Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How Your Struggle Can Encourage Others

Leslie Basham: Holly Elliff says what you experience as a younger woman can serve a purpose later in life.

Holly Elliff: Part of the perspective that comes with living a little longer is that, as you look back of the context of your life and you see God providing, you see God acknowledging your need, then it gives you a little bit of a platform to say to that younger woman, “I’ve been where you are, and I know how hard that is.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for July 11, 2019. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We’re picking up today on a conversation started yesterday with my longtime friend—and friend of Revive Our Hearts—Holly Elliff. Holly, I remember you were here in Little Rock, Arkansas (where we’re recording at FamilyLife Studios today) for the earliest days of recording Revive Our Hearts. In fact, that recording took place at the church that your husband, Bill, has pastored for many years! Just help our listeners get a sense of what those early days were like.

Holly: I remember, even before Revive Our Hearts started (I think we’ve mentioned this in years past), there was a night in Nancy’s condo here in Little Rock. Nancy was sick, and she was in her bathrobe and slippers.

Nancy: I remember this.

Holly: Mary Kassian was there, and Kim Wagner was there, and I was there. And we were sitting—literally—on her den floor while Nancy lay on the couch.

Nancy: I had a stomach bug.

Holly: Yes. And we were just talking about, “What was it that women needed to be able to follow the Lord in every circumstance of life?” and “How do we take the things that the enemy has hijacked and restore those to women’s hearts and minds?”

It was such a precious night, because it was like light bulbs were going on in our hearts and minds and spirits. Out of that moment, really, became the desire to see God do a fresh work in that area for women. Revive Our Hearts really grew from those seeds and FamilyLife putting into that.

I can vividly remember Nancy’s level of fear as we started the radio program! One night in particular at The Summit where my husband pastors, before the first radio recording session, a bunch of us just gathering around Nancy and just covering her, literally, with our hands and our prayers—asking God to bless what He was calling forth. 

It was a precious, precious moment, because we knew that God was going to do that, and He has been so faithful to His promises! So in those early days of radio, Nancy was desperately clinging to the Lord to give her the ability to follow Him!

We talked a little bit yesterday about Proverbs 3:5–6, that if we will listen and follow and acknowledge Him . . .

Nancy: . . . and lean on Him . . .

Holly: . . . that He will direct our path. And that’s what I saw Nancy doing in those early days of radio, because she was . . .

Nancy: I was so far out over my skis! And, you know what, Holly? I think you can probably relate to this, too. We’re in a very different season of life now. Revive Our Hearts has grown up, your children have grown up. But don’t you still feel daily just how inadequate we are to do what God has put on our plate and called us to do?

Holly: Yes, always! But I think the difference, maybe, is that instead of being attacked by the fear so much . . .

Nancy: . . . or the panic . . .

Holly: . . . now my perspective has changed a little bit, because I have seen the Lord walk with me and lead me through so many tough moments and hard circumstances that I know now that the Lord is going to be faithful!

Nancy: Yes, we have a track record with God. We’ve seen Him come through again and again!

In fact, this morning I was at the hotel room with Robert and we saw the sun just as it popped up over the horizon. I have a little habit that when I see the sunrise (which isn’t all that often. He sees many more than I do!), I stop and sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” He and I just held each other and watched that sunrise this morning, singing those familiar words: “All I have needed, Thy hand has provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.” 

And in those early days, we saw God come through. You did as a mom, as a wife, and then as a part of helping birth this ministry. We saw God again and again! I’m looking back in the engineer’s room here and seeing Julie Denker, who was part of those early days and is still here serving with FamilyLife. We saw God do so many things with women in this room. 

Holly: It’s true.

Nancy: The night before I’d say, “I’ve got to record programs tomorrow and I’m just not ready! I’m just not finished!” But God would give wisdom and insight. He would work in women’s lives. And it’s not that I never find myself stressed or fretting today . . . maybe you’ve gotten to that point.

Holly: No, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say I’m never stressed.

Nancy: But, you’re right. We do have a different perspective, because we have seen the faithfulness of God. I hope that’s an encouraging word to younger women who are on the earlier part of their journey with God—to know that, as you trust in Him with all your heart, as you lean not on your own understanding, but in every way acknowledge Him, He will direct your paths.

Holly: Yes.

Nancy: He will make them straight; He will be there for you.

