FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Life is Hard. God is Good. Let’s Dance: Brant Hansen

with Brant Hansen | April 15, 2024
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Worry: Is it just part of life? The thoughts of constantly regretting things you said, feeling frustrated at your boss, and even wishing the present was different can weigh heavy. But what if there's another way? Author Brant Hansen addresses worry—and whether finding joy in life is possible in a world filled with anxiety.

  • 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.

Worrying: Is it just part of life? Brant Hansen discusses finding joy without binge-watching TV, numbing, or overspending.

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Life is Hard. God is Good. Let’s Dance: Brant Hansen

With Brant Hansen
April 15, 2024
| Download Transcript PDF

Dave: So, we're doing a show today for our audio engineer, Bruce Goff. [Laughter]

Ann: Yes. There we go!

Dave: It's all about joy. [Laughter]

Ann: It’s all about Bruce.

Dave: Yes. Now, here's what I want to ask: “Who's the most joyful person you know?”

Come on! I thought you’d say, “Me!”

Ann: Ahh, you’re—

Dave: —no, I'm kidding. I'm kidding.

Ann: You are joyful, but I don't know if you're the most joyful person I know.

Dave: I'm not expecting you to say me.

Ann: Okay, who's yours?

Dave: You!

Ann: [Laughter] No, you’re just—

Dave: —that's why I wanted to ask you.—

Ann: —You’re just saying that.

Dave: No, I am not. You are a joy magnet. You are! In airports and in walking around the neighborhood, you are a very joyful woman. I love this about you.

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

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: We've got a joyful guy in the room, too. One of our favorites, Brant.

Ann: Yes!

Dave: You're one of our favorites.

Brant: Thank you!

Ann: You’re one of our favorites!

Dave:We don't say that to everybody, [Laughter]

Brant: That’s very kind.

Dave: And there's some of our guests listening right now [thinking], “I guess they don't like me.” But we like Brant Hanson. 

Brant: Too bad, other guests. [Laughter]

Ann: Too bad.

Dave: Well, you've been on here many times. I don't think we've ever really talked about this topic: joy. So, you've been thinking about it a lot.

Brant:  Yes. And I totally agree about Ann, like your personality is—it just brings joy to people.

Dave: She does.

Brant: It's not happiness. It's like this pervasive sense of well-being, regardless of circumstances, that we can actually have.

Dave: Alright, alright. Say that again.

Brant: Yes.

Ann: That's more important than any joy.

Brant: It totally is, because you can be grieving and have joy. You still have this sense of well-being, even going through all sorts of stuff, and people can imagine worst-case scenarios; you can worry about it. But if you had this joy, this gift of peace from God, you can go through anything, and you'll be okay.

Literally, Paul's in a prison cell, and he's singing songs.

Dave: Yes.

Brant: This is just it: “No matter what the worst-case scenario is, I’m going to be alright.” That is a sense of peace that people are desperate for and almost nobody has, and it's something that's available to us, if we want it, as believers.

Dave: Yes. Well, it's interesting to think, like you said, of Paul, or any of us in a really hard situation having joy. Because, even when I look at the title of your book, Life is Hard. God is Good. Let's Dance, I think, often, we think one of those at a time is true, but not all three.

Brant: The weird thing is, I'll talk about Jesus saying, “You don't need to be worried. You don't need to be anxious. Be like the birds of the air. Be like the lilies of the field,” and people [say], “Yes, but realistically, we're going to have to worry about it.”

No, Jesus is realistic. He's not crazy, and He actually said—and I start the book with this: “In this world, you will have trouble, but be of good cheer. Take heart, because I've overcome the world.” [John 16:33] So, here's God taking on flesh, and He's telling us (paraphrased): “I know the big picture here [wink, wink, nod, nod]. You don't need to worry about anything. I got this.”

And we're [thinking], “Yes, but I need to worry about this news story. I saw this thing and this other thing!” Or “I need to be anxious about that.” No, no, no. We're supposed to be the people who are not anxious. You can become a different sort of person over time.

