Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Always Dependent on the Lord

Leslie Basham: Here’s Holly Elliff.

Holly Elliff: Accessing the grace of God is not something that I do as a work. It is something that God has already created, that He’s provided, that He has ready for me. So it’s more about me being in a position where I recognize my need and I run to Him for what I need.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for July 12, 2019.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I am so, so thankful for the women that God has put in my life over the years—older women, younger women, and women who are my peers, spiritual mothers, spiritual daughters, and spiritual sisters.

That’s why I wrote the book Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. It’s based on Titus 2, Paul’s instructions to older women and younger women. They’re supposed to have their lives intertwined and to be intentional about relationships where they’re helping each other live out what the gospel looks like.

And one of the spiritual sisters that God has given me over the years has been my longtime friend, Holly Elliff. She’s a pastor’s wife in Little Rock, Arkansas, where we’re recording today. We’ve been through a lot of life together.

Holly, thank you for joining us in the studio of our sister ministry, FamilyLife, today to talk about these kinds of relationships—spiritual sisterhood, spiritual motherhood, spiritual daughters—and how it’s an indispensable part of our growth in Christ and our ministry to others. So welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

Holly: Thanks, Nancy. I’m really grateful to be here today. Number one, just to stare at Nancy across the table and get to see her in person instead of on the phone or on a text.

Nancy: We wish we could do this way more often.

Holly: Yes. It would be fun to be a little closer together, but in the meantime, it’s just great to be here today.

So, actually, Nancy, I have a little question for you today. As I was glancing back through my Adorned book the other night, I got to chapter 8, which is actually on self-control, but I just had a question. 

Nancy: You have to bring that up?

Holly: Yes.

Nancy: That’s a hard chapter.

Holly: Well, this particular one is an illustration. My question is about an illustration where you’re talking about a volcano in Iceland.

Nancy: Yes, I remember that.

Holly: And I’m just wondering if you can pronounce the name of the volcano?

Nancy: (laughter) I can’t! It’s got, like, seventeen letters in it or something?

Holly: Yes.

Nancy: It’s very long. And I used that illustration . . . It was in the news several years ago. It was erupting and causing chaos everywhere. So I spelled it out in the book. I actually did Google it to see how you pronounce it, but when you hear it pronounced, it doesn’t look anything like those letters.

Holly: Well, I started laughing as I was reading this part of the book because it looked exactly like something that I text to people when I’m kind of falling asleep, and all of a sudden I’m dozing off.

Nancy: And it makes no sense. Or when your child gets a hold of your phone.

Holly: Yes. Or your children has texted somebody and it’s just a bunch of random letters that don’t seem to make any sense.

And so I was laughing as I was reading this because I thought, That looks like a text I actually sent the other night—late.

Nancy: Well, actually, I’m just going to ask right now for our producers, the ones who are editing this program, to play for our listeners the pronunciation of the name of that volcano, and then we’ll have the answer to your question.

Holly: Well, that would be great because at 2 a.m., when I was reading through this again, it was late enough that that was really funny to me. So, there you go.

(Recording of pronunciation of volcano): Eyjafjalljökull. 

Nancy: Well, the reason I talked about that volcano in the book . . . I remember when that was in the news. It was just humongous spewing of all this ash. Airports had to be shut down because there was ash in the air. And it was just covering multiple countries, I think, that were involved in this. It was over in Europe.

When I saw that in the news, it was such a picture to me of something that was going on in my own spirit at the moment. There were some life circumstances (this was a number of years ago), but I was feeling squeezed. I was under pressure from things coming at me from multiple directions.

I began to realize, as I watched those new accounts, that there was a bit of a volcano spewing in my heart, underneath the surface, mostly. But it had started to come out. I was uptight. I was high-strung. I was feeling negative and critical and reactionary. I realized that my inner lack of self-control over my emotions was affecting and impacting and wounding the spirits of the people around me.

God used that season and that experience and that news account about this horrific volcano to speak to me about how important it is that we have the control of His Spirit over our innermost being—our minds, our thoughts, our emotions.

And, Holly, is it just me? Am I the only person who ever gets to that place where you feel like there’s this volcano erupting inside of you, and I can’t help what’s coming out? Have you ever been there?

Holly: (laughter) No, never—that would be such a lie! No, actually, my normal is abnormal. So if I ever got to the point where my life was calm and still and there were no life events, I think I would be either dead or very, very bored.

