog I loved—a German shepherd named Sarge. Somehow, he didn’t make it to Ohio.
Dave: Again, I lose my dad; lose the marriage; and then, probably—I don’t know the exact timeline—three to four months later, we find out Craig has leukemia.
Ron: Oh, wow.
Dave: Within six weeks, he dies.
Dave: There’s no bone marrow transplants back then. It was very quick and, obviously, traumatic as I walk through the divorce, the move, and now my best friend—my little brother—is gone and it’s just mom and [me].
You know, my mom was everything; I clung to her. She was my security, obviously. I felt like she did the same with me. We only had each other—
Dave: —at that point after Craigy was gone. But I can remember—even as I hit ten, and twelve, and thirteen—just watching the sadness; she was very lonely—felt that in the home.
Dave: I wanted to be there for her; I wanted to help her. I remember, constantly, she would say, “You’re the man of the house.”
Dave: I’m twelve—
Dave: — and I’m like, “I don’t want to be the man of the house!”—you know? But I really felt like she needed me to be strong; again, 13/12.
Ron: Yes, yes.
Dave: As I went into middle school and high school, I felt like, “She’s stable but unstable,”—
Dave: —and “I can’t be unstable.”
Bob: Do you think your relationship with her ever got unhealthy? Was she ever co-dependent? Was there ever a situation, where she was counting on you for more than a mom ought to be counting on a 12-year-old boy?
Dave: I’m wondering what my wife’s thinking right now!
Bob: She just moved up to the microphone. I think she’s got an answer for us!
Dave: I didn’t even look over there. [Laughter] Did you notice that? I didn’t even want to see what she’s going to say. I think I know what she’s going to say.
Ann: Yes; I think she was so broken, so lonely, so hurting. I think the answer to that would be “Yes.”
Michelle: You know, life is hard. When these kinds of hardships happen to a young boy, or to a mom, they’re very traumatic. Maybe you’re like Dave’s mom right now: you’re single, raising children alone; you’re anxious over the rent payment or where the next grocery money is coming from; but you’re also dealing with hurt and loneliness.
Maybe you’re like Dave: since that day, life has just been one big puzzle; you don’t have the box top to show you where you’re going next. Here’s pastor and author, Kyle Idleman, with a memory from his grandmother’s house.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Kyle: She would keep her puzzles in Ziploc® bags. I think it had something to do with the Great Depression; I’m not sure—[Laughter]—that was kind of her go-to answer. She would work these puzzles and then leave them out for a while. Then, instead of putting them back in the box, she would put them in a Ziploc bag and store them in the basement.
We would—when there was nothing else to do, we would try to work one of these Ziploc puzzles. If you’ve ever tried to put together a puzzle, without a picture on the box, it is really frustrating.
Kyle: I mean, you don’t know what the picture’s going to be; you don’t know how the pieces are going to fit together; you don’t know what you’re working toward. I don’t ever remember finishing one of those puzzles. We’d start them—pour all the pieces out, kind of get going, maybe get a couple of pieces to come together—but we would always give up, because we didn’t have the picture on the box.
Hebrews talks about that faith is being sure of what we hope for. It’s being certain of what we don’t see. We don’t often see the picture on the box; we don’t often get to see how the pieces are going to fit together. Because of that, it’s real easy to give up. We don’t understand how what’s happening to us in a certain situation could possibly be redeemed/that God has this picture in mind; we have a hard time believing that.
Faith is understanding that God has a picture; we don’t know what it is always, but God has a picture. He knows how the pieces are going to fit together, so we stick with it; we keep at it, believing that, even though we can’t see it in the moment, its working toward something.
One of the ways I’ve tried to help people with this is by learning how to pray in a way that gives us strength. What I stumbled onto, as a pastor praying with all kinds of people, is that, when people pray about their anxiety, they typically—and I did this as well; I saw it in myself—they’ll typically pray by telling God all about what’s wrong in their lives. If you sit down and you pray with somebody about a certain situation or person, or a relationship that’s difficult, the entire prayer will be, “God, here’s the problem…”
Ann: “Here’s my list.”
Kyle: “Here’s my list”; yes. “Here’s everything that needs to change.” The emphasis is on the struggle.
You know, as I was reading through the Psalms—and this is true, certainly, in Nehemiah as well—there is a shift that, oftentimes, takes place in the prayers of David, where he begins by telling God about his anxieties, but then, he switches; and he starts telling his anxieties about God. That’s a much different kind of prayer!
As a father of three teenagers, it is very easy for me to pray for them in this way, where I am telling God about every challenge they have, everything I need Him to do to fix whatever is going on in their lives, and what needs to be adjusted in their life or in their attitude. You know, it’s easy for me to pray from that perspective, rather than to pray, you know: “God, thank You that You’re allowing her to go through this now so that we get to speak into some of these things,” “Thank you for the way You have redeemed this situation in her faith,” “I believe, God, You’re going to draw him closer to You because of the struggle that he’s going through,” and “God, I’m praying that You’ll bring a friend. I’m believing that You’re going to bring a friend into their life that’s going to help them through this time.”