So, that's what the book is about: finding that sort of a sense of peace. I tried to make the book funny, but again, that's always in the eye of the beholder.

Ann: But you start out—your beginning wasn't that easy. You've walked through circumstances that have not been ones that you're happy about or most joyful about—

Brant: —yes.

Ann: —but you have still found joy.

Brant: The reason I recount that, like going through the problems I did growing up— trauma and whatnot--is just, going through that growing up, I'm not writing a happy, slappy book about, “You just look on the positive side.” [Laughter] It's much deeper than that.

Ann: Because life is hard.

Brant: It is! But there's this sense of well-being I can attest to, even in the worst-case scenario. If you trust God and His character, you are going to be okay. You are!

Whatever you want to imagine—and we do imagine these worst-case scenarios—Jesus takes his friends out on the lake. He goes to sleep on a cushion, it says in Mark. He's asleep. They're all freaking out because of the storm. He comes out [essentially saying], “You guys failed the test. Don't you know that you're safe with Me? Even if the ship goes down effectively, no matter what, ultimately, you're safe. You don't need to worry.” [Paraphrase from Luke 8:22-25]

I have to believe—and I tried to conclude the book with this; I have to believe—that in the end of our lives, we'll look back and [say], “Oh, my goodness. I never actually needed to be worried. [Laughter] He was right. I know He's right.”

Ann: That's good.

Dave: Now, are there things that grab your heart that get you to worry?

Brant: If you have people you love, you can go through scenarios that are just like: “I wouldn't want to live if that happened.”

Dave: Yes.

Brant: “That other thing, I don’t think I could handle it.”

What's wild about that is, the people I know who have actually gone through that stuff, who are believers, they trust God. They all say a very similar thing, I have found, and that is: “I didn't think I could get through this, but God showed up in a way I've never experienced before until this happened.”

Of course, we can't imagine getting through it, but maybe that experience is common, where God shows up among people who love Him in a way you don't realize how you actually could go through that, and He's there. It's not something you ever want, of course.

I can go through those scenarios in my head all day long; anybody can. But I do think that over time—and this is what I was trying to say in the book, too—you become a certain kind of person that is less anxious. There are things the Bible tells us which are absolutely genius, that people look past; they don't think it's realistic. It’s very realistic. In fact, modern psychology will tell you: “These are things that will help you not be worried,” and it's exactly right.

Dave: Like what?

Brant: Speaking to yourself, like in Lamentations, Jeremiah is [saying], “My whole country is being destroyed. It's falling apart,” and it is. Then he says, “Yet I call this to mind, and, therefore, I have hope. Because of the Lord's great love for us, we are not consumed. His faithfulness endures forever. His mercies are new every morning.” [Lamentations 3:21-23] So, he's literally saying, “I call this to mind. I can see all the reality of it.” He's aware. It's not like he doesn't know the news, or he doesn't know what's going on—

Dave: — not living in denial.

Brant: Right, not in denial.

Dave: Yes.

Brant: But he calls this to mind: “Because of God's great love for us, we're not going to be consumed. His faithfulness has always endured.”

There's another way to deal with this, which is thankfulness. Becoming a person who has a discipline of gratitude, it's very difficult to be anxious. Gratitude and anxiety do not coexist. Literally, in Philippians, Paul is writing: “Don't be anxious about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He's done.” [Philippians 4:6]

Give it to God. Let Him handle it, because it's not your—you have to [say]: “This isn't my department. I can't do this. I don't control next week, next year, what that person thinks, or what could happen to our money. God, You have to take care of that, and here's what I'm thankful for.” And then he (Paul) actually says, “Then the peace of Christ will guard your heart.” [Philippians 4:7]

Ann: And soul.

Brant: Yes!

Ann: Isn't that interesting? It's both.

Brant: You’re right!

Ann: It's in your head, your heart, and your mind; all of it. He covers all of it: “will guard” it.

Brant: And that's that peace—

Ann: —yes.

