About the Guest
Feeling empty? Sometimes the only way to fill an empty spot left by an old affection is to replace it with a greater affection. Dannah Gresh encourages those who find themselves spiritually dry and emotionally whipped to immerse themselves in the Scriptures and begin to see themselves and their circumstances through God's eyes. Dannah shares how a difficult summer, filled with unexpected trials, had her wondering if God could really be trusted. As she listed the things she saw God doing in her life she realized once again that God, indeed, is enough.
Sometimes the only way to fill an empty spot left by an old affection is to replace it with a greater affection. Dannah Gresh encourages those who feel spiritually dry a to immerse themselves in the Scriptures.
Bob: Dannah Gresh says that 2013 was a difficult year for her. Among other things, it included a trip to the emergency room with her husband, Bob, who had apparently had a stroke.
Dannah: That was one of the scariest days of my life, being in the hospital, with Bob being pronounced as having a mini-stroke; and you know, not knowing, “Will there be after-effects?” That night, I go home. I go for a walk in the moonlight, and I just worshipped the Lord.
I was choosing to do what Peter did. I was going to walk on the waves. We’re not asked to walk on the waves, in the bright of the day, when the water’s calm. We’re asked to step out in the darkness when the waves are high. I just chose that. And the next several weeks were just fantastic—still hard—but fantastic as I was just walking on the waves.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, January 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
What does the Bible mean when it says that God is our Refuge and our Strength? Dannah Gresh talks about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, there’s a book that a Puritan writer wrote, a number of years ago, called Expulsive Power of a New Affection. It’s the idea that, sometimes, the things that we attach our hopes and our dreams to will not satisfy. What we really need is a new affection. What we need is to find our life in Christ and the power of His love to cast out lesser loves.
Dennis: And, frankly, that’s what changed my life, as a 20-year-old—moving from my sophomore year in college to my junior year—was I ran into a greater affection. And the love of God tracked me down and turned me away from myself—
maybe, better-said—began the process of turning me away from myself.
Bob: You’re not completely there yet; are you?
Dennis: I’m not done! But we have a guest with us today, who has written a book, really, that has a little different title than that Puritan writer. [Laughter]
Bob: It’s a similar thought, but—you just called yours Get Lost; right?
Dannah: I just got to the heart of it. [Laughter]
Dennis: Dannah Gresh joins us on FamilyLife Today. Give us a thumbnail sketch of your book because I want to talk about how we do find God and how you instruct women to do that, in the book. First of all, explain your premise of what the book’s all about.
Dannah: Well, it’s really about overcoming our tendencies to reach out for loves that aren’t enough and to get lost in God’s love. Being lost really connotates that you’re absent from something—absent from where you think you’re supposed to be. In the context of this book, it’s really being absent of yourself—absent of your own ambitions, your own desires, your own plans, your own manipulations—so that you can be overcome and overwhelmed with God’s great plan for your life.
Dennis: It’s a part of what Jesus commanded us to do in denying ourselves—picking up our cross and following Him; right?
Dannah: That’s exactly right. And, the way that I do it—the process I use—is by asking the reader to submit to ten days of feasting on God’s love. That’s what I call it—The Love Feast—just feasting on His word / on worship. I give them meat each day for specific areas that we, as women, struggle in the areas of love. That means, for the single woman, to take guys off the table—to stop feasting on the things that aren’t going to, ultimately, fulfill you.
It’s just like if I were going to fast from carbs—since I over-carb, from time to time. I start eating vegetables and broccoli. My body starts to become satisfied by the lettuce, and the broccoli, and the meat, and the healthy things.
I’m able to get myself back in balance. That’s what we need to do with our love-lives, I think—feast on what is truly-nourishing to our souls so that we can have these other things—these other gifts from God—in proper balance.
Bob: You really are talking, in this book, about how true love is found only and fully when we have our relationship with Jesus in first-place—in the priority-spot in our lives. When that’s a healthy relationship, it does cause the rest of life to—not be perfect and not be idealized—but it puts it all in the right perspective; doesn’t it.
Dannah: It does. You know, I’ve just been through a real season of hardship. Having just released this book in April, and writing about getting lost in God’s love, not only means that we have the benefits of seeing ourselves in His eyes and feeling empowered by His love, but we also have the courage to face the sacrifices that He calls us to make.
We have the courage to trust Him in the darkest of times. I’d just written about that. I’ve certainly done it many times in my life—as all three of us have—but to release the book, and to be in this place of promoting the book, and doing radio interviews, and writing blogs, and then, go through a season of God saying: “Okay, do you really trust Me? Am I truly your Friend? because we’re going to test that out,” was really hard.
