Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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The Blessing of Thorns, Day 5 with Lauren Chandler

Leslie Basham: Six years ago, Lauren Chandler's husband was about to undergo brain surgery and Lauren's mind was filled with questions.

Lauren Chandler: How much would this take from him? Would it change his personality? Would he ever be able to preach again? Would he ever be able to study God's Word again? Would it be cancerous? Would he survive cancer? Would he leave a widow and three children fatherless?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Friday, November 27, 2015.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, all week we've been in a series called "The Blessing of Thorns" about the power of giving thanks especially when life is most difficult. You know, it's easy to be thankful when everything's going your way—when you're healthy, your kids are doing well, your husband's being romantic and responsible, and your checking account's in good shape.

But I think thankfulness is even more meaningful and maybe more powerful when life gets hard—when you get a negative report from the doctor, when your kids are struggling, when your husband has different ideas than you do, and when your budget is tight.

All week we've been seeing how these situations can actually be a blessing, an opportunity to be thankful. We've been in a series called "The Blessing of Thorns." On this day after Thanksgiving, I thought we'd follow up with a conversation with my friend Lauren Chandler.

It was on Thanksgiving Day in 2009 that her world was threatened to be turned upside down forever. Lauren's the wife of Matt Chandler who's the lead teaching pastor of the Village Church in the Dallas area. She's the mother of three, a speaker, and a worship leader. We talked about what Lauren has learned in difficult situations of life. We'll also hear some of her perspective about what it's like to be a pastor's wife who's always in the public eye.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. As Lauren neared Thanksgiving Day six years ago, everything in her life seemed to be going well.

Lauren: In 2009, we had been at the church, I believe, almost six years, maybe seven. Audrey was six, Reid was four, and we had a six-month-old child, Norah. The church was growing. We were just about to open a new campus. We had been in this little original building. We had packed six services into this little building, and it became apparent we couldn't really grow anymore. Matt could not do more services. So we had started a campus in Denton, but still, this campus was just bursting at the seams. The Lord gave us this opportunity to buy this grocery store down the road. Everyone was excited about this new season.

The week before we were to open that campus, it was Thanksgiving Day 2009. I had just come in from the grocery store. I could hear Matt and the kids in the living room watching a parade on TV, or something like that. I went into the kitchen and started making breakfast. All of a sudden I heard just this clatter in the living room. I waited to hear Matt say, "It's okay. I've got it. It was just one of the kids." And I didn't hear anything. Then I heard my six-year-old say, "Daddy?"

I walked in there, and Matt was on the ground having a grand mal seizure. The other kids were just kind of watching TV. So immediately I went to him, shielded his body from hurting himself and from the kids. I had my phone and called an ambulance. They were there quickly. My parents were there to take the kids. We rushed into the ER.

When Matt was in the ambulance, I saw him. His eyes were open for the first time. He looked at me, and there was just no recognition. It was like he was looking through me. He didn't know who I was, that I was anything other than some inanimate object, and my heart just sank. I sat in the front seat of the ambulance and thought, "Lord is this the rest of my life? Will I be taking care of a man who's the shadow of the man he used to be? So I texted the women who were in this Bible study we had to just be praying. I gave them a short version of what was going on.

We got to the ER, and they unloaded Matt, and for the first time he looked at me and said, "What happened?" I knew he knew who I was at that point, and I told him, "You had a seizure, babe."

He said, "I am so sorry!"

And I thought, You're sorry? There's like really nothing you can do about that, sweetie!

Leslie: Matt underwent several tests, and then the Chandlers got the preliminary report. The doctors had detected a brain tumor. They were told to see a neurosurgeon as soon as possible.

Lauren: At that point, we were still in shock. We didn't really know what was going on. We had friends that knew a man, Dr. David Barnett, who's an incredible godly man and also an incredible neurosurgeon. And so we got on the phone, made an appointment with him. But on that day we were ready to just get home. Because here we were anticipating this Thanksgiving Day dinner together with my family. We just wanted to go home, to try and find, to rescue, some sense of normalcy for that day. But it was hard to find.

