Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s breast cancer survivor, Margaret Ashmore, with one of the ways she’s learned to pray.

Margaret Ashmore: Whatever You want to do to give me an eternal weight of glory, You bring it on. If it’s the loss of a job, if it’s breast cancer whereby it comes back and it takes me, You bring it on, because this little, tiny amount of time that we spend down here is a testing ground for heaven.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, October 20.

What’s the most difficult thing that you have to endure? It might be a tough job or a difficult marriage or physical pain. Margaret Ashmore has learned a lot about endurance during her struggle with breast cancer. She’s been talking with Nancy this week. Today they’ll be joined by Holly Elliff and Kim Wagner, a couple of pastors’ wives who have counseled a lot of women during difficult times. Here’s Margaret Ashmore to start the conversation.

Margaret: Some years ago my father, who is a widower, was chasing his dogs because they had gone into the woods. He lives way, way out in the country. When it’s dark out in an East Texas country town, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. It was a moonless night, just pitch black.

One of his dogs went after a varmint or something in the woods, and he went out after the dog to find him. Well, he got turned around out in the woods. He couldn’t find his way. This is what my dad did. I’ll never forget this—him recounting the story. He just got hopelessly lost. He couldn’t see a thing, so he said, “What I’m going to do is I’m just going to sit down,” because he knew that if he started thrashing around, he’d go deeper into the woods, fall into a gulley, get into all kinds of trouble, so he just sat.

I said, “Well, Dad, why did you just sit?” He said, “Margaret, because I knew one thing. I knew the sun was going to come up in the morning.” And indeed, the sun did come up. By His grace and healing in His wings.

I also think very often of every time you see God rescuing Israel. In the fourteenth chapter of Exodus, when did God rescue Israel from Pharaoh’s army? It was on the fourth watch. When did Jesus rescue the disciples as they were crying out in phobas(fear) when they were in the storm on the boat? It was on the fourth watch.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Which is what time?

Margaret: Fourth watch: the Romans divided the day into four watches, and the fourth watch was from three o’clock in the morning until six in the morning. Three in the morning is when it’s the darkest. But just as the dawn breaks, you can see that God has indeed showed up. So I remember thinking, “Lord, this is the fourth watch. This is dark, but I know You’re going to show up. I know You’re going to deliver me.”

Now, I never had illusions that God was going to promise to heal me physically. I tell women all the time who have breast cancer or who are battling with diseases God is going to heal us, and it may be in this world and it may be in the next. So I knew He was going to heal me. I knew that the sun was going to come up. So what helped me endure was the promise of God that He is a faithful God, that He is a covenant-keeping God, and that no matter how dark it was, I was going to sit still and I was going to wait on God. By virtue of that, I think that got me through many a dark night.

Nancy: So when Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:18, with great assurance, to Timothy, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom” (ESV), he’s not necessarily saying, or anticipating, that he’s going to be released from that Roman prison, that Roman dungeon?

Margaret: Yes. Right.

Nancy: When you had this knowledge, this confidence, that the Lord was going to deliver you, that the Lord was going to rescue you, that the sun would rise, that didn’t mean that you were going, necessarily, to survive physically the breast cancer.

Margaret: Right. As a matter of fact, I was given a 3% chance of living, and those aren’t good odds in terms of the world’s standards. But I knew that if God delivered me by virtue of bringing me to heaven, that I would be totally healed—that God would use perhaps my death to bring many to come to know Him. I mean I never really thought in terms of the fact that God would heal me physically. I just knew that God was going to be faithful to me no matter what.

Nancy: Did your faith ever, through that process—did your faith ever waver in God’s faithfulness?

Margaret: Yes. I’m by no means the poster child on endurance. As a matter of fact, what I learned—and this helped me a lot—is that God does not condemn the sensation or emotion of fear. It’s the idea of being paralyzed by it. Let me give you an example.

When I would go to my doctor’s appointments to see my surgeon and to hear whether or not my cancer had come back and whether or not I was literally going to live or die, I told people this compared to the fact that you are facing a firing squad and you get a reprieve. So it’s that feeling of not knowing if you’re going to get a death sentence or not. My heart was beating. My face was flushed. I mean I was an absolute wreck. My mouth was dry. I was so scared, but the fact of the matter was I wasn’t going to let it paralyze me.

