FamilyLife Today® Podcast

I’m Angry. Does God Care? Vivian & Darrin Mabuni

with Darrin And Viv Mabuni | April 19, 2024
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Is it okay to be angry at God? When life crumbles, anger, resentment, and depression surface. Is there relief beyond Netflix and chocolate? Authors Vivian and Darrin Mabuni share their journey of bringing anger to God for relief. Vivian is also one of FamilyLife's guest contributors to the all-new Art of Marriage group study! To learn more or order your copy, visit

  • 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.

Is it okay to be angry at God? Instead of running to Netflix and chocolate, authors Vivian and Darrin Mabuni share their journey of bringing anger to God for relief.

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I’m Angry. Does God Care? Vivian & Darrin Mabuni

With Darrin And Viv Mabuni
April 19, 2024
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Vivian: God always intended that we live life in community. I think that was one of the biggest unexpected lessons, but definitely shifted things inside me.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: I had this illustration the other day, and I know you know the same thing. We have a grand puppy.

Vivian: Oh, a grand puppy!

Dave: Our son and daughter-in-law—

Ann: —several, actually. [Laughter]

Dave: Yes, that’s right, but the one that’s near us is a little Bernedoodle named Boots. Boots is the cutest little thing. I should show you a picture. We should put the picture on the show notes— [Laughter]

Vivian: Okay.

Dave: —because people want to see this little guy. But when you put a leash on him and take him for a walk, there are times when he literally just lays down [as if to say], “No, I don’t want to go anymore.” [Laughter] He just lies there, and you are dragging this little guy [saying], “We’re going to keep walking.”

Here’s the reason I brought it up. I brought it up because I thought, “That’s us!”

Ann: With God.

Dave: There are times where God [tells us], “Here’s where I’m taking you,” and we are [saying], “Nope. I don’t want to do this! I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to give this.”

Vivian: Yes.

Dave: It’s like God is [saying], “No, I know where—this is a good thing.” It’s not like we’re on a leash.

Ann: I remember when we went to seminary—Dave and I went to seminary, and I said, “You’re not thinking of being a pastor, right?” [Laughter]

“Oh, no! I will never be a pastor.”

I said, “Good, because I never planned on being married to a pastor. So, we’re not going there, correct?”

Dave: And here we are.

Ann: And there we were for 30 years. [Laughter]

Dave: “You’ve got us on the leash.”

Ann: “And we’re not going to live in Detroit, right?” [Laughter] There’s that sit down again on the leash: “I’m not going there.” Yet somehow, it ended up being some of the richest times of our lives.

Dave: The listeners are hearing Darrin and Vivian Mabuni. As you hear that analogy, I’m thinking of your book, Open Hands, Willing Heart. How does that connect?

Ann: It connects by what they shared yesterday. If you didn’t hear yesterday, go back. But you have been working with Cru for 30, how many 34—

Darrin: —thirty-four years.

Ann: —34 years. You’ve been working with college students how many years?

Vivian: We did 28 years.

Darrin: Right, 28—

Vivian: —with college ministry.

Ann: Do those students tend to sit down before God and say, “No!”

Dave: ­“No, I’m not going that way.”

Darrin: Oh, my!

Ann: All of us, right?

Vivian: I think that—

Darrin: —I know you have a story.

Vivian: Yes, human nature [is] we do; we think we know better. Typically, I’ve seen people tend to need some kind of reason to get up and go, whether it’s working out or—I think there are people who naturally want to go. That’s a whole other thing, but generally—I would say a generalization is that—we don’t like pain; we don’t like the unknown; we don’t like being out of control.

Darrin: Talk about college students. As we’ve done this, we’ve started talking with parents, because we’ve gotten older. College students stay the same age.

Ann: Yes, yes.

Darrin: I’ve had parents call me, and they say, “Our daughter is going with you guys on this mission trip. She’s just told us about it, and we don’t like this.”

All of a sudden [we’re saying], “Let’s talk about it.” But I see the parents’ point, because the students are going through—they’ve gone through their own process with the Lord, wrestling, and [they] finally came to a point where they said, “God, I will go where you want me to go.” That’s usually taken several months. They go home during Thanksgiving break and tell their parents. Then they’re shocked that their parents don’t agree.

