Interruptions, Detours, and Valleys
Life is what happens while we're busy making other plans... and sometimes life takes us into dark valleys. Dennis Rainey shares how to discover Christ in the midst of the interruptions, detours, and valleys of life.
About the Guest
Dennis Rainey shares how to discover Christ in the midst of the interruptions, detours, and valleys of life.
Interruptions, Detours, and Valleys
Bob: Every married couple will go through seasons of grief—sorrow—seasons of loss. And often, those experiences can drive couples apart. Dennis Rainey says there’s a reason why that’s the case.
Dennis: We don’t know how to handle loss—we don’t see that loss has promise. Paul said it in Romans 5, remember? “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” God in you, changing you through loss.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
How can grief and tragedy in marriage actually bring us closer together? We’ll explore that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. When you found out that you were going to have the opportunity to speak to students at Dallas Seminary, and their wives—in their spiritual emphasis week—of course, they knew you were going to talk about marriage and family, given what you’re all about—but how did you determine the specific subjects you wanted to address with the students?
Dennis: Bob, I figured out I wasn’t ever going to get invited to do this again, [Laughter] so I thought, “These are going to be four no-holds-barred messages where I’m just going to tell you, ‘This is happening out there, and let me tell you where people get bushwhacked.’”
This one today that we’re talking about is the subject of suffering.
I don’t think the average person contemplates that in their lifetime they’re going to encounter storms, floods, wind—and their marriage has to be built to outlast it. In fact, you only have to look at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. I think it’s fascinating that Jesus closes this most famous of all sermons by summarizing two homebuilders—both who built their homes—and one withstood the storm, the other who didn’t. Of course, the one that did withstand the storm was the home that had been built on being obedient to what Jesus taught.
Bob: We say in our vows to one another that we’re in this for better or for worse, and yet on the day we say that we’re not really anticipating what kinds of things might come our way.
Dennis: We can’t begin to anticipate. I was counseling a young engaged couple, and I told them—I said, “You know, you just need to realize that you have to anticipate the fact that you will suffer. Suffering is not optional.”
“It is a part of a faith walk with Jesus Christ. He’s going to guide us, He’s going to lead us, He’s going to comfort us, and He is going to chisel away at our selfishness—and a lot of times He does it by taking us into hardships around health, business, children— There are a lot of ways it happens in a family.”
Bob: You shared some of your own experiences as you spoke to some of the students and their spouses at Dallas Seminary.
Dennis: Barbara and I had had a very tough two years. We were worn out—we were exhausted. A good friend of ours offered a cottage in the Cotswold region of England. A 300-year-old Cotswold sandstone building in this old, ancient little community of…300 people, where we went and parked our bodies for 17 days.
While we were there we took a drive, and we drove toward a section of England called Cornwall and a little town called St. Buryan. As we had enjoyed the days that had been prior, we walked in this little yard of this old church that had been formed in 1747. All that was in St. Buryan was a parish church and a pub with bad English food.
We walked around that little churchyard, and it was filled with gravestones. We came upon one that was just about that tall—you could barely make it out because it was weatherworn. On it it had three names: Sophia Wallace, born 1752, died April 24, 1775. Their son John, who had been born shortly before Sophia died, April 16, 1775.
He lived a few months and was dead by September 19 of the same year. And finally the father was there: Joseph John Wallace, born 1750, died 1777. A little family was right there. The mother died age 23, the father at 25.
Etched underneath that little family was this statement: “We cannot, Lord, Thy purpose see, but all is well that’s done by Thee.” Little did I realize that that verse would end up being etched on my granddaughter’s gravestone, who lived seven days: Molly Mutz was her name—Mighty Molly.
I want to tell you something. I have never experienced a valley of the shadow of death like those seven days.
So powerful was it that to have a memory of Molly I have her feet and her handprints on verses in my Bible that someday I will give her mom.
The only time I have cried until I laughed was a phone call from Molly’s mother some two and a half years later, when she called to tell me, “Daddy, I’m pregnant,” and I started crying. And she said, “With twins.” And I cried so hard that I laughed.
You and I do not know what God is up to in our lives. I find it interesting that at the end of the most famous sermon ever preached, Jesus uses the picture of storms, floods, wind, shaking a house to its foundation.
In Matthew, chapter 7, He says, “Blessed is he, the man that hears my words and obeys them. He will be like a man who built his house on the rock.” Both houses have the storms—both houses had a foundation—the storms reveal what the foundation was.
Some quick points about interruptions, detours, and valleys in your journey.
Number one: Suffering and loss are a test. I ran across this little statement that had a grandfather and a little granddaughter on his lap, and underneath he has the statement the grandfather is making to the granddaughter. It said, “Honey, life is like licking honey off a thorn. It’s the fine print of life.”
