Revive Our Hearts Podcast

In the Middle of Your Struggle

Episode Resources

Learn more about Jimmy's ministry.

Leslie Basham: Jimmy Needham says that God is enough for you, even through the deepest loss and hardest trials.

Jimmy Needham: If I have You, I have everything. And if I lose everything, but I still have You, I haven’t lost anything.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of Seeking Him for October 30, 2018.

Nancy is joined all this week by Jimmy and Kelly Needham. Jimmy is a well-known Christian singer and songwriter, but he’s also a husband, a father to three, and an elder at their local church in Texas. Jimmy and Kelly are back with Nancy today to talk about the early years of their marriage and the struggles they learned to overcome as a couple. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I love seeing God’s hand on younger women, and increasingly, the older I get, the more women fall into that category for me (laughter); but younger women who love Christ, love His Word, have a sense of God’s calling in their lives to serve Him as true women of God.

And Kelly Needham is one of those people that I’ve watched—from a distance mostly—over the years. I’ve been so touched by her walk with God. And now I’m delighted to have Kelly and her husband Jimmy in the studio with us this week, talking about, well, mostly marriage, but some of their journey.

You may be familiar with Kelly’s name by having read the True Woman blog. Kelly, you blog often for us there. In fact, I was talking with a young woman who called me for some counsel several months ago. I remembered that you had written something on the topic she was concerned about. I went to our archives, and lo and behold, there were several articles you had written that I was able to pull and send her the links. You became the counselor in that situation, even though you didn’t realize it.

She came back, and she said, “This was exactly what I needed to read. This really spoke to my issue.”

So, just a word that that the True Woman blog has lots of resources from lots of women in lots of different life situations and seasons. And Kelly has been one of our really effective bloggers there. I’m so grateful for that.

And Jimmy is a singer/songwriter. He does some blogging as well. You’re a worship leader in your church—am I right about that?

Jimmy: Yes.

Nancy: So they are serving the Lord together, raising a family—we’ll talk a little bit more about that. But I’m really so thankful to hear from you about your journey.

We talked yesterday about the Lord leading you guys to marriage. You married at the age of twenty. That seems really young, but your hearts were in a good place. You had a solid foundation for your lives.

So you got married. You got to the altar. And you lived happily ever after. Right?

Jimmy: No problems.

Nancy: No problems?

Kelly Needham: Smooth sailing the whole time.

(laughter)

It was about two weeks after that that Jimmy had just gotten signed. They were just promoting his first record. It released on our honeymoon—his first label-released album. We flew to Nashville for a few publicity things for him before we started our last year of college. And the bottom fell out at that point for me.

It was my first time to be identified as Mrs. Needham, Jimmy’s wife. Here are these young girls, people making a big fuss about him, and I’m kind of only important because I’m married to this man. And that had never been true.

What I didn’t see at the time is that my heart felt pretty confident in its own ability to be spiritual.

I was a leader in my youth ministry, a leader in ministry at college. And now here I was the sidekick. It immediately exposed hidden pride that had been lurking there for a long time, and it blindsided me, I think, for several months. I really had no idea what was going on. I just knew I was angry, and I felt unappreciated and frustrated.

In my confusion about all of that, a lot of that lashing out and flailing about landed on Jimmy, sadly. It’s something I’ve grieved about. I was not very pleasant to live with those first few months and the stresses from that.

We’re going on the road, and I need to keep up my appearance as this godly wife. All these girls are in line to talk to Jimmy and get his autograph and saying all sorts of unhelpful things to me. It was just a storm right at the beginning of marriage that was really a grace of God to expose those things in me. I’m eternally grateful for that, but it was really hard in that season for sure.

Nancy: So how did you guys walk through that?

Jimmy: Well, it was really the grace of God. When I think about: What were the things that made it change, or made us act differently toward each other?

Nancy: Did you feel caught off guard by that?