Then it’s my job to continue to coach the student, but also, a lot of times, parents will call me, because they’ve gotten to know us. I say, “I can understand,” but then we start walking through a process of where God has them.

Ann: —the parent you mean?

Darrin: —the parent.

Ann: Ohhh.

Darrin: Them being able to be in the process to let go and allow God.

Dave: It’s hard.

Vivian: Yes.

Darrin: It’s hard, but the worst part is when it comes back to you. Here we are as parents of college students and, all of a sudden, our son is saying, “I’m going to move back into the dorm so I can do ministry.” I’m [thinking], “Do you know how much that’s going to cost?!” [Laughter]

Ann: Here you are doing ministry.

Vivian: Or they say, “I want to do a summer mission trip,” and we are saying, “I thought you were going to get an internship.” The very words that we’re hearing from the other parents are coming out of our own mouths.

Ann: Your subtitle, Viv, is Discover the Joy of Saying Yes to God. You guys have seen that personally, but you’ve also seen it in students over the years.

Vivian: Yes.

Darrin: Oh, yes!

Vivian: It’s really cool now because, when we were working with some of the students, they are now the age that we were or now, we’ve gotten so old that their kids have started college and are starting to benefit from the same experience that they had. It’s just a beautiful ongoing sweetness that comes.

But there is a joy that comes at saying yes to God. “Open hands” means that God can put things in our lives, and He can also remove things without us gripping tight. “A willing heart” is a posture of surrender. So, it’s not willful where we’re trying to do it in our own efforts. I think a lot of Christians that are trying so hard to please God and do all the right things can end up burning out when they do it in their own strength.

Darrin: Yes.

Vivian: I think we can get this weird perspective of God where [we think], “If I say yes to God that means I have to go move into a dirt hut in the middle of the Amazon and eat worms,” like this worst-case scenario thing. God probably doesn’t call a lot of us to do that, but He does call us to surrender, and He does call us to, in essence, give what’s precious to Him, to entrust to Him the things.

As life gets busier, we have more and more that we care about. When I was living in an apartment, it didn’t matter. Now that we have a home all of the sudden that matters to me more than the apartment did because there’s investment in there.

Ann: There’s more to hold on to.

Vivian: Yes.

Darrin: Yes.

Vivian: And life gets more complicated. Again, with kids that’s a whole other thing where they are walking their own paths, they’re making decisions. As parents, we’re so helpless that we continually have to surrender our kids to the Lord, and to be reminded that they aren’t ours. They’ve been entrusted to us for a short time.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I remember standing in our front window when our oldest—we had three sons, but when CJ, our oldest—got his driver’s license. I watched him drive out of our driveway. I remember standing there, and that was my thought, “I don’t like this. I think he’s going to be a dangerous driver.” [Laughter] “I know too much about this kid.”

Ann: And he was. [Laughter]

Dave: But it was one of those, “He’s Yours, and this is a good thing. This is the right thing.”

Darrin: Yes.

Dave: “He’s not only going to drive away today, but someday, he’s going to drive away to become a married man,” which he is now. But it’s that parent struggle [thinking], “I want to keep him right here.” Of course, this is the same son that backed into four cars in our driveway. [Laughter] He had four wrecks in our driveway and one in our cul-de-sac.

Vivian: Oh!

Dave: You mentioned yesterday, right at the end, [that] one of the paths that you had to walk with Jesus on was cancer. Tell us about that journey.

Ann: That’s both of you. When one of you has cancer, you’re both experiencing the pain of it. Darrin, what was that like for you when the diagnosis came? Take us back to that time. How long ago was it?

Darrin: When the diagnosis came—I’m trying to remember the timeline.

Vivian: It was three days before Christmas.

Ann: Ohhh.

Darrin: But being the great couple we are, we were fighting. [Laughter] It wasn’t just a regular fight this week. We had this ongoing thing, to the point where she went into the garage to go get—

Vivian: —to take the call.

Darren: —take the call.

Ann: Oh, so you were in the middle of it.

Vivian: Yes, and it was raining in Southern California, which is very uncommon.

Ann: Yes.

Vivian: Three days before Christmas, it was raining so hard that it sounded like a sprinkler had broken and kept whipping around. It was stormy.

Ann: How long ago was this?

Vivian: This was in 2008. It’s been, I’m grateful to say—

Dave: —so, you are in the middle of a conflict, and you have to go into the garage.

