FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Gretchen Saffles: Thirsty for more?

with Gretchen Saffles | May 2, 2022
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Gretchen Saffles knows what it's like to feel overwhelmed, unable to thrive. If you're longing for more, don't miss the way to fullness and peace (at last).

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Gretchen Saffles knows what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, unable to thrive. If you’re longing for more, don’t miss the way to fullness and peace (at last).

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Gretchen Saffles: Thirsty for more?

With Gretchen Saffles
May 02, 2022
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FamilyLife Today® National Radio Version (time edited) Transcript
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Thirsty for More?

Guest: Gretchen Saffles
From the series: Gretchen Saffles: A Tall Drink of Water (Day 1 of 2)
Air date: May 2, 2022

David: Hey, real quick before I pass it to Dave and Ann, this is David Robbins, president at FamilyLife®. I wanted to take a moment to let you know about an incredible opportunity we have. This month of May, several generous friends of FamilyLife have come together to create a matching challenge of them wanting the message of God’s Word and His help and hope found around marriage and family to go to more people. They want to encourage others to join in and give so that it can go further to more families around the world.

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Gretchen: In that moment, Christ might be calling me not to fold my laundry but to spend time with my son, who needs to hear the gospel/who needs to have his heart encouraged and comforted. He may be calling me to bake dinner for my neighbor, who just had a baby. It's really aligning ourselves each day, going: “God, what have You called me to do in this moment?” and “What are the things that I need to surrender and to leave undone?”

Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.

Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our FamilyLife app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Okay, so you've preached a lot over the years—30 years of preaching—but you have what you call a Theology of It. Talk about that.

Dave: Yes—the Theology of It—you've never heard of it? Anybody ever heard of it?

Gretchen: No.

Dave: The Theology of It is—and I think everybody has this; we just don't know it—we have some thing that's it: that if we get it, we'll be happy.

I mean, you can go through a journey—I can go through my whole life—I remember when I was like six or seven years old, I begged my mom for a Sting-Ray bike. Anybody remember Sting-Ray bikes?

Ann: I had one. It was like the most exciting thing in my life.

Dave: Was it: it?

Ann: It was it.

Dave: That’s it; it was not it.

Ann: No; but it was it for a day.

Dave: You get it—and you ride it for a while—and then you're like, “Well, then…”

Anyway, you get through a whole life: I remember when I got to high school; it’s like, “If I could get a college scholarship…”; and I got it. I thought it was it; and for a moment, it is; and you go through the whole thing.

And honey, I’ve got to say I thought, at one point, you were it.

Ann: Wait; I'm not; what happened?

Dave: You're amazing; [Laughter] but there's no thing, or person, or amount of money that can be it. But you sort of think—that's why I call it the Theology of It—“If I just have it, then I'll be happy.” So here's the question: “Is there an it?”

Ann: I think so. I mean, I think that's where we're going today; but I think Jesus is the it. And when we find Him, He really is the fulfiller of our soul, of our story, of everything.

Dave: And I think every other search will leave us empty—not saying those things are bad; they're actually wonderful: even you and our marriage, it's awesome—but it isn't the end of the well; it's like we're still searching for something.

I just brought up a word—

Ann: I know.

Dave: —that will introduce our guest today.

Ann: Gretchen Saffles is with us. Gretchen, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Gretchen: Thank you for having me; I've been so looking forward to this.

Ann: We're excited to have you!

Dave: You’re sitting over there, smiling; I'm guessing you have a Theology of It.

Gretchen: Oh, absolutely! I mean, you're saying that—and I'm going through my mind and thinking of all the its that have progressed over my life/all the things that I thought:

• “If I just had that thing,” or “…was in this season of my life, I would have fulfillment and joy; and finally, the peace that I'm longing for.” And then you get that thing, and it falls apart really fast.
• Or that person that you wanted to take notice of you; they disappoint you.
• Or that thing you wanted to accomplish; well, yes, you've accomplished it. There's more that you need to do; right?

Ann: Exactly.

Gretchen: There's the next rung on the ladder.

Ann: She gets this theology, Dave.

