God uses the weak to confound the strong. Dave Furman, pastor of Redeemer Church in Dubai, and his wife, Gloria, talk about the debilitating disease that has weakened his muscles, but not their faith or their ministry.
God uses the weak to confound the strong. Dave Furman, pastor of Redeemer Church in Dubai, and his wife, Gloria, talk about the debilitating disease that has weakened his muscles, but not their faith or their ministry.
Bob: The Apostle Paul said that he had learned the secret of finding contentment in whatever circumstance he finds himself. His joy was not determined by his daily circumstances. That’s a lesson that most of us, including Gloria Furman, are still trying to learn.
Gloria: I had and still struggle with putting my hope in different temporary things. With my young kids, I: “Oh, when this teething is over, then life is going to be better,” “Oh, when we’re done with diapers, it’s going to be a party.” But all of these things / all of my hopes, really, are like little tiny grains of sand—they blow away in the wind. Jesus has described Himself as the Rock. When I am standing on Him, and He is my Rock, then the sand can blow around all it wants; but if He is solid, then I am standing firm.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 12th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
If your hope is built on something less than Jesus, you can expect the sand to be sinking underneath your feet as well. We’ll talk about finding our rest in Him today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. Have you had mundane times in life where you’ve just thought—
Dennis: Of course!
Bob: —you’re just waiting for God to show up for the next time?
Dennis: Of course. I think we all, to some degree or another, are kind of activity or adrenaline junkies. We’re kind of waiting for that next experience—kind of living from experience to experience. Life is made up of all kinds of experiences that aren’t spikes.
Bob: Right. And we’ve all had epiphanous moments / those kinds of landmark moments that we can look back on and say, “That was life-changing in that moment.”
But honestly, it’s that living out of the day to day and a lot of the small decisions that may influence more of our life than some of those big epiphanous moments.
Dennis: I agree with you Bob. We have a couple with us today on the broadcast all the way from Dubai. Dave and Gloria Furman join us on FamilyLife Today. Dave is a pastor there. They are raising four children, and Gloria has written a book called Glimpses of Grace.
Bob: We were having such a great time talking with Gloria this week about being a mom and all the rest. We said, “Let’s just bring Dave in here and have him add to the conversation.”
Dennis: The interesting thing is—both Gloria and Dave are graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary. We always think about going to seminary to learn about God, but you don’t think of going to seminary being a time when God takes you through something where He really teaches you about Himself. Gloria, you talk about this in your book, Glimpses of Grace, about how Dave began to experience some pain that began a process that continues on to this day.
Take us back to that time at Dallas Seminary, where you were studying, and Dave began to encounter this.
Gloria: He came home from the Gospel of John class and said that his finger was buzzing. “I can’t hear anything. What do you mean your finger is buzzing?” It just was tingling on the inside. We experimented with different keyboards. We went to a family practitioner, I think—he said: “Oh, this sounds like classic—everybody’s got carpal tunnel these days. You’re a student. You’re a grad student; especially, doing all this writing. You need to take care of your arms. Get a good keyboard, get a good chair, and practice good posture.”
We did all of those things. About a year passed, and it just got worse. The buzzing, and the burning, and the tingling moved up into Dave’s elbow; and then it was both arms.
Bob: Dave—was this happening all the time or was it coming and going?
Dave: It was starting to be a constant struggle. I’d be typing up an essay for a class, or emails, or I would try to shake someone’s hand, or just try to do normal, everyday things—and the pain would be there / the burning would be there. I began to have weakness in my arms; and so, it began to be a daily struggle.
Dennis: On a one-to-ten point scale, how great was the pain?
Dave: At that point, five, six, seven. It didn’t get to the highest—
Dennis: So pretty significant, then?
Dave: Yes, it was starting and getting worse and worse.
Dennis: And pain can begin to define your life when it’s a seven. You may be going to seminary, but pain is a real deal; huh?