Leslie: About a week later, the Chandlers saw the neurosurgeon.

Lauren: He looked at the films and said, "This is disconcerting. We want to get in there as fast as we can. We need to remove it. I've opened up my schedule for Friday to do the resection." Matt felt like a kick in the gut, and I, for some reason, had this sense of urgency like, "It needs to come out. It needs to come out. This is what we're supposed to do. He needs to go. He needs to get this out as soon as possible." So the only way that I can explain that is that it was the Lord saying, "Yes. Yes."

And sweet Matt was just terrified. There were all these questions: 

  • Would he be the man that we thought he would be—that he'd been?
  • How much would this take from him?
  • It was in the right frontal lobe and would it change his personality?
  • Would he ever be able to preach again?
  • Would he ever be able to study God's Word again? We had no idea.
  • Would he survive the surgery?
  • Would it be cancerous?
  • Would he survive cancer?
  • Would he leave a widow and three children fatherless?

I was in "get it done" mode. Honestly, maybe I was in shock. I felt steadfast. And that wasn't me. It was the Holy Spirit. It was the Lord sustaining me because I should have been crumpled in a ball on the floor, but I wasn't. And the only way I can explain it was the Lord. He just met me there, and He gave me a certain kind of grace to sustain me during that time.

Leslie: The surgery to remove the tumor took eight hours.

Lauren: I was anxious, but still it's like I could not shake that steadfast feeling—which I didn't want to shake. Eight hours later he came out. I didn't know what I'd find. We went to the ICU room, and he had his head all bandaged up, and his eyes were shaking. It was really interesting. I can't really explain it. He knew who we were. He knew what had happened. He knew what was going on.

I stood there and this was probably for the first time that that pit came back—the pit that was in the ambulance with me and the pit then where there's no place I'd rather be than standing right beside him. But at the same time, I wanted to run out to the hall—not to get away from him, but so I could cry so he wouldn't see me. But the Lord just kept me in one piece right there beside him. And I saw him decline from there.

Leslie: For about a month after the surgery, Matt didn't seem like himself.

Lauren: I don't know if it was the drugs or if it was just the effect of his brain trying to deal with the trauma that it just went through.

Leslie: During this time, Lauren had to carry another burden without Matt's help.

Lauren: The neurosurgeon didn't want Matt to know the diagnosis. He wanted him to focus on getting better. So for about a week, only one other person and I knew that he had anaplastic oligodendroglioma grade III—meaning it's cancerous. It's not the worst tumor, but I asked the neurosurgeon, "What's the prognosis?"

And he said, "Two to three years."

And so I carried that for about a week which was hard but also a time where I pressed into God where normally I would have gone to Matt. I would have just said, "What do I do here?" But I didn't really have anyone but the Lord to press into. And I think that was an ordained short season to say, "One day you may not have Matt, but you'll have me."

Once we got to tell him the diagnosis, the prognosis, he really seemed unaffected by it, which worried me. I thought, Does he really know? Does he know what this means? But he was just diligent in eating right and taking his meds. He went through chemo. He went through radiation. Eighteen months of chemo, six weeks radiation. I saw him weakened. I saw him miss baseball practices and all kinds of things. But he remained steadfast.

He had weak moments, but I saw the Lord squeeze and wring him out. I saw that what he preached for so many years was true. That he really believed it. And also for me, would I in that trial, would it be proved that I really did believe what I said I believed? God was faithful to sustain me and Matt and sustain our family. The kids didn't really know all that was going on. They were more concerned about his hair falling out than they really were about anything else. They prayed for him but mainly prayed for his hair.

Leslie: For the six years after this grim prognosis, the Chandler family has continued leaning on the Lord day by day. They've continue to watch the Lord sustain Matt's life.

Lauren: He's had MRIs that were every other month, every three months, and now we're to every six months. He has had completely clean scans. And we praise God because he was supposed to be given two to three years. And now we're six years this Thanksgiving. The Lord has sustained his life, and we're believing that He's healed him. Unless the Lord chooses to do otherwise, until He shows us that, we are trusting that He's healed him and that was a season of refining. It was a season of really making our faith real. I wouldn't trade that season for anything.