Secondly: How you process loss will determine the trajectory of your life. If you’re married—your marriage, family, and your ministry. Will your loss define you, or will it become a wound that is transformed into a holy scar? Character is forged and formed in the midst of suffering.
I love what Amy Carmichael said—this is really good—“No wound, no scar, yet has the Master shall the servant be. Can he have followed far who has no wound, no scar?”
I want to play you a clip from a radio show we did with Dr. Jerry Sittser. Jerry Sittser has won the professor of the year at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington—I think it’s nine times now. He’s a brilliant man, but he had something happen to him that was unspeakable.
Listen as he describes what took place.
Jerry: 1991, September 27. On a lonely stretch of highway I noticed a car coming on at a really rapid rate of speed; slowed down just a little bit—it was a curve—and without any warning, he just drove right into me—missed the curve and just plowed head-on at 85 miles an hour. In fact, it was so head-on that his car cartwheeled over ours—so it was awful.
Man: I have a subject on the phone, stand by. He got hit.
Jerry: In the wake of that accident, as soon as I could collect myself I looked around and knew that it was really bad. My mother, who was sitting way in the back, was seriously injured—and I could Linda, my wife, was catastrophically injured too. My four-year-old I could tell was dead.
She had broken her neck. I tried to get a pulse, did mouth-to-mouth, but it was hopeless. My other kids were dazed, crying, screaming—it was just chaotic. All the windows were broken out of the car. I got the kids out who were mobile—that is, Catherine, who was eight; David, who was six; and John, who was two, and then went back to try to attend to Linda. Got a pulse, but knew she wasn’t going to live. Her injuries were just too severe. As I said, did mouth-to-mouth on Diana Jean on the ground, but she was gone.
People began to stop. I mean, the scene was chaotic. Then something really beautiful happened. You find these flowers in the midst of ashes almost right away. Some guy got out of the car and went over to my mother and reached out to her through the broken window and held her hand and stroked her arm until she died. That is a beautiful act of grace to me.
It was very courageous of him, in the midst of that chaos and that violence, to break through that with love and mercy. I wish I knew who that man was. I’d like to thank him.
After about an hour Catherine, David, John, and I were all put in the same emergency vehicle and then were transported another hour up to Coeur d’Alene for emergency care—and that one hour was probably the most significant hour I’ve ever had in my life. It really was a turning point for me. It was like a wormhole from one reality to another. That honestly is the most accurate way I could describe it. Time ceased to have meaning. It could have been ten years that that is frozen in my memory—that period of time. It was probably the most rational moment I’ve ever had in my life. It was quiet, John was sedated, the other kids were whimpering, but it was quiet.
The emergency personnel didn’t say anything, and I had one hour to just be. I thought about the accident, I thought about the scene, I knew what had happened, and I thought about what would be as a result. I considered the task set before me. I had a burden that was placed on my shoulders and, in a sense, a divine mandate that said, “You draw a line in the sand right now and decide what you want to be and what you want to come from this experience,” and I did. I said, “I want the bleeding to stop right here. This is it. I don’t want to do things that are going to set in motion more and more pain and more and more bleeding that could go on for generations.”
I made the basic decision right there and then that I was going to somehow, by the grace of God, respond and live this story out in a way that was going to be redemptive.
Redemption was really the key term that just kept coming back to me: Redemption. This is not the final word.
[End Audio Clip]
Dennis: For 20 years, Jerry was a single parent raising three kids, faithfully executing—doing his duty as God’s man. He wrote a book that is the best book on loss that I have ever read. It is called A Grace Revealed. We don’t know how to handle loss. We don’t see that loss has promise.
Paul said it in Romans 5, remember? “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
God in you—changing you—through loss. Endurance, proven character, hope, God’s love.
A friend of mine who’d been through tremendous tragedy said, “Some men and women owe the grandeur of their lives to their many difficulties.” Embrace loss. Learn and grow.
Realize that suffering may be for a moment and a day. It may last a day—it may last days, weeks, seasons, and stretch for years—and for some in this room, a lifetime. I just want to challenge you as you go through suffering, reduce your marriage to the one word we did: commitment. Commitment to Jesus Christ, to hear everything and listen to Him and grow with Him in every way possible.
I love what Elton Trueblood says, “At the profoundest depths of life men talk not of God but with God.” Commitment to Christ, covenant-keeping commitment with your spouse.
Two last points, quickly. Friendships are absolutely essential in processing losses. You must have a couple, a friend, a male, a female friend who has access to your life, where when you get off in a ditch you can call them and they’ll be there. As we experienced a prodigal, friends surrounded us.
One last point on this: Ministries are going to be a source of suffering—trust me. They will be filled with games that are glorious and losses that—by faith—you will have to give thanks and praise God for.