Bob: How has it been tested for you?
Dannah: Well, first, you should know that I knew and I have known, many times, that God’s Spirit is my Friend. I write in the book about getting lost in His friendship. Many people know when Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit to the church. He said this—He said, “I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.”
And the word, Comforter, there was the Greek word, Paraclete. It means “Friend”—“I’m going to give you another Friend.” But, so many times, I don’t think we think of God—the friendship of God—necessarily, as being comfort—but that’s what His intention was there.
This summer—I have three great kids. I have an awesome husband—I have this fantastic, burgeoning ministry, Secret Keeper Girl, going across the nation. Our biggest problem is: “How do we manage the growth?”
I live on a little farm—10-acre farm. It’s what I’ve dreamed of my whole life—to have a horse. I have two beautiful horses, and fainting goats, and peacocks that come up on the deck and get peanuts every day. It’s just heaven. I’ve been saying for two years: “This is just too perfect. It’s just too perfect.”
Well, shortly after I released the book, it just all started to fall apart. I want to preface this by saying that many people, listening, are in full-out hurricanes in their lives, right now. What I’m going to describe is not that.
I haven’t faced the horrible loss of a spouse or a child. I’m not facing bankruptcy, or debt—divorce. There are so many much deeper, painful things than what I’ve been through; but there are seasons where it’s just a lot of little things. It was just that. There was a deep betrayal in our ministry. I came into a season of—hopeful, summer of rest—instead, I was working, along with my husband, 12- and 16-hour days to compensate.
I was tired, but I was trusting the Lord. I was living out the truth of this book, and I felt this peace. Then, our sweet Lexi was just sick all the time—tired/fatigued. We still don’t know what’s wrong with her. She’s been to every doctor you can imagine / every specialist you can imagine. “There is nothing okay,”—in a mama’s heart—you would think—when your baby’s sick and nobody knows what’s wrong.
Dannah: And then, in the middle of that, my husband has a mini-stroke.
I’m just like: “Really, Lord, this is bad timing! Could this happen at another time?” But I want you to know—that was one of the scariest times of my life, being in the hospital, with Bob being pronounced as having a mini-stroke. You know—not knowing, “Will there be after-effects?”
But that night—Bob’s in the hospital. I go home. I go for a walk in the moonlight, and I just worship the Lord. I was choosing to do what Peter did—I was going to walk on the waves. We’re not asked to walk on the waves, in the bright of the day, when the water’s calm. We’re asked to step out in the darkness, when the waves are high. I just chose that. The next several weeks were just fantastic—still hard—but fantastic, as I was just walking on the waves.
And then, my last baby left. I became an empty-nester.
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Dannah: And oh, my goodness.
Dennis: You got fired; didn’t you?
Dannah: It felt like that—I mean, I just—my life was just sucked out of me. Purpose was just sucked out of me. I’ve always thought I was going to be the mom that hit empty nests and be like: “Yay!! I put the dishes away in the right place, and they never did!”—you know? I love my independence, and I love being alone, and I just thought I’d be okay. I wasn’t okay.
And just 24 hours after my last baby got on a plane and left, our sweet puppy, our eight-year-old dog, suddenly, just died. And that was it. The wave-walker sunk that day because that was just the door that all the grief could come out through.
Having read Barbara’s book on empty-nesters, I knew that you’re supposed to take a vacation when all the children leave and kind of recalibrate. So, that day—that the dog died, we were scheduled—I can’t even call her “the dog”—she’s Stormy—like, she’s not the dog—she’s Stormy. She was a member of our family.
And Bob and I got in the car, anyway—both of us crying.
Bob: That was the day you left to get away.
Dannah: That was the day scheduled for our vacation. And we just cried for a week. We just took turns crying. There were times when the grief—it comes in waves. The waves are just so high and so suffocating. You can’t breathe under them. I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone, right now, listening, who that grief is a much greater grief—what their walk is like right now.
But I have to tell you that, for about three weeks, I didn’t believe what was in this book. I didn’t believe that getting lost in God—and His sacrifice and in His comfort—was possible. It hurt just too deeply. Again, none of these were big storms—there were just too many of them at one time.
I mean, guys, one day, I walked into the house; and there was a snake behind my sofa! I’m not even telling you half the stuff. It was just the season of trial.
You know what I asked on the vacation? “God, how can You make this work together for good? I don’t believe that You can. How can You make this summer of hard stuff work together for good? How can You make the timing—why was my sweet furry friend lost the day after my nest was empty?” I just didn’t believe it.