Gretchen: Yes, absolutely; it's infinite. It is infinite if you just keep looking, and it leads us to nothing. I mean, it goes back to Ecclesiastes and Solomon preaching that it's all vanity if you don’t have Jesus.

Ann: Yes.

Gretchen: But when you do have Jesus, those its in this life, they actually become something that makes us enjoy Him more. He is the well that always satisfies and never runs dry. I've come to realize that those things in my life I actually can enjoy them more when my fulfillment is in Christ/when my satisfaction is in Him and all that He's done for me.

Ann: Well, you've written a book about this—really, it’s kind of that It Theology, in a way—it's called The Well-Watered Woman. You are the creator of Give Me Jesus Quiet Time. You're the founder of this global online women's ministry called Well-Watered Women.

Dave: —and a mom.

Ann: Yes, a mom.

Dave: —and pregnant.

Gretchen: Yes!

Dave: Alright; so you've got two boys at home,

Gretchen: Yes.

Dave: Are you having a third boy?

Gretchen: Third girl!

Dave: Wow!

Ann: Third one’s a girl.

Dave: Maybe that's it. [Laughter]

Gretchen: I think that may be it in a lot of different ways. [Laughter]

But really though—I mean, coming back to that—I always dreamed of having a girl. When I found out the first time I was having a boy, I was sad. I'm going to be totally honest; I was like, “God, I just thought it was going to be a girl.” Then I had this boy, and I fell in love with him.

And then the second time around—pregnant—I'm like, “This is a girl.” Find out it's a boy. The day I found out, I just wept. I wept; I was going, “Lord, I thought this was going to be a girl.” God had to show me—He pried my fingers open that that was my it—I thought, “If I just have this little girl that I've always dreamed of, I'm going to have this satisfaction.”

And you know—that Theology of It—it sneaks in. It sneaks in, in ways that you just don't realize, until something exposes it; and you realize. For me, it was realizing:
• “Okay, I'm going to be a boy mom”; and God exposing that I had really idolized having a girl someday; I’d really idolized that.
• And that the gifts that God is giving me, they are good gifts. And that the greatest gift of all is to know Jesus. It's not to have the things I want in this world, because He knows that they're not going to satisfy. We live in a world that's broken; we walk through brokenness. Even those things that we get—that we think, “Oh, this is it,”—in the end, it's not.

Dave: I think what you're saying is important, because even knowing the Theology of It—and like Ann said, I preached it for 30 years—people in my church are like, “Oh, Dave's going into his Theology of It again,” every year. Even if you know it, we still do it.

Ann: Well, that's what I was—

Dave: We know Jesus is it—and yet, it's like, “Oh, yes; but if I get five more RPMS…”—

Gretchen: Yes.

Dave: —or “…five more feet…” or “…1000 more square feet…” We end up, still thinking [of a new it]. And then, like you said, something happens; we go, “Oh, yes; what am I doing?”

Ann: I think we, as women, can do it, especially in relationships. Like you're talking about—a child, or a husband, or spouse—and it is this drift. Like I knew Jesus/I had Jesus, but I feel like, when I was taking my eyes off of Him, they automatically go to—and for me, it was you, Dave [Laughter], thinking: “If you would just get your stuff together…” that was the it. “If you would act like this…” or “If you would do this…” “If our marriage could look like this…then I could be happy.” It was this slow little drift.

I think that's how our walk with God can be—it's just a slow pulling away—we don't even realize it; but suddenly, we're finding and looking for something else besides Him. And so let's kind of get into this today.

Dave: Yes; I mean, because in some ways, this is what well-watered woman is; right?

Gretchen: Exactly.

Dave: Explain that. What is a well-watered woman? And I'm guessing it would be the same as a well-watered man.

Gretchen: Yes, absolutely; absolutely.

First, you have to go into: “What does it mean not to be a well-watered woman or a well-watered man?” Really, it's life apart from Christ, living the dried-up life that's seeking after the fruitless things of this world that we think will satisfy/we think will give us joy, and contentment, and peace, and all the things that are in our heart. There's this void/this ache in our hearts for more, and it can only be satisfied in Christ, our Savior. Apart from Christ, we're seeking; we're striving; we're looking around for all these things—and yet, it leads to nothing—it leads to vanity.