The reason why a lot of women die of breast cancer is because they let fear paralyze them. They don’t go see their doctor. They don’t find out what’s wrong. They don’t know what treatment they need to take. So I thought it’s not a problem of being afraid, because I was. It’s not letting the fear control you, but just giving that fear to God and toput one foot in front of the other, even when you’re afraid, I think, is what helps us overcome fear.

Nancy: The requirement for endurance isn’t just when you’re facing breast cancer.

Margaret: Right.

Nancy: For all of us as women who are seeking to love the Lord and to fulfill His mission for us in the season of life . . . Some of you women are mothers. Margaret and I are single women. There’s a need for endurance. I almost wonder sometimes if in the crises, the adrenaline doesn’t kick in—a major death or a major blow of some sort—and everybody’s rallying to support. Sometimes I have found it easier to endure the crises than the long, slow, never-ending challenges of more everyday life and my calling or your calling in life. Do any of you relate to that?

Margaret: I heard a great quote one time that says, “What you are becoming while you’re waiting is infinitely more important than getting there.”

Nancy: Say that again.

Margaret: “What you are becoming while you are waiting is infinitely more important than getting there.” It’s the whole idea . . . It’s a threadbare illustration, but one that works, and that is, where do we get diamonds? We get diamonds from the coal that has been deep in the recesses of the earth. It’s been under pressure. It’s been out of sight, out of mind, forgotten, and then one day it’s mined and we sell it for millions of dollars.

I think that we just gain a greater value in life, if when through those hard days when there’s no sign of God showing up, when there’s pressures from all around, that we just abide. As a matter of fact, the word “persevere” is the Greek word hupomone (I think that’s what it is), which means to abide under pressure. This is . . .

Nancy: To abide meaning to stay there. To stay under it.

Margaret: Yes. Not to thrash around, so to speak, but to stay because you know God is faithful. You know He’s going to show up. This is one of my hot buttons because I think the non-Christian today is groping in the dark looking for someone who looks like Christ, who is a Christian with their light turned on. One of the reasons we don’t have that is because Christians don’t endure. They don’t persevere. They keep getting out from under the things that God is trying to use to change them.

I think of (and I know I use this a lot, but I think it’s my life text)—in Daniel 3—the three Hebrews. They were thrown into this caldron of fire. The Bible is very clear to tell us four times prior to their being thrown in that they were tied up and bound. What I think is the most remarkable thing is that they are thrown into this fiery furnace heated so hot—seven times hotter than anyone else’s because that’s what God does to purify His people—heated so hot that it slew the people that threw them in.

Here they are in the midst of this. We know they’re walking with the pre-incarnate Christ; and when they come out on the other side, you could not tell that there was any evidence they had been in fire. The only thing that burned were the bonds that held them.

I think that Christians aren’t free today because they don’t abide. They don’t stand still. They try to find a way out from under the pressure or to get out from the fires. If we will just endure our fires, if we will say, “Okay, I’m in a difficult marriage, but I’m going to stay in this marriage. I’m in a difficult job, but I’m going to stay in this job. I’ve got problems with my friend, but I’m going to stick with this friend.”

If we do that, we will see freedom come in our lives and the non-Christian will see what a real Christian looks like. So I take it quite personal that Christians aren’t persevering and enduring because the world looks at us and sees no difference in us than in anyone else.

Nancy: What’s the difference between persevering and enduring and just being passive and qué será será, fatalistic—there’s nothing I can do about this so I’m just going to grin and bear it?

Margaret: That’s a great question. The first thing I think of is 1 Peter chapter 2, verse 23, when it speaks of our Lord. “When He was reviled, He reviled not, and when He was threatened, He uttered no threats” (paraphrase). Now at that point, you think He’s passive, but right after that it says, “and He committed Himself to the One who judges righteously” (paraphrase). So He was not passive.

As a matter of fact, He was very proactive in saying, “Father, You handle this. You’re God. You’re sovereign. You’re in control. I’m going to take everything levied at me, and I’m going to deflect it to You. I’m going to watch You get the glory. I’m going to watch You turn things around. I’m going to watch You bring healing while I abide. So I don’t think that there was any passivity to that at all. I think it was very proactive in giving that to God in trust.

Nancy: And actively waiting on the Lord. In a sense—if I could say it without being irreverent at all—partnering with God in His redemptive purposes for the world. You think about the wife in that difficult marriage—not just rolling over and dying and saying, “Look, I’m doomed to live with this forever, so I’m just going to endure and hang on till the rapture,” but saying, “By my entrusting myself to God in this situation, by my not reviling, not retaliating, I am having the privilege of representing Christ in this home, of extending the redemptive heart and hand of God to this mate or to this child or this— whoever—person,” and really becoming an instrument of God’s redemption in the lives of others.

