FamilyLife Today® Podcast

What We’ve Learned about Trials

with Ann Wilson, Dave Wilson | February 27, 2019
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Pastor Dave Wilson and his wife, Ann, who are longtime FamilyLife speakers, talk about all they've learned from watching the Raineys, especially as they walked through trials. The Raineys tell what kept them going through the hardships, like Barbara's heart issues, a son's diagnosis of MS, and losing a grandchild. Dave and Ann also answer Dennis' favorite question: What is the most courageous thing you've ever done?

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • 40 Years of Faithfulness 2 CD set

  • 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.

Dave Wilson and his wife, Ann, talk about all they’ve learned from watching the Raineys walk through trials. Dave and Ann also answer Dennis’ favorite question: What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

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What We’ve Learned about Trials

With Ann Wilson, Dave Wilson
February 27, 2019
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Bob: One of the things that Dave and Ann Wilson—and for that matter, all of us—have learned from Dennis and Barbara Rainey over the years is how to walk through valleys and keep your eyes where they belong.

Ann: I’ve seen you guys—and because we’ve known you for 30 years—you’ve gone through some trials; you’ve gone through a lot. One of the things that I’ve always watched, and I love about you, is: one, is you’ll go there and you’ll talk about it. You’re very authentic in the pain of it, but here’s the other thing—that you’ve been amazing and so inspiring—is, when you could have been really depressed and discouraged and hopeless, you always had your eyes on Jesus.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, February 27th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Looking back over the last few decades of FamilyLife Today, there have been a lot of lessons we have all learned from Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s lives. We’ll celebrate and hear more about that today from Dave and Ann Wilson. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. This feels a little bit like that place in America, where they brought the railroad together; you know? They drove the spike there in the middle, between—I don’t know—

Ann: Were you there? [Laughter]

Dave: I think he was!


Bob: I was—

Dave: His fear—he was!

Bob: That is so cold! I was about to introduce the new hosts of FamilyLife Today but not anymore!  [Laughter]


Dennis: You’re going to keep the old! [Laughter]

Bob: I’ll get somebody else to do this!

Barbara: A career limiting move. [Laughter]

Dave: How would you like to be married to that? [Laughter]

Dennis: There you go!

Bob: That’s a great question!

Dennis: That voice you heard was Dave Wilson the former new host!


Bob: This is a transitional period. This week, we are joining together what has been 26 years of FamilyLife Today with what is the future of FamilyLife Today and making a handoff to a couple, who have been friends for a very long time.

Dennis: And Bob, since you’ve been in the studio with Dave and Ann and seen them in action more than I have—because you’ve already begun cutting some broadcasts with them that will be aired in the future days and months ahead—what would you say are their unique distinctives that they bring to FamilyLife Today?

Bob: Well, the first thing I’d say is that they bring continuity. That’s not unique; but listeners, who have tuned in to hear practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family—

Dennis: They’ve got the DNA.

Bob: —they’re not going to be disappointed. They’re going to continue getting practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family. That’s what FamilyLife Today is all about, regardless of who winds up sitting in any of these chairs.

But I do think they bring life experience; they bring honesty; they bring transparency; they bring the fact that they have been involved in local church ministry. Dave’s been a pastor of Kensington Church in the suburban Detroit area for decades. They helped found that church together, and Ann’s been involved in ministry there as well.

And they’ve done life-on-life with a lot of those people. You’ve been in discipleship situations, regularly, with couples who are challenged in their marriage / couples who are dealing with parenting issues. You bring a lot of that wisdom from seeing those experiences and helping walk couples through them into what we’re going to experience on FamilyLife Today,going forward.

Dennis: I want to ask the same question of my bride, Barbara, who joins us.

Barbara: You are? [Laughter]

Dennis: I am. And I have the answer if you don’t know. What would you say is unique about Ann as she comes to the table, here, to help host FamilyLife Today with her husband Dave?

Barbara: Well, what first popped into my head is I think Ann is spunkier than I am. [Laughter]

Dennis: I actually had the word, sassy. [Laughter]

Barbara: Sassy. [Laughter]

Ann: I think both of those may be applicable.

Barbara: Both of those are true?

Dennis: Yes!

Barbara: I just think she brings an energy that will be really fun for listeners to hear as she and Dave interact together, because she’s not afraid to interrupt and engage. That’s really healthy and good.