But in Christ, when we come to know Him/when we come to the end of ourselves, we find everything in Him. The well-watered woman is rooted deeply in God's Word. Her identity is in her Maker, not in the things that she can accomplish, but in all that He has done on the cross for her. She can set aside this empty pursuit of striving/of trying to measure up to the standards of this world that are impossible; they're impossible. Even the standards that we place for ourselves, I mean, we see that we cannot. Christ is the One who did everything: He lived the life we couldn't live; He died the death we deserved to die in order that we could have true, abundant life in Him.

So to live the well-watered life is to realize that we are nothing apart from Him; and that the things this world has to offer, really, is meaningless. But to know Christ—and to drink deeply from His Word; and to live out the gospel in our life; and for our hope to not be in the things that are in the present, but in heaven; and being with our Savior/with our God forever, that's the hope that roots us and keeps us going in this world.

Ann: I'm listening, like, “Yes! Yes!” And I'm sure our listeners are like, “Yes! Yes!”; but it can also be hard—

Gretchen: —so hard.

Ann: —even for you. You talk about having a panic attack on a plane. Take us back there, because you knew Jesus at this time.

Gretchen: I did.

Ann: So what happens that we aren't living this life that Jesus has promised us?

Gretchen: Yes; even as a believer, we can get caught up in this pursuit of more, even the pursuit of ministry in the name of Jesus.

Ann: Yes.

Gretchen: We do so many things for Jesus and forget that He calls us to be with Him. I actually was just journaling this week; because I was having this feeling of: “I'm so behind.” I look at my—

Ann: —said every woman on the planet. [Laughter]

Gretchen: Yes; oh, my goodness: I've got two young kids at home; I run a team/a ministry; and a business. I'm—

Ann: —you’re pregnant.

Gretchen: —married; I'm pregnant. And just even looking at the house—I was telling my husband [mournfully], “I'm so behind!”—I literally can't keep up with the laundry, and that's just like one teeny tiny thing in our house. [Laughter]

As I was just praying about it, and kind of laying out all of these things that I was feeling behind on, I wrote down that: “You cannot fall behind when you are following Jesus.”

Ann: See just that right there—

Gretchen: Yes.

Ann: —you cannot fall behind.

Gretchen: So when we are in step with Him, He doesn't call us to have perfectly-folded laundry every single day to do every single thing. And you know, in that moment, Christ might be calling me, not to fold my laundry, but to spend time with my son, who needs to hear the gospel/who needs to have his heart encouraged and comforted. He may be calling me to bake dinner for my neighbor, who just had a baby.

It's really aligning ourselves each day and going: “God, what have You called me to do in this moment?” and “What are the things that I need to surrender and to leave undone?” There's a quote just about how the Christian life is about knowing what to leave undone, and really it is!

Ann: Yes.

Gretchen: It's going: “What do I leave behind, Jesus, so I can follow You faithfully today? And He doesn't leave us behind; He doesn't go, “Oh, you were going too slow. I cannot keep up with you,”—like—“You are just too slow.”

As a matter of fact, I think we go too fast in this world.

Ann: Oh, yes.

Gretchen: This is the pandemic that everybody is facing—is this pandemic of hustle, and hurry, and keeping up—social media is not helping that, because we're connected all the time with people and what they're doing; and we lose connection with our Savior.

Dave: I watch Ann: it's really hard for her to let something drop—whether it's the kids, meals, food, you name it—I’m guessing, Gretchen, you're the same way. So how do women especially—and you wrote a book for women—

Gretchen: Right.

Dave: —“How do you put the priority right?”—where: “Okay, you know what? The laundry doesn't matter right now; spending time with my son does.” You know that;—

Gretchen: Yes.

Dave: —how do you do that?

Gretchen: Yes.

Dave: Do you do that?

Gretchen: Not all the time. [Laughter] I want to be completely honest. It's hard; it's a day-by-day surrender to the Lord.

One of the things that I was thinking about recently is I have a very busy life—and I know everybody listening, talking to you guys, we all have our own busy lives—but I was actually reading my Bible the other day, and it was so hard to make myself stop. I mean, I just was like: “Uh, I need to do all of these other things, but I know this is important.”

