What to do When the Storms ComeAugust 9, 2006
Storms blow through everyone’s life. On today’s broadcast, Dennis Rainey tells how the storms of life can draw a couple closer together instead of blowing them apart.
Storms blow through everyone’s life. On today’s broadcast, Dennis Rainey tells how the storms of life can draw a couple closer together instead of blowing them apart.
What to do When the Storms Come
Bob: There's a little-known secret to growing spiritually strong as a family. You've got to spend time in the valley of the shadow. Here's Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: There are those who have seen the death of a dream of a family. They had hoped to have a Christian family, to grow together as a couple, but they've been left as a single parent, or they've been abandoned with their smashed dreams to live the rest of their lives. How will you respond? Will you allow God to get your attention to that and turn back to Him and to grow through it, or will you become embittered?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 9th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How are you responding to the trials and storms in your marriage and in your family? Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. I was talking with some friends of mine not long ago about those times in our lives when we have experienced times of great spiritual growth, and the interesting thing that was common with all of us as we tackled that question, Dennis, was that spiritual growth, the greatest spiritual growth, often comes in the midst of the valleys of life. If you pull back and say, "When did we really grow in our understanding of who God is and our relationship with Him," it was often in the middle of the storms that we experience.
And we've been talking about how to grow a spiritually strong family over the last week and a half, and I thought, well, all you need to do is just make sure you take your family into some really hard times, and that will produce spiritual growth for you.
Dennis: Well, I was going to ask you, Bob, as you reflect back on your life, can you think of any times in your life when you really did grow spiritually, and the times were really good, and it was just easy sailing?
Bob: There have been those times when there's been a passion for God's Word. Maybe I've been in a study in particular book, teaching something at Sunday school, and the Lord's really used His Word to bring about fresh understanding and a new depth there. And so I would say there have been times when life's been good, and I've still grown spiritually, I think that's possible. But the hard realities of life have a way of searing in the spiritual principles so that you walk out the other side going, "I know what the realities of my spiritual life are."
Dennis: It doesn't mean that spiritual growth can't occur in the good times, because it can, but one thing is for sure, times of difficulty, trials, testing, crisis, I believe are times when we draw closest to God. There's a bonding and an embracing of who God is during that time that is really second to none.
I have an e-mail here that we received from a conferee who attended one of our Weekend to Remember conferences in Chicago. He writes, "All I can say is wow. That conference was, without a doubt, the turning point in my life." And he goes on and say, "My history is two previous divorces, addicted to pornography, selfish, a father who was absent, and a stepfather who was unloving and mean. I realized through the Weekend to Remember that God has given me three chances to get this marriage thing right, and this was my last chance. I have committed to my wife before God, and I also committed my life and my family to Jesus Christ."
Here is a guy whose life, it seems, had a crisis and suffering that swirled about it, and God used that crisis ultimately to get his attention. As I look back over our 30 years of marriage together, I just made a quick list of some of the things we've faced as a couple – the loss of my dad, the loss of Barbara's grandmother that she was very close to, the loss of a nephew in a tragic car wreck in East Texas, there have been health issues for Barbara, for Samuel, for Ashley, our daughter, who has asthma. There have been times of crisis when we had no choice but to go through the crisis – a child who was rebelling for a period of time; a child who was dating the wrong person; another hanging with the wrong crowd. There have been times that have been a crisis of faith, sometimes related to my work and, for a man, that is a big deal.
At times it's been a crisis of choices that we've faced around debt, around credit cards, around foolish choices that we've made that we bore the consequences of. There have been times in our marriage when we have faced a crisis; where there have been relational disconnects; where we've missed one another, and we needed to come back together – loss of friendships, loss of support systems because of moving, loss of the supporting relationships of a church. Many of these issues, Bob, have caused us to grow at a spiritually increased rate. But, I'm going to tell you, you laughingly said it – it's like we need to find a storm to fly into. I think the storms have a way of finding us.