It doesn’t matter—praying for them in a way that, does not express defeat, but expresses a faith.
Michelle: Great practical advice from Kyle Idleman, helping us see that we need to be praying with faith that God is answering us even in those hard moments and in those struggles. Kyle was talking about some of those everyday ongoing issues; but how do we see God when those big things drop: like cancer diagnosis, or when you’re out of a job for months on end, or when your child is born with a sever health defect?
We’re going to take a look at that right after this break. I’ll be back in two minutes with Lacey Buchanan.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. You’ve heard the saying: “First comes love, then comes marriage; then comes a baby in a baby carriage!” Well, life for Lacey Buchanan seemed to be going [well]. She was newly-married; she was taking classes for her law degree; and she had just found out she was pregnant with their first baby. All this sounds perfect; doesn’t it? But then the doctors noticed this abnormality. Four days after baby Christian was born, they heard the news. Here’s Lacey Buchanan.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Lacey: My husband was in the room, alone with my son; I had stepped out for just a few moments. The doctor comes in, I’m told, and doesn’t ask where I am/doesn’t ask for me to come in so that he can deliver the news to both of us. He sort of walks in to my husband—it’s late at night—nine/ten p.m. We’ve watched our son go through surgery—our four-day-old child go through surgery earlier that day. We are mentally, physically, emotionally drained at this point.
He walks into my husband and says, “Your son is blind; sorry,” and walks out. By the time I get back to the room, my husband is sitting there, sobbing. I check on the baby first, like: “Has something happened? What’s going on? Is everything okay?” You know, Christian’s fine. That’s when my husband tells me what had happened.
Dave: What were you thinking as your husband was sobbing and was saying, “He’s blind!” You had seen his face; that had to have dawned on you as well. How did you process that?
Lacey: It was pretty much just devastation at first. We sort of knew, by looking at him, that he was blind; but it was one of those things like we were just holding out until the doctors could tell us something/could confirm something for us.
That news—and I think also delivered so callously to us—we were overwhelmed with/immediately overwhelmed with this four-day-old baby and “Here’s the rest of his life,” we’re having to contend with, immediately, there in that hospital room. You know, his whole life was in front of us. We were thinking: “What are we going to do? How do we raise a child who’s blind? How do we raise a child with these medical needs? What is Christian’s quality of life going to be like?” because, of course, we wanted a good quality of life for this child.
I feel like the news of his blindness, being delivered so callously, it almost felt like as if the doctor was speaking to his quality of life as well. We took that to heart at first; we were so young—first-time parents, you know? There was no manual on parenting for us to read ahead of time; we were devastated!
Dave: Usually, when a person or a couple faces circumstances like this, there has to be a time, as you process through the realities of this and think, on down the road, where you become angry. Did you get angry?
Lacey: Oh, absolutely!
Dennis: And how long did it take you to begin to express that?
Lacey: Yes, I was angry; there was a time of anger. I think it built up and peaked right about when Christian was four months old. You know, we had been going to the hospital—he was in the NICU for about a month, and it was a really hard NICU stay.
He had surgery while he was there. I was trying to work a full-time job; my husband was working a full-time job. I was going to law school still in the evenings; I didn’t get a break because I had a baby. Here I am, trying to get my child to these specialists; he had three to six appointments a week, an hour away from our home. I’m trying to balance all of this. I mean, I was so overwhelmed; I felt like I was drowning.
When he was three months old, he had a second surgery. I was totally mentally unprepared for it. When he had that surgery, it was the hardest surgery he’s ever had. I sat in the hospital room, and I listened to his monitors beep. I was waiting for his heart to stop beating after this surgery; it was that bad. I sat there, and I just remember the beeping in my head. Every beat meant a heartbeat.
I’m sitting here, waiting for it to stop; I’m talking to God and I’m like: “God, I can’t do this for the rest of my life. I love this child, and I want to do whatever I have to do for him. We can’t keep going through this.” Christian was facing multiple more surgeries. I thought, “How are we ever going to get through this?” I’m thinking: “God, what are You doing? Why are You putting us through this?”—you know?—like: I’ve been going to church my whole life. I was leading praise and worship; I was teaching Sunday school classes. You know: “We were doing it right, and this innocent child!—what has he done?” I was so angry at God.
Dennis: Did you share that anger with Chris? Or was this more of a private shaking your fist?
Lacey: You know, I shared some of it with Chris. I probably—more than telling Chris how angry I was at God—I was probably lashing out at him as well; you know, taking my frustrations out on him as well. He knew I was angry, for sure.
We were both sort of just in a state of limbo—like, “What do we do?” Communication wasn’t good. I mean, how do you even communicate during this time? You know, we were struggling to even breathe some days—it felt like. Talking was just exerting more energy we didn’t even have. Yes, he knew; I don’t think we ever sat down and talked about it like we should have, honestly, but—
Bob: Did all of this drive a wedge in your marriage relationship?