But I chose to do what Peter did—and that is when he sunk. I reached out; and I said: “I can’t walk on this. So, will you hold me up?” I thought so much about John the Baptist—in the prison when he was about to be beheaded—because he proclaimed the truth about who Jesus was. He sends a message. He says, “Are you really Him?” In his moment of martyrdom, he questions. I thought, “Okay, if John can question, I can question.”
And I just kept sending God questions: “Are You good? Are You good in this? Will I be okay?” Then, I remembered that I had written the words—that we’re supposed to trust Him when what happens in our lives isn’t what we desire—and nothing about this summer was anything I desired.
Psalm 73 says, “Who have I in heaven but You, and earth has nothing I desire besides You.” I had to say, “Lord, You are enough.” Just like I did, as a 20-year-old in college, “You are enough.” Here’s where it turned for me. I was keeping a list. We tend to keep a list during hard times of all the things that are wrong; right? “My sweet puppy’s gone. My kids are gone. I’ve been betrayed.” God said: “You’re keeping the wrong list. Can you not see everything I’ve done for you in the last three or four weeks?”
I have to confess to you that I just wrote this list three days ago—
but I sat down. I began to write a list of all the things that I could thank God for—and I could thank Him. I could say, “Thank you, Lord, that though the doctors don’t know what’s wrong with my baby, You are a Great Physician who loves her more than any of us do; and You know.”
Before I knew it, I had covered pages in my journal of thanks. All I can say is this—that when it says that He is our Comforter, it is true—because I sat down, at the end of several weeks of deep darkness—and when I wrote that list, I stood up; and I was okay. I knew what it was like to experience joy and peace in the Lord.
I’ve just been walking, in these last few days, of a certainty that what I’ve written in this book is so true. It’s great that I’ve learned it so many times through the years—but to be able to present the book to someone—in their hurt, and their wound, and their sacrifice—and to say: “It’s true. I know it’s true because I’m walking in it right now.” As you’ve said, getting lost in God doesn’t mean everything’s going to be okay.
Dannah: Everything in my life, right now, is not okay; but I’m okay because He’s enough.
Dennis: What I love about that story is—it reminds us that it’s okay, as a follower of Jesus Christ, to doubt—even go a step beyond doubt. You said this twice—you said you didn’t believe—which is a step beyond doubt. You stopped believing, and we have those moments.
Let’s face it—we do have those moments when feelings take over, when we forget who God is—we forget what He’s done. We haven’t rehearsed how He’s blessed us—how He’s given to us. There ought to be comfort for those who have stepped out of the boat and sunk. He knows who we are. He knows how frail we are.
And it’s interesting—Dannah—one of the hardest summers Barbara and I have ever had, in our 41 years of marriage—was when we became empty-nesters.
We had just finished a season that—if it wasn’t a hurricane, it was tropical-forest winds.
Dannah: Or a lot of tornados.
Dennis: Yes. I mean, it wasn’t minor stuff. He meets us at our point of unbelief—at our point of doubt—and He’s pursuing us. And that’s what you just reminded us of—the Holy Spirit is there. He hasn’t left you. He won’t leave you—if you’re a true follower of Christ—if you’ve placed your faith in Him.
That’s what happened in your life. I can just tell you—having watched my wife go through a deep struggle, coming out of the empty-nest—that, although, there’s rich blessings in raising kids—there’s also some phenomenal blessings on the other side—as you and Bob share a vision, together, for the rest of your lives. He’s not done with you.
Dannah: Amen. I need to hear that.
Bob: You know, back to the thesis of what you’re writing to women about in this book—we’re talking about how our life is in better alignment when we have our relationship with God in the priority position. You start the book by talking about being boy-crazy and how you had put your relationship with Bob ahead of your relationship with God, as a young woman.
Really, all of life is this constant battle to keep other things clear. I think of the fact that John ends his first epistle with the one statement, “Little children, keep yourself from idols,”—which seems like a funny last line to a letter; especially, when you’re writing to people, in the first century, who didn’t have little engraved statues around the house. But this issue of idolatry is what robs us of joy, and purpose, and meaning. Yet, it’s so easy to let things slide in because things advertise themselves as newer, better, faster, shinier: “This will bring the peace and joy to your life that you don’t have today;” right?
Dannah: Yes; they do. The confusing, hard thing about it all is—He is the giver of good gifts and that every good and perfect gift comes from God the Father. What we can’t do—in our seasons of embracing His plan, which, sometimes, requires sacrifice—and embracing His desire, even when it hurts, it takes you through hard times, and loss, and sacrifice—is forget that. And I did—during this past trial. I forgot that He was a good giver of gifts. I kind of got into a place of false martyrdom—where I wasn’t useful for the kingdom because I was just so busy licking my wounds.