Margaret: Yes. As a matter of fact, I’m glad you mentioned about the wives. In that great passage on Christ not reviling and not threatening but commending Himself to the One who judges righteously, right after that we see that great passage in 1 Peter, chapter 3, verse 1. “Likewise, you wives . . .” So in a sense, God is saying, “In the same way that I did not revile, that I did not try to get a pound of flesh when I was wounded, that I did not try to get back at anyone, I gave it to my heavenly Father.” In the same way, wives are to take all those things levied against them from their husbands, deflect them to God and watch God change the heart of their husband.

Holly Elliff: Margaret, I’m just thinking about women that I know that are in really tough relationships.

I’m just thinking back over what I know of your life in the last couple of years. How did you get in a position where you learned how to trust God so that you could endure without bitterness or anger?  Something that maybe would give hope to some woman out there who doesn’t know how to do that and says, “I think I’m going to die here—maybe not physically, but I don’t think I can keep doing this.”

Nancy: Well, I talked to a woman today who said, with tears in her eyes, “It is so hard to keep hanging on.” This is a woman who loves the Lord, a woman who’s trusting the Lord, a woman who is committed to represent Christ in her home; but she’s dealing with a very godless man. She said, “It’s just so hard to keep hanging in there, to keep enduring. There are days when I think when and how can I ever get some relief.” How does that woman find hope?

Holly: Just practically the living out of that day to day . . . I’m thinking there are probably some tools that God taught you in those years of struggle that now you—as 2 Timothy talks about entrusting that truth to others so that it can be taught to someone else. What are some things that God taught you in that process about the actual doing of endurance?

Margaret: Well, Holly, that’s a great question. I think the first thing that comes to my mind, of course, is just the Word of God, which is what we hang onto in the dark. I would even like to interject at this point that all the great writers of old—the Puritans, St. John of the Cross—wrote that every Christian has to go through what is called the dark night of the soul. I think God takes us through dark nights to strip us of everything that is not Him.

As a matter of fact, we read in the gospels, do we not, where it says that many of the disciples withdrew from Jesus and were not walking with Him anymore. You can just see Peter kind of ambling up to Him, and Jesus looks at him and says, “Well, are you going to leave me too?” What Peter said, I think, changed my life in regard to the idea of endurance; and that is, “Lord, You have the words of eternal life. Where else would I go?”

Well, I have to tell you, I tried everything else. I tried psychotherapy. I tried doing the different things the world says they’re going to do to lift you out of yourself, but all we have to hold onto in the dark is the Word of God. The words that meant the most to me and the idea of endurance—some practical things to think of—is that great text in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

You spoke of women, Holly, who might lose heart. Second Corinthians 4:16-18 says this: “That we’re not to lose heart. Momentary, light affliction is producing in us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things that we can see, but at the things that we can’t see; for the things that we can see are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (paraphrase).

This is what I tell women to encourage them. They’re in difficult straits. I’ve certainly been encouraged in my own heart by it—that is that the worst thing that can happen to me on this earth if I endure it, if I stay faithful, if I’m not like Ephraim . . . Remember, Jesus said, “You’re like the dew. When it’s nice and cool in the morning, you’re there, but when the sun comes up, you’re gone.” If I can endure, then when I get to heaven, the worst weight of difficulty and trial is going to go up on the scales like a feather and the weight of glory is going to come crashing down.

I’m going to realize that everything that God allowed in my life—because He is sovereign; He is in control—everything He allowed that seemed so difficult is going to produce an eternal weight of glory. I tell women, “Listen, there is a Bema Seat. There is a Judgment Seat of Christ whereby we will stand and say, ‘Lord, I endured.’” In Hebrews 10:36, we read that we’re to endure so that we’ll not lose our reward.

I just try to tell women, in a very real sense, don’t just look at this world. There is a world to come. This world is a drop in the bucket. If you and I can say, “Lord, whatever You want to do to give me an eternal weight of glory, You bring it on. If it’s the loss of a job, if it’s breast cancer whereby it comes back and it takes me, You bring it on, because this little, tiny amount of time that we spend down here is a testing ground for heaven.”