Leslie: Maybe you understand what it's like to be in the seasons of struggle we've heard about today. Maybe instead of looking back on a trauma, you're right in the middle of the greatest pain. Lauren gives you this perspective.

Lauren:

  • God's grace is sufficient. He will provide it.
  • Don't go to all the "what if's" today.
  • Breathe in and out His grace today.
  • Be in His Word.
  • Ask Him to prove His faithfulness to you.
  • Believe Him that He will be enough, and don't be afraid to ask for the healing.
  • Don't be afraid.

That was one thing that someone prayed before Matt went into surgery where the angels said to Abraham and Sarah, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" No. Nothing is too hard for Him. And so nothing is too big or too small to ask from Him. So ask for the healing. Ask for protection. Ask for deliverance. But then know that even if He doesn't that He will be faithful and He will sustain you. Don't live past the grace for today.

Leslie: That's a helpful word from Lauren Chandler that all of us can embrace today. I know we all have struggles we can't face on our own. We all need God's grace. We'll hear from Lauren again in a minute. That interview is part of a longer teaching series called "The Blessing of Thorns." Maybe this weekend you don't feel like your situation is that thorny. What a great reason to be thankful. But Nancy, the truth is by Thanksgiving next year, none of us knows how life may be different. We all need series like this one because we're either in a trial now or about to be going into one.

Nancy: You're right, Leslie. I'm so grateful that God gives grace for every difficult situation just when and as we need it. He uses His Word to prepare us and to speak to us in our deepest points of need. I'm so, so grateful that He allows Revive Our Hearts to present His Word to women who are in all kinds of tough life situations.

God gives grace for every difficult situation just when and as we need it.

I'm thinking of one listener who wrote to the ministry and said,

Thank you for being there. The Lord has used your ministry in more ways than I can know in my life. Just prior to my husband dying unexpectedly at the age of thirty-nine, you aired a program with Ann Ortlund. She spoke on widowhood as a gift. Only the Lord knew that in just a few weeks I would become a widow. Then just a few months later you had Kim Jaggers speak on becoming a widow. Again, it was as if God was planning the schedule for me. Please know that I thank the Lord for your ministry because you are impacting the lives of many women around the world to live for the Lord with all their hearts. 

Wow. All I can say is, "Thank you, Lord, for using Your Word to prepare women for the toughest situations they can face."

We have the opportunity to speak God's Word to women in all kinds of difficult situations thanks to listeners like you who support this ministry financially. When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount today, we'd like to say "thank you" by sending you a copy of my book called Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.

This book talks about the power of gratitude. In fact, just yesterday I read a secular study that says that gratitude is the number one characteristic or quality that helps a marriage to go the distance. So it's a really important quality in our lives.

And in the book I've written called Choosing Gratitude, you'll learn how you can give thanks in every situation and how giving thanks will transform your life and give you great joy. So just ask for Choosing Gratitude when you call to make a gift of any size. The number to call is 1–800–569–5959, or visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Before we're done today we'll hear more from Lauren Chandler. While our team was talking with Lauren, we got her thoughts on what it's like to be a pastor's wife and how we can encourage our pastors. We thought you'd enjoy this part of the conversation.

Every pastor's wife feels some pressure, like everyone is watching her. But in our time when pastors like Matt Chandler can become nationally known, what kind of pressure does that put on a pastor's wife?

Lauren: Being a pastor's wife, period, can feel like you live in a fish bowl. I think what's helped is Matt is very honest about who he is and who our family is, and that we are as much in need of God's grace of the next person, and that we're going to disappoint people, and that we are trying to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord but we're going to stumble sometimes. So that's freed us up to not be the perfect family but to be honest and to live openly.

I think what's probably the hardest for any pastor's wife, whether your husband is nationally known or just locally known or just known to your congregation . . I think what people can say about him when they don't know him, it can hurt, and it can also cause resentment to grow in your heart towards people. And so, for me, just praying for those people that I know have said hurtful things about my husband or have painted him in a very unfair light, praying for them, praying for peace and grace towards them, for blessing towards them has been helpful.