But even after I spent that time with the Lord, I just realized: “This is the non-negotiable.” I mean, my heart was ready for the day after just stopping and realizing that the world is going to keep spinning—God’s going to keep things in motion if I am not doing constantly—He calls me to be still, and that's where He guides my steps.

Ann: Well, I think what can happen, too, is we can feel like: “I'm falling behind,”—and I can say this too, “I feel like I'm failing,”—and that can generally slip into, then, “I'm a failure.”

Gretchen: Right.

Ann: Or it/then, it slips into identity issues. You talk about these identity issues; you call them identity roots—I thought that was interesting—and you talk about the rotten roots. What are those rotten identity roots that we say or believe?

Shelby: You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Gretchen Saffles on FamilyLife Today. We're going to hear Gretchen's response in just a minute. But first, I wanted to let you know about a special group of people who make conversations like today’s possible; they're called FamilyLife Partners. It's a community of people, who believe in our mission, and give financially every month.

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Alright, now back to Dave and Ann with Gretchen Saffles and those rotten identity roots that can alter what we believe about ourselves.

Gretchen: A lot of those come out in our Theology of It; those are exposed whenever we start to realize: “Wait; I thought that was going to satisfy me.”

Our life is constant sanctification. God is constantly working—chiseling at our heart, uprooting these rotten beliefs—thinking that: “I have to be perfect all the time; or God's going to be disappointed in me, and He's going to abandon me.” That’s a rotten root.

And going back to the panic attacks—because you mentioned that about the plane—and I know that there's somebody listening, who is dealing with that; it's so common. And I had a lot of rotten roots that I was believing at that time. I felt like I had to do everything, and I had to do it well. I was a young mom; had a one-year-old. We were taking him on a mission trip overseas; because “I can do it; I've got this under control.” I was working constantly. We, actually, we're about to have a foreign exchange student come live with us. I mean, we were doing it all.

Ann: Gretchen, you were doing everything.

Gretchen: We were doing it all, and they were good things; right?

Ann: Yes, exactly.

Gretchen: You know: “If it's a good thing, then that's a ‘Yes’”; but that's a lie.

Ann: “I'm serving Jesus, and I have to do it all.” “If I don't…”—what?

Gretchen: —“then it's not going to happen,”—“Then things are going to fall apart.” That's such a lie. We begin to think that we are the savior—that: “If we're not doing the work…” “If we're not reaching out to people…” “If we're not writing, or speaking, or sharing, or encouraging, then how is God going to get it done?!”; right?

Ann: Yes.

Gretchen: And that can easily slip into our thinking. Or leading Bible study at church: “If I'm not doing it, who's going to do it?” “If I'm not volunteering, who's going to volunteer?”

Ann: That's so interesting. I was a young mom, and I was leading and started our women's ministry at our church. I really felt God was saying, “I want you to take this time away, and I want you to focus on your boys,” I think/I think CJ had just turned 13, and so our youngest was 8.

I was telling this woman—she was a mentor of mine; she came into town—and I said, “I just feel like, if I don't do this, it's going to fall apart.” She looks at me and she said, “Wow, you must really be something.”

Gretchen: Yes.

Ann: I said, “What do you mean?” She goes, “If God can't replace you, you must really be something.” [Laughter] I was so convicted. [Laughter] I mean, the next day, I was like, “I'm done.”

It was so sweet; because I remember my eight-year-old saying, “Mom, so are you not doing that?” And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with working moms—like we're all called, and we're doing things that God called us to—but I remember him saying, “Thank you for doing that for me.” I was like, “Oh my goodness.” [Laughter]

Gretchen: Wow.

Ann: I think that's important, though, to realize God's got you; and God can fulfill these things, even if you're not there or doing it.

Dave: I'll just add—watching Ann in that moment—she was building an incredible women’s ministry. I was watching her; it was like: “You are an incredible leader of women. You got thousands of women mobilized in our church for this ministry.”

And then I can see what it's doing to our family; I can see what it's doing to you; I can see what the boys used to say, “All Mom does is walk around the kitchen with a phone in her hand.” [Laughter] They said that; and back then, it was a corded phone, so we, literally, got an extended cord that would go like 20 feet in our kitchen. I'm like, “That's a bad sign.”

