Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Finding Treasures in the Dark (Isaiah 45)

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Where do we get our gladness? Susan Hunt says it has to come from outside ourselves.

Susan Hunt: The grace of gratitude is so important to our spiritual growth, and it’s not something we can just manufacture. It’s something we pray for. It’s a grace that we ask God to work in us, and He makes us glad.

Nancy: This is Revive Our Hearts for March 25, 2021. I’m Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. 

If you missed Dannah Gresh’s conversation yesterday with Susan Hunt and Sharon Betters, what a treasure trove! You want to be sure and catch that episode on the Revive Our Hearts app or at ReviveOurHearts.com.

These three special women are back today to talk about aging with grace and the value of having a biblical approach to aging . . . and don’t we all need that? Contrasted with our culture, the biblical view will seem counter-cultural, and it’s not going to be highly applauded by most.

In fact, as you live that way, it can make you feel different, maybe even left out. Well, Susan and Sharon are here again today to encourage us in our journey as we become older women. Let’s listen as Dannah starts off their conversation.

Dannah Gresh: Welcome back, Susan, and I’m so glad to have you again, my new friend Sharon!

Susan: Thank you, Dannah. Likewise, Dannah, thank you.

Dannah: Thank you for your wisdom yesterday, it was such a treat! I’m wondering . . . We haven’t discussed your ages yet, and I’m feeling like maybe we’ll save that for tomorrow--when we are all really good friends. But what prepared you, maybe in your younger years, to have this counter-cultural dynamic and life-giving approach to aging? Sharon?

Sharon: When I was in my forties, as Susan mentioned yesterday, I came to the national women’s ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America. I was so fortunate to be surrounded by the kind of women “I wanted to be like when I grew up.”

God had placed me there for reasons that I truly did not understand until July of 1993, when our sixteen-year-old son Mark and his friend, Kelly, were in a fatal car accident. I felt as though I wasn’t prepared for that.

Through months and years, I feel God gave me the gift of wrestling. I know that that might sound heretical to some people, but I think I have a scriptural basis for it. Everything God gives to us, He gives as a gift for us to give back to the church, to give back to those who are part of our covenant family.

After Mark’s death, I had the opportunity to share with others some of my journey. It’s amazing how many people are sitting in our churches who feel “less than,” because their faith does not shine the way that others’ seem to shine.

In their own sorrow they are questioning the Lord, and they’re questioning His faithfulness. I was able to say that I was struggling to reconcile God’s love with His sovereignty. Because I knew that when He gave us Mark, He knew He was going to take Mark back on that specific day.

But God, in His gracious goodness, put me in the middle of these women. Susan was our leader who stood with me, who walked with me, who let me say whatever I wanted to say. She encouraged me to lean into the pain, to lament. 

They gave me permission to lament, to understand that I was not doing something that God was ashamed of. He welcomed me, He welcomed my questions, even encouraged my questions. And in time, there’s that process that Susan talked about yesterday, that sanctification process, that dying to self every day. It was dying to what I truly wanted—and that was my son—and opening my hands for the treasures that God was going to give me. 

That was another turning point for me to say, “Sharon, you can be a bitter old woman known by the grief of losing your son, or you can choose to trust the Lord in this journey. You can become that woman of grace who is going to have much encouragement to offer to those coming behind you. Which is it going to be?” It wasn’t a one-and-done decision. I don’t want anybody to think that. It’s a lifetime.

Dannah: I can even see . . . You’re saying these words so well, you’re so poised, but on your face I can see there’s still some of that grief that you’re giving to the Lord.

Sharon Betters: Well, you never know . . . Those who have lost a loved one . . . I just heard of a relative who had a funeral yesterday for both a father and a son, because they both died of Covid. We’re in the middle of that pandemic, and the grief is great, and the sorrow goes so much further than we realize.

It’s not something where you say, “Well, I’ll get over this.” I’m not going to get over this. I will not be over it until I step from this exile place where I am on this earth and into heaven where I get to see the fulfilment of all God’s promises.

But in the meantime, the Lord has given me such strength. He has enabled me to do the things that He prepared for me to do before the foundation of the world. There were some days where that’s the only thing that got me out of bed, was knowing, “Whatever God has for me today, He’s already equipped me for it. And that’s the way I need to face that.”

So that’s a huge loss, and I can’t ever go back to where I had Mark. I’m moving forward, and struggling through that deep anguish truly has equipped me to remember the faithfulness of God when I’m faced with something else—some other loss, or a friend has a loss—to be able to say, “God is Sovereign and you can trust Him.”