Bob: We’ve been asking both of you guys [Dave and Ann] this week to just reflect on some of the things you’ve learned from observing Dennis and Barbara over the years. You’ve known one another for over three decades now. You’ve observed them for even longer than that. As you’ve gotten to know them—as you’ve listened to them / as you’ve listened to FamilyLife Today—what’s something that stands out that you think has been a learning point you?

Dave: Here’s a learning—

Bob: I was asking Ann!


Ann: What happened?!

Bob: You hang on.


Dave: No, no, no! Watch this!

Ann: Oh! Here we go!

Dave: Here’s what I was going to do—I was going to say one of the things I learned from Dennis is to always honor your spouse. I was going to say, “Let’s have Ann go first.”

Bob: Ohh—

Ann: Oh, you’re so good; you’re amazing!

Dennis: You took it away from him, Bob.

Dave: You took it right away!

Dennis: He had a chance to get one point.

Dave: Don’t ever do that again, Bob!

Ann: I’m going to give you ten points for that.

Dave: Ten!

Ann: Yes!

Dave: What does that mean?

Ann: I don’t know; we’ll see!

Dave: We got to end this broadcast early! [Laughter] That’s all I got to say!

Ann: Oh, boy; here we go. [Laughter]

Here’s one of the things that I’ve put on my list about what you guys have taught. Actually, I would say we caught this more than hearing you teach it; and that is, watching you go through trials. I’ve seen you guys—and because we’ve known you for 30 years—you’ve gone through some trials. I’m thinking back on your health, Barbara—your heart issues—I have Samuel’s leg and all the issues that came along with that. You can elaborate on this more—but losing a grandchild.

Dave: —grandchild.

Ann: Losing a grandchild, even having rebellious kids. You’ve gone through a lot.

One of the things that I’ve always watched, and I love about you, is: one, you’ll go there and you’ll talk about it. You’re very authentic in the pain of it, but here’s the other thing— that you’ve been amazing and so inspiring—is, when you could have been really depressed and discouraged and hopeless, you always had your eyes on Jesus. You always have your eyes on the Father; you always put your trust in Him. That, to me, was one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen in people.

Barbara: I think I want to restate what you just said.

Ann: Okay.

Barbara: You said, as I heard it—instead of being depressed and hopeless and whatever, we put our eyes on Jesus. I would say, “When we were depressed and hopeless, we put our eyes on Jesus,” because it’s not that we never went there; it’s just that, when we were there, we looked to Him; because He was the only source of hope.

Ann: Yes; that’s good.

Barbara: I’m grateful for those experiences because of what they’ve taught me about Him. It’s deepened our marriage, too, because we have experienced this together.

Ann:I think, for some couples, it pulls them apart. How did it—

Barbara: Oh, it can!

Ann: How did you not let that happen?

Dennis: I think, for a period of time—when Barbara nearly died with her heart racing to 300 beats a minute and beating that way for eight hours, and then we found out she was pregnant. We wondered if she would be able to give birth to a healthy child. So there was all the fear of that, moving forward. I think it takes you back to the very roots of your faith. The time you build your faith is not when it’s raining; it’s not when the floods come; it’s not when the wind is bursting against your house.

The time you build your house foundation is now—one step at a time/one act of obedience. Jesus, in Matthew 7, says, “He who hears these words of Mine, and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock,”—hearing, which means, as Bob talked about on an earlier broadcast, intake—receiving the words of life from the Bible and then doing them/being obedient. James says, “To him who knows what is right but does not do it, to him it’s sin.” You don’t toy around with temptation—you put it to death. You build your house on the Rock. And that way, when the floods do come—it’s not a matter of if

I’ve started listening to your list and I thought, “We’ve really lived quite a while.” You know, we’ve been married, now, 46 years; we have been in some tough spots—tough spots that we’ve made public and tough spots that we couldn’t make public. The issue is—we never wavered the bottom line of life: “Who is our Master? Who is our Lord? Who was worthy of us trusting and placing our hope in?”—that’s Jesus Christ.