Holly: And so, those promises become really, really important. 

Nancy: They’re life!

Holly: Because they are God’s assurance to me that He is present at every moment in my life when I acknowledge and invite Him in, that He can be there.

Nancy: And He has been there for you through a lot of different seasons. I’ve known you for thirty-some of those years and just watched your family grow, watched you grow, watched your marriage, watched the Lord use you in so many other women’s lives. Holly has never put out a shingle, like, “I’m available to disciple women.” (laughter)

But women gravitate to you like flies to honey because they have seen in your life an example of—in hard times—casting yourself on the Lord. They’ve watched you come through with a sweeter relationship with Christ and with more grace and wisdom. They want to know, “How can I experience that?”

So this ministry that you have as an older woman with younger women, it’s not something you’ve set out to have. It’s just something that God has brought about in your life in the course of your walking through life with Him.

Holly: Well, I think as the Lord has kept me in very “real life” circumstances, you don’t have much trouble with delusions of grandeur or too much focus on yourself. When you’re surrounded by people in life circumstances . . .

Nancy: . . . and need . . .

Holly: . . . and difficult issues, what that does is, literally, strip some of those things away to the point of your need.

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: If you can get to the point of your need and an understanding that God has already got the provision for that need, then at every moment of life—whether it’s insanely crazy or things are calm (which was rare!) . . . But wherever I am, if I can get to the point where I realize that God has already prepared for me what I need for that moment, for that day, for that relationship . . . it’s not that I don’t encounter hard things, but it’s in the midst of those difficult things that God is present!

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: When I realize that He already has provision for my need, then it can encourage my heart. It can give me direction on which way to go. It can remind me just how rich God’s presence is and how completely He covers me with His presence!

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: It’s not a mystical thing, like fog rolls into the room. It’s very real life! 

I can remember during the years that I was caring for my mom when she had Alzheimer’s. She moved in with us when my youngest was nine years old. I think everybody was still at home except Jennifer, our oldest. So we had seven kids still at home.

It was the day of Becca’s (my second daughter’s) wedding when my dad went into Intensive Care. My mom, who had early Alzheimer’s, could not go back home. So my sister called me from Nashville (she was there with my dad). She said, “You know, Mom can’t go back home because she can’t be there by herself.” And so that day, at the end of the wedding, we’re moving kids around in our house to move Mother in to our house.

Nancy: I remember that season.

Holly: It began a decade-long season that was really, really tough!

I can remember one moment when I was out shopping with my mom—this is real life—but she didn’t make it to the restroom. I’m out at my car with my mom thinking, Okay, what do I do now? I can remember standing outside my car with my mom and saying,“Okay, you know what? We’re just going to pray right now and ask the Lord what to do in this moment because I’m not sure I can figure it out right now.”

It was a precious moment, even though it was a crazy real-life moment. It was a precious moment realizing that no matter where I was and what circumstance I was in, I can turn to the Lord in any second, in a heartbeat, and say, “Father, I don’t what to do!” He has promised to have provision for what I need and to give me wisdom for how to deal with that circumstance. 

Nancy: You’re really talking about the grace of God.

Holly: Yes.

Nancy: Tell us how you sign your emails.

Holly: At the end of my emails (actually, my husband told me the other day that I should have three dots after the phrase instead of four) it says, “Grace for today . . . (dot, dot, dot, would be the correct way) and for tomorrow.” And that is true.

Nancy: “Grace for today . . . and for tomorrow.”

Holly: Grace is one of my favorite topics to teach on, because that is the survival line in my life. All that means is that God is going to empower, enable, equip me for the needs in my life at any moment when I turn to Him.

I think I’ve shared this illustration in the past, but . . . I love teaching on grace and one of the illustrations I use when I teach on that is about a moment when I was at a park with my little granddaughter who happens to be named Truth (and she lives up to her name!).

Truth was about three years old. It was cold that day, and she had run ahead of me on the path and then she turned around. “Honey,” actually is my grandmother name, and so she turned around and she yelled back at me and she said, “Honey, I’m cold!”

I don’t like to be cold so I had on my long winter coat, and I said to Truth, “Truth, turn around and run back here!”

Now, normally, she would just keep going, but she was cold enough that she did turn around and run back to me. I just took Truth, and she wrapped her arms around my leg, and I covered her with my big long coat. And she said, “This is great! I’m not cold anymore!” Now, walking was almost impossible, but Truth was warm.