Dave: Yes. It got to the point where, for my Master’s thesis, I did all the research and Gloria, literally, sat at the keyboard. I was verbalizing what would go into the thesis; she would type it up. In some sense, while I did the work, she was my typist.
Bob: You dictated your thesis to your wife because you couldn’t operate the keyboard.
Dave: Yes, exactly. It got so bad, at that point / that last semester or so at seminary, my wife—
Gloria: I was carrying your books too.
Dave: You were carrying my books. You were four or five months pregnant, and she was typing up my thesis.
Bob: Gloria, what’s going on in your mind, as all of this—are you thinking, “Is this for life?” It changes a lot of dynamics.
Gloria: I actually was thinking short-term, at that point, because people were so confident that they knew how to fix it: “Oh, you just need this arm sling,” “Oh, you just need this keyboard,” “You just need this chair,” “You just need to sleep. You sleep like that? No, no, no—sleep like this.” So, I was holding on to those things and thinking “We’re saved!”
Bob: “We’ll get a solution there.”
Dennis: So how about the compassion quotient for Gloria? On a ten-point scale, how great was your compassion, initially?
Gloria: It was up and down, honestly. When I was hopeful about the next solution, I was like: “Oh, we can press through this! No big deal. Glass is half-full.” I was very cheerful about it; but then, when it would fail, it was devastating.
Bob: Did you find yourself thinking, “You need to just quit whining, and pitch in, and do more work”?
Bob: Yes. Were you thinking: “Come on! The pain can’t be that bad. Just help out.”
Gloria: I think I had some thoughts like that because you can’t see it—Dave looks very healthy.
Gloria: He’s not in crutches or in a wheelchair. Some of the more interesting things about serving Dave is when other people don’t know that he needs to be served, physically, like that. We were walking into a restaurant. I had our first baby in a baby carrier on one arm, and the door of the restaurant was really heavy. The way that—I guess, socially—Dave was walking in such a way that it would look like he’s about to get the door for everybody behind him; but he walked up to the door and kind of stepped aside because he knew: “There’s no way I could push this door open.”
A woman / just a stranger, who was walking to the side—and she noticed this. She looked at him and was just like: “Oh-h-h-h! Men these days!” She was huffing and puffing about how she had to get the door.
I remember seeing Dave’s face, crestfallen, because he’s not a passive man who is, “Oh, I’m happy to let other people do this when there’s something that I can do to serve them.” I remember seeing that and realizing, “My husband isn’t doing this to me on purpose to hurt me, but God has to be doing something through this.”
Dennis: Dave, how did it impact you? As a man, I’m thinking about opening a door. Although, in a way, that’s a minor deal; but in another way, it’s at the heart of a common courtesy of: “My life for yours.”
Dave: Exactly. That’s what we do—we take care of our wife, our kids, and other people in our lives—you serve. I love to serve. So, it was as if some of my manhood was taken away. I wasn’t able to do some of the things that I want to do. So yes, those are difficult moments, really, to trust God and to not get your significance or your security out of what people think of you—not to get your hope in what that person, who is watching you, sees in you—but to trust the Lord.
Bob: Did you find yourself, like your wife, having glass-half-empty days and glass-half-full days, where you think, “Okay, we’ll get this fixed,” or then you go, “I don’t know if this is fixable”?
Dave: Exactly. Those glass-half-full days, when you’re promised another solution or a doctor says: “Okay, just do this,” “Take these two pills,” “Do this procedure and everything is going to be fine.” Yes, we have hope. And then there are other days when we’re so discouraged after another procedure / another surgery didn’t work. What we learned through that is: “No, we can’t trust in those temporary things. We can’t put our hope in those things, but we must put our hope in Jesus as our ultimate hope.”
Bob: Are you better today?
Dave: No. No, we’ve had—is it about 17 surgeries or hospital procedures? I’ve been admitted that many times—some of them major surgeries. There are some things that I can do more so today than I could back then, but I can still only lift about eight pounds—still can’t get some of the doors for my wife. I remember, one time, sitting around the table of pastors—this was just last year—and they served us steak.