Lacey: It did; yes, it did for a long time. Well, we both handled it differently, too. I was the protective mama bear; I mean, I would fight you for my child—you know, “I’m going to protect him.” And the difficulties that I was having—Chris wasn’t at the appointments with me with the doctors, because he was having to work—I was dealing with these doctors, who were, you know, sometimes less than nice. Here I am, already emotionally a mess, so my response to them was to start retaliating.
Dennis: “Whatever it takes to fix my son!—you’ve got to do it.”
Lacey: “Just do it! Just do it!”—yes, yes—and “Stop being mean about it! Just do your job.” That built up, too. I was just—I was ready to fight: “If I need to fight you for my child, I will.”
Chris sort of dealt with it by just burying his head in his work. I mean, he was working as much as he could. For him, it was sort of “out of sight, out of mind”: “If I’m not around it, I don’t have to deal with it.” It’s much easier to sort of step back. He handed it to me; and it was sort of like: “You deal with it; and I’m going to go work, because I’m still providing for the family. I’m still sort of taking care of my responsibilities over here.”
I felt abandoned; because, like: “Hey, I need you to step up! I need your help. I’m drowning here.” In his own way, he’s over here, drowning, as well. He’s thinking, “I can’t help you; I can’t help myself!”
Michelle: Wow! Can you imagine hearing those words: “I can’t help you, because I can’t help myself?” It took Lacey and her husband Chris a long time to make peace with what was going on with Christian and what God was doing in their lives; but eventually, they did get there. Life is going better for them, but it wasn’t quite the Hollywood version that we like to think that life is. In fact, go to our website, and you can listen to the interview with Lacey as she describes their journey.
Today, we have heard a couple of examples about, you know, when life comes at us like a freight train, and our world seems to be blown up in a moment’s notice. What are we supposed to do? What is a Christian’s best practice? You know, are we supposed to pray? Are we supposed to read the Psalms? What are we to do when we’re getting used to that new normal, and we’re trying to lift our eyes to God, who is the Author and Perfecter of our faith? We know that, but we might not feel it at the time.
Well, Bible teacher and author, Mary Kassian, wants us to remember what the most important practice is when we are struggling during these times. Here’s Mary.
Mary: I think that it’s important to know the Word of God. If you don’t know the Word of God, you’re not going to be able to guard your mind. You need to know Scripture; because if you do not know Scripture, you won’t know what’s false and what’s true.
As a Christian, when I have submitted my life to Christ and to His way and His Word, then I have to take the Scripture and go, “Alright, there are all these thoughts going through my head here! I’m thinking, ‘Oh, Mary! You’re worthless; you’re good for nothing.’ There’s all this mental chatter going on; I need to evaluate it—to stop and evaluate it—and go: “Is that the way that God wants me to think? Am I thinking according to the truth in the Word of God, or am I giving in to deceit?”
We’re told that the big creep, Satan, is the master deceiver. He’s the accuser of the brethren, so he’s always going to be whispering in my ear: falsehood, things to accuse me, things to lead me astray, things that are untrue. I have to fight for the truth, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit and His Word; it’s how you combat error. You come against error with truth, and you come against it with the truth of the Word of God.
What I have done is: if there’s something in my life that I’m struggling with, I will sometimes identify a Scripture to help me fight that battle. For instance, when I was battling with just having a critical spirit and critical words, I memorized Ephesians 4:29, which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” That’s one of the ways that I combat that creep and that falsehood that was in my mind, and combatted it with truth.
Michelle: Oh, what an excellent reminder from Mary Kassian; you’ve got to combat it with truth! You know, there’s strength/almost a resilience that happens when we go back to what we know to be true, in spite of our circumstances. For some of our pain and struggles, there is no real answer, this side of heaven; that’s a hard pill to swallow!
In the Bible, in the Book of John, Jesus said these words: “I have told you these things so that, in Me, you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world.” You know, in this world, you will have struggles. Dave had struggles; Lacey had struggles; I have struggles! But we need to remember not to lose sight of Him; He is our comfort, and He’s continuing to work through that pain. He is all-powerful!
If you’re listening right now—and you don’t feel like you have that hope of knowing that He is all-powerful—and you’re in the bottom of a pit and you feel like you have nowhere to turn, you actually do. You can turn to God; it’s not a cliché!—it is the truth. If you don’t know Him, I plead with you to get to know Him. If you haven’t placed your faith in Him, I really want to invite you, right now, to do just that—cry out to Jesus: “Jesus, I need You. Save me! I need Your grace. I’m in need of Your forgiveness. God, I give You all that I am—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and I ask You to fill me with all that You are. I place my trust and faith in You as Lord and Savior of my life.”
If you’ve just now given your life to Him, find a Bible, and start reading the Book of John. Get to know Him better, and then begin looking for a church in your area that preaches the gospel. They would love to have you as part of their congregation. If you need further help, you can always stop at our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. We have links there to help you continue on in getting to know your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So earlier today, we listened to Dave Wilson recount the pain of losing his dad and his brother in just a matter of months. Next week, we’re going to hear Dave talk about that childhood pain—how it affected his marriage, as an adult. I hope you can join us for that.
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. Thanks to our producer, Marques Holt. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our 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.
We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs?
Copyright © 2020 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.