Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God Is Good, and God Is Sovereign

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Dannah Gresh: It was her first pregnancy, and Erin Davis had just had an ultrasound.

Erin Davis: The doctor burst in the door, clipboard in hand, and says, “Your baby’s bladder is blocked. He’s not going to survive the pregnancy. If he survives, he’ll be very deformed. My advice to you is that you abort the baby today.” Just like that. That clinical. That fast.

Dannah: How would you respond? We’re about to hear what Erin and her husband Jason decided.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh, for September 10, 2019.

Dannah: Nancy often says you’re either in a storm, coming out of the storm, or heading into one. She and our guest are about to give you some anchors to help when you’re battered by the storms of life.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I’m so thankful to be continuing today this conversation we’ve been having with Erin Davis. Erin, I want to say, “Welcome to Revive Our Hearts,” but you are part of Revive Our Hearts.

Erin: I am! 

Nancy: You and your husband Jason both serve on our staff. You live in Missouri, so we don’t get to see you as often as I’d like. Before this recording, I leaned across the table and I said, “I wish you were here more often.”

I’m so thankful for your heart. I think one of the many things I appreciate about you is how you let your view of God, which is drawn from the Scripture, direct and determine your view about everything else. Good theology is a huge help to living a fruitful and free and blessed life, and I see that in you.

If you didn’t get to hear the last program, go back and listen to yesterday’s conversation—so powerful. It’s about how your childhood, the abandonment of your dad, and how you could have had a whole different outcome to your life. But as you came to know Jesus, as you began to get your heart and life established in His Word, that began to inform and instruct how you viewed everything, and it changed the course of your life. What could have been a basket case, becoming a statistic, you’ve become a fruitful, joyful, wise woman who’s now impacting others’ lives.

Erin: Well, that’s all God’s grace. I read those passages about being a new creation, and everybody has different stories, everybody has different testimonies, but I’m a new creation. I am not like the young woman who didn’t know Jesus. I’m so grateful for His work in my heart. I can’t take any credit, but He has transformed me.

Nancy: And I’ve watched you live out that confidence in Him, that good theology, in a number of circumstances. I didn’t know you when you were first married, but I did get to know you. I think maybe the first time we met you were expecting your first son. You now have four, and Eli . . .

Erin: . . . is eleven.

Nancy: He’s eleven now! So that was maybe a dozen years ago, and I don’t even know if you knew you were pregnant at the time. I don’t think the group we were meeting with, I don’t think you told us if you were. But not too far into that pregnancy, you received some really devastating news.

I remember hearing this. Tell us what the news was.

Erin: Yes. It happened just twelve weeks in utero, so I hadn’t been pregnant very long. I actually was booked to go out on the road with Dannah Gresh’s ministry. She had a ministry to young girls and teenagers, and I used to travel and speak for her. So I was going to be on the road for three weeks.

And the doctor called as I was packing the car and said, “There’s a problem with the baby.”

This will give you insight into my pre-kid’s mindset: I said, “Well, I’m going on a trip, so it’s going to have to wait.”

And she very calmly said, “It can’t wait.”

The issue was that his bladder was blocked, which might sound minor, but in the womb, they process amniotic fluid through their bladder and their lungs, and that’s how their lungs develop. So the fact that those processes weren’t working was a serious issue.

So we had this long weekend where we had to wait to see a specialist. And what I remember about that weekend is that it was hard, but we weren’t undone. That passage about being pressed but not crushed, that’s how it felt. We had this bad news. We had this question mark over our lives. But somehow we had peace that doesn’t make sense.

Nancy: So you and Jason were together processing this.

Erin: Jason and I were together. I called our friend Dannah and said, “I have an appointment with the doctor on Monday. I’m going to have to catch up with the team later.” Which I did, but I don’t know if I grasped the gravity of the situation, but I also think I trusted God in the moment.

So we see the specialist. I’m on the table with my shirt up, getting an ultrasound. And the ultrasound tech is beside me. I’m confident he was a believer because the doctor burst in the door, clipboard in hand, and says, “Your baby’s bladder is blocked. He’s not going to survive the pregnancy. If he survives, he’ll be very deformed. My advice to you is that you abort the baby today.” Just like that. That clinical. That fast.

Nancy: Wow.

Erin: And that man who had done my ultrasound put his hand on my stomach, and I know he was praying for me. And my husband Jason, who always rides the white horse and always comes to the rescue, said, “Well, we’re not going to do that, so you can tell us our other options.”