I remember going, “Okay, how am I going to cut my steak?”
One of my elders was actually sitting next to me. Without even announcing it or asking, he just leaned over and cut my steak. All the other pastors looking around were kind of bewildered. The elder just stepped up and said: “Hey, guys! Isn’t this the way your elders serve you guys?”[Laughter] Everybody laughed, and then he took the moment to explain I can’t cut the steak. So, there have been some difficult moments like that; but we’ve seen God persevere us throughout.
Bob: Part of the challenge, it would seem to me, is the whole issue of self-sufficiency. You can’t cut your steak; somebody has to do this. That’s embarrassing at one level, but it’s an imposition on the people around you. There’s part of you, wanting to go, “I don’t want to be a bother to the people around me”; and yet, to function, the people around you / your wife regularly has to do stuff for you, whether it’s opening a door or cutting. We had lunch today, and your wife had to open the little containers because you couldn’t pop the tops off of them.
I would think there’d be a part of your psyche that would go, “I just don’t want to look like this.”
Dave: Yes, it’s difficult. You have to come to the place where you trust the Lord to be your all-suffiency. You can’t do something on your own—to rely heavily upon others, but ultimately, to rely heavily upon Him as the One who’s going to take care of you. It’s been difficult / it’s been a challenge, eight years in. I still have a hard time / I still count the cost in my mind: “What’s it going to look like to ask my wife to open up that container?”
Ultimately, we’ve seen God move in such a way where it seems apparent that He uses the weak to glorify Himself. It’s a story of the Bible—you see that with David and Goliath, you see it with Moses, you see it even with Jesus / God became man, lived the humble life and then took the penalty upon Himself that we deserve. So you see God using the weak to glorify Himself—it seems to be the story of the Bible. So why hide that?—but trust the Lord that He will shine the glory upon Himself.
Dennis: So, five years ago, you guys decided God was calling you to go to the Middle East and plant a church. You weren’t taking on an easy task. At the time you made that decision, hadn’t your pain lessened, at that point?
Dave: Briefly, right before we moved there. As we arrived on the Arabian Peninsula—within about a month / maybe a month into it—my health went downhill once again, even far worse than before, to the place where I couldn’t button my shirt / turn on the shower. I had boils all up and down both of my hands and couldn’t do much of anything for several months.
Bob: Gloria, you had to think, “I did not sign up for this.” I mean, seriously—
Dennis: Now wait, Bob. It was: “…for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.”
Bob: I know. I know. But you know, every couple that says that has their calibration of how sick “sickness” is going to be—
Bob: —and how worse “worse” is going to be. They’re thinking, “Yes, there is a worse point.” You didn’t imagine this when you said, “I do”; did you?
Gloria: I actually imagined, in my mind, growing old together with Dave; but I never really imagined having to help him so early on.
I remember, one night, when we were living in country and studying the language—I think I was hunched over my growing pregnant belly—helping clip Dave’s toenails, and I was angry. I was angry at God—I was bitter about that. Who likes to clip toenails, really? It’s just something you have to do. Praise the Lord for Dave’s cheerful attitude, in that moment, because he said: “You always knew you’d have to do this. You just didn’t know you’d have to do it so soon; did you?” [Laughter]
Dave: I remember saying that.
Gloria: I thought to myself: “Yes! I knew that I would love you and serve you—I made a covenant. I just didn’t know the timing of some of these things.”
God has been faithful, even for physical things that we need help with. Our church body is just brilliant. They’ve come around us. People are aware: “The Furman’s need a little extra physical help.” So, someone will see me trying to wrestle the kids into car seats.
They’ll stop and, “Oh, here,” and they’ll pick up a kid and clip him into a car seat. Even things around the house—regularly, guys from the church will say: “Hey, you need anything done / anything you need to pick up?” “Actually, yes—a five-gallon bottle of water just right there. Could you please carry that?” So, we’ve been cared for / God has not left us.