Ann: —you go out into the garage.

Vivian: —to take the call.

Darrin: I go out in the garage, and she takes the call. Being a mom at that time, too, the car in the garage was her office.

I walked in, and I could see it all over her face. She stepped out of the car, and when she said, “It’s cancer,” I just hugged her. In that moment, nothing else mattered.

Dave: Yes.

Darrin: All the fighting, being right or wrong; that didn’t matter, how we were doing. What really mattered was her and our relationship, and I didn’t care about anything else.

Vivian: He threw his arms around me and prayed a simple “God, we don’t know what’s happening. We’re scared. We want to trust You. We love You. Please help us to know that you are here.”

The crazy thing was, when we opened our eyes—we have these little windows in our garage door—in that moment, after the whole storm stuff, literally, the clouds broke through and a sun beam landed right where we stood in our garage. It was like the Lord was saying, “I’m here. I’m with you. I know what’s going on. I’ll be with you.”

That set us on a different trajectory to trust Him. But Darrin’s response was, looking back now, realizing that in the midst of him fighting for our marriage and me feeling so done, because I was so worn out. He kept wanting to talk, and I didn’t want to talk. [Laughter]

Darrin: Isn’t that odd?

Vivian: I think realizing when he promised years earlier on our wedding day “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,” that really stuck. It wasn’t about the conflict situation in our home in that moment. It was marriage is, “I’m in 100 percent. You don’t have to meet me halfway.” I was not ‘meetable,’ in a lot of ways, when I look back now.

Ann: Yes.

Darrin: You didn’t have it. You were in that place where you were in the middle of it. All I could do was be there. That was the hardest part was feeling helpless; not being able to help or fix that, or fix her, or do anything to make her better; to just be with her though the process.

Dave: Was that a long journey?

Vivian: It took nearly a whole calendar year because we went through chemo. Darrin shaved his head bald every day I was bald.

Dave: You know bald men are—

Darrin: —good looking.

Dave: Yes, they are, aren’t they?

Vivian: I have to say men can pull it off. It’s a little harder for women. [Laughter]

Ann: Exactly.

Dave: A little bit, yes.

Vivian: But Darrin shaved his head bald and chemo was just awful. After one of the rounds, the second or third round, I was in the kitchen at 2:30 in the morning getting some water, and I just slumped down. Darrin came in. He said, “Can you make it back to the bed?” I said, “I don’t think I can make it.”

He said, “Hold on,” and I heard rustling and cabinets and closet doors opening. He came back with his arms full of sleeping bags and pillows. We literally slept on the kitchen floor until the morning. It was—

Ann: —together.

Vivian: —together.

Ann: What a picture of marriage.

Vivian: Yes.

Darrin: We were camping.

Vivian: We were kitchen camping—

Dave: —in the kitchen.

Darrin: Yes.

Dave: You’ve got me crying.

Ann: Me, too. [Sniffling] I was here. We were recording when I got a similar call to say, “Ann, you have melanoma.”

Vivian: Oh, wow!

Ann: Then we had to go right from there and do an interview.

You had kids that were little. You had to live life. You had to keep going. I remember, we were going to go back to Michigan. We were recording here in Orlando. I went across the street to my neighbor—this is in my head—I went to my neighbor’s house across the street. I said, “Hi.” His name’s Roman—I said, “We’re going to be leaving for a few weeks. We’ll be back. We’ll see you soon.”

He's this great guy! He’s a Polish man. He has a little broken English. He said, “Ann, Ann, I need to tell you this picture. I woke up in the middle of the night and I looked out my window—”

Dave: You’re doing his accent pretty good.

Ann: I know— “— and I saw an angel over your house or the Holy Spirit, and I took this picture.”

Darrin: Wow!

Ann: I’m thinking, “Okay, that’s weird. What?” So, I said, “Okay.”

He said, “Let me get my phone.” He brought his phone out and showed me. And I’m telling you, it was one of the most miraculous things I’ve seen. It reminds me for you of that sunbeam coming in. To me, it was that same reminder: “I’m with you; I’m with you.”

But I had to daily, when I’d go on a walk, and I’d talk to God, it’s a total daily surrender. I want to grip my hands in absolute fear and panic, and He continues to remind me, “I’m with you; I’m with you. I love you. I see you. Don’t be afraid.”