And I so often think of the fact that God is there waiting to cover us with His provision, with His grace, and we miss it because we just keep going our own way instead of turning around, acknowledging Him, running back into His presence where He already has exactly what we need.

In perspective, just looking back, I see now in all these tough, tough moments (and there have been plenty of tough moments!) that God is there with the provision. His grace is ready to receive me and pour out what I need at any moment that I just run to Him and say, “Father, I need help!”

Nancy: And God has a lot of “means of grace.” He has ways that He ministers grace to us. You’ve talked about the importance of having that time when you’re in the Word, getting the promises of God. That’s a huge, indispensable means of grace.

But I’ve loved seeing over the years, in both our lives, how the Lord has used other believers to be a means of grace and encouragement.

You and I have been part of a small group for a number of years. We’re scattered in all different parts of the country, actually the U.S. and Canada. We don’t see each other physically a lot. But we have calls. We have a texting thread that we use. Over the years all of us have had these moments of desperate need, “Don’t know what to do!” We reach out to one another. And somebody else has been there and is able to give encouragement.

In fact, my book Adorned—on Titus 2—on the back flap is a picture of some of the women in that group. You’re in that picture. It’s kind of a sisterhood of sorts. So where we’re able to, when one is falling, another is able to say, “God’s got you; He is going to hold you!”

You’ve been on the giving and receiving end of that—we all have been at different times. Just talk about how friends in Christ, sisters in Christ, can be a means of grace in our lives.

Holly: Well, I love that the Lord speaks to us personally through His Word, that He pours out on us what we need. But He also uses “people with flesh on” (laughing) to come around us and just encourage our hearts.

Yesterday, I met with one of our staff wives at Summit who is a young pastor’s wife now because we’ve opened some other campuses. She said, “I just need to ask somebody who has already done this: How do I do this? Because I feel inadequate and, like, I don’t know what I’m doing. And I feel silly sometimes because I haven’t had these life experiences yet.”

Nancy: And that’s where you were at one time, having those very same questions and thoughts!

Holly: It’s exactly where I was! It was so neat to be able to sit with her and just encourage her heart in the fact that, if she will just follow the Lord, listen to Him, lean into Him, that He will provide everything she needs for life and godliness. And that is a massive promise! 

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: Sometimes God does that as He just speaks to our spirit when we’re quiet. God does that sometimes in the midst of crazy circumstances where we turn to Him, and He says, “It’s okay. We’re going to get through this.” God uses other people in our lives—other women who come alongside and lift our arms and encourage our hearts in the midst and remind us the truth.

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: When my kids were little, I had some that could dress themselves totally and were more independent. I had some that wanted me to sit down on the floor, put them in my lap, put their socks on, put their shoes on, fix their hair. And so God sometimes brings other people around who just remind us of that truth.

I think of God telling us that He provides armor for us that protects us. Sometimes we just are so desperate that we need somebody else to come along and say, “Here, let me stick this helmet on your head. Here’s your breastplate, let’s buckle this on.” And so, tiny things that just encourage our hearts and remind us to run to the Lord and not to something else, or not to just sit down in a puddle and stay there when God already has provision.

Nancy: Yes. What I love about the way that that life-to-life ministry happens, the conversation you had yesterday with that young pastor’s wife, is you’re not saying, “Look at me. I’m the solution to your problems.”

Holly: Right.

Nancy: At a moment when she’s fearful or doesn’t have perspective, you’re helping to lift her eyes up to see Christ and His Word and His promises. You’re just helping her fix her attention on the right place. You’re not pointing her to yourself, you’re pointing her to Christ.

Holly: Right.

Nancy: And these relationships—older women/younger women—can become unhealthy. Friendships, sisterhood, all of this can be unhealthy if we think, That person is the solution to my problems, or If I just had somebody who would love me more or encourage me more.

Holly: Right.

Nancy: No. It’s not the other person that’s the solution to my problems. I’m not the solution to their problems. What we do is mutually help each other press into Christ and His grace. That’s really what this Christ mentoring, discipling, sisterhood, those things, are about.

Holly: That’s exactly right. I think part of the perspective that comes with living a little longer is that, as you look back over the context of your life, and over and over and over you see God providing . . . You see God acknowledging your need and giving you everything you need. As you look back and remember those moments, it does teach you then to turn more quickly to the Lord for provision.

