Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Come Away and Rest, Day 3

Leslie Basham: When Carrie Gaul goes through suffering, she reminds herself about her suffering Savior.

Carrie Gaul: You're not going through anything that your Savior hasn't gone through. You're not experiencing even half of the pain that He suffered . . . for you!

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of A Place of Quiet Rest, for Wednesday, July 26, 2017.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: For the last couple of days, Carrie Gaul has invited you to a life of joy. She began by telling us about a "ball and chain of condemnation" that she felt for years, even as a believer in Jesus. She's showing us the freedom, the peace, and the joy that can be experienced through losing that condemnation . . . and realizing that Jesus loves you, and you don't have to earn His favor.

The peace that Carrie's been describing can carry you through the darkest seasons of life. That's what we'll talk about today. And a little later in he program we'll hear from a friend of mine who was in the audience that day and was walking through a deep valley of cancer treatments. We'll hear how she was experiencing the presence of Christ with her, and joy, in an extraordinary way.

First, Carrie wraps up this teaching series, "Come Away and Rest."

Carrie: Someone said to me earlier today, "The things that we're talking about today, I know them, but I forget them. I just forget!"

I said, "So do I; every day I forget. Every day I need to be reminded of those truths."

In fact, I don't have my little iPhone up here because I'm expecting a call. I have it up here to tell you what I do with my little iPhone. I was a committed "dumb phone" user. (laughter) I was not necessarily a big fan of a smart phone. But my kids and husband decided I needed it, and so I have one, and now I'm just amazed at some of the things I can do on this iPhone. 

One of which is, I no longer need to have an alarm clock. I can use my phone as my alarm clock. So, do you know what wakes me up every morning? Every morning the alarm that goes off (some of you are too young to remember this) . . . There's an old gospel song from many years ago (it's actually the story of Peter's life). I think the title is, "He's alive and I'm forgiven, heaven's gates are opened wide." (Title is: "He's Alive")

Remember the song? That's what plays on my iPhone ever morning, literally. It's the story of Peter's life—how he felt like such a failure, and he couldn't imagine that even if Christ was risen from the dead, it wouldn't make any difference. Because everything had changed; Peter had failed Him; he had fallen.

But in the chorus of the song, as Peter sees Christ face to face and realizes that He is risen from the dead, the chorus says, "He's alive, and I'm forgiven, and heaven's gates are open wide." My friends, just those truths in the morning before my feet hit the floor, sometimes it changes everything about my outlook.

It's amazing how when we wake up, just instantly the reality of the day washes over us. I'll be lying in bed some days, and I'll just smile, "Oh, that's right. That's right. He's alive! I'm forgiven!" Everything that is Christ's is mine, because I'm a joint heir of Christ. It's not because of who I am, but because of Jesus and what He's done, in His life and His death and His resurrection.

So does Jesus' love mean that He removes all the chains from our lives? I don't know. He doesn't, always. Oh, if they're chains of sin, of shame and guilt, if they're those chains of addiction and bondage and captivity, yes, He sets you free. Yes, that's what He came to do. Yes! He can do it in your life. 

Sometimes it happens instantly; more often, it's a journey of learning to take these truths of the Word of God and apply them to our hearts.

Yes, He will set you free from those chains. But the apostle Paul was repeatedly in chains for his faith. He was called an "ambassador in chains." But Paul's chains were a bridge for salvation; they were a bridge to the gospel. They were used to encourage and embolden the believers, and they brought many to salvation.

In fact, in Philippians 1:12 Paul says, "Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel" (NASB). Do you know what Paul's circumstances were? Prison! Paul was literally, not figuratively, in chains and in bondage. But because of Paul's chains, Christ had become known throughout the whole governor's palace.

In fact, when we get to the end of the book, in Philippians 4, Paul (writing to the Philippians) says, "All the saints greet you, even those in Caesar's household." How do you think those in Caesar's household came to be saints in Jesus Christ? Because the man who was in chains had shared the gospel again and again and again.

Can you imagine being chained to Paul? You're going to hear the gospel night and day! (laughter) You would hear who he was and what Jesus had done in his life when he encountered Him on the road to Damascus. A few verses later, in Philippians 1:29, Scripture says salvation is a gift: "It has been granted to you to believe in Him." And we love that gift of salvation, don't we? We love that gift.