Vivian: Yes.

Ann: I had to be reminded of that over and over. If I didn’t have Jesus, I’m not sure how I would make it through. You probably felt the same.

Darrin: Right.

Vivian: Yes, and I think in addition to [the] amazing support of family was community. That was soul-altering, because I was accustomed to wanting to help other people being in ministry, but then, to be a gracious receiver. I think our church had our garage code memorized. The refrigerator in our garage was constantly filled with meals and groceries. It was overwhelming, and it literally opened my eyes to read the Bible differently.

A familiar Scripture, Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us…let us also run with endurance the race that is set before us.” [Paraphrased] I always read that very individualistically like, “I need to fix my eyes and throw off my sin.” After this experience it was like, “Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us…let us also run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our . . .” [Emphasis added]

Ann: That’s good.

Vivian: God always intended that we would live life in community. I think that was one of the biggest unexpected lessons, but definitely shifted things inside me.

Ann: Even Darrin. Don’t you have this picture in your mind of Darrin bringing the sleeping bags and all the gear in? That is one of sweetest pictures ever.

Vivian: That’s Darrin. That is my husband.

Darrin: Here’s me, going with her to chemo, and I’m the sherpa—I’m glad because I can carry stuff. I’m good at that. [Laughter] It’s something I can do. I had taken off time from ministry. We were starting a new ministry at the time, but [I] had taken time off so I could be there.

I’m carrying all the stuff. She’s probably in the third or fourth treatment. We’re walking up the stairs. We walked inside, and everybody was so excited to see her, which is great. What a great place. When we walked through the back when she was called in everybody was saying, “Hello! Hi, Vivian. How are you?” and they’re so excited to see her.

All of a sudden, in my mind I [thought], “What about me?”

Ann: Oh!

Darrin: “I’m here. Don’t you see me?”

Ann: “I’m struggling.”

Darrin: “I’m carrying all the stuff.” [Laughter]

You could say, “Wow, Darrin! That’s some great thing that you’re doing. You are carrying all her stuff.” Next thing you know, I was thinking, “Do you know who I am?” This is all in my mind. The corridor back to the chemo treatment center is probably what, 20 to 30 feet long?” This was going through my mind, this battle thinking, “What about me? I’m somebody. Do you know who I am?”

Finally, when we got to the end, God [said]s, “I know who you are.” I was almost in tears. My heart, again: open hands, willing heart.

Dave: Your heart was tight hands, unwilling heart.

Darrin: Yes. [I was thinking], “Look at me.” [Laughter]

Dave: Yes.

Ann: That makes me cry, too, thinking, “I know who you are. I know who you are. I called you by name.”

Vivian: I think that that is the thing with caregivers is that, the person going through treatment gets all the cards, all of the encouragement, all of the fun gifts, all the “Go, go, go!”

We went to marriage counseling after the whole cancer thing, because everything was getting surfaced.

Ann: I bet.

Darrin: Yes.

Vivian: Things that were already there. In the therapist’s office was when I could finally hear Darring explaining: “You talked about cancer being like running a marathon.” He said, “Viv, I was running that marathon right outside the tape every step of the way with you with a huge backpack on, and when I got to the end, I was so tired.”

He tried to explain it, and I couldn’t hear it until that moment in the therapist’s office. But the caregiver is carrying so much without the signs and the encouragement. So, to the listeners who are caregivers, that role is so critical and often unseen. If you know of a caregiver in your life right now who is caring for someone going through something hard, send love their way, encouragement, and prayers as well. Because it’s not an easy role to take on either.

Dave: I love, as we’ve been talking the last two days, this open hand. We got to found a church 30 years ago. We had three core values. We had: “Love God and others, Lock arms in community,” and then, the third one was “Lived openhandedly.”

Vivian: Wow!

Dave: In other words, when God puts something in your hand, whether it’s gifts, talents, treasures, don’t hold onto it. Give it away. Give your life away. I wish I could find it; but we created a dramatic video of a business guy who is waiting for something, and he ends up sitting on a bench beside some dude.

Ann: —a park bench.

Dave: They started talking. Halfway through this conversation you [think], “Is this Jesus?”

Ann: —like He knows everything about him.

Dave: It is. The conversation, the long and short of it is, he realized this was God, and He said, “Give me your family.”