Jimmy: Well, it was my first marriage. I didn’t know what normal was. (laughter) I knew there was something wrong, and I knew that my good advice to her wasn’t helping.

Nancy: You were trying to fix it?

Jimmy: Oh, sure, yes. Guys have a habit of that from time to time. (laughter) Yes. So I just tried to be slower to speak in those times. I don’t think I was perfect by any means, but I just tried to operate in patience and prayerfulness.

When I think about the thing that changed the situation, I just remember it was God interrupting her in a moment in time. It wasn’t even me or anybody saying anything to her.

If you recall, Kelly, it was a time, I think you were sitting on the bed or something . . .

Kelly: Yes. We were in our little one-bedroom apartment, and I was just very angry. Jimmy was very patient through all that—almost infuriatingly so. I almost wanted him to get angry at me, and he wouldn’t. He was patient in telling me, “We’re going to work this out.” And he was prayerful.

So we were in the middle of several hours of arguing, and then . . . The only way I can describe it is I really do feel like it was the Spirit of God just leveling me with conviction.

I just broke down crying and just really realized my rebellion against my husband is rebellion against God because here I had covenanted with this man who now has become a spiritual authority for me. I’m required to submit to him, to allow myself to be under his authority, and I’m just angry about that, angry about what he’s called to and all the implications for my life.

And primarily, I was angry at the Lord. I loved God. I think it was a sense of, “If I keep hardening my heart, this nearness I’ve had with Him for years before—I can’t have both.”

Poor Jimmy probably didn’t know what was going on. I went from angry to bawling my eyes out. I remember telling him, “I just need to be alone for a second to pray,” and just repenting before God and just asking Him to forgive me and to help me.

It didn’t change overnight at that point, but that was a big turning point for me to recognize my battle was with the Lord and His will for my life, not with my husband. But Jimmy was extremely patient through all of that. That enabled me to deal with the Lord.

So I think in him just being patient and prayerful with me and not getting angry back at me, he allowed me to deal with God, which is what I needed to do.

Nancy: You were really needing to let God help you shape your identity as a married woman.

Kelly: Yes, that’s right.

Nancy: Which wasn’t exactly the same as a single woman, yet your identity in Christ doesn’t change.

Kelly: It does not. But, clearly I’d had some of my identity wrapped around other things than Jesus because those things went away when we got married in some ways. What I was known for, all those things no longer were there. I was only known as his wife. That really is something I was proud of, but there were these other things I had placed my hope on that didn’t exist anymore.

Christ was still there. That season was a big reorienting for me of: “Whose am I?” first. I’m not Kelly Adams, single girl who loves God who all these people know. I wasn’t Kelly Needham—Mrs. Needham, primarily. I was Kelly Needham, child of God.

And my first relationship that my hope is based on is in the Lord, and that didn’t go away. I just had some new roles to fulfill, some new seasons of life to walk through. And the Lord was with me through those. It was His eyes that I needed to have my focus on, not the eyes of other people and the notoriety that I could have or couldn’t have, based on those seasons.

So it was a really big gift, and I think it served me well, as a wife, to have worked through that at the beginning, to remember, “I am the Lord’s.” That means, primarily, Jimmy is my brother in Christ. That is an eternal reality. And so that reminded me: I need to be serving him as his wife because he’s my brother in Christ, and our first identities are related to God even more than they are to one another.

Jimmy: Yes. I’d just love to take a second on the radio to just affirm you, Babe, because what God has done in you and your willingness to submit to Him and His leading of you . . . I just look at you, and there’s a complete change of heart. There’s a humbleness there, and it’s remarkable. It just testifies that the Spirit of God is in you, and He’s working. So I’m really encouraged.

Nancy: And that submission to Christ brings about, then, such sweet fruit in your relationship, your marriage you’re able to experience (I can tell just watching the two of you) more than you ever could with the wrestling and the resisting or the bucking of the season of life God has you’ve been on.