Brant: —that will guard you. And then, as you lean into that, you become a different sort of person, and life gets more lighthearted. It really does.

Ann: Yes.

Brant: You can laugh about stuff. You're not worried. You can get better at this.

Ann: What does that look like for you, Brant? Share some stories or some things that you've watched this happen [with].

Brant: I've had things that you would just be—most people would just be [thinking], “Oh, my goodness. I would want to dig a hole.” [Laughter] I've done stuff. It's like, “Oh, my goodness!” I tell one story where I'm introducing Toby Mac at a concert, and he doesn't come out. [Laughter]

Dave: Oh, yes.

Brant: There are thousands of people. It's an outdoor amphitheater in Miami. I'm [saying], “Ladies and gentlemen, give a big Miami welcome!” And he doesn't show up. So, the people are kind of restless, and they sent me back out. [Laughter] I introduced him again, and he did not come out. I went out a third time, and people are not cheering at this point. [Laughter] I was like, “Hey, I know this has been kind of crazy, but we're really ready to go now. Please, welcome Toby Mac!” And he was not ready.

Ann: No!

Brant: It was not his fault. I don't know where the communication breakdown was going on, but I literally—it was an outdoor amphitheater, and the parking lot is behind the bandshell thing. Everybody can see [me] as I walk off the stage. I picked up my keys, went into the parking lot, got in my car, and drove off. [Laughter] I presume he came out at some point. [Laughter] But for an introvert, can you imagine? It's like a nightmare scenario. [Laughter]

But even in the moment, I'm thinking, “This is funny.” [Laughter] You can take yourself so much less seriously when you're not worried. It's not all about me.

Ann: Yes.

Brant: I don't control everything. God's good. There really is truth to this. It's not pie in the sky.

Ann: Well, you just came into the studio and shared a story that just happened to you, but then the outcome was joy.

Brant: Yes, I have a neurological condition, and you can't see it right now if you listen on the radio. I get that. But my head has to move back and forth for me to see straight. I've had this my whole life. My eyes move back and forth, so for me to see straight, I have to compensate, and I do it unwittingly. But when I'm driving, I'm shaking my head back and forth.

Well, I came outside the studio here, to the security hut. The first thing the guy said as I pull up. He [says], “What's the matter? You’re shaking your head.” I said, “Well, sir, I have a neurological condition.” He was crushed. He [said], “I'm so sorry I said that to you.” [Laughter]

Ann: The amazing thing to me, even about the security guy, is [that] you started sharing: “It's okay. He felt bad,” but he starts sharing his story with you.

Brant: He did.

Ann: And then you guys are laughing by the end. You had made this connection.

Brant: We were buckled over laughing. [Laughter] And he was talking about—he [said], “Well, I have a neural condition, too.” And then we started talking about that. Then we started laughing about some other stuff, but I made a friend.

That's what happens, too; I've noticed, if I look dumb, a lot of times, I just wind up making friends. If you don't want to live with anxiety, just say, “God, I have today to be faithful with. That's it.”

So, I ask, “God, please give me my daily bread. Give me what I need to get through today, whatever the resources are. In the big terms of life, like the future; ten years from now; five years; can You just make a way? I don't have a big plan. I just want to be faithful with what comes across my path today.”

This is very counterintuitive to the way the world works; I get that, but I’ve found that it works, and I’ve found that God has honored that in my life. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't have a big-picture plan; but He's made a way for me that I could never, ever have charted myself. So, I do recommend this, and that way you can be focused on that person in front of you today: your kids, your relatives, your neighbors, your work people. You can actually focus on it, because you're not worried about next year. God's faithful, and He can make a way. I'm just convinced of it.

Dave: So, how do you take the worry that you cast? I think of first Peter 5, “Cast your cares upon”—

Brant: —yes!

Dave: —Him because He cares for you.” And I remember once, in a sermon, I literally brought a fishing pole on stage and put “anxiety” on the hook and— 

Brant: —nice.