We made it through that pregnancy. Indeed, his bladder was blocked. We delivered him with a specialist in another city. His name was actually going to be Truett. And one day Jason said to me, “I’ve changed his name.”

And I said, “The baby who’s in my belly, you changed his name?”

And he said, “Yes. I’ve changed it to Elisha because it means God is my salvation.”

And I tend to be a little bit fatalistic, and I said, “He might not save him.”

And Jason said, “That’s okay. He still saves.”

And so we had Elisha, and we had this dramatic delivery. There was a team scrubbed up, gloves on, masks on, ready to take our newborn baby to surgery. And he came out, and he peed all over everybody—which doesn’t sound that great, but those systems were not supposed to be working. So the fact that he could do that meant that the clog wasn’t as severe as they thought.

We had watched over many months his bladder expand to the point that it filled his whole abdomen. It wasn’t draining. But he received a partial healing. In that moment, the Lord somehow healed him in that moment. And so the doctor who was waiting to take him to surgery said, “You just bought yourself a ticket out of the NICU, buddy.” And he never did have surgery.

He’s a healthy, happy boy. Now, he did lose a kidney, so it’s not without consequence. And we go every year, and I pray every year, if the Lord can raise Himself from the dead, He can resurrect one tiny little kidney. I still have faith for that healing. But he’s alive, and he’s a blessing, and we’re so grateful to have him.

Nancy: And you’ve had other children with similar types of kidney issues.

Erin: We have.

Nancy: I’ve watched you. I remember when you were carrying Elisha, and you didn’t know. You did not know when the delivery came what you would be facing, but you knew God.

Erin: Right.

Nancy: And Jason knew God. And you weren’t assured that He was going to spare your child’s life or that, all the negative things that doctor had said, they might have come true. For some people those things do come true, or worse than what they expect. 

But I watched you. And I don’t want to say it was like something super-spiritual. I think it was just grounded in who God is—that God is good—and, “If my son has physical challenges or issues, then God’s going to show us how to get through that.” I mean, it wasn’t like you had this promise that he was going to be okay.

Erin: Right. Even if he had not been okay, I am so grateful that the Lord spared my son. In fact, just recently it occurred to me that it was probably the prayers of my husband that saved the life of my child because he’s just a man of faith that believed and trusted and pleaded with the Lord for our boy’s life. But even if He hadn’t, that wasn’t what our hope was in.

Certainly, we wanted our boy to make it, and we’re grateful that he did, but there are two anchors that have secured my life. I’m not a boater, but I googled this one time: “When does a boat need two anchors?” A boat needs two anchors when it’s in the middle of a storm because if it only has one anchor in a storm, it will spin out and untether itself. But if it has two anchors, it will stay. And the two anchors that have secured my life are: God is good, and God is sovereign.

When my baby was growing in my belly and not likely to survive, I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew that God was good, and God was sovereign.

And we went on and had baby number two. He seemed healthy. The doctor told us, “That was a fluke thing. It probably won’t happen again.”

And then we got pregnant again with Judah, and he had a blocked kidney, and we walked through the whole process again. It wasn’t any easier because we’d walked it before, but we knew God was good, and God was sovereign.

And that baby, Judah, ended up having an extremely invasive kidney surgery at ten months. I remember getting to the point in the hospital, where they took my baby from me and went to the surgery doors, and Jason had to help me. My pastor was there. My parents were there. They had to pull me away from Judah because sending my baby past those doors was so hard. But I knew that God was good, and God was sovereign.

They gave us this little family room to be in, and my pastor, Tim, who’s been such a gift in my life, was there. Those were the words he spoke over us. “God is good, and God is sovereign.” We were together for what felt like an eternity while we were waiting to hear about our baby boy. And then when he came to us, he had all these tubes hanging out of his back. It was hard! But God was good, and God was sovereign.

And then baby boy number 4, Ezra, same thing. His kidneys are blocked. It’s less than his brothers’, and we go every few months and test it. Will he have to have the surgery? I don’t know. Will his kidney die like Eli’s kidney has died? I don’t know. I don’t know how the story’s going to end. Will one of them need a kidney transplant at some point? (Those are the conversations we have.) Will they need dialysis?