So, in the middle of all this, I’m crying. My husband said: “It’s just going to take time, baby. We just need time;” and I said: “No! I think we need a puppy.” [Laughter]
Dannah: On the way home from our vacation—which was really a mourning of releasing our children and also establishing vision for: “What is the future?”—we picked up a puppy. You know, that puppy is, to me—you could just stamp a Bible verse on him because he is a reminder, to me, that, even in our hard times, God is the Giver of all good things. We can never stop praising Him because, even in the hardest of times, there’s something that we can thank Him for.
Bob: You wrap up your book by telling the story of a woman named Katie Meyers. You talk about what it means to be lost in God’s proposal. You start your pursuit of God by saying—inviting Him to come near, to draw near, to come get you. You end your ten-day journey in drawing closer to God with God’s proposal. What is that?
Dannah: Well, it’s really that invitation that He makes for us to join our lives with Him and spend our lives with Him. For Katie Meyers—I met Katie in a diner. She was a Penn State student, who’d read one of my books. She was boy-crazy, and her heart was broken by it.
When I met her at this diner, she talked the language of the church; but God just kept saying, in His Spirit, because the Spirit is so alive and well in me: “Tell her about Nicodemus.” I thought: “But she’s already born again. She already knows about that.” “No, no, no. Tell her about Nicodemus.”
And so I said, “Katie, I want to read a story to you.” I read her the story of Nicodemus. She said, “What does it mean to be born again?” I thought: “Are you kidding me? She’s talking the language of the church—she’s a youth leader. She goes to church—Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. She’s active in her ministry on campus. What?”
And that night, she came to know Jesus. Katie said to me, just weeks later: “You know, Jesus proposed to me that night. He asked me to spend my life with Him.” Katie ended up being this phenomenal missionary, who went to the uttermost ends of the earth—spending herself because she was God-crazy, not boy-crazy.
Her story is just so great. It was a sacrifice for her to choose that. She wanted to be loved by a guy, but being loved by Jesus was enough. That’s the proposal He makes to us. It’s a proposal He makes to me, as a middle-aged woman—as I faced loss and heartache this summer. But I still understand that the glory of my life is spending it with Jesus—not Bob, not my kids, not my ministry—but whatever He calls me to.
Bob: Not even your puppy.
Dannah: Not even my puppy. [Laughter]
Dennis: Even though he has a Bible verse stamped on his—[Laughter]
You know, what you’re saying, though, is so right because all of life is really one long process of losses. Now, there are gains along the way—tons of gains—but there are a lot of losses in life. We start out so idealistic about, maybe, our marriage, our family, our kids, or relationships. I think God is removing our hope from being things that we see to moving our heart to trusting things we don’t see.
What you’re talking about is a realignment of where your hope is: “Are you placing it in God?” It is okay to go through unbelief. It is okay to doubt, but what you need to do is not get controlled or defined by your circumstances. If there’s anything that irritates me about myself—is how quickly my life can be defined by my circumstances or by my emotions.
The Scriptures call us out of that. The Scriptures call us to believe God is there—He’s at work. You don’t know all that He’s up to, in the circumstances you’re facing; but you are called, in the midst of that, to trust in Him. There’s faith in becoming a Christian. There’s faith in being a Christian. You can’t live the Christian life without faith. That’s really what you’re calling people to do.
I just appreciate you being on our broadcast and challenging our listeners to make sure they’re getting lost in the right thing—and not getting lost in stuff, or in lesser loyalties, or in lesser affections. Dannah, thanks for sharing your journey with us. We appreciate you.
Dannah: My privilege.
Bob: And I’ll just mention, here, that we’ve got copies of your latest book, which is called Get Lost, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information about how to get a copy of Dannah’s book, Get Lost.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY: 1-800-358-6329. That is 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Now, as we wrap up the first few days of the new year—and this kind of the end of the holiday season—we want to say, “Thanks,” to those of you who made an end-of-the-year contribution to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We could not do what we do without folks, like you, pitching in. We appreciate the many listeners who got in touch with us and made a contribution as 2013 was coming to a close.
We are still getting some checks in the mail and waiting to process all of this before we can give you a final count on how things went, but we are grateful for your financial support. We look forward to a great 2014 together. We have a lot planned; and we hope you’ll be right there, alongside of us, throughout the year.
So again, thanks for your financial support. We appreciate hearing from you.
And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend.
I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to hear from pastor and author, Stu Weber, as we talk about the essential ingredients that go into biblical masculinity: “What is it that makes a man a man?” We’ll hear from Stu Weber on that subject Monday. Hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and 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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