And remembering that sometimes a lot of the people who are saying these things, I think they mean well. Some of them don't. Some of them just want to tear down. But I think some mean well. They want good. They just don't know the whole story a lot of the time. So giving grace there and saying, "Lord, I don't know what their motivation is in saying this or doing this or painting them in this light. But would You help me, if there's any area in my life where I'm doing that towards someone else, would You show me? Will You forgive me for when I've done that and let me have grace toward that person, and let me pray for them?"

Leslie: We live in a day of digital distribution when local pastors can become national celebrities. We asked Lauren about the positives and the negatives of this.

Lauren: I think it's a blessing that we have access to these incredible Bible teachers and preachers. I fold laundry to Dr. Tim Keller's sermons all the time. I'm so grateful to be able to do some tasks that I can't be reading but I can listen and redeem some time for me.

But I think it can be dangerous if all of that comes from the digital world and we're not in a church receiving something from a pastor who has been given charge over us. Where there's real flesh and blood people around us who can see back into our lives. Because if we're just doing the digital thing, it's one sided. They don't see us. We see them and we hear from them, but they don't see us. They can't say, "Hey, how's this going?" They can't see our lives lived out. They can't see the inconsistencies.

It robs us of opportunity to be in a family and to serve and to not always have things like cafeteria style but have to have all of it and have to eat our lima beans that maybe we don't care for but we know it's good for us. I mean, that's a part of being a part of a local body, not just being fed digitally, but being in a real place with real people where we're sharpening and there's sparks flying and it's good.

Leslie: We also asked Lauren, "Is there a danger of people listening to gifted speakers all week and then being dissatisfied with their own local pastor?"

Lauren: I think, Great, listen to Tim Keller and Matt Chandler. But also pray for your pastor. Pray for him that his words would be anointed. Pray that it works something in your own heart. Pray that people get saved and that you get something from that.

And so, a lot of times it's not necessarily the pastor but it's the hearer—our hearts where we're ready to receive even the smallest thing. Maybe the pastor just reads a passage of Scripture and you say, "Oh, thank You Lord." Even if that's the only redeemable thing that he preaches and then pray for him. Pray that the Lord will grow him in his gift. He doesn't have to be Matt Chandler. He can just be the best version of him that he can be and be faithful to minister the Word.

Leslie: I think every family struggles with busyness. We have so many good opportunities but can easily get stretched too thin. We asked Lauren Chandler how she keeps life sane when life could get so full of ministry at the Village Church there in the Dallas area.

Lauren: We're actually in a transition of what we're saying "yes" to and "no" to as our kids are getting older. You know, when they're young they can just go along with you to most things. And then they get older, and they have their own lives.  They have their own interests, and they have their own things that they're involved with. So that complicates things because we want to be there for them.

Matt wants to coach the defense for Reid's flag football team. I want to ride in parades with my daughters on horseback. I want to do these things. And most of the time they're on weekends. Most of the time the invitations that we get are on weekends or on a Friday night. So, that's changing. We've prayed. We've said, "Lord, what are some things that we've already said "yes" to that we have a peace about, we're in. And then what are the things that can go—that someone else can do and do a great job?"

And so, we want to be home. We want to be close to our kids. We want to be in the lives of the people at the Village and the people that are in our community.

Leslie: That's Lauren Chandler. I hope this perspective from a pastor's wife will lead you to some practical steps of encouraging your pastor, giving grace, and praying for him and his family. All right. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has one final question for you today.

Nancy: Now, let me ask you what time is it? Well, on Monday we'll explore that question. Does it ever seem like the world is in a hopeless situation? You look at the rise of ISIS, violence in schools and cities, so called "re-definition of marriage," and so much more. On Monday we'll talk about why you can have hope and what God would have you do for such a time as this.

So please be back with us on Monday for Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie: Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach . . .

Man: Hey, Leslie, it's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Leslie: Oh yes. I mean, Revive Our Hearts with the newly married Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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

About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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