Dennis: So, Dave, you actually came to the conclusion that God is using your weakness in this situation, as you’ve started this church in Dubai. Explain to our listeners what you shared with us before we came into the studio about how many of your people in your church—how they come with a certain picture of who God is.
Dave: In our part of the world, this prosperity gospel / the prosperity doctrine is so big, where people think: “Jesus is just a cosmic vending machine. We’ll put in some money into the offering. We’ll do any number of things—pray special prayers—and God will give us whatever we want. Jesus is a cosmic vending machine or genie in the bottle.”
Bob: “He’s here to fix your life.”
Dave: Yes; exactly: “Make you healthy, happy, wealthy, wise, and everything else;”—that He’ll bring you earthly happiness—“Your best life is now,” kind of mentality.
What I’ve been able to tell our congregation—from the pulpit and in discipleship opportunities—is: “No, your best life is never now / it’s never now. If this is the best my life is going to be, I want another life / I want another way! But no, your best life is always later, with Jesus. Your best life is in the life to come. God will heal me. One day, in glory, there will be no pain. He may or may not heal me in this life, but what God will do is—He will use this pain / He will use this suffering. He will use our pain in the mundane areas of life to glorify Himself—to show that He is strong when we are weak—that He is our hope.”
Bob: You have to have times, though, when you stop—both of you—and think: “If Dave didn’t have this, think of what we could really accomplish. These limitations are keeping us from being able to do all of the things that we want to do and could do.”
It’s kind of like, “God, don’t you get how much faster we could accelerate things if You would just heal Dave?” Haven’t you thought that?
Gloria: I’ve thought about how much faster we could get in the car or on the airplane. [Laughter]
Dave: Today, that would have been useful in that delay.
Gloria: Yes. But ministry-wise, it is sweet, though. We are blessed to see, firsthand, things that God is doing through Dave’s weakness—not necessarily, in spite of it. People will say—they will verbalize, “I had no idea that God could use weakness, and pain, and suffering, and glorify Himself with it. Thank you for being faithful. Thank you for being honest and sharing your struggles.”
Dennis: So, you haven’t been tempted to quit.
Gloria: Oh, sure!
Dave: I’ve quit at least eight times—
Gloria: You quit; yes.
Dave: —in the past couple of years. We stopped keeping count after a while; but no, it has been tempting to quit.
Dennis: Why do you want to quit?
Dave: It’s hard / it’s difficult.
Life doesn’t seem fair. We’re tired / we’re hurting. We want a peaceful life somewhere else, where there will be no pain or suffering.
Bob: Gloria, you wrote a book called Glimpses of Grace, where you said: “In the mundane of life, God is still with you. Grace is still present. You need to look for it and see it differently than you would see it in those big moments.” We’re not talking about the mundane, now—we’re talking about the hard / we’re talking about the suffering. There’s grace in the middle of that too.
Gloria: Yes. I realize that some people, reading the book, have lives probably similar to ours—where pain is there every day. I know, firsthand, how discouraging it can be to think, “If this pain was gone, then God would meet me where I am.”
Dennis: So what’s the big takeaway for both of you? If you had to summarize the lesson of faith that you have learned through this—shall I call it an ordeal?
What about you, Dave? What’s the most important thing?
Dave: What I’ve learned is not to trust and put my hope in my ever-changing circumstances because they’re going to change. Every day it’s going to be something different. There may be healing; there may not be healing. There is going to be difficulty—family-wise, ministry-wise, health-wise—but instead of placing my hope in my ever-changing circumstances—instead, to place my hope in the one great permanent circumstance. I think it was Milton Vincent, who said that in his book, A Gospel Primer, that we are to hope in the one great permanent circumstance of the gospel of Christ Jesus and what He has done for us because that’s never going to change.