Dave: —cast it. But I find, in my own life, I'll cast it, and then, thirty minutes later, or maybe five minutes later, or two hours later, —

Brant: —reeling it back in.

Dave: —it's grabbed me again. Almost, I don't even see it coming, and next thing I know, I [am thinking], “Oh, my goodness.”

I remember the word worry in German is “to choke.” I feel like my life is being choked, because I'm thinking about something, and I don't have an answer—

Brant: —right.

Dave: —I don't know how, and so, I—

Ann: —and we think we have to solve the problem. 

Dave: —it's like I have to just keep casting—

Brant: — right.

Dave: —all day long.

Brant: Yes. So, this isn't a thing where you can just go, “I'm not going to worry.” [Laughter] This is about becoming a different sort of person.

Dave: “Don't worry, be happy” type of deal.

Brant: Right. “Just decide.” That doesn't actually work. What actually works is you begin becoming a different sort of person, where you're being transformed by God.

I think, literally, memorizing scripture is helpful. That sounds like a churchy answer, but—

Dave: —yes.

Brant: —I found it to be incredibly helpful. You can turn those thoughts over in your mind. So, when that worry hits, you don't just get rid of it and [think], “I'm just going to kind of clean my mind of any thoughts.”

You know, I actually read this—I think it was New York Times: there's an article about meditation, the clearing of your mind, actually makes you more anxious.

Ann and Dave: Really?

Brant: Yes. Isn’t that something? And this wasn't coming from a Christian angle, but they were saying that your mind can't do that. It will fill in with just gut-level stuff that are your concerns, right? Here's the genius again of the Bible, telling you: “Think about what's true, what's noble, what's right, what's pure, what's lovely, what's admirable. If anything is excellent or praise-worthy, think about these things.” [Philippians 4:8] That's in that same context about being at peace.

Dave: Philippians 4; yes.

Brant: Yes. So, you don't fill it with nothing. You fill it with what's true. What's true is stuff that you should be grateful for. So, when you're hit with these worries, two steps, I would say: Number One, you do cast it on Him, [saying], “This is not my department, God. You have to handle this for me. I can't handle it. You have to take it,” and just say, “This is not my department.”

Then, the second thing is: now you have to think actively about what's true. So, having some Scripture at hand that you can turn over in your head,—

Ann: —that’s good.

Brant: —and start reciting that. This is not unrealistic. And over time, that will change you. It changes your mindset. You will be able to be more relaxed. That's a process, but it’s very doable. Those are two quick things and, if you don't mind, I want to tell a story about this because I call it “outsourcing your worries.”

Ann: I like that.

Brant: Yes, I was reading—it was Tim Ferris; I was listening to his audiobook. It's not a Christian standpoint. It was about time usage or efficiency, which I'm horrible at. But he said he has a personal assistant to do everything for him. She's in India. He would call her every day with: “Schedule this. Do that.” As a joke one day, he was really worried about something, so, he actually said to her, “Hey, I need you to worry about something for me today.” And she's like, “Okay?” Then he told her, and he said—and this is what I thought was profound; he said: “Do you know what? It worked!” [Laughter]

Ann: Because he gave it to her.

Brant: Yes! He was [thinking], “Just knowing somebody else was worrying for me, I was able to concentrate on other stuff,” which kind of makes some sense because worry at some level is control, because you think—

Ann: —yes.

Brant: —that me worrying about this, stewing about it, actually is going to help. Having somebody else stew about it could help. But what I think is so genius about that is: “Wait!” Outsourcing your worries: you can do that to God, not your personal assistant. And He can actually do something about it.” [Laughter]

Ann: It's true.

Brant: He's got a track record with you of doing stuff, right? Because you can rehearse that. How's He been faithful? You outsource it to Him. Just [say], “This is not my department. You have to take this.”

I have to do this myself, and it does help, and it is real. Jesus’s way of life is genius, where He's [saying], “You don't have to worry about tomorrow. It doesn't help you.”  Love that stuff.