I don’t know any of that, but I know that God is good, and that God is sovereign. And we’ve been able to say to our sons, from very young ages, those things. We’ve spent a lot of time in hospital rooms with our boys, and we’ve been able to have those conversations.

Nancy: And those conversations continue into other areas of parenting. I’ll not speak to the rest of your life, but you had to trust God to be good and to be sovereign when it came to the physical birth and health of your sons. But how many other areas in a parent’s life do you have to realize, “I can’t control this. I can’t control the outcome”? And you have to keep going back to those same two anchors.

Erin: Yes. I actually see the diagnosis of Eli’s kidney blockage at twelve weeks in utero as a tremendous gift because I never for one moment as a mother thought I had any control. I didn’t even know if I was going to bring my baby home. So the focus has always been on, “These are His boys.”

It’s not always that dramatic. One of my children and I have different personalities. We don’t always get along. He’s a wild stallion of a boy. The Lord is going to have to bridle him. I have to trust the Lord with that. I don’t know what that looks like. And where do they go to school? It’s just scary to be a parent. It’s just scary. But . . . God is good, and God is sovereign. And those anchors have held.

Nancy: And there are other areas of your life. I know just within the past months and year or so, you’ve faced a lot of circumstances that we could call stormy, where your boat’s been shaken. It’s rocking. Just walk us through some of how you’re trusting God to write your story in just some time of family issues, some time of suffering, and what that looks like for you in the midst of a storm.

Erin: I think the older I get, the more I realize it’s just always stormy. The calm waters are rare this side of heaven. I don’t have to be surprised about that anymore. But I can think back to about a year ago, it was more like a tsunami.

I was pregnant with Ezra. I think we knew about the kidney issues, again, with him. I got hit with a really horrible case of shingles, which, Nancy, I know you know what that’s like.

Nancy: I wouldn’t have known a year ago, but now I do, and my heart just . . . I did not feel sorry enough for you at that point.

Erin: Because I was pregnant, I couldn’t take the anti-viral, and I couldn’t take any pain medication. So it was really brutal.

And in the middle of that, Paw Paw, my husband’s grandfather, who is really this godly patriarch of our family, died. When the shingles hit, I made the mistake of saying to my husband in the kitchen, “I don’t know if things can get any worse!” Which he has said to me many times, “You’re never allowed to say that again!”

But we get this phone call that Paw Paw is gone. He was a rock to us. And in the night, my husband’s grief was deep, and he needed me to be very available and present with him. So I would just kind of, mind over matter, the pain of my shingles, and my own grief. But in the night when I knew everybody was asleep, I would go in the living room, and I would scream into a pillow because I was in so much pain. I would cry out to the Lord.

And my circumstances were not Job-like. Job faced such horrendous circumstances. But I was reminded of Job. And my resolve was this: We will not curse God and die. We will stay here, and we will proclaim the name of Jesus.

And my resolve for my husband was: I will be the friends Job didn’t have. I will sit in this with him. I will be silent as much as I can be silent, and I will speak the truth of who God is when I have the opportunity to speak.

And there’s lots of moments of suffering, but that moment stands out to me as a moment where the anchors, again, held. And the truth that the Lord had been imprinting into my heart for many, many years as I’ve walked with Him, suddenly, it was all there. It was all forefront of mind, forefront of heart.

That was the season where I had trouble going to Scripture for myself. I was just managing too much. I was tired. But it was all hidden in my heart, and the Lord would bring it to mind, and godly friends would speak it to me. I’m so grateful for friends who force-feed the Word of God to me when I’m not able to feed it to myself. And that was one of those seasons.

So in the context of the providence of God, I wouldn’t have chosen any one of those circumstances. I certainly wouldn’t have chosen for them to all clump up together like that. But God didn’t abandon His post. He didn’t abandon me.

All of His promises were true: 

  • He is close to the brokenhearted. 
  • He is with those who are crushed in spirit. 
  • When we seek Him, we do find Him. 
  • He is a comforter. 
  • He is a physician. 
  • He was all of those things for us.

He sends people to mourn with us when we mourn. He sends people to celebrate with us when we celebrate. He gave us the Body of Christ that did everything. In that season, I resolved that I would open my hands, and anything anyone offered to put in them, I would take.

So, people brought us food. People brought us bottled water. And one sweet woman named Joanne from my church called and said, “Can I come and clean your bathrooms?” 

I said, “Yes, Joanne! Come and clean my bathrooms.” 

