Trusting a Big God
About the Guest
Are you trusting God with life's details? Emotionally and physically depleted author Susan Yates whispered "Help me, Lord," and was surprised by the words God spoke to her heart. Her solution, she realized, wasn't to struggle to trust more, but to get to know how big God was. That day rerouted her faith and sent her on a quest to get to know God's heart better.
Susan YatesSusan Yates has written 15 books and speaks both nationally and internationally on the subjects of marriage, parenting, and faith issues. Her books include And Then I Had Kids: Encouragement for Mothers of Young Children; And Then I Had Teenagers: Encouragement for Parents of Teens and Preteens; Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest (with friend Barbara Rainey) and Raising Kids with Character That Lasts (With her husband John). Her two new books are...more
Emotionally and physically depleted author Susan Yates whispered “Help me, Lord,” and was surprised by the words God spoke to her heart. Her solution, she realized, was to get to know how big God was.
Trusting a Big God
Bob: We all experience trials in our lives; right? The question is: “Which is bigger—the trial we’re experiencing or the God we believe in?” Here’s Susan Yates.
Susan: It may be a rebellious teenager, it may be a toddler who is so strong-willed we could just die, it may be a marriage on the rocks, or it may be financial pressure. Everyone has one, two, three top prayer concerns or issues. How do we get to the place where we see God’s umbrella over those issues and we begin to trust Him a little bit more with our issues?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, April 13th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How can your faith grow to the point that you begin to believe that God is bigger than the trials you face? We’ll talk about that today with Susan Yates. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Our guest today is someone we’ve known for awhile—a number of years. I don’t know that, if you had asked me to describe her, I don’t know that “risky” is a word I would have come up with.
Dennis: Oh, I might say that. [Laughter]
Bob: Do you think you’ve thought of her as risky? [Laughter]
Dennis: I think so.
Dennis: Susan Yates joins us on FamilyLife Today. Susan, welcome back.
Susan: Oh, it’s great to be with you guys.
Dennis: She’s a veteran, here at FamilyLife.
Bob: She is.
Dennis: She and her husband John speak at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways and live in the Washington, DC, area. She has been married to John since 1969, which means Susan is a spry, spunky wife of 46 years.
Bob: And a grandmother to how many?
Dennis: —including quadruplets. Now, that’s the way to get them!
Susan: That is. We ran the numbers out.
Dennis: Four in a package—get all four at once. They’re how old now—six?
Bob: Yes; you have not overtaken the Raineys, though.
Susan: No; I don’t think we ever will. It’s not a competition.
Bob: Yes; alright.
Dennis: Yes; it really isn’t.
She has written 13 books, and the latest is called Risky Faith: Becoming Brave Enough to Trust the God Who Is Bigger than Your World. Susan, you begin your book with a plane ride—and I was right there with you—I’ve been on some of these international flights, where you have the middle seat. You were kind of imploding at the end of a long series of speaking engagements you and John had, internationally.
Susan: I sure was imploding—I was exhausted / I was in the middle of one of those long aisles.
We had been in Africa for two weeks, speaking and meeting with people. I was emotionally, physically, spiritually depleted on every level. I remember, Dennis, sitting in the middle seat; and as I sat there in my exhaustion, I began to think about one of my adult children—they were all out of the nest, either in college or post-college.
As I thought about this particular child, I began to get really anxious. I began to imagine a problem that I thought this child might have. The more I sat there in my exhaustion, the bigger the problem became. I got really scared—I remember thinking, “Okay; I’ll just pull out my Bible and read, and maybe that’ll help.” I pulled out my Bible to read, and it didn’t help a bit. Then I thought, “Well, I’ll just pray.” As I began to pray for this child, my imagination went wild, as it often does when I’m exhausted; and I became more anxious. Reading the Bible didn’t help / praying didn’t help.
Finally—I remember I just physically slumped down in the seat, and I just prayed that prayer that God always answers—
—I simply said, “Help me, Lord.” What came to my mind were two words, and the words were, “Remember Me.” What I realized in that moment was that my issue—and my trying to fix the issue, or to imagine it away, or to pray it away—the issue had grown bigger in my head than my God. God had been working in my life for a period of time in this area, but that was one of those “Aha!” moments in which I realized that my struggle to trust Christ—grit my teeth / trust God with different issues—was not the solution.
The solution was to get to know how big God was. As I got to know how big He was, then my issues would diminish. Our issues don’t go away, because we’re fallen people in a fallen world; but our issues need to settle back into perspective.