Bob: And that's the reality of life and marriage and family. There will be times of storm. Nobody goes from cradle to grave with the weather always being 72 degrees and sunny outside. There are times when it gets cold, times when it gets bumpy, times when the rain is driving and the hail is falling, and the thunder is crashing, and the question is – which direction do we lean during those times? Do we lean into God and into what He has for us in the midst of those crises?
I think of Psalm 23 here, Dennis, where the psalmist, David, says, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," all of us will walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but he says, "My response to that is I won't fear evil. Why? Because You are with me, and Your rod and your staff comfort me." If we want to grow spiritually strong, we need to make sure that in the middle of the valley, we're walking very closely to the God who is in control of the storm that's swirling around us.
Dennis: And the man who wrote that knew something about the storm. That's how he came to that conclusion.
There are really a number of – I hate to call them principles, because they really transcend just being a principle, but there are a number of things that are true if we are going to grow spiritually that we must embrace, and they're really principles that are taught in Scripture. The first one is we have to understand when we go through a time of suffering, that God is in control, and that He can be trusted. Now, that may sound like a simple conclusion, but for many people, when they face pain, the pain is not a megaphone that is used to turn us back to God. It's like walking in front of a megaphone with somebody yelling at us, repelling us and pushing us away.
And so what we have to do is, I believe, we have to realize that many times God will use the pain of a crisis, the discomfort of trouble, of difficulty, of chronic illness in our lives so that we will ultimately listen to Him. I think of what Dr. Paul Brand, who heads up a leprosarium has said about pain. He said, "I thank God for inventing pain. I don't think He could have done a better job."
Pain has a way of getting our attention, and when we go through a difficult time, God wants to use that pain in our lives, whether we're a single parent, a two-parent family, whether you're a couple that are childless and want to have a baby, and it's the pain of not being able to have that child. God wants to use that pain to turn our hearts toward Him not away from Him.
Bob: And I think it takes walking through the valley of the shadow sometimes to get to the place where you can write, "surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." It's the experience of going through the valley that causes your confidence about who God is to increase. And that's why, as you say, going through trials helps us understand that God is in control and that He can be trusted.
Dennis: And there's a second thing that if we're going to grow spiritually, we have to embrace, and that is we need to understand that God is accomplishing His purposes through our pain. Now, the problem here, Bob, is our vision is limited. We can't fully understand what God is up to. We only know that the Scriptures teach that in the midst of any storm, God has multiple purposes. Now, to us, it comes down to pretty much one purpose – why me? Why us? What's God trying to tell me or trying to tell us in the midst of this?
But the reality is, He may have many, many purposes that He's trying to accomplish. He can be trying to get our attention; He can be trying to help us get to know Him. He can be teaching us to trust Him and teach our children to also know and trust Him. He wants to make us Christlike, and many times He takes us through a fiery trial to burn away the dross and to refine the silver.
Bob: The Bible talks about that in James, chapter 1, Romans, chapter 5. It says that part of the purpose of trials is to make us more complete, more like Christ.
Dennis: And in John 15 He talks about how He prunes the branches so that they might bear more fruit, and He wants us to become more fruitful. He also wants us to honor Him through our response in the midst of trials. He wants us to lead obedience to better understand what Christ went through when He suffered. Over in 1 Peter, chapter 4, it says one of the purposes of suffering is so we might be overjoyed when we see Him in His glory, knowing what He's accomplished for us. All those purposes give us a reason, as we go through a period of trials.
Bob: We may not know what God is up to, and it may be for others' benefit not necessarily for our benefit, but God is up to something. He knows what He's doing, and He can be trusted, as you've said.
Dennis: He can be. I think one of the keys, as you go through a period of suffering as a couple, if you want to grow together spiritually, is you have to pull together toward the same objective not pull apart. It's very easy in the midst of a time of suffering to turn against one another.