Ann: I think, when I'm in bed at night over the years, especially when our kids were little—once you have kids, then I'm really—because I don't feel like I have control. In my mind, I start thinking I'm controlling the situation—

Brant: —yes.

Ann: —by solving all these problems, which is really worry.

Brant: Yes.

Ann: So, I'm going through my head [thinking], “What should I do?” Then, the other thing that happens when I'm worrying is [that] I start going into “what-ifs?”

Brant: Yes.

Ann: “What if they—what if—,” and I go into the most catastrophic situations; things that would never happen, but they really get out of control—

Brant: —yes.

Ann: —of where they can go. And you're right, it does no good.

Brant: No.

Ann: Even now, as our kids are older, and I'm thinking about their kids, and their marriages, and their finances—I've realized over the years finally, Brant, that my worry does nothing but create more anxiety in me.

Dave: It's sort of what you wrote about with the bowling analogy—

Brant: —yes!  

Ann: —yes!

Brant: —right?

Ann: —yes! Share that!

Dave: —where you're leaning—

Brant: Yes! People bowl. They release the ball, and they still think they're controlling it. [Laughter] They'll start gesticulating and leaning and—I do that unwittingly,—

Dave: —I do, too!

Ann: [Laughing]—everybody does it!

Brant: It's like just to lean this way so the ball goes out—“It's gone, man.” [Laughter] “Let it go. You've already done what you can. There's nothing you can do at this point.” [Laughter]

But that's us!

Ann: Yes.

Brant: It’s so weird. It's so not childlike, in the best way.

Ann: We think we can control it.

Brant: Right!

Ann: I've gotten in that habit (I've shared before): I picture myself handing each one of the things to Jesus, and He takes it. It's exactly like the woman in India.

Brant: Yes.

Ann: He takes it,—

Brant: —“You’ve got this!”

Ann: —and I can finally fall asleep.

Brant: “You got this.”

I picture it like—this thing I'm worried about—I'm sitting at a desk at some office, and somebody brings an envelope that’s glowing, and it's setting off the Geiger counters and stuff. I'm just [thinking], “No, not my department. [Laughter] The radioactive envelope place is down there. Those guys can handle it. Take it there.”

Ann: Okay, that's a good one. [Laughter]

Dave: Yes.

Brant: Yes! I just can't. I'm not up for it. They're equipped. I'm not. It's the same thing with God: He's equipped to handle this. You're not.

Ann: And some people are thinking, “But how do you do that?” Do you actually do that? Do you think, “Okay, I'm not going to do that,” and then you stop your head?

It's taking the thoughts captive.

Brant: Yes, it's taking the thoughts [captive] and then, again, speaking truth to yourself.

Ann: I like that you're replacing it.

Brant: You're having to say, “So I can get this sleep,” and then, being thankful. My wife taught me that. She said when she's having a hard time sleeping—as a mom, when your kids are out of the house,—

Ann: —yes.

Brant: —you’ve got, “What about this? What about that? What about…?” She's like, “I just started thinking about what I'm thankful for.”

There's a genius thing I heard some neuroscientists talking about, and I did write about this in the book. They said that when we get grateful, we usually make a list of things we are thankful for, which is fine. There's nothing wrong with that. But it's kind of analytical brain-side.

They said, “Try this: think about an experience you had that you're really glad happened. It might be just a moment in nature where you're looking at some mountains, or looking down, or a sunset; or maybe when your child was born, and you held your baby for the first time; or that first time you met that friend who became your best friend.” All these things that happen. It could be anything. But they said, “Just think about that for 30 seconds, and just camp out there. What was that like? Then, just say, ‘Thank you God! I'm so glad that happened. Thank you. You're so good!’”

Then they said, “You can, over time, when you start getting worried, you can have a list like that on your phone in your notes—

Ann: —I like that.

Brant: —like you just think, ‘Oh, that time. I'm glad that happened. That time I was laughing so hard with a friend, it hurt.’”

Ann: Yes.