But the Lord has kept me in a state where my life is chaotic. It is not . . .

Nancy: (laughter) There’s always a lot going on.

Holly: There’s always a lot going on, and there are a lot of people in my life.

Nancy: So when we come to Titus 2, and Paul says older women are supposed to teach the younger women what is good, which includes loving your husband, loving your children, being self-controlled, being kind, I just see this amazing, virtuous, loving, godly woman there.

And yet, the reality is that those things are not always easy, that we have lots of moments in our lives when it’s not so easy to love that man or to love those children. Maybe they’re not being loveable at the moment. It’s hard to be self-controlled because our minds are racing to the future, to the past, to the present. We’re feeling that there is just that avalanche or hurricane of thoughts in our heads. It’s hard to be kind because people are pushing our buttons from every direction.

So as you look at this description in Titus 2, that’s what we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to be helping others become, how can this be a reality in our lives?

Holly: Well, I think when you read the words on a page, and we know what Scripture says is supposed to happen in our lives, if you take that away from the reality of life (it’s very black and white on the page), but it’s God in the midst of our lives that teaches us those concepts.

Nancy: And the women who are reading that letter to Titus, they must have had similar experiences.

Holly: Yes.

Nancy: They had children who were unruly sometimes and husbands, many that weren’t even believers. And they had times when it was hard to be kind.

So, how do we go from becoming these volcanic women, spewing ashes everywhere, to women who do love our husbands, love our children, self-controlled, kind, etc.?

Holly: Well, I don’t think it’s either/or, because most of us don’t just . . . When you walk in a room, you flip up the switch, and the lights come on, and you can see. But what happens is, we get quicker or better at running to the Lord in the midst. It’s not that everything goes away and so there’s always peace and quiet and calm. I have yet to see that point in my life, and I’ve been around for a while.

So I think it’s more that in the midst of all of the chaos, we get better at flipping the switch or keeping the lights on and saying to the Lord, “Join me.”

Nancy: But we tend to think that, If my husband would change, or my children would grow up, or these people wouldn’t be so hard to me in my office, or my roommate, or whatever, then I could be this kind of woman Titus 2 talks about.

But what you’re saying, and I think is so true, is that it’s through these chaotic, hard, sometimes harsh life circumstances that God can actually make us into this kind of woman. It’s not because we become amazing, but because we’re connected to the source that we run to—God’s grace—in our desperation.

Holly: Exactly. I think realizing that accessing the grace of God is not something that I do as a work. It is something that God has already created, that He’s provided, that He has ready for me. So it’s more about me being in a position where I recognize my need, and I run to Him for what I need.

And so, as we get older or we walk through more life circumstances—some women learn this when they’re very young and grow up this way—I get better at just accessing the grace of God. It’s not that I have to generate it or make it happen or perform in any way.

Nancy: That’s a huge difference.

Holly: A huge difference.

Nancy: Because trying to generate this kind of lifestyle, whether it’s Proverbs 31, the virtuous woman, or the Titus 2 woman, if I’m going to try and muster that up, or “I’m going to be that woman if it kills me.” Well, it just might. That’s a hard, tiring, exhausting, futile, frustrating, defeating way to live.

And don’t you think a lot of Christian women live in that place? Like, “I know I should be more kind. I know I should love my husband better. I just can’t do that!” And then they live in this puddle of defeat and frustration.

Holly: That’s why it’s helpful to remember that the Proverbs 31 woman does not have a name. She was a model. She was a model of what God’s desires would be for us, but she didn’t exist in flesh. She was a model of the things that God longs to do in our lives and what He has for us and what He wants to give us. But for those of us with flesh on, it happens in the midst of our everyday life.

Nancy and I were talking earlier about the fact that when I was younger, I used to think that the funnel in my life—you know, getting married and then having one child, second child, third, fourth, fifth, whatever. I was pregnant ten times. And so, in my head, the funnel was going to get bigger as my kids grew up, and then it was going to get small again. 

Nancy: As your kids grew up and left home.

Holly: As my kids grew up and left home and I’ve finished raising my children. I’m realizing now that that’s totally in error. Because in my head I thought, “Okay, really, my need is going to decrease.” But it's the opposite of that. The funnel actually is getting bigger than I ever imagined it could be. I’m glad I didn’t know at twenty where the Lord was taking me in that.

Nancy: So is that supposed to be good news or bad news?

Holly: You know what? It’s good news because I don’t ever want to be at a point where I say to the Lord, “I’ve got this. I can do this.”