I remember when Barbara and I went through a season of real trials and real crisis. Because she's a mom, and because the crisis involved one of our children, I didn't feel it as a dad the same way she did as a mom. And it's real easy for men to process a crisis at a different level, at a different pace, than their wives, and I think if you are going to grow together spiritually, as a couple, you have to pay careful attention to turning back to one another, to interacting and communicating with one another, and almost over-communicating with one another what's going on in your hearts and make sure the other person knows where you're coming from and make sure you know where your spouse is coming from.
Bob: This is so important, what you're talking about right here, because as couples go through a trial together – I'll give you an example. The loss of a child, the death of a child, is something that husbands and wives experience differently, process differently, and we look to one another for support and for comfort. But when both of us are hurting, we don't have a supply of comfort and support to give to the other person.
And so now, all of a sudden, instead of feeling like our mate is our ally, we feel like they've let us down in our time of greatest need, when the truth is, we're in no better shape than they're in, right?
Dennis: Well, and what happens is a brief period of suffering turns into a season. And, before long, you've had several months of trials and difficulties and misunderstandings, and what happens to the heart is the heart can become numb, and it can become a little weary in well doing, and it's not always easy to believe the truth about your spouse. In fact, the easiest thing to do is to start to have some vain imaginations about your spouse and say, "Well, he doesn't really care."
Bob: Have a pity party.
Dennis: Yeah, and "He doesn't understand." Or "She just too inwardly focused, and she's too preoccupied with this. She needs to get a life."
Bob: This is really helpful. So if a couple is going through a trial, whether it's the loss of a child or the loss of a job or the death of some kind of a vision for your family, you need to remember that your mate is not your enemy in the midst of the trial, and you need to go to one another and say, "Listen, we are committed to each other, and even when things get hard, even when we don't see eye to eye, even when we feel like the other person is not there for us, we're going to find our way through this together."
Dennis: Spiritually speaking, it's a time to renew your covenant. You did say, "in sickness and in health."
Bob: Mm-hm, "for better, for worse."
Dennis: And these are times to, again, pull together not apart. There is one last principle that I think is very important in growing a spiritually strong family, and that's occasionally to kind of pick a high point in the road and to pull off the side of the road and look backwards, kind of look back over the valleys and see the territory you've covered and to see how you've grown spiritually as an individual, as a couple, and as a family.
One of the things that Barbara and I do quite frequently is we just kind of rehearse some of the lessons we've learned. We talk about what it was like when we went through that and what we learned about who God was and who He is today and how we apply it to circumstances where we are. And if you don't take that turnout on the road, the feeling can become "We haven't made any progress at all. Here we are again, we're struggling, we're going through difficulty, we're in another crisis. Life is horrible, God is no longer good, and the Christian faith doesn't work." Well, the reality is, if you can pull off long enough and get a perspective and look backwards, there have been gains, there has been a time of increased intimacy with God and with one another.
I recently spent some time with a man who – he and his wife have faced a chronic illness with one of their children over the 25 years of the young man's life. And it has been an on-again, off-again illness that has been life-threatening on numerous occasions. And we're talking about a couple and a family whose entire existence has been shaped by the illness of one family member.
And as I interacted with him just about what he's facing as a man and what they've faced as a couple, he made this statement, he said, "Dennis, there is an intimacy that occurs with your spouse when you share it together with God, and you respond to life according to the Scriptures that is incredibly sweet, incredibly deep."
And it was interesting, Bob, he's still in the midst of it. Their son is still in a life-threatening situation. They ought to be totally exhausted. There ought not to be any smile on anyone's face, but he was smiling as he looked back, and he said "God has taught me some things about Himself, He has taught my wife and I such profound ways of trusting Him and knowing Him and walking with Him," and he didn't say this, but this was what he was saying – "and I wouldn't trade it for a life of ease."
Now, that seems abnormal, but, I want to tell you, having interacted with him and many, many others over my years of walking with Christ, I believe that's the purpose that God can bring to suffering. It's the growth that He can bring to a soul, and it's the maturity – I mean, it's a profound maturity. It's not the milk that is referred to in Hebrews, it's the meat. It is the real growth that occurs because someone has really seen God at work in their lives, in their marriage, and all around their family.