We’ve become so inured by the world that all we think about is the time here, but there is a much better world to come. So I tell women, “Listen”—Nancy, I read this in your book, Lies Women Believe, which is my great reference book as I travel—“our suffering may endure for weeks or years, but it won’t endure forever. God won’t let it go one minute beyond what His purposes dictate.” So I don’t try to tell anyone anything they can do necessarily to release themselves from pain today, but to endure it, to go through it, and to know that it’s all going to come due in heaven.

Kim Wagner: Margaret, that’s what I call looking with eternal eyes, having an eternal perspective and viewpoint. It’s something that you have to train yourself to do. It’s like a spiritual exercise to train yourself that in this moment I will worship. In this moment I will not keep my focus on the difficult situation, the husband that is being cruel or rejecting me or the divorce that he’s threatening. I will not focus on that; but just as you referred to in 1 Peter 3, when he said, “In this same way, you wives surrender or submit.” “In this same way,” he’s referring back to the cross. That is really the key: to focus on the cross, on what Christ did for me and to focus on the eternal reality of walking through this difficulty, worshiping Him in this lifetime.

Holly: It’s not just having that eternal perspective but also realizing that God has called me to endure for this day.

Kim: Right.

Holly: So many times it’s so hard for women to think, “I can’t do this for another year. I can’t live this way for five more years. What if he’s still like this in six months or six years?”

Nancy: That’s what can really wear you down.

Holly: They get so weary because it seems like there’s no end in sight.

Kim: That’s when you need to encourage them.

Holly: Yes, you have eternal perspective, but then you pull that back down to what God requires of me today, which is to meet Him, to receive what I need from His hand, and then to trust Him. I love what 2 Timothy says in chapter 1, verse 12, where it says: “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (NASB). So yes, that day is coming, and there will be an eternity. But until that day I am also responsible every day to trust Him with my life.

Nancy: I think we all want to make it clear that abuse—if it’s coming from a husband or from any other source, if there’s the law being broken—God’s law being broken—we’re not saying just sit by and let that happen. God has made provision through the human government, through the civil government and the law, through the church government, church leadership, to deal with these issues. I think all of us would encourage women that you do need to take advantage of the means that God has provided for you to deal with that.

Margaret: Yes. I always tell women this is in the normal context of difficulties in a marriage. But if there are lives being threatened, if the children are being threatened, if there’s something immoral or illegal going on in the home, then that’s when we do seek the civil authorities that God has placed us under to protect us. So that’s just wisdom.

Kim: Hopefully, they’re in a godly church home that they can go to their elders or to their pastor first, unless it is illegal, but deal with that and then go to the civil authorities.

Leslie: That’s Kim Wagner talking about endurance with Margaret Ashmore, Holly Elliff and Nancy Leigh DeMoss. If their words have helped you today, I hope you’ll get a copy of the whole conversation. We didn’t have time to air everything because of time restraints, but you can order the entire interview on CD as part of a series calledSurviving and Thriving Through Suffering. You can order by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy?

Nancy: I love how God knows just the right way to connect Revive Our Hearts with the exact women who need to hear it, just when they need to hear it. A woman wrote recently with what I thought was such a sweet example.

She'd been suffering from depression. She was at the place where she didn't even want to get out of bed, and didn't feel like she had anyone she could talk with. So she told the Lord, "If only You could physically sit on this chair next to me so I could have a literal conversation with you. I want to actually hear Your voice."

Well, not long thereafter she pulled up that day's Revive Our Hearts program online. The Word of God that was spoken on that day's program was exactly what she needed to hear. She realized that God had answered her prayer and was speaking to her through His Word. She writes, "I can't stop crying because that means God really does care about me."

I'm so thankful that the Lord allows us to speak to women right where they are. I'm also thankful for those listeners who support Revive Our Hearts financially so that we can be ministering to women like this woman who was so depressed that she could hardly get out of bed and really needed to hear from God. These listeners who support that ministry allow us to stay on the radio so that the Lord can connect us with women who need to hear His Word.

If you appreciate this ministry, and you want to see it keep reaching out into the hearts, the needs, the homes, the marriages, the lives of women in this country and around the world, would you consider supporting Revive Our Hearts? Your gift at this time would be such a blessing.

Just remember when you send a gift of any amount this month, we will send you a copy of the 2012 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar called: Seeking Him Together.

Leslie: And here's the number: 1-800-569-5959, or donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Maybe through God’s grace you can endure difficulty for a day or a week, but what if you’re called to endure for years or a lifetime? Find out more about that tomorrow whenthe conversation continues. I hope you can be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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