That passage in Philippians says there are two gifts. There is the gift of salvation, that we embrace; but Philippians 1:29 says there's also a gift of suffering. It's been granted unto you, for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him (that's salvation) but also to suffer for Him.

We like the gift of salvation. I'm holding a gift in my hand a gift bag that's beautifully decorated. It says "salvation" on the outside. We love that gift. But this other identical gift bag, beautifully decorated, that says "suffering" on it, we're not so excited about that gift, are we? But God sees them literally as one. They're one gift.

God views suffering so very differently than we do, from an eternal perspective. The night we were diagnosed with cancer . . . At 10:30 at night we got a call from our surgeon, who said, "You need to sit down Mr. and Mrs. Gaul. I'm about to tell you that Carrie has cancer."

Dennis turned to me that night and he said to me, "Car, we need to think through how we're going to tell people about this." And the Spirit of God just prompted my heart at that time, and He said, "This is a gift of my love, Carrie. You have to receive it in that way." It didn't feel like love. There were a lot of tears, a lot of questions, a lot of doubts, but He said, "This is a gift of My love."

And can I tell you, it would take us all day if I were to tell you the stories of what God has done through that gift of love—of the lives that He's beginning to impact through that one gift of love! A neighbor that we continue to pray for (and have for a number of years), as a result of the cancer journey (nine years we've lived in the same cul-de-sac), God used it as a bridge for the gospel.

The first day I went for treatment, she was at my door like this (Carrie knocks several times). At 8:30 that night I opened the door. (We had a lot of people in our home at that time.)

She said, "Are you doing okay?"

I said, "I am."

So she said, "Good, then can we talk privately?"

I said, "Sure. Are you okay with going back into our bedroom?"

She said, "Sure."

So we went back on our bed, and for two hours she asked me questions about God, because of a bridge called "cancer." She is not there yet. She has not yet received the love of Jesus for her life, but God's drawing her.

God is working on them. They went through a bit of a crisis in their marriage. My husband began praying and talking one day with her husband. Dennis took a call from him later in that week, and he said, "Your God answers prayer!" So, my prayer is that our God will become his God, and that Jesus will use this gift called "cancer" as a bridge for the gospel.

Well, as we conclude, I want to show you a picture that my friend Jessica made for me. She's here today. As we were walking on this cancer journey . . . She didn't tell me initially, but after a while she admitted to me that she thought I was a bit crazy for calling cancer a gift.

She said, "I just thought you were crazy. Why would anyone look at that as a gift? It was just crazy!"

But she's a student of the Word of God. She loves Jesus, and she began to dig into His Word and wrestle with Him about how He sees suffering.

I sat on her living room couch one day, and she said, "Carrie, I have a gift for you. Oftentimes when I'm wrestling through truths that God's teaching me, He gives me a poem, or He gives me a visual illustration of what He's teaching me." She said, "Carrie, I painted this for you."

I'm holding in my hand the canvas of the picture that Jessica painted. At the top it says, "To you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him." There's a pink, beautifully decorated box tied with a bow in this picture, and it's in the hands of Christ.

And we know that they're the hands of Christ because we can see the nail prints in His hands. When I saw that picture that Jessica painted, I said, "Jess, that's it! That's why cancer can be a gift. That's why a difficult marriage or a rebellious child could be a gift."

Is it hard? Yes! Would you choose it? No! Does it mean that we act like it never hurts? No! It means that if it comes into our lives, because we're His, because we're His child, if He allows it into our lives, then He will use it for His purposes in our life . . . because He suffered. You're not going through anything that your Savior hasn't gone through. You're not experiencing even half of the pain that He suffered for you and for me! And His love only gives good and perfect gifts.

My believing doctor called me on the phone a few weeks after I was diagnosed. The reports were starting to come in, we were beginning to need to make some treatment decisions. He called me one evening and, after a long discussion, he said, "Carrie, I want to remind you of something that I know you know, but I just want to tell you again."

I said, "What is that?"