The Lord has been so faithful to keep me in positions in my life, really, for decades, decades now, where I am so aware always of my need of Him. It just keeps me centered in the fact that it’s not at all about my ability, but it is about the gift of being able to run to His enabling grace. And that’s what makes the difference in how I live my life.

If we’re not careful, as God allows things to touch our lives, to enter our lives . . . It could be the illness of someone you love. I have a dear friend right now whose husband is very, very ill. There are a lot of unknowns in that. It’s a scary time for them. Even in the midst of a life-threatening circumstance like that, it is about becoming a woman who runs to the Lord rather than just sitting in the midst of that need and not knowing what to do.

So, girls, if you’re out there in your twenties, if you can learn early to run to the grace of God when you’re frustrated or tired or angry or you just really don’t like your husband at this moment and you’re wondering how to continue loving him in the midst of difficult circumstances, that is not something that you have within yourself. It is something that you run to the Lord, and you say, “I cannot do this apart from Your enabling grace and ability in me and through me.”

There’s no magic formula that wipes everything away. But there is a constant in your life, like a lifeline, literally, that feeds your spirit so that you can run to the one who does have exactly what you need.

Nancy: Yes.

As you’re talking, I’m thinking about that verse in the Psalms that says, “You have enlarged me when I was in distress” (see Ps. 25:17).

Holly: (laughter) We hope not physically enlarging us.

Nancy: No. But  He does enlarge our hearts, our capacity for pressure, our capacity to respond because He enlarges us with His grace.

So when we’re in distress, if we run to Him, He pours grace into us. “God lavishes grace on the humble.” And what’s the humble person? It’s the one who says, “I can’t do this.”

Holly: That’s right.

Nancy: We want to be self-sufficient. We want to be ready made. I think this is one reason a lot of women stop having children after one or two—not always. But sometimes it’s just, “I could never handle more children” or “I could never handle more of—whatever.” And God’s saying, “You’re right. You can’t.”

Holly: Right.

Nancy: But when we get past what we can handle, or we think we can handle, that’s when we get desperate.

Our listeners have heard me say many times over the years, “Anything that makes me need God is a blessing,” even enlarge me when I’m in distress.

Holly: Well, honestly, if anyone had told me a few years ago that at this moment I would be sitting and chatting with Nancy, as a married woman now . . .

Nancy: I would not have believed that! (laughter)

Holly: Neither one of us would have believed that because Nancy’s goal, as we mentioned before, was to become a godly older woman, and she thought, a godly older single woman.

Nancy: For sure.

Holly: And God had a totally different plan for her life.

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: I love that. I love the changes that I’ve seen in Nancy’s life as she has had to shift gears a little bit in trusting the Lord in totally new areas in her life. She has seen God provide and give her the ability to be mindful of loving Robert and sharing her life with a husband now and the balance of loving her husband and the ministry and people in her life.

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: God has chapters in our life that He has already written that we may not know anything about. But when those chapters come into our lives, there is always provision for those things.

Nancy: I want to go back to Titus 2 because it talks about husbands, children, being submissive to your husband, loving your husband, and it says that this is something older women are to teach the younger women. Which means, these are things that can be learned. They’re not natural. They’re supernatural. God gives grace for this.

There are also practical ways which you, now as an older woman, can help younger women. “How do I love my husband and my children at the same time?” When you’re in that season, and you have a lot of little ones, it can be easy to overlook your husband.

So as an older woman now, speak into the life of a younger woman about this season. You’re the teacher. That’s what God says we as older women are supposed to be. Not that we know everything, not that we’ve learned everything, but help with some practical handles.

You’ve been married now a lot of years and have loved your husband or have learned to love him in a lot of different seasons. But as a younger woman, how do you learn to love your husband well, to be submissive to him, to have the right balance in those family relationships?

Holly: Well, I would say it does change over time and over decades.

Nancy: Well, when you first get married, it’s just you and your husband, and there’s a challenge of learning to love him well when it’s just the two of you.

Holly: Right. And, really, that part was pretty easy. I mean, we got married in college. We’d been dating a long time. We were madly in love. I think, probably the place where I see having to run to the Lord more is later, as we added more children with more needs, and pastoring larger churches, and then adding in in-laws on both sides.

Nancy: Your funnel’s growing.