Bob: You know, you brought up Matthew 7—Jesus’ conclusion to The Sermon on the Mount. We might be able to do a word search and figure this out, but that may be the passage—more than any other passage, over 26 years—that you have shared about when to build the foundation. Our church is going through a building project right now. There was a season, where I was going: “Is the foundation poured yet?” And they were saying: “We can’t because of the weather. The rain is so bad; you can’t pour a foundation in the rain. It’s got to be dry for the foundation to be poured.

That’s the illustration, that you’re giving here. The foundation for your life and your marriage is not going to be poured well in a rainstorm or a snowstorm. It’s going to be poured well when things are going right, which is why we tell couples: “Don’t go to a Weekend to Remember® when your marriage is in trouble. Go to a Weekend to Remember long before your marriage gets in trouble, so that you can pour the foundation so, when trouble comes, you know what to do with it,”—right?

Dave: Although we are not saying, “Don’t go when your marriage is in trouble.”

Barbara and Ann: That’s right. [Laughter]

Bob: “Go then, too”; yes.

Dave: “Go at all times.”

Barbara: Yes.

Dave: I would just add to Ann’s learning—listening to you, over the years, share your struggle gives everyone of us help/gives us hope; because number one, you’re vulnerable. You’re sharing things that are hard to share. A lot of couples never let people in that valley. You’re letting us in; and yet—when we are in that valley or headed to that valley—we have a couple/we have a story, like: “They made it. They kept their eyes on Jesus,”—it’s so inspiring. That’s why it’s such a learning for us.

Even thinking about FamilyLife Today, going forward, here is what I hope the listeners will get, as a guarantee from us. We will always give the brokenness; and at the same time, there will be victory. It’s going to be vulnerable and the Resurrection—you’re going to get both. You’re not just going to get brokenness; you’re going to get both, because there is Jesus always in the middle of that storm—that’s the Rock. You are always going to get that on this program.

Dennis: Now, I want to go to a question that I asked you earlier this week. In an effort to let our listeners get to know you in a personal way, “What’s the most courageous thing you have ever done in all your life?” I’ll just remind our listeners, who haven’t heard me ask this question before—because I’ve met you—and you can always spot a listener; because they’ll come up and say, “Let me tell you my most courageous thing,” because they have heard me mention it so many times, they’ve got it nailed. It’s doing your duty in the face of fear. It’s not the absence of fear; it’s fear and faith colliding, and it’s choosing to believe and to step out.


Bob: Do you have an answer for that, Dave?

Dave: I do. It’s interesting—when I went to make my list of lessons learned from the Raineys, it was number one—it’s the first memory I have. I don’t know if you’ll remember it; but when we came to this building that we’re sitting in right now—FamilyLife Headquarters—to interview to be a speaker on the Weekend to Remember® speaker team, Ann and I—you didn’t know this—but while we were flying down here, we’re going: “Oh my gosh! I’ve never met Dennis Rainey.” I’ve only heard you from the stage at a Weekend to Remember—nervous. We hope we can do this; we want to do this, but there’s the Interview. And it’s not done until Dennis says, “You’re in,”—the President has to say, “You’re in.”

We’re nervous. We’re literally role playing on the plane what questions you’re probably going to ask and how we’re going to answer it. [Laughter] We are on the plane, going [to the interview]: “He’ll probably ask this,” “Okay; what will we say?” Okay; so we are trying to get all the questions right.

We do a little tour of this building—first time we are ever here. They take us into your office—sat down, across from your desk. You came in, sat down and introduced yourself, and asked us how we were doing—blah, blah, blah. Then you said it—I don’t know—maybe you did this with everybody, but this is what you did with me—you said, “I have one question, ‘Are you clean?’” And you would not take your eyes off me. It was an awkward silence like this [pause], and I said—

Ann: It was awkward for me; because I’m thinking, “You better be clean!” [Laughter]

Dave: I’ll never forget. I looked at you and said, “Yes; I am clean.” Immediately, you looked at Ann and said, “Is he telling me the truth?” And she said, “Yes,” and you go, “Okay; you’re in.” I don’t know if you remember this—I go, “What do you mean we’re in?!” You go, “You guys are on the speaker team.” I go, “Are we good enough?!” He said, “Yes; you’re decent,”—you know, it’s that kind of thing. [Laughter]

A couple of learnings here. The first one was: “Oh my gosh; this isn’t about talent; this isn’t about speaking skill—to be able get up on a stage and present. This is about character.”