He said, "Carrie, cancer does not hold you in its hands . . . God does."

And my friends, I would say to you today, "Whatever the 'ball and chain' is in your life, it does not hold you in its hands . . . God does."

Nancy: Sweet, sweet truths, and good reminders. If you're not in a season of life where you're experiencing some of those things that really weigh you down, cheer up, because you will be! (laughter) I know I just made you laugh, but when you're in the middle of those things, you don't feel like laughing at all, right?

Carrie, I just think it's interesting that, in God's providence—as you were led to share that today—the Lord brought to be with us here today our long-time friend, Barbara Tolleson. Barbara, it is so good to see you. In God's providence, I think He had you here today as Carrie was sharing about her journey.

I haven't had the chance to see you personally since you got a cancer diagnosis this year. Please tell us (you weren't expecting this at all) you weren't feeling symptoms, then all the sudden you have this diagnosis—not at all what you were expecting.

Barbara Tolleson: No, not at all, Nancy. Quite a shock, actually. I had had some surgeries through the summer. I fell and broke my left arm, my shoulder here and had surgery for that and began recovery. Then I had a hernia, perhaps as a result of the fall.

When I went back for the checkup for that hernia surgery, I just went in to the office by myself, because, you know Lester [her husband] has problems walking and things. We just thought it was just a checkup and that I would be out in a few minutes.

While I was in the doctor's office, he said to me, "Let's check and see if your hernia surgery is okay." And when he did check, he said, "Now, I need to talk to you." I was there in the room with him by myself, and the doctor was using the word "cancer" and my name in the same sentence.

He had sent in lab work and, as Carrie knows, it comes back with one or the other [maybe cancerous or benign]. I didn't even know they did that, but as a general procedure they do. The results came back and he said, "It looks very much like you have cancer."

So I went through all the tests: the PET scan, the CAT scan, the endoscopic sonogram, and those kinds of things. And those things came back showing it was cancer. On the way home, our daughter Karen said to me, "Mom, what if you do not take the chemotherapy?"

We had asked the doctor, "What is your prognosis as far as length of life is concerned?" Nancy, he said, just an average with the patients he has dealt with, with the type of cancer that I have is about eleven months. So then we had an appointment in January. I went back to the doctor who had done the surgery for the hernia.

Lester and I asked him lots of questions as to what good it would do to take the chemotherapy. So he gave us lots of scenarios of people that he knew. He is not an oncologist, he is a surgeon, but he does treat patients who have gone through cancer surgery and he has done mastectomies and other things.

He said, that with the type of cancer I have, chemotherapy will not add significantly to my length of life. Then, Nancy, he said, "Only God knows the length of your life."

And I said, "That's the kind of doctor I want!" And I said, "Lester and I and our daughter have talked about this and we have decided that I will not take chemotherapy."

He was supportive and said, "Whatever decision you make is the right decision, yes or no." So that's what we decided. So he will be my caregiver. But God has given me a gift! He has entrusted a great responsibility to me to be an example of godliness in this time.

Nancy: Wow, Barbara. As I'm listening to you, I'm thinking of that verse in Proverbs 31. I think we're seeing a live illustration of verse 25: "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come." (ESV) It's not like it's funny, "ha ha," but like, "I know Who's in control."

You know, Barbara, I think some people listening to you would think (no offense), There's something wrong with that woman! She's not got a grip on reality. Because the thought is, you should be up here or back in your seat moaning, and there is a sadness. Cancer is not what God intended for this world. It's a fallen world.

Barbara: Certainly.

Nancy: So it's not like, "Oh happy, happy, happy, I have cancer!" And I know that's not what you're saying, but I think that with the way you're sharing this, a lot of people could not even fathom how you can be thinking this way. But I've known Barbara long enough to know why she is clothed with strength and dignity in this season of her life. 

She has been a woman who loved the Word of God, filled her mind and her heart with it, and chose to give thanks in all things—even in difficult circumstances. She's not "ding-y." 

Her family has been through some hard things. This is not an escape from reality. This is tethering your heart to ultimate realities. Because for years Barbara has developed the habit (she and Lester, their children, are just such great examples) of saying, "God's Word is true, and I choose to stake my life on it!"