Dannah: It’s like faith training, obedience training. You mentioned the COVID deaths and the pandemic, Sharon. What would you say to some of the friends and family members for whom the grief is really fresh right now. How can you encourage them?

Sharon: I would say grieve, grieve deeply, lament, run to the Lord. He is not standing there in disappointment and condemnation because you are not in that bubble of grace that it feels like other people are in. He knows your heart and you can run to Him, and He holds you safely in His grip.

You might be struggling to get away from Him, but if you are His child, you cannot get away from Him because He loves you too much! Run to the Word. To me during that hard time, the Word sometimes was like black marks on a page that didn’t sink in. I couldn’t think straight. Every morning I would get up and would pour out my heart to the Lord. 

I mean, just thinking about it, the preciousness of that time where I would write in my journal how I felt; I wouldn’t hold anything back. I urge you to do that if you’re brokenhearted. Then I would read My Utmost for His Highest and Streams in the Desert and a psalm and a chapter of Proverbs for each day.

And, Dannah, sometimes it felt like the Lord had written those devotionals just for me, because words there would match some of the words in my journal! So I urge those who are brokenhearted—even if the Word is not sinking in—keep feeding yourself. 

Keep going there and feeding yourself, and eventually it’s going to be like little sticks of dynamite that will explode with hope and courage. It’s a long journey.

Dannah: It is. I love that you mentioned Streams in the Desert. I have a stack of those books in my office. I ship it off to anyone who is experiencing grief of any type. It’s such a treasure trove! 

Sharon: Yes.

Dannah: Susan, as we’re taking a little detour here, it seems, from the topic of aging (though not really; we’ll explain in a moment how this is helpful), but I think in our current world situation it’s good to talk about grief.

The Bible says it’s better to go to the house of mourning than it is to celebrate, right? (see Eccl. 7:2) There’s something good here, there’s a treasure here we can find in this. What wisdom do you have, Susan, for us on the topic of death and grief?

Susan: Well, I was widowed fourteen months ago, and I think the first thing I would say is, I hope that you can not wait until a time of grief to saturate yourself in God’s Word. As you listened to Sharon, that’s what you heard. She was already in God’s Word; she was already seeking Him with all of her heart.

So that’s where she stayed. She was planted in the house of the Lord; she was planted among God’s people who were lifegivers to her through that. I had that same experience. Everything that I had learned about the Lord, everything that He’s taught me over all of these years, that was the platform that I needed; it was the security I needed; it was everything I needed during that time.

But more especially, I had been in Psalm 92, working on this book for about a year before my husband went to heaven. I had specifically been thinking and praying so much about the first verses, which say: 

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night . . . You, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy (vv. 1–2, 4). 

All of these things had become my prayer. I had been praying that the Lord would give me a heart of gratitude. 

The grace of gratitude is so important to our spiritual growth, and it’s not something we can just manufacture. It’s something we pray for. It’s a grace that we ask God to work in us, and He makes us glad. Again, it’s not the way we normally think about gladness.

We normally think that the events and the people, what’s happening to me, what I have . . . that’s what makes me glad. But this tells us that God makes us glad! I had been praying that we would flourish, that my husband and I would flourish in old age. And then, very suddenly, he was sick, and in three months he died.

All of those things I had been praying, not even realizing what I was praying them for, perhaps, that’s what prepared me for a time of grief. That joy did not leave me when Gene went to heaven. Yes, there’s grief, but I did not grieve without hope, because the hope of the gospel is in our hearts.

I am not grieving without joy. I grieve in the context of rejoicing in God’s presence with me every single moment of every single day. And so, the grieving has really become a sweet and sacred journey.

One of the things I had prayed for during that time was something I had learned from Sharon when Mark died. She told me one day, “I cannot and I will not fake anything. I can’t pretend that I’m doing well when I’m not doing well. God has to work in me what He wants me to go through each day.”

I had heard her say that and I had learned from it, so I began praying, “Lord, I don’t want to fake a joy that is not deep in my heart. I don’t want to try to look a part, or to try to communicate something to our grandchildren that is not real, because they’ll see through it in a heartbeat. Whatever You want me to experience, that’s what I want from You, but I do not want to lose the joy of my salvation.” 

And it has just been such an amazing time of growth, and I just know the presence of the Lord in such sweet ways.

Dannah: You know, I love that you’re both giving permission to grieve, because I feel like we do sometimes see Christians fake it at funerals and in the days following a deep loss. I’m always reminded when I see that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35—the shortest verse in the Bible) at the graveside of his dear friend Lazarus.