That really began for me the journey of asking the question, “How big is God?”
Dennis: And really, if you go back to the essence of what the Bible’s all about, it’s one big question: “Will you trust God—
Susan: It is.
Dennis: —“with what you’re facing?”
Susan: It is. But it’s hard to trust someone you don’t know as well as you think you know. I remember when I first met John, my husband. He came recommended—he was just a best friend—but I had checked him out. The only way I knew him was by what other people said about him. In the beginning, I didn’t know what he was really like.
You know, our relationship with God and Jesus is a lot like our relationship with someone else. It took awhile for me to see him [John] in other situations, for me to see how he interacted with other people, to really get to know his heart; and then, I was able to trust him. This book is really about: “How can I go to a deeper level in getting to know the heart of God so that, therefore, I can trust Him with my issues?”—whatever my issue is of the moment—
—it may be a rebellious teenager; it may be a toddler who is so strong-willed we could just die; it may be a marriage on the rocks; it may be a job transition; it may be financial pressure. Everyone has one, two, three top prayer concerns or issues. How do we get to the place where we see God’s umbrella over those issues and we begin to trust Him a little bit more with our issues?
Bob: As you’re describing that, what came to mind was the statement that Job made at the end of Job 42, when he said about God, “I had heard of You by the hearing of my ear, but now my eyes see You.” We are on a progressive path of understanding more and more about who God is. We’ll never have full understanding—we see through a mirror dimly, the Bible says / one day, face to face.
But in that progressive understanding of who God is, we learn those things as we walk through the risky paths of our lives and we see that God is faithful in the midst of them.
Susan: That’s so true. One of the things that I have found, that I talk about in the book, that’s been helpful to me is to consider the difference between natural growth and spiritual growth. I call it an unusual juxtaposition. They’re not enemies—they’re both important—but they’re just two different ways we grow.
For example, natural growth—as parents, we want to teach our children to be independent—to tie their own shoes / to make their own lunches. As they hit the teen years—to make their own doctor’s appointment / to keep commitments in order that, when they leave home, they have confidence in their independence. That is a good thing—being independent is a natural growth that’s crucial for our children to be successful adults. Spiritual growth, on the other hand, involves becoming more dependent. I think there are two words that God loves to hear us say more than any other—and it’s, “I can’t.”
What happens—what messes us up so often is—we apply the rules of natural growth to our spiritual maturity, and we get really frustrated. I remember saying to a friend of mine, “I should be able to trust God with this situation.” She got in my face—she was a very close friend—and she said, “Susan, who are you to think that you should be able to trust God?” Whoa!—with that, she leveled me.
The older I’ve gotten, the more I have realized that spiritual growth is so much about dependence—dependence, dependence, dependence—whereas natural growth is about becoming independent.
Bob: Why this subject for you at this point in your life? Why are you tackling a subject like risky faith?
Susan: Risky faith—that’s a great question. The reason is because I have seen—now that I have been a single woman; a newlywed; a parent of five, tiny children; an empty-nester; and now a grandmother—I have seen that this is a universal struggle that we all have.
We want to trust God more, and it’s just hard; because we don’t really get a picture of how big He is. I would have to say—though most of my other books have been on parenting, this is really my life’s work that applies to you no matter what your gender is or what your season of life is.
Dennis: Barbara and I are entering into one of those seasons, and we’ve found ourselves having some conversations on our weekends, when obviously we’re both, for the most part, off from work. We’re sitting in our living room, reading our Bibles and talking about what we’re learning and interacting. She read something about the need for faith and the need for looking at circumstances through the eyes of a mature believer, who is trusting God, moving through it victoriously. I turned to her and I said, “You know, I would really have expected, at this point in my life, that I would have been more mature than I am.” [Laughter]
Dennis: I am amazed, Susan. After having walked with Christ now for over 50 years—and again, not perfectly, but attempting to embrace God and handle life as He brings it my way and deal with it in faith—I just would have expected I’d be doing a better job than this. Do you find the same thing true as well?
Susan: Oh, absolutely! I think that, again, is where natural growth influences spiritual growth; because we think: “Okay; God. I should have learned that. I should have conquered that—I can check that off, and You teach me something new.” But the reality is—at every season, we’re learning the same things over and over again—it’s just in a different way. It’s hard, because we’re ashamed / we feel badly. We feel like: “I should know this. I should know this.”
Bob: You are both, though, farther along on your spiritual journey than you were 20 years ago.