I think that’s true for every person—man, woman, married, single, young or old—every season of life. It’s in the, “Yes, Lord,” that there comes . . . We think we’re going to lose something. We think we’re going to be less. But that’s actually how we flourish and experience the greatest freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness. It’s in Christ.

Jimmy: Yes.

Kelly: That’s right.

Nancy: And in your case, it was a really important, early discovery and journey. Because the Lord had some other hard things you were going to walk through that you probably wouldn’t have anticipated being in the script when you stood at that altar and said, “I do.”

Jimmy: Yes.

Kelly: He did.

Nancy: One if those early on was experiencing miscarriages.

Kelly: That’s right. It was actually just about a year into marriage. We were on tour. Our first on-the-road, out-of-school tour. We were gone more days than we were home, and I found out I was pregnant on the road.

Nancy: Were you looking forward to having children?

Kelly: We were. I’m from a big family, a bigger family, and wanted a lot of children. So we had talked about, “Okay, let’s try and have kids.”

So we found out we were pregnant. We were on the road. And very shortly after that I knew things weren’t right. It was probably two to three weeks later that I lost that baby. That’s hard anyway, all the time, let alone being on the road, around a lot of other people, in airports, in cars.

It was really devastating. I think I didn’t really know how to process it. Most of my friends weren’t even married yet, let alone pregnant and then going through a miscarriage. So life was really full. I think I grieved a little bit, and then we just moved on to the next thing because that seemed easier to me.

Then it was about a year later that my parents started having some problems in their marriage. There was a season of separation for them, in the middle of Jimmy releasing another record. The hard just seemed to pile on itself—almost every year after that.

Nancy: Because it wasn’t your only miscarriage.

Kelly: It was not. It was while my parents were still dealing with some problems within their marriage that I found out I was pregnant a second and third time, and both of those pregnancies I lost as well.

I think that third pregnancy—there’s something about three that just feels so final. I think I really sunk into some despair and hopelessness after that, and, really, a lot of questions about God and who He was, which is really where we all go in suffering.

Nancy: Yes.

Kelly: It’s, “Who are You, God? You say You’re good. These promises say this, but here’s what I’m experiencing.”

We were going through some really difficult conflict at the time and a dear friend of mine found out she was pregnant just weeks after that. And so my heart was really, really struggling in those seasons and grieving a lot of things.

Jimmy: It’s such an interesting thing being the husband of somebody who’s miscarried because the grief is there, but it’s different. I’m not carrying the baby. I know, for a lot of husbands, I’ve talked to them, it’s a struggle to even emotionally connect to that whole experience because it just feels so apart from you.

Then there’s the compounding difficulty of being the Mr. Fix-it mentality. Like, “How do I fix this situation and your pain?” I think all of us understand that. It tends to not go well, generally.

I had to grow and mature in my sense of what it means to come alongside somebody who’s suffering. It doesn’t always mean good advice and just, “Take two of these and call me in the morning” sort of attitude. It needs to be that sort of biblical posture of, “weep with those who weep, bear one another’s burdens.” Like, what does it look like to enter into somebody’s pain?

I was learning that that’s really the best thing I can offer her is to be committed to praying for her and then to saying, “I’m going to enter into your pain and try to feel what you feel and grieve alongside you.” And sometimes that’s all you need.

I wrote a song right around that season about that, trying to put some words to what I’m eager to do, which is not fix it anymore, but just to involve myself in your suffering because I know that’s really all she wanted in the first place.

Kelly: Yes.

Nancy: Let’s listen to a little bit of that song, “In the Middle.”

(Music/singing by Jimmy)

In the middle of the cold, dark night.
In the middle it will be all right.
I will be there; I will be there.
And if pain is the ocean you are swimmin’ in,
You can rest assured that I’ll be divin’ in.
In the middle of the cold, dark night.
In the middle it will be all right.1

Nancy: That’s Jimmy Needham singing his song, “In the Middle.” And, Kelly, Jimmy wrote that song at a really significant, difficult time in your journey together.