Bob: It is interesting that these times of crisis, and these times of trial in our marriage relationship can take us in one of two directions – it can either take us closer to God and grow us in maturity, or it can take us in the opposite direction. On Friday night at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference, we talk about the fact that all marriages are going to face some inevitable difficulties. And the question is, how are you going to respond to those difficulties? Are you going to respond with faith and confidence in God, which will cause you to grow together as a couple and cause you to grow closer to God and to grow more into the image of Christ or when you face inevitable difficulties are you going to respond by moving away from each other and away from God and find yourself in a place where the pain is never really satisfied?
You deal with this subject in your book, "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," because if we're going to grow spiritually strong as a family, we have to grow in the midst of those trials and those circumstances. This is a book that we have available in our FamilyLife Resource Center. It's a very easy book to read. In fact, let me commend it to the men who are listening. You can read this in an airplane trip. Even if it's a short trip, even if it's just a 45-minute commuter flight, you can get this book read, and yet it will give you some profound insight and direction into how to move your family in the right direction spiritually.
We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com. There's a "Go" button in the middle of the screen, a red button that says "Go" on it. You click that button, it will take you right to the page where you can get more information about the book, "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family." Other resources that we have available to help you grow spiritually in your marriage and in your family. That's really what we're all about here at FamilyLife Today. We want to help you effectively build a godly family with practical biblically based resources for your marriage and for your family. So, again, go to the website, FamilyLife.com, click the button that says "Go," in the middle of the screen, and that will take you right to a page where you can get more information about the resources that are available.
There is also a copy of your book, "Moments Together for Couples," that's pictured on the website. That's a daily devotional guide that tens of thousands of couples have used throughout the years to help strengthen their marriage relationship and grow their family. Any of our listeners who are interested in getting a copy of both "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," and "Moments Together for Couples," we'll send them at no additional cost to them, the CD audio of our two-week conversation on this subject about growing a spiritually strong family, and you can either listen to that, review it again, or pass it along to someone who you know who would benefit from hearing this series.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com or give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY, and we can talk over the resources that are available and what you might be interested in and get whatever you'd like sent out to you. The phone number again, 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and our website is FamilyLife.com.
You know, as we have talked with listeners over the years, the subject we're talking about last week and this week is what you have told us is the top issue for your marriage and your family. The spiritual health of your children, of your marriage, of your whole family dynamic is the thing that listeners have said they care most about. And I remember the conversation we had several months ago with Beth Moore, who has written a number of Bible studies for women, and I remember zeroing in on that same subject with her. We talked about the family she grew up in, we talked about the challenges she faced growing up, and we talked about some of the challenges that she faced early on in her marriage, wondering whether it was going to work.
She was very transparent in that conversation and this month our team wanted to make the CD of that conversation with Beth Moore available to any of our listeners who would like to hear her story. We're making it available for a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We're listener-supported, so those donations are what keep us on the air in this city and in other cities around the country, and if you can contact us this month and make a donation, again, of any amount, we'll be happy to send you upon request this CD from Beth Moore. You can donate by calling 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone, and just mention that you'd like the CD from Beth Moore, or you can go online to donate at FamilyLife.com. You'll see the "make a donation" tab over on the left side of the home page. You can click on that. It will take you right to the form that you can fill out to make a donation, and when you get to the keycode box just type in the word "free," and we'll know that you want the Beth Moore CD sent out to you.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com and type in the word "free" in the keycode box if you're interested in getting the Beth Moore CD. We wanted to send this out to those of you who requested it as a way of saying thank you for your partnership with us. We appreciate hearing from you, and we appreciate your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Well, tomorrow we want to talk about what may be the biggest influence that is working against your family's spiritual growth. Now, think about that. If you had to think what one thing is causing our family to stumble spiritually, what would it be? We'll tell you what we think tomorrow. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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