Holly: The funnel is getting bigger. If we are not careful, because our husbands are adults, our focus can go to a lot of other things, and our husbands get left behind. I have found myself having to say to the Lord, “I really need You to make my heart sensitive” because my tendency can be to manage, handle, run to Him with everything else but forget that there’s a primary relationship in my life, and that is the man I fell in love with at fifteen and married at twenty. That relationship is going to last as long as we’re here on earth.

Nancy: There can be a sense that, “He’s an adult. He can take care of his own needs. He’s going to make it.”

Holly: Right.

Nancy: But he can get left behind. And when you had that season with a lot of little ones, how did you protect that relationship with your husband and keep it growing and strong and solid?

Holly: Well, we’ve had several times in our lives where we had to sit down and just refocus and say, “How does the Lord want us to do this?” It was so crazy when we were having more and more kids, and then when we had two parents that we cared for over a couple of decades with dementia. We just had to sit down and say, “Let’s look at our life. Let’s see what needs to be changed. How do we stay balanced in this? How do we not forget what the Lord wants us to do for each other?”

So stopping every once in a while and just saying, “Where are we? How do we do this at this season of life?” Going to the Lord together and saying, “Lord, give us wisdom because we’re not really sure how to navigate this. So how do we stay balanced in this season of life?”

Being intentional about asking those questions. I think at one point we made a list of the top three things that mattered to me and the top three things that mattered to Billy. Billy didn’t care what we ate as long as he had clean underwear. And so I can remember that being on the list. (laughter) It gave me direction as we just went through practical days of our lives to see how to stay balanced.

Another thing that we did is we’ve been very intentional, for at least four-plus decades of our lives together, to take time out where we escape. If we had no money, it might have been two hours wandering around the mall or sitting in a restaurant for hours and hours just being still together, away from the noise and the distractions.

And so as much as we can, we still have date nights where we escape. This week we escaped and went to see the fortieth reunion of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which came out in 1977 . . . when we were kids.

And so, just tiny moments where we remember together who we are before the Lord and why God gave us a relationship together because we’re here to honor Him as we walk through our lives together.

Nancy: And I’ve watched you do that. I’ve watched God’s grace just be so real in your life in many different seasons. And our lives are still being written. God’s still writing new chapters in us. There will be new seasons ahead. God has blessed us both, right now, with good health and husbands with good health. But that may not always be the case.

Holly: That’s right.

Nancy: And so, as we look where the Lord has had us, where He has us now, and how He’s been faithful, and how He’s been there, it gives me hope. I know that’s true for you as well, that whatever we face down the road, God’s going to be there for that. He’s going to give us grace, exactly what we need in those moments.

Holly, I love hearing your heart, and I want to thank you for sharing with our listeners. I wish we could have all day. I wish we could have many more hours to talk together because I know that what you have to share is wisdom that’s encouraging to our listeners. I wonder if you would just close this conversation by praying for women in different seasons of life who are listening to this conversation and really need an infusion of God’s grace and His presence right now. Would you do that?

Holly: I will.

Father, I thank You that You are present, not just in this room, but You are present with every woman who invites You to be, in our listening audience. And, Lord, I love that. I love that You are always available to us, that You have provision waiting for the women that are listening who are desperate, who are lonely, who are frantic in their lives, who are confused, who are bitter or afraid of the future.

Father, I pray that as they open their hearts to you, that You would just pour out an infusion of encouragement and grace into their lives. Father, I pray that You would take them back to the Word so that they can become grounded and level in You—regardless of their circumstances. I know You can do that because I have watched You do that. I thank You for the hundreds and hundreds of times You’ve done that in my own life.

And so, Lord, we just want to tell You today that we’re so thankful for what You’ve already put in place for us, that is waiting for us to access it. Lord, give us that heart. We ask for that in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking with Holly Elliff about the value of women investing life wisdom in other women. How do you start making those connections? Here’s one idea.

Revive Our Hearts has published a new Bible study called Esther: Trusting God’s Plan. It’s a six-week study in the life of Esther.

Now, you can definitely use this study on our own, but it would also make a great group study. Each woman in your group could go through this study individually and then get together to discuss it. You could watch the video about each chapter and then discuss it with each other.

The videos will be released each week, starting next Monday, on ReviveOurHearts.com. We’d like to send you a copy of the study when you make a donation of any size to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

You can get your copy at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for Esther: Trusting God’s Plan when you call 1–800–569–5959.

On Monday, Nancy will show you how to maintain a calm heart even in a troubled world. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth helps you make meaningful connections. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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

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