We are in Christ now and forevermore. If we can hope in that—if we can know what He’s done in the gospel for us in the past, if we can see what He’s doing today, and we can look forward to the future, and know that we will be with Him forever—that everlasting joy starts erupting and overflowing in our hearts and can get us through the most difficult earthly, temporary circumstances.
Dennis: Gloria, I want you to share what yours is too; but you have to share what you put in the book about a song that you would sing: “My hope is built on—
Gloria: “—on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” That’s right. I had and still struggle with putting my hope in different temporary things. With my young kids, I would: “Oh, when this teething is over, then life is going to be better,” “Oh, when we’re done with diapers, it’s going to be a party.” But all of these things / all of my hopes really are like little tiny grains of sand. They blow away in the wind. Jesus has described Himself as the Rock. So, when I am standing on Him, and He is my Rock, then the sand can blow around all it wants. It can shift and it can change all it wants; but if He is solid, then I am standing firm.
Dennis: And so, what is the most important thing?
Gloria: He is faithful. He’s so faithful, and He’s good. It’s not based on the temporary things—it’s not: “God’s good this morning, but God’s not so good at 8:15,” or “God’s not so good at 6:15, when it’s: ‘Really, is bedtime only 45 minutes away? I can’t make it that far!’” He’s good all the time.
Bob: You’ve talked to and heard from people who have bought your book—young moms who have—it’s been paradigm-shifting for them. What are you hearing back from people? What are they finding as they read through your account / your story?
Gloria: I’ve been contacted by young women. They are telling me that they didn’t realize that the gospel had so much to do with everyday life. I’ve been told by some ladies that: “I believed the gospel, and I became a Christian. Then I kind of forgot about it. I’m now realizing that all of these things in God’s Word actually apply to me, every day, all day.”
They realize that compartmentalizing God into that sacred moment is not the limits that God has—God is over all of your life.
Bob: I had a friend of mine, years ago—this ties into exactly what you’re saying—who said, “I have realized that, every day, I have to repent and re-believe the gospel.” I thought, “I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about it that way, but he’s exactly right.” Every day is an ongoing reaffirmation of the fact that the gospel is true, and we live our lives in the light of that.
Dennis: Yes; and there are those moments, as we are parents, when sometimes God gives us a glimpse into our kids’ lives. There have been those times with our six, by the way, when we knew something that God was up to in their lives, but we couldn’t share the whole story. We were sitting back, kind of smiling; and we just wanted to say to our children: “You just need to trust Him. You may not see the answer today, but He is at work.
“He’s setting about a course for you / a journey for you and wants to use this in your life—long haul. The question is: ‘Will you trust Him?’” I was always pleased to get those moments because, many times, as parents, we didn’t know what was going on any more than our children did; but in those moments, it was good to have a clear picture that God was at work.
I think He’s been at work, undoubtedly, in your lives. The church now has grown to how many people there in Dubai?
Dave: On Christmas Eve, we had over a thousand. Normally it’s a little less than that; but it’s grown quickly, and we’re thankful.
Dennis: And that’s not in a churched city.
Dave: No, not at all.
Dennis: That’s in an unreached people group. God is using you guys in a great way, and we’re thrilled you’ve dropped by FamilyLife Today. I hope folks will get a copy of Glimpses of Grace because I think we all need a fresh reminder of that perspective.
Bob: Well, and if folks would like information on the ministry you’re doing in Dubai, go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for Redeemer Dubai. They can learn more about the work that you’re doing there. Of course, online, you can order a copy of Gloria’s book. Again, it’s called Glimpses of Grace. The website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also order by phone when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329 / that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I mentioned to you guys yesterday that we’re doing this anniversary thing this year. “Congratulations!” today to Erik and Meri Robinson. They live in Bowie, Maryland. They listen to WAVA. They’ve attended two Weekend to Remember® events, and they are celebrating their 22nd wedding anniversary today. So “Congratulations!” to the Robinsons on 22 years together.
Marriage/anniversary—it’s all a big deal.
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I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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