Gretchen: Yes.

Dave: The next day, she quit. I mean,—

Ann: And you know what? Nobody replaced me for a while,—

Gretchen: Yes.

Ann: —because we are all young moms; we're all busy; people are working; and so—but I mean it still, later, thrived; and God’s in control of that stuff.

Dave: God didn’t need us.

Gretchen: God kept it going.

Ann: Yes.

Gretchen: It's amazing when we shift our mentality—

Ann: It’s amazing what God can do without us. [Laughter]

Gretchen: Exactly! And we realize he invites us in. He's not going:—

Ann: It’s a gift.

Gretchen: “If you stop doing this, it's going to fall apart. How will those people come to know Me? How will they?” But it's so easy, in ministry, to start thinking—and just life in general—that: “If I don't do this, this is not going to happen.”

Dave: How did you get out of the panic attack? I mean, is that something that a decision to change the way you thought and got/find life changed that?

Gretchen: Years—years of decisions—years. This is not something that just—and sometimes, God does this miraculous work in somebody's life and that just, all of a sudden, they just/it clicks—and they walk in freedom from addiction, from panic, from anxiety. But that's not what it was for me. It was this slow uprooting, and it felt like things were just unraveling. All of my its that I thought I had:
• “Oh, I'm in ministry; that's my it,” like, “God is providing.”
• “I've got this great marriage; that's my it.”
• “I have a little boy that I love; that's my it.”
• And you know, “I'm healthy; that's my it.”

But then, all these things started to just unravel. My health started to unravel.

Ann: I want to read some of these rotten roots, because I think every listener will be able to relate to some or one of these. One of them is:
• What others think of you is more important than what God thinks of you.

Oh, man. Another is:
• You have to mask your hurt with a happy face.
• True beauty is determined by your weight, skin color, and size.

Another one is:
• In order to be successful, you must be constantly productive and never take a break.

Gretchen: Yes.

Ann: I mean, I think all of us can relate to one of those, at one point or another, in our lives for sure.

Gretchen: Yes; and when I was writing those, and pinpointing them, it was because those are all the ones that I believed.

Ann: Yes.

Gretchen: That's what I've struggled with. I struggled with that when I was in the throes of panic attacks/when I walked through an eating disorder. All of those rotten roots, they eventually manifest in our actions and in the things that we are doing. Our thoughts and the things that we are believing will actually change how we act/the decisions that we make.

We want our thoughts to be rooted in God's Word. We want that to be what comes out in our lives, and so it's God's grace to expose these rotten roots.

Ann: We're going to continue this conversation. But if you had to do one application for our listeners, what would you say?

Gretchen: I would encourage them to not be afraid to expose the rotten roots. I had somebody/I remember, even when I was walking through it—being so ashamed of my rotten roots that I had believed—because: “I'm a Christian;—

Ann: Yes, and so we hide them.

Gretchen: —“I shouldn't believe these,” “I shouldn't be struggling with this.” I was so ashamed; it kept me from fellowship and from true freedom in Jesus.

I would encourage people not to be ashamed—God already knows—He already loves you in Christ Jesus, and He has set you free; but you can't be free while you're in hiding. In that exposure, we find freedom in Christ.

Ann: I'm thinking of Isaiah 53:5, which you mentioned, “By His wounds we are healed.”

Gretchen: His wounding was for our healing.

Ann: Yes.

Shelby: That's Dave and Ann Wilson talking with Gretchen Saffles on FamilyLife Today. You can get a copy of Gretchen's book, Well-Watered Woman, at; or by calling 1-800-358-6329; that's 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

If you know of anyone who needs to hear today's important conversation, you can share it from wherever you get your podcasts. And while you're there, it’d really help if you rate and review us.

So how do we actually spend time reading the Bible and have our spiritual batteries refilled when life is busy, and you have young kids at home? Seems impossible—right?—sometimes or all the time; doesn't it? Well, tomorrow, Dave and Ann are going to be talking, again, with Gretchen Saffles to help you get on the solution side of getting time in the Word when life is busy, and with little ones in the home. That's coming up tomorrow; we hope you can join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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