He let the tears flow. And sometimes that’s the first step in reacquainting yourself with the joy of your salvation, don’t you think?

Susan: I do, and I think we need to acknowledge that, yes we grieve, but our grief should not look like the world’s grief. It is not a grief of despair. I know that my separation from my husband is temporary, and that’s the hope that we have. Our hope in Jesus is a hope for eternity. 

We need to pray fervently that the Lord will help us to grieve by His grace, but to grieve in a way that glorifies Him. He’ll show us what that means if we’re asking Him for it.

Dannah: That’s beautiful. 

Well, friends, we are talking with Sharon Betters and Susan Hunt, and we’re kind of on the journey of talking about how to age with grace. They’re giving us the wisdom that they’ve gleaned as they’ve walked through grief, that’s prepared them to be godly older women.

And, Sharon, I know that you have spoken and written about discovering a treasure in your grief. I love that you use that word “treasure.” What was that treasure that helped you, prepared you, to become a godly older woman? 

Sharon: The first thing I think about is the presence of the Lord, the promise of His presence. No matter how I feel, no matter what my emotions are, no matter what my sin is, He has said, “I am with you, and I will never, ever leave you. I will be with you” (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). 

A big turning point for me in my own grief journey was, really, theology matters. So really understanding the reason for my hope was a priceless treasure. The Word of God, being in the Word and believing, Everything in my life changed! There was nothing that was going to be certain except God’s Word. You know, I could get another phone call.

That’s where I knew I needed to land, in His Word. That has to be one of the most priceless treasures in the darkness.

Dannah: What’s a Scripture passage that someone who is in grief right now can turn to gain understanding about this journey towards Heaven that we’re on?

Sharon: Well, one that became my life verse was Isaiah 45:2–3. Some may not think of it as a grief verse, but it became one for me. That’s where the Lord says, 

I will give you . . . treasures in the darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you will know that I am the Lord your God the One who calls you by name” (NIV84). 

And what I got from that—even though it was said to an unbelieving king—I took it as a promise to myself that God was going to give me jewels, treasures I could not experience any other way except in the darkness.

“Riches stored in secret places . . .” He was going to take me to places where I wouldn’t be able to go unless my heart was broken. And He wasn’t saying, “I’m going to fix it, I’m going to give you Mark back.” He was saying, “I’m sending the treasures to help turn your heart toward me, because I am the Lord your God, and I know your name.”

There is nothing more personal, I think, than that somebody knows my name and they’re sending me what only I know He would know. Somebody else wouldn’t be able to send me those treasures, but He does. 

I would say to the brokenhearted person, “To receive those treasures, you have to have your hands open.” Surrendering to the purposes of God, clinging to those Scriptures, and then watching for those treasures that He has in store for you, that He’s promised He is going to send to you.

Dannah: Yes, I feel like when death happens in my family, in my friends, in my circle of influence, I need to be reminded of those treasures. One of the things I’m very mindful of is that this earth isn’t my home. I don’t belong here; I’m passing through.

So, Sharon, you keep using the word “treasures,” and I love that word. It’s so beautiful and winsome; it draws me in. What do you mean by that?

Sharon: Well, I take it all the way back to when I had breast cancer and I wasn’t sure what my prognosis was going to be. The day after surgery, I remember the Lord reminding me of Lamentations 3:23 in Scripture, where He says, “My mercies are new every day.” Look for them! And then those verses in Isaiah 45, where I mentioned that God promises to give us treasures in the darkness.

So there were those two passages that really caught my imagination. But I knew that God was not saying, “You’re going to be fine.” I knew He wasn’t saying, “I’m going to take the cancer away and it’s all going to be easy.” I had a strong sense that it was going to be a very rough road . . . and

it was!

But, I also felt Him saying, “But you are going to see things if you open your eyes and your hands. I am going to send you reminders that I am very aware of what your need is right now. I’m very aware of your doubts or your fears, and I am going to send you glimpses of who I am, to remind you I’m right here. I’m Sovereign and I’m right here!”

And some of those were just kind of funny. Our son, Dan, was twelve years old. I lost all my hair, and he started hugging me. I mean, for a twelve-year-old, lots and lots of hugs. And I said, “Dan, you know I love it, but what’s going on here?” 

And he said, “Well, my teacher said you need twelve hugs a day to live longer, so I’m giving you those twelve hugs.” 

And I just felt, “This was the Lord” from a twelve-year-old boy. Our other son was sixteen, and he would keep kissing me on the top of my head and rubbing my head. He’d say, “It’s like the head of a baby.” 