Dennis: Right!

Dave: So here’s where it ties into the most courageous thing I’ve ever done. One of the reasons I could look at you that day and say, “Yes; I am clean,” is—probably about 18 months, or two years/maybe, three years before that moment—I had to look at my wife, in our family room, and tell her I had a struggle with pornography. That was the scariest moment that I could remember in my life, because I had hid it for a period of time.

She knew something was going on; because I am a pastor/I’m a spiritual leader and, yet, I have this secret. It was the only time, and the first we ever had a secret; and she didn’t even know. She would ask me: ”You looked at anything?—doing anything?” And I literally would lie to her; then go to my accountability group, with three other guys, who were holding each other accountable and lie to them.

One day, I had to, you know—and Ann can tell you—but I told her: “I‘ve been struggling with something, and this is what it is.” That started a whole new journey for our marriage to the point to where I could look at you, two years later and say, “Yes; I am clean.”

Again, I’m not saying I’ve never struggled—I don’t—it was just like, “No; I am clean.” I don’t think I would have ever been able to answer that question with a “Yes,” if I hadn’t brought it to my wife and those guys in my life and said: “I‘ve got to be honest here. I’m struggling with something. We’ve got to—I need your help.”

Dennis: And Ann, do you remember how you responded to his statement?

Ann: Oh, Dennis, why did you have to ask that?!—because I was not gracious in the least. I was hurt; I was angry—I felt incredibly insecure. I thought it was all about me and my lack of—it was really hard. I was angry, because I felt like he had lied to me for a while; and he never had before. We know everything about each other, and this was a secret.

I was really glad that he had told me, but I was scared about where it would lead: “Is this the end? Will it be done here? Is that it? Is it going to be a continuous struggle? Will it last?”

It took me a long time to trust you—

Dave: Oh, yes.

Ann: —and to not be angry about it and not take it personally.


Dave: I had to learn—when you break trust, it’s that quick—you know, one decision; you break trust. To regain trust—is you’re rebuilding a whole castle you’ve torn down, piece by piece. Again, I wanted her—because I had now confessed—I wanted her to immediately trust me. I learned—over years, really: “I’ve got to rebuild that trust.”

Ann: And I am so glad that he told me, because I feel like there are no secrets. I know everything about him—I know his struggles; he knows my struggles—but it wasn’t easy for sure.

Dave: Yes; we know a lot of couples have been through—we wrote two chapters on it in our book—just about this struggle—because it’s so prevalent in so many couples. Yet, I would look back and say that was really a courageous moment for me. I’m not proud of it at all, but I thank God that He has restored trust and honor in our marriage and given me the ability/power through Christ to win this battle.


Bob: What about you?—most courageous thing?

Ann: Well, it’d be great to have a day to process, you know, what was the most; but the thing that popped into my head right away was being 18 years old and working my summer job to make money to go into college. I was working at Whirlpool in a factory, shooting screws on the assembly line. I had been a Christian for two years. I was playing the game—I was dating a guy; I was having sex with him. I was not living the life that I read about in the Bible. I had finally had it. I was shooting these screws and having this deep conversation with God. This took courage on my part, because I was a first-generation Christian. I’ve never seen it lived out; I’ve never watched it. You know they didn’t have the podcasts, and the YouTube, and all the things you could watch.

I started going to church by myself; but on this day, I told God: “God I’m done playing this Christian game. I want You to have all of me—all of me. I will go wherever You call me; I will do whatever You tell me to do. I will marry or not marry. I will break up with this guy that I am dating. I am all Yours forever and ever. I want to walk with You; I want to serve You; and I want You to use me to do whatever You want. But I’d love for You to use me to change the world.” I didn’t even know what that meant—what it looked like—but I was like: “God, just use me to do anything. I want to know You,”—like I knew Him, but I wanted the relationship—that He was my closest friend, my God, my King, my Savior.

That was scary, because I had an idea of what Christians were. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, “But don’t send me to Detroit to be a pastor’s wife.” [Laughter] I didn’t care! I think I held a lot back [before this commitment]—like: “I didn’t want to be one of those weird Christians.” I didn’t even know what a weird Christian was; but I had all these “Don’t do this..” “Don’t take away my boyfriend,” “Don’t…”—but I was just done with that. I wanted to do what He wanted me to do and walk where He wanted me to walk.