Because my hands were open, and anything anybody would give me, I would take. And God used people, but He was at work even in that very intense storm.

Nancy: I think it’s important to point out, and you’ve illustrated this, that trusting God to write your story in those hard times doesn’t mean that the pain evaporates, that it’s not hard—excruciatingly hard sometimes. It doesn’t mean that there are no tears. There are tears—until we get to that place where there are no more tears. So it’s not an evidence that I don’t trust God if I’m howling into the pillow.

Erin: Sure.

Nancy: What’s the line? How have you come to say, “Here’s the line between where I’m resenting God’s choices or I’m trusting God but I’m still able to express that emotionally”?

Erin: Well, I never let go of hope. The hope is: Yes, this is hard, and this may be hard for a long time, but I have hope. I don’t have hope in myself to get myself out of this situation. I have hope that the Lord is working right now in a million ways that I can’t see. I have hope.

And for a girl who was abandoned by her father, to be anchored in the fact that I am never alone—that’s a supernatural work of God in my life.

Nancy: It’s huge.

Erin: I can face hard things. I can’t face hard things alone. And so it is walking through those things and choosing to believe the truth. Because in those situations, your feelings will tell you everything contrary to the truth.

My feelings said, “It’s always going to be this way.”
My feelings said, “I’m alone in this.”
My feelings said, “I have to handle this.”
My feelings often say, “I can’t do this. I can’t make it.”

Nancy: Or, “I can’t take any more.”

Erin: “I have to give up. I quit.”

Or, I could have fixated on the people who weren’t showing interest and weren’t helping in ways I thought they should—“Nobody cares about me. Nobody loves me.”

I felt all of those feelings. I wouldn’t pretend that I won’t. But I know that my feelings lie to me, and that God’s Word is truth. So it is choosing to anchor your life, again: Build your life on the foundation of truth. In that season, I drew two anchors on my feet with a Sharpie because it was like, “I have to remember what the two anchors are.”

I said to people, “My pastor, Tim, said, ‘What can we do?’ And I said, ‘I need you to speak truth to us because we’re having a hard time speaking truth to ourselves.’”

Nancy: What a gift.

Erin: I think it’s just choosing to move toward truth and choosing to believe that what God says, He will do, even if my circumstances and my feelings indicate the opposite.

Nancy: And your circumstances haven’t really eased up—well, they have in some ways, but then, there are others. And isn’t that so like life a lot of the time?

You received the news, and I remember when you shared this with our team, that your mom had a diagnosis, a terminal diagnosis, and you’re walking through that circumstance right now.

Erin: Yes. My sweet mom, whom I love so much and has been such a gift in my life and loves Jesus and loves people and is a wonderful mother and a wonderful grandmother, has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

We’re definitely seeing some signs and changes in her behavior and her body. And what the doctors have told us, it won’t end well. Alzheimer’s doesn’t end well. It’s a changing of her brain that we can’t reverse. There’s no medicine she can take. There’s no treatments she can take. So we’re walking that hard road of a woman who is so sharp, so gifted, so talented. She’s a gifted water-color artist, and she’s slipping away in ways that I would not choose for her, and she would not choose for herself.

Nancy: So, how do you counsel your heart as you’re walking through that?

Erin: It’s day-by-day and sometimes minute-by-minute. There’s that song, “I need You every hour,” and I’m in a season where I need Him every minute.

And I wake up most days, because I have four small children, because I have a heavy responsibility, I feel a heavy responsibility at Revive Our Hearts, to be faithful to the Word of God. Because I have a care-taking responsibility for my mom, I wake up every day, and I think, I can’t do this. And I crawl into my bed every night, and I say, “Lord, we did it!”

He sustained me. And so I do cry—a lot of days I cry. I do get mad. And the Lord has used it to reveal sin in my life because I get frustrated with her. Even though I know it’s involuntary, I know she can’t help it, but there’s these behaviors or repeating herself and forgetfulness that bring up this frustration in me. Then I have to repent of that. I didn’t know that was there. So there’s that abiding that Scripture calls us to do.

I’m honest with my people. Honestly, in hard times, I want to retreat. I’m an introvert. I’m very, very private by nature. So when life is hard, what I want to do is go inside my shell and not tell anybody what’s going on. But that has not been a healthy pattern in my life.

So instead, I’ll tell anybody who will listen: “We’re walking through this hard season.” I try to honor my mom in it and not tell the specifics necessarily of all the things she’s doing and changing, but I just say it as often as I can to the people who will listen, especially those people who love me and love her.