Bob: I mean, if you look back—[Laughter]
Dennis: I hope. I hope.
And I just told Barbara that morning, when I said that, “I feel like sometimes I face some circumstances that are really piddly—they’re just—there’s nothing to them—
Dennis: —“and I blow it.” I just feel like I’m spiritually immature.
Susan, you write about this in your book. You talk about one of the real challenges to moving toward faith is when emotions collide with courage.
Susan: That’s true.
Dennis: I really like the way you phrased that, because I think that’s true. We are emotional beings. Our emotions sometimes don’t want to move us toward faith—we’d rather worry about our child.
Susan: We would. One of the things that I talk about in the book—that I think is really helpful is—and it’s not a very popular topic—but we have to deal with sin and with the enemy. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about sin today, and there’s a lot of misunderstanding about the enemy. Biblical teaching is clear that we are all sinners—which is just, basically, we’re self-centered—and we do have an enemy, the devil.
One of the things that happens, when we consider Satan, is either we brush him off as just silly or we think too much of him. How does this play in, you ask, to the whole thing about risky faith? Well, it helps to recognize how Satan might attack us. This gets to your question about feelings. Satan condemns: “Oh, you are a lousy husband, Dennis. You really bombed as a father,” or “Susan, you really should have known better. You shouldn’t have spoken that way. You’ll never measure up to that other mother down the street. That other mother has it all together.” That’s condemnation; whereas, when it’s coming from the Holy Spirit, it’s specific conviction—which, when it melts our heart, leads to repentance and forgiveness.
It’s helped me to ask the question: “Where is this feeling coming from? Is this condemnation or is it conviction?”
Often, Satan speaks generally; whereas, the Holy Spirit convicts specifically.
Bob: And if the Holy Spirit is doing specific convicting, where that leads us to, as you said, is to repentance.
Susan: —to repentance.
Bob: Condemnation leads us to shame.
Susan: That’s exactly right.
Bob: So when we recognize that that shame and that place we’ve gone to—where we’re just beating ourselves up—is exactly where Satan wants to take us. When we remember that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” we can say: “Okay; I got on the wrong road. The thing to do is turn this around, get back on the right road, and thank the Lord for His grace”; right?
Susan: That’s so true. And you know, another thing that helps, too, is recognizing Satan when he tries to enter into your home. I remember, one particular evening, when John and I were just sitting on the couch after a long day. We were just having a normal conversation about our days.
All of a sudden, it was as if a dark cloud entered; and then, in about three minutes, we were after each other. I mean, we were saying things we shouldn’t / we were being nasty. And then we looked at each other and we said, you know, “What was that about?” It was just helpful to realize that was just the enemy trying to come in and tear us apart. You know, like we say in FamilyLife: “Your spouse is not your enemy.”
Bob: That’s right.
Susan: We have an enemy out there. Recognizing that we are vulnerable to the enemy really can protect your marriage; it can protect your family; and it can protect you from condemnation.
Dennis: There are really three headwinds that we run into as we attempt to exercise the faith muscle. We’ve talked about one, the devil. He does exist, and he wants to destroy faith. He does not want you to believe God for too much.
He wants you to move into unbelief—that’s his plan.
The other two headwinds are the world, and the second is the flesh. The world wants to convince you there is no God. It wants to give you a worldview that leaves Him out. Well, faith has to have an object. So, if you can be convinced there is no God, then how can you exhibit faith in that situation? So who God is—going back to the premise of your book, Susan—who God is and getting to know Him so you can trust Him is paramount in handling the headwind of the world.
The other is the flesh. The flesh just wants to handle it itself: “I’m good enough to take on this issue. I can fix this. I’m self-sufficient.” Yet, as you were sitting in that airplane that time, you prayed a very simple prayer: “Lord, help.”
Dennis: “I can’t do it; help.” There may be a listener, right now, who is facing all these headwinds and just needs to pray a simple prayer: “Lord, help.
“Would You help me in my unbelief? Help me move toward faith.”
Susan, I know this to be true; because we’ve been on an email stream, over the past few weeks here, around something very personal that has taken place in your family that has tested your faith to the core. Explain what’s taking place with our listeners.
Susan: We have quadruplets, as Dennis mentioned earlier. About ten days ago, one of the quads, Mac, who is six years old, just developed a stomach infection—we thought—but it rapidly degenerated into a serious illness, which culminated in needing a liver transplant. Five days ago, our little guy had a liver transplant. During this time, many friends have pulled together and prayed for us. He’s doing as well as can be expected now. We have a long road ahead.