He answered, “You want my family?!” And he pulled out a picture. “Here’s my family.”

He [Jesus] said, “Yes, give it to me.”

Anyway, he went from family to job to car. He gave Him his car keys; he gave Him his wallet, money, credit cards. He was struggling to do this but he said, “Okay, I’ll give it to you.”

Then He [Jesus] stood up at the end, and He said, “Now just give Me your life.”

He said, “You’ve got everything! What do you mean You want my life!”

[Jesus answered], “Just give Me your life. Trust me.”

So, he did. He took his jacket off. He said, “Okay, I’ll give You my life.”

Vivian: Wow.

Darrin: Wow.

Dave: I tell you what, it was powerful, because at the end here’s what happens: Jesus said, “Here you go,” and handed him the wallet. He handed him the picture of his family, handed him his job, handed him his jacket; everything back. And He said, “Just remember, these are all mine. Take good care of them,” and He got up and He left.

It was such a beautiful picture.

Darrin: Ohhh!

Ann: And He said, “I will always be with you.”

Dave: We always think, “He takes all of our stuff, and we’re empty.”

Vivian: No.

Dave: He [Jesus] says, “No, it’s yours, but remember, it’s really mine.”

Talking to you guys the last couple of days, you’re living that.

Ann: Yes, you are.

Dave: What a great example of that, through the mountain tops and through the valleys. And you’re a big part of the new Art of Marriage®. Tell us anything you want about that. People that may not know you are going to get to know you through The Art of Marriage. But what was that experience like?

Vivian: I was brought in to be one of the bridge connector pieces. So, [I did] a little bit of teaching, a some connecting of the concepts. I love that it’s a fresh, new take on principles that are evergreen, like what it looks like to live marriage on purpose, and how God views marriage, and how we pursue oneness in our marriages.

Those types of topics are always going to be at the core, but to creatively bring it about. I love that there is a whole assortment of couples sharing very honestly about their lives. You two are in it. I remember seeing clips of you two. But [it is] intergenerational, ethnically diverse. It’s refreshing to me to have the same important concepts and teachings packaged in a way that’s ready for this generation.

Dave: We’ve seen a lot of it. You’re really, really good.

Ann: I told her as soon as I saw her. She’s fantastic.

Dave: Yes, it’s awesome. People are going to love it.

Ann: You guys are a power couple. You’re pretty great.

Darrin: I get to hang out with a power couple. [Laughter]

Ann: You are a power couple. Thanks for being with us.

Vivian: Thanks for having us.

Darrin: Thank you for having us.

Dave: Psalm 34:8—we’ve been talking about it a lot this year—says, “Taste and see the Lord is good!” We just had a great conversation with the Mabunis about the Lord and surrender. When you surrender, it may be scary, but you taste and you see that the Lord is good. I’m telling you.

You want to taste him in a new way and a fresh way this year, jump in a group with the new Art of Marriage, or get The Art of Marriage yourself and start a group, or get it and do it with your spouse. I don’t care what you do, but you put that in, and you start watching it, the Lord is going to show up, and you’re going to experience Him in a new, fresh way. This is going to be a journey you are never going to regret.

Shelby: Yes, Dave summed it up well.

I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Vivian and Darrin Mabuni on FamilyLife Today.

He talked about The Art of Marriage. I know many of us can relate with some of the difficult circumstances of navigating busyness in life and maintaining intimacy with your spouse amidst all the chaos. The new Art of Marriage study is going to help you grow deeper together, closer to God, and more connected to your community. As Dave talked about, just insert it into your life.

You can go to the show notes to learn more about the all-new Art of Marriage, or go to to learn more and grab your leadership kit today.

Vivian has written a book called Open Hands, Willing Heart: Discover the Joy of Saying Yes to God. We talked about surrender, yielding ourselves wholly to God. Especially in the midst of challenging circumstances, we need to do that. Vivian talks about that in her book, Open Hands, Willing Heart.

You can get a copy of her book by going online to, or you can find it in the show notes. Or give us a call to request your copy. The number is 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800- F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Coming up next week, what is God’s purpose and intent for sexuality? That’s maybe a question we think about a lot, but we don’t talk about very much. Next week, Ron Deal is going to be here with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about it. We hope you’ll join us.

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

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