I’m very aware of my sin. Nobody has to tell me that I’m a sinner. I know it. And one of my sinful tendencies is an attempt at self-sufficiency. I know that. So I have to ask for help a lot. I don’t like to ask for help a lot, but I do. I have to ask people, “I can’t cover today.” We’re trying to keep her at home and take good care of her. I have to ask for help and not try to be super woman in it. I just want to honor her. The way I see it, if I’m her full-time caretaker for eighteen years, I still owe her.

So I know that in the providence of God, I will look back at this season as a gift to me that I got to serve the woman who served me, and I got to love her. So she’s lost a little bit of her understanding of Jesus—this is a woman who’s loved and served Jesus all of her life. But I get to talk to her about Jesus. I get to remind her that, though this is scary, He’s with her. He loves her. He’s waiting for her. He will care for her.

So, I guess I just say the truth. I keep saying that over and over, but I just speak the truth.

Nancy: There’s somebody listening to this conversation who feels like they’re about to go under, and it might be one of the kinds of circumstances you’ve been through, or maybe something totally different. But they think, This boat is going under.

Just give a word, like they’re sitting here at the table, and you’ve just listened to their story. Encourage them with a reminder about those two anchors.

Erin: Nancy, you’ve said something so many times that I know has been foundational for me and for many others, which is: Anything that causes us to need the Lord is a good thing.

And I pray like this a lot: “Jesus, I need You. I just know it now. I forgot for a minute. I thought I could handle it for a minute, and now I know it.”

I understand that feeling that your boat is going to go under. My friend Tippy who’s been just a hero in this circumstance, she tells me that when she faces hard situations, what she does is she closes her eyes and she imagines herself in the boat with Jesus. The waves are big, and the storm is raging. But in her mind, she tries to imagine taking a nap in the bottom of the boat because that’s what Jesus did in the middle of the storm. Because He was sovereign, you couldn’t rattle Him. He could just lay down in the bottom of the boat and take a nap, and there was no fear that it would be capsized.

I think that’s a good exercise. I’m going to just, in my mind, for a minute, lay down and take a nap because God is sovereign, and if we tip, we tip. Unless the Lord does something dramatic—which He certainly can do—this disease is going to take my mama. And if you heard the previous show, you know that my dad abandoned us, and my mom has been faithful and caring and loving. There’s nothing that’s fair about this. But God is good, and God is sovereign.

So it might look like the boat’s capsizing because I’m losing somebody I love, but the hope is . . . there’s so many layers of hope. She will be with Him, and I will be with Him. He will care for me, and He will care for her. And He will never leave us or forsake us.

So, I think even in a capsized boat . . . Where can you go from His presence? Where can you flee from His Spirit? You go to the depths of the ocean, He’s there. So the hope for you, when you think, I’m drowning, is that He’s right there with you, He’s not overwhelmed when you are. He will not abandon you. He’s a God who walks on water. So even if you’re drowning, the answer is to always hold up your hand and reach for Him, and He’s always right there to reach back.

Dannah: I am so challenged by what I’ve heard today from Erin. She’s a dear friend of mine, and I think I’m going to actually just go call her. Maybe you have a friend like that who’s going through something really difficult. You know what? Sometimes we need to be God’s skin and encourage our friends when they feel like they’re drowning.

Or maybe you identify more with being Erin. I want you to remember the two anchors Erin talked about today: God is good, and God is sovereign. That’s something you can latch onto no matter how stormy it seems right now in your story.

It’s also something Nancy and her husband Robert examine in their new book. The title is, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story: Embracing the Mysteries of Providence. When you go through storms, this book will point you to a lifeline.

I’d love to send you the book when you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount today. Revive Our Hearts is listener supported, and we really rely on your gifts to keep this program on the air, ministering to women just like you.

Again, when you contact us to make your donation, we’ll say “thank you” by sending you Nancy and Robert’s newest book on trusting God. You can make that donation at ReviveOurHearts.com, or just call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Did you know that even though the Bible is made up of sixty-six books, is written over the course of time of at least 1500 years, and contains three different languages, that it still has just one overarching narrative? Nancy’s going to tell us where you and I fit into God’s grand story tomorrow. I’m Dannah Gresh inviting you back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you anchor your soul to our good and sovereign God. This program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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