Then it gives you a little bit of a platform to say to that younger woman, “I’ve been where you are, and I know what that feels like. I’m not there today, but I’ve been there, and I know how hard that is.”

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: So it’s not that you diminish their need—because the need is real. But it’s that you understand their need, and you also understand that on the other end of that see-saw is the provision of God. Even in the midst of their difficulty and their need, if they will get that see-saw level . . . This is what I said to our staff gal yesterday, “Here’s your need, but here’s the provision of God.”

What we need in our life is to be balanced, then between our need and the fact that God has provision.

Nancy: You can’t see Holly, but right now she’s holding up a left hand and a right hand. One hand is the need; the other end is the provision—which is always equal to the need.

Holly: Yes.

Nancy: So as the need gets greater, the provision gets greater.

Holly: I love in Psalms that God talks so much about keeping us on level ground. Someday I’ll do a series on “The Path.” There’s so much in Scripture about God leveling the ground, bringing down the high places, bringing up the low places. And so, even if our life circumstances are absolutely chaotic, God is the same in the midst of that. If we can just get where we are level in our thinking, even if our circumstances are crazy, the fact that God has provision for my need is the leveler in my life. That’s what keeps me sane. 

So it’s nothing that I do other than running to the right source to get what I need.

Nancy: As I’m hearing you talk about this pilgrimage you’ve been on: as a younger woman experiencing God’s provision and His grace and now as an older woman, still experiencing that but able to use your past experience to be a means of grace in younger women’s lives. This is a progression that should always be happening in our lives.

I think it speaks to both younger and older women. It says to the younger woman, “Whatever you’re going through right now, two things are true: One, God is there and He has provision for you for your current circumstance. But that’s not the end of the story. There will come a day when God wants to use you to be a means of encouragement and grace in someone else’s life who is going through what you can now relate to. So this experience is not just for you. It’s also for the benefit and the blessing to be invested into some other woman’s life at some point. Don’t keep this for yourself. God wants to use every experience you’ve had to be a means of blessing to others.”

Holly: That’s right. And what I love about that is that it means that those tough, tough, moments during that decade with my mom or with being surrounded by all my kids . . . I can remember one day in my house where all eight children were coming at me at the same time with questions or needs. I can remember just saying to the Lord, “Okay, I’m sorry, but this is impossible.” And it was impossible apart from His grace!

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: But looking back, all those difficult moments, even in my marriage and my relationship with my husband as we went through so many life changes, those difficult moments then become blessings. In the fabric and the framework of my life, as I look back on those now, it gives me the ability to say to this woman, “This seems impossible right now and like it will never change, but it will change. And as it changes, it’s never in vain. God has a purpose in it, and He’s teaching you. What He builds in your life in the middle of this difficulty this illness or this relationship or this circumstance, as you walk through that, trusting Him, He’s building into your life things that you will need to pass on in two decades to somebody else.”

Nancy: And that’s a word to older women who are listening to this conversation.

Holly: Exactly.

Nancy: Think back over the course of your life and the things the Lord has walked you through—moments where maybe you did trust Him, maybe where you didn’t trust Him, and you had the results or consequences of that—but all those experiences that God has entrusted to you, you’re a steward of all that now.

Holly: Yes.

Nancy: God wants you to look around and see: “Who has God put in my life, in my church, in my small group, in my family—a daughter, daughter-in-law, a young woman in your church—who needs the encouragement that I have gained from the Lord that now I can be a conduit of that encouragement to her? Well, this is Titus 2 living, fleshed out. We’re going to end this conversation today. And my book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together is really about this very message.

Holly: And really, this book, Nancy, is just simple truth. It is taking these concepts that we’re talking about and fleshing them out in a way that women can see. It’s a progression in their life. And from start to finish, it is God’s message to us as women about how He wants to live out His life through us.

Nancy: And we’re making a copy of that book available to anyone today who makes a donation of any amount to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. The number to call to make a gift is 1–800–569–5959, or you can visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com. Let us know you’d like to make a gift to support this ministry. As our way of saying “thank you” we want to send you a copy of Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together.

And be sure and join us again tomorrow when we continue this conversation with Holly Elliff.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is reminding you God’s grace is sufficient for you today and tomorrow. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.



 

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