I’m going to conclude my message with—is one of the most powerful two-minute message I’ve ever heard. It occurred at Colombia Bible College and Seminary a number of years ago, by Dr. Robertson McQuilkin. Some of you know of this story.
Muriel was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease for I think the better part of 20 years. Robertson cared for her, as the president of the seminary balancing the suffering of her and his assignment at the school. Finally it reached a point where Muriel had to have his care full-time. He stood before the entire student body, and this is a clip of just a portion of how he resigned and how he honored her.
Robertson: I haven’t—in my life—experienced easy decision-making on major decisions, but one of the simplest and clearest decisions I’ve had to make is this one, because circumstances dictated it. Muriel now—in the last couple of months—seems to be almost happy when with me, and almost never happy when not with me. In fact, she seems to feel trapped, become very fearful—sometimes almost terror—and when she can’t get to me, there can be anger, she’s in distress. But when I’m with her she’s happy and contented.
So I must be with her at all times and, you see, it’s not only that I promised in sickness and in health, till death do us part, and I’m a man of my word.
But, as I have said—I don’t know with this group—but I have said publicly, it’s the only fair thing. She sacrificed for me for 40 years to make my life possible. So, if I cared for her for 40 years I’d still be in debt.
However, there’s much more. It’s not that I have to—it’s that I get to. I love her very dearly, and you can tell it’s not easy to talk about. She’s a delight. It’s a great honor to care for such a wonderful person.
[End Audio Clip]
Dennis: I shared that with Barbara—called her on the phone. She was ironing. She told me later that her tears ended up going on what she was ironing as she heard that story. And then she said, “I have one question for you,”—and every woman in this room knows what the question is—“Will you love me like that?”
I pray to God I do.
Bob: Well we’ve been listening to a portion of what you shared in a message recently with students at Dallas Theological Seminary and their spouses. Really just a reminder that in this world we will face tribulation, trials—and it’s a part of God’s design, His purpose for us. He’s doing a good thing when He does it, but it makes it hard.
Dennis: I can’t remember Bob, if it was immediately after this message or the next day, but a single woman approached me, and I wept as she told me this story.
She had started to go to Dallas Seminary and had encountered a rare neurological disorder that affected her eyesight, and for all practical purposes she was near blindness. She came up after the message with her seeing eye mother, who was caring for her, and she just was boasting about the first class she had taken this past fall, after losing almost all of her eyesight, and how she wondered if she could do it. She was back for the second semester.
I thought, “What a phenomenal story of a single woman who is enduring an unthinkable hardship,” and yet in life God does want us to move through these valleys—clinging to Him, growing with Him, allowing His image to emerge in our lives. There really is purpose in suffering—there really is—we just have to make sure we don’t miss God in the midst of it.
Bob: Yes. I can imagine that some of our listeners may want to share what they’ve heard today with friends or family members. In fact, we have this presentation on video as well as today’s program, so listeners can view your entire presentation to the students at Dallas Theological Seminary, or they can share today’s program. You can actually download today’s program or you can stream it. If you’d like to share the link with a friend—that’s easy to do as well.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for information on how you can review the message we’ve heard from Dennis today, and again, if you’d like to hear the entire message, the video of that is available online as well. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information.
Let me just mention again the new book you’ve just written, called Choosing a Life That Matters. This is a book that’s written to remind moms and dads and teenagers and college students and college graduates what’s really important in life, to make sure that you’re focused on the right priorities.
The book is called Choosing a Life That Matters, by Dennis Rainey. If you’re interested in a copy, you can order from us at FamilyLifeToday.com or call to order at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”
You know, our great desire for all that God is doing here at FamilyLife is that more and more people—in our country and all around the world—would be challenged and encouraged and equipped—and have their priorities and their thinking realigned according to what God’s Word has to say about marriage and family. That’s why we create these radio programs—it’s why we have our website with hundreds of articles about marriage and family-related subjects—it’s why we produce a weekly e-newsletter called “Help and Hope”.
It’s why we host events and create resources. We want to effectively develop godly marriages and families who change the world one home at time.
You are the people who decide what the reach of this ministry will be. Those of you who support this ministry, every time you make a donation you’re deciding how many people will be reached with this kind of practical, biblical help and hope for marriage and for family. We’re so grateful for our Legacy Partners—those of you who provide the monthly support—the foundation support necessary to keep this ministry expanding and thriving. We’re grateful for you.
If you’re a regular listener and you’ve never made a donation in support of this ministry, we’d love to have you be part of the team. You can make a donation today online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Or if you’d like, you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at P.O. Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow we’re going to hear what Dennis had to share about raising kids and some of the things he’s learned on that subject over the years as he spoke with students and their spouse at Dallas Theological Seminary recently. We’ll hear that message tomorrow. Hope you can be hear for that.
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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