I mean, I hated it that I had lost my hair. I hated looking in the mirror, and yet, I felt like God was saying, “It’s nothing! It’s okay; it’s endearing to your family.” 

But on perhaps a deeper level were notes that would come to me when I was feeling very broken, and the ache in my chest would not stop. It would not break.

The Lord would give me a note from a friend (who had written it days before) telling me that He would not forsake me, that He was with me. From the Word, I mentioned the devotional times that I would have, when the words of the devotional would tie in with the words of my journal. I knew the Lord was doing that. This was a gift from the Lord.

They seem little to other people, but when you are in such a broken, dark place, they’re priceless! To me, they were priceless treasures that broke the ache (just for a few minutes sometimes), but those riches stored in secret places.

Dannah: So those treasures are really glimpses of God’s grace in special ways, in special times. I needed to hear that today, Sharon. I woke up this morning and the first prayer out of my mouth was, “Lord, You were right! In this world we will have trouble.”

I think it can be easy in a pandemic year, in a pandemic time . . . I’m praying a cousin out of the hospital right now. I’m facing a lot of difficult, painful decisions. I’m looking for the trouble instead of the treasures. But you’ve made me want to change my vision.

Susan, last words for today as we talk about these sweet treasures. Have you seen those as you’ve walked through this year or so of grief?

Susan: Oh, yes! Jesus Himself is the Treasure. He is so real and so present with us that it’s His promise to be with us. His Word is our treasure, and His people are our treasure. I think one of the challenges is that we need to be careful that in grief that we don’t pull away and isolate, rather that we move toward those means of grace that God has given us for us to discover the treasures.

Move toward worship, move toward Scripture, prayer, fellowship with God’s people. Be where the treasures are, and God gives them to us.

Dannah: What a big encouragement! “Be where the treasures are.” Move towards the worship, the Word, the community of Christian faith, so that you can see these glimpses of God’s grace!

Nancy: What a rich conversation we’ve heard once again today between my co-host Dannah Gresh, along with Susan Hunt and Sharon Betters. Susan and Sharon have written a book, Aging with Grace. I love the subtitle: Flourishing in an Anti-Aging Culture. 

As you read this book, you’re going to feel like you’re sitting down for a conversation with two friends, just as you probably have felt over the last moments. Susan and Sharon will walk you through a biblical and a beautiful approach to aging, and you’ll discover how to embrace whatever season you’re in with grace.

I want to encourage you to get a copy of this book. You may think, I’m just in my thirties. Why would I need that? Well, whatever season you’re in, you are aging, and you want to do it with grace. And I’ll just remind you that the decisions you make today and the way you age today has a lot to do with the kind of old lady you’ll be someday.

Whether you’re younger now, or older, this is a book I think is going to be a great encouragement to you. You can find it on our website at ReviveOurHearts.com or you can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959 and order a copy of Aging with Grace.

I just want to give you a quick reminder that Revive Our Hearts is a listener-supported ministry. That means we rely on the donations of friends like you to help us to keep reaching women of every age around the world.

If you’ve benefited from this program, like the conversation you heard today, would you consider giving a gift to this ministry? You can make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com or by calling us at 1–800–569–5959.

I’m so grateful for the generosity of listeners like you and how, day after day, week after week, month after month now for almost twenty years, you’ve made it possible for us to continue reaching women and calling them to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

If you’re at the age where, let me just say, you’re starting to get some mailings from organizations like AARP, let me ask you a question, Would you consider aging to be a joyful process?

Tomorrow we’ll hear more from Susan Hunt and Sharon Betters as they talk about fighting this dread that can come with aging. They’ll take us through a deeper look at the context of an important passage in Jeremiah 29. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts wants to help you dwell in God’s Word. This program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.

About the Guests

Susan Hunt

Susan Hunt

Susan Hunt is the widow of Gene Hunt, the mother of three and grandmother of thirteen, and former Coordinator of Women’s Ministry for the Presbyterian Church in America. She has written several books for women, including Life-Giving Leadership co-authored with Karen Hodge, and Aging with Grace: Flourishing in an Anti-Aging Culture, co-authored with Sharon Betters. She loves time with her family, sitting on her porch with younger women, and tending the flowers her grandsons help her plant in her yard.

Sharon Betters

Sharon Betters

Sharon is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, pastor’s wife, and cofounder of MARKINC Ministries, where she is the director of resource development. Sharon is the author of several books and is the writer of Daily Treasure, an online devotional. Susan Hunt and Sharon co-authored Aging with Grace, Flourishing in an Anti-Aging Culture.