One of the things that helped me so much, Dennis, during this time, besides people praying for us, was being in God’s Word. It’s not just a vacuous God out there—it is a God who is made known to us through His Word. Let me take it back, for a few minutes, because this is something that I’ve had to cling to these past ten days.
Some time ago, I realized how easy it was for me to wake up in the morning, and even before I got out of bed, I was feeling discouraged about my day—just a little blue as I thought about my list. There’s a passage that says we need to be about the renewing of our minds, in Scripture. So I said to the Lord, much as I had said in asking Him to help me, “I want You to give me one character trait each day to dwell on.” I remember the first morning I did this, the thought that came to my mind was, “He’s the God who rescues.” He’s the God who rescues.
I went downstairs and my phone rang. It was a friend in tears over a teenage son that she was having trouble with.
She said to me, “Susan, I just feel like he needs to be rescued.” I thought: “Oh, God! You are so good!” I began this practice a number of years ago, and it has been a staying force in keeping my head on the Lord rather than my situation.
A few weeks ago, I began just meditating on the word, Emmanuel, “God with us.” I asked myself the question, “Susan, what do you most need from God?” Now, we need forgiveness; we need peace; we need a sense of purpose—there are many things we need. But what I think everyone, even a nonbeliever, needs most is not to feel alone. Emmanuel is God with us.
I think God has been preparing my heart for the crisis we’ve been through the past week-and-a-half—as we were in the hospital, as we were up all night, as we’re praying for the transplant team—the word that came to me over and over again is Emmanuel: “God with us,” “God with us,” “God with us.”
Just a couple nights ago, I had the opportunity—little Mac, our grandson with the liver, has an eight-year-old sister, as well as three brothers and sisters. She was fearful going to bed. I took her to Psalm 121, where it describes that our God is a watching-over-you God, who neither slumbers nor sleeps. We pulled that phrase out: “Okay, Grey; He’s a watching-over-you God. He’s a watching-over-you God.” I actually wrote the whole thing out on a pillowcase for her from Psalm 121 so that she could sleep, in sort of a sense, on the Word of God.
One of the ways that our faith grows is by focusing more on who God is rather than who we are or are not. That’s what I talk about in the book—little things like this that can help us get a bigger picture of how big He is.
Dennis: There may be a listener who needs to hear all of Psalm 121.
Dennis: Let me just read it to you: “I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper. The Lord is your shade on your right hand; the sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in, from this time forth and forevermore.”
Now, the question to the listener is: “Will you trust Him?
Dennis: “Will you take Him at His Word?”
I can tell you—because I’ve occasionally done this—He can. He is trustworthy—He will not disappoint you. He may not give you what you want, but He will give you what you need.
Bob: And it’s good to be reminded of who it is we’re talking about, just who He is. Susan, that’s what you do in the book that you’ve written called Risky Faith: Becoming Brave Enough to Trust the God Who Is Bigger than Your World. You remind us of who God is; and in reminding us, it’s easier to trust Him. We have copies of Susan’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go online if you’d like to order a copy—our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order. Our number is 1-800-FL-TODAY.
So, again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329, which is 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, as we head into this season of year where our focus is on the death and resurrection of Jesus, I’m reminded of the fact that, when our relationships are not what they ought to be—whether it’s with a spouse, with our children, with extended family members / whomever it’s with—we can often trace that fracture back to a problem in our relationship with God. In order to have our human relationships functioning as they are intended to function, we need to have our relationship with God functioning as He designed it to function. The way for that to happen is for us to believe that Jesus is who He says He is and, in response to that, to surrender our lives to His lordship.
That’s what we’re all about here, at FamilyLife. I know that those of you who partner with us in this ministry, either as monthly Legacy Partners or those of you who donate, from time to time, to support FamilyLife Today, you share that conviction that the spiritual foundation of our lives is most important. We just want to say: “Thank you for your partnership, those of you who do contribute. Every time you make a contribution, you’re making it possible for messages like the one you’ve heard today to be heard by more people all around the globe, whether it’s through radio, through our mobile apps, through our streaming, our podcasting, our events, our website, our resources. You make all of that possible through your donations.”
Would you consider making a financial contribution to FamilyLife Today? You can do that, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk more about the times when God calls us to be risky with our faith; and oftentimes, that can be in the context of relationships. Sometimes, it’s risky to forgive someone who has offended you. We’ll talk more about tomorrow.
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.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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