It was so interesting—I mean, it was freedom. It was the first time I felt free in anticipation of what God could do. I know that looks different for everybody. But the crazy thing is—I did that: I broke up with the boyfriend the very next day; I became one of those people that were probably very obnoxious to their family—I’d walk in the door, like, “We’re all going to hell unless we know Jesus!”—[Laughter]—you know, just totally irritating! I didn’t know anything.

Dave: Hey, you got to tell who you met that week.

Ann: I was going to say: “And that week, I met Dave.”

Barbara: Wow.

Ann: That’s what I was praying—I said, “I don’t even want to be in a relationship unless You are a part of it—You are the center of it.” Dave and I were married within the year.

Barbara: Wow!

 Ann: Isn’t that crazy?

Barbara: Yes.

Dennis: I’m sittinghere, thinking—just [as] we started this broadcast—you, Ann, raising the issue of how we handled trials, suffering, difficult periods in our marriage. You both have modelled how you do that—yours [Ann]: modelling surrender—that’s where it begins; and Dave, you modelling repentance—because it isn’t a matter of if you’ll sin; it’s a matter of when, and how often, and what you do with that sin—and whether you confess it, and repent of it, and turn your back on it, and turn to the Savior, and also turn to your spouse and model humility.


I think our listeners have a lot of great years to look forward to here.

Bob: Well, one way for listeners to get to know you guys better is to get a copy of your [Dave and Ann’s] new book, Vertical Marriage, which is a book we’ve got, here, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. We’d love to send you a copy. You can go to to order it, or call us to request your copy: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. Again, the website is; or you can order Vertical Marriage when you call 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

As we spend time this week just reflecting on and celebrating the life and the legacy of Dennis and Barbara—looking back on the last 26-plus years of FamilyLife Today being on the air—we thought it would be fun to offer a special gift to our listeners. We’ve got a lot of listeners who have joined us recently and don’t know much about your [Dennis and Barbara’s] history, your background, how God’s been at work through your ministry in the early years. The three of us sat down, not long ago—we kind of walked through the first 40 years of this ministry, starting in 1976—looked at the high points: things God has done, how He has used this ministry, lives that have been impacted—pretty remarkable journey.

We captured that on two audio CDs. We’d love to send you those CDs so that you can find out more about FamilyLife®. You can go to and just request them—we’ll send them to you at no cost. Again, the website: Just give us your name and address and say, “I’d like those CDs,” and we’ll get them out to you. Or you can call and order them—again, no cost—call 1-800-FL-TODAY—that’s 1-800-358-6329—and ask for the audio CDs of the first four decades of the ministry of FamilyLife. We hope you enjoy hearing about how God’s been at work through this ministry since 1976.

Now, before we wrap up things here today, we’ve got some final thoughts from the new President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, who is here joining us. Hey, David.

David: Hey, Bob. I just want to echo today what Dennis and Barbara said and how excited I am that Dave and Ann Wilson will be hosting FamilyLife Today in this next chapter. I love their passion for Jesus and for each other. I love their equal passion to provide practical help to marriages and families. That’s part of their story—to give people the timeless truth of God’s Word around marriage and family.

And in knowing them, I can guarantee you this—I guarantee you that they will live out what they said. They will lead with authenticity; they will surrender frequently; and they will repent and let it show on air with us. They are gifted people, but their character runs even deeper than their giftedness. I am so grateful for their joining the team.

I think, as they express their vulnerability and confidence in God’s grace, it will inspire us. It inspires me to face what’s going on beneath the surface in my own life and be able to have real hope in God’s grace. Along the way, I think we’ll laugh, and we’ll cry a lot. You know, for me, personally, as we build a team of multi-generational voices to ensure FamilyLife continues to provide some of the best practical biblical help and hope [for] marriage and family in the future, I couldn’t be more grateful that Dave and Ann are joining the team.

Bob, I think you’d agree with me that it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Bob: Yes; it is. These transitions are bittersweet, but we believe God’s got great days ahead for FamilyLife. In fact, we hope you can join us back tomorrow when we are going to hear some stories from FamilyLife Today listeners—ways that some of you have been impacted by Dennis and Barbara’s lives and ministry over the years. We’ll hear that tomorrow, and I hope you can join us 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.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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