Brant: Go back when you're nervous. Think about one of those things. Camp out there. It uses both sides of your brain now—the emotional side, too—to be really, deeply grateful. And again, you can't be grateful and anxious at the same time. It doesn't work.

So, what we're being told to do in the Bible is to cast your cares; to outsource your worries to God. It works! It's not a magic spell. It's about you becoming a different sort of person and inhabiting the truth of the Kingdom, which is that you actually don't have anything to worry about. That's what Jesus is saying. He's not crazy.

Ann: I got into the habit: I walk a lot, and I walk several miles. I started deciding, “I'm going to start thanking God for all the things that are going on in my walks.” It's the gratefulness; it’s what you're saying.

So, when I started, I thought, “Oh, I got this far in my thankfulness, in my gratefulness.” And the next time, I got a little further, and the next time I got a little further; and then, the rest of the time, I'm praying for all the things going on. But I realized, “The more I was grateful—the more I started pointing out the things that I've seen God do and thank Him for it—the less my list became of what I needed Him to do.” Because, as you're thankful and grateful, you know: “Oh, You've already done it before. You're doing it now, and I can trust You for the future.”

I don't think we spend enough time—

Brant: —no.

Ann: —with Him, being grateful. And that list? I like that list: “Here's all the things that I've seen You do and be faithful in my life.

Brant: Yes. That first time I met my wife—

Ann: —yes.

Brant: —I remember: the basement of University Baptist Church at the University of Illinois for a study break.

Ann: Aww.

Brant: And she thought I was weird. [Laughter] I thought she was pretty. I'm glad that happened. Just sweet moments we've all had. Why not be thankful?

Shelby: I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Brant Hansen, one of our favorites on FamilyLife Today.

So, why is it so hard to be thankful? Even in the good times in life, and the bad times in life, we're just strugglers as people who are actually thankful. Well, Brant's going to share a little bit more with us in just a second about why that is, but I wanted to remind you that Brant has written a book called Life is Hard. God is Good. Let's Dance. It's about experiencing real joy, even when our circumstances don't really point us toward joyfulness.

This book is going to be our gift to you when you give today. You can get your copy now with any donation that you make by going online to and clicking on the “Donate Now” button at the top of the page. Or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Feel free to drop us a donation in the mail if you'd like, too. Our address is FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, Florida. 32832.

So, again, why is it so difficult to be thankful in life regardless of your circumstances? Well, here's more from Brant Hansen:

Brant: [The] problem is, we're so forgetful. That's why we worry.

Ann: Yes.

Brant: We're so forgetful, which is why Deuteronomy is full of, “Remember this.”—

Dave:  —"remember.”

Brant: —"Write this down. Tie it around your wrist.”—

Ann: —yes.

Brant: —"Put it on your doorway.”

Ann: Yes.

Brant: You rehearse those stories of His faithfulness so that you don't have to worry, because His record is good. And even if you've got questions about His character— good questions—[such as], “Why does this happen? Why does that happen?” Okay, fine. Good question.

But overall, if you're like me, you're [thinking], “Yes, I have questions, but I have learned I can trust His character. I don't know why everything happens the way it is or this is going on. I don't know. I don't what's going to happen tomorrow, next week, after this, or after that big event; but I know enough about His character to know He's actually good.” And that allows you to have this light-heartedness in life, and a peace, and a hope that's weird, [Laughter] wonderfully weird.

And we're supposed to be so hopeful that other people are supposed to say, “Why are you so hopeful?” And we're supposed to be ready with reasons for our hope, it says in First Peter. [1 Peter 3:15]

Ann: That’s good.

Brant: “Be ready with a reason,” because people are going to want to know: “Why are you so hopeful?” [or] “Everything's going down. What's the matter with you?” It’s because I know more.

Shelby: Now, coming up tomorrow, Brant Hansen is going to be back. Woo hoo! He's going to be talking about emphasizing that good days are ahead when we trust in God's ability to handle everything we worry about; and we worry about a lot. So, I'm looking forward to hearing from him again.

On behalf of my friends, 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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