"This circumstance in my life can be a ball and chain that I drag around and it becomes an obstacle, or I can receive it as a gift, a precious gift, that God has entrusted to me in this season." Now I'm thinking, as I'm listening to Barbara, if I had just had this diagnosis, I don't know what I would be saying. But I'm not sure that I would be clothed in the kind of strength and dignity that I see on Barbara.

Do you know what that's saying to me? "Right now, while you don't have this cancer diagnosis, that's when you need to be getting to know your God—coming away to Him, leaning on Him, learning from Him, letting His Word guide and determine your responses to the little things in life."

Because if I get overwhelmed and moan and groan over the little tiny daily things in life, what in the world am I going to do when the cancer diagnosis comes? What are you going to do?

So, Barbara's been making choices for years. We're listening here to an older woman, not an old woman, but an older woman than some of this in this room, who has said, "You walk with Jesus through the course of your life, and then when you get that totally unexpected, drastic, dire report, you're going to have a Resource. You're going to know where to turn; you're going to know where to go. There's been a shaping."

It's like when the power goes out in your house. If it's a place you're familiar with, you can find your way around. Because you've walked that way. You've seen it in the light. If the power goes out and I'm in somebody else's house, I'm going to stumble and trip because I'm not used to the pathways there.

But in my house I know where things are: I know where the walls are; I know where the doors are, and when the power goes out I can walk. The power's gone out, some would say in terms of health for Barbara and her family at the moment. They're not really in darkness now, because they've got the light of Christ walking through that with them, because they've walked in the light for so many years.

Barbara, I just want to say, "I love you. I'm so touched by listening to you, by seeing you live out this Proverbs 31 verse, 'She smiles. She laughs at the time to come.'" I have a friend whose young wife (with four young children) has just been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. He's signing his updates, "The best is yet to come." Barbara, thank you for sharing out of your journey.

Ladies, maybe you've got the "cancer" word in your life; maybe it's something totally unrelated to that, maybe it's a "ball and chain" marriage; it's a prodigal child; it's a "ball and chain" job that you're in, or church situation. Tether your life, not to the "ball and chain" of your circumstances, but to the anchor—the certain hope that we have in Christ. Then you'll be a woman who can be clothed with strength and dignity, and you can smile at the future whether you know what it holds or not, because you know who holds it, and you can say, "The best is yet to come," because it really is. Amen? Amen! 

We've been listening to a sweet conversation that I had with my long-time friend, Barbara Tolleson. At that point, Barbara had no way of knowing that she had just months to live here on this earth. She's now in heaven with the Lord, cancer-free, pain-free, no more sorrow, no more tears, no more death.

I was just struck that day as she was in the middle of facing these cancer treatments, knowing she had a terminal illness, with the remarkable peace and joy that she experienced. I think you could sense that as you listened to this conversation.

You may wonder, How can anyone experience that kind of joy in such a dark season? Well, Carrie Gaul has also been with us today, showing us from God's Word how to experience His joy, no matter what. Carrie's written a Bible study that will take you further on this topic.

If you want the kind of joy she's been talking about, the kind of joy Barbara was experiencing in that dark place—the kind that can't be shaken by circumstances—I hope you'll go through this eight-week study on Philippians. It's called Joy in the Midst. We'd like to send a copy to you.

It's our gift to you when you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any size. You can know that your support at this time will help us reach out to other women who are walking through dark times in their lives. You'll be helping Revive Our Hearts share true hope and joy with them.

When you call to make your gift, be sure to ask for Carrie's study Joy in the Midst. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. This is the final day we'll be making this offer, so be sure and let us hear from you. We'll send one copy of Carrie's study per household with your donation.

I hope you'll take this opportunity to seek God's Word for the authentic joy that stands up to any pressure in life.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. What does it mean that God is steadfast?

Lauren Chandler: Even if you are faithless, "I will be faithful because I cannot deny Myself." God is faithful to you, to me—even when we blow it. Steadfast love!

Leslie: That's Lauren Chandler. She'll join us tomorrow to describe the steadfast love the Lord has for us. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to prepare you for seasons of suffering. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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