Kelly: Yes. After several years of hard things already, it was after our third miscarriage. It was one of my favorite of his songs because he really lived what he wrote in that song. He was just with me in the hard, was present with a listening ear. He didn’t belittle what I was going through, though I knew he didn’t understand. I knew he didn’t understand why I felt so profoundly despairing because of that.

At the same time, and he talks about this in the song, he was also a present reminder of God’s faithfulness when it was really hard for me to believe that. In the song he even says that, “I believe God was there that night.” When we lost that baby, God was there.

And, still, when I listen to that song, I cry, just because I did not want to believe that. Wanting to believe that invoked pain, that God would allow it. And yet, Jimmy was a consistent voice for Him. “No, He’s good. He knows, and we don’t understand what’s going on and why.”

He just was a voice for that and that allowed me to safely bring the questions that I had because I really was wrestling with my faith in that season and wrestling with who God was. I think I needed someone stable and consistent in that season, and Jimmy really was that for me. He allowed me to deal with God, like he did in that first part of our marriage. He prayed for me and just enabled me to wrestle with God in that season.

Nancy: And isn’t that one of the sweetest and richest things we can do for one another in the body of Christ? Not just in the context of marriage, but, surely there as well, is to help bring each other to Christ.

Jimmy/Kelly: Yes.

Nancy: And that line, “Pain is the ocean you’re swimming in.” That’s so graphic because an ocean looks never ending and huge and overwhelming. You can picture waves beating up against this little craft, and you’re thinking, We’re going to die!

Jimmy/Kelly: Yes.

Nancy: Maybe I don’t even have a craft. Maybe it’s just me swimming in that ocean. There can be at times in each of our lives a sense of hopelessness. “I’m not going to survive this.”

Jimmy: Yes.

Nancy: It almost doesn’t matter what the specific circumstances are that define that for us. It will look different at different times. But that sense of despair, and to have those around us, not in a preachy way, not in a trite way, but acknowledge that this pain is an ocean, that it is hard, it is big, but that there is something greater and bigger.

Jimmy/Kelly: Yes.

Nancy: The Scripture tells us in Deuteronomy 33:27, “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” That is more sure, more real—the presence of God in the midst of our pain.

Whether it’s in marriage or for a single woman who’s listening or for a family going through financial stress, cancer, business stresses, prodigal children—different seasons of life . . . You guys have experienced some of those, but you’re still relatively young, and you’ve got more hard things to go.

Robert and I have talked about this. We’re in an older season of life where there are going to be hard things ahead for us.

But to have friends, family members, a mate, parents, grown children to help point each other to the presence of Christ in the midst of the pain. It doesn’t take away the pain. It doesn’t make it easy.

Jimmy/Kelly: No.

Nancy: But it gives us a lifeboat, a life preserver to tell us, “You’re not going to go under.”

Kelly: Yes. And I love, Nancy, that you said the presence of Christ, even more than the promises. The promises are important and true, but there can be a tendency in suffering to just give a “promise.” You know, like Romans 8:28.

But there needs to be an encouragement to go to the presence of God because in all of our suffering, it’s those promises that produce questions—at least it did for me. If God says that “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” . . .

Nancy: “ . . . then how come I’m not getting a husband?”

Kelly: Right. Or in my case . . .

Nancy: A child.

Kelly: God says children are a blessing. He says He wants good things for me. So those promises were invoking questions.

And I think what happens, even with our children, when parents do something that they don’t understand, the way they draw near to their parent is with questions. They come and say, “I don’t understand, Dad. I don’t understand, Mom.”

It’s actually a sign of a longing for nearness that we would come with questions. And Jimmy really gave me space and encouraged me, “God is big enough for you to draw near with those questions.”

And there’s a way to question God that is disrespectful toward Him that I would not encourage. But all through the Psalms you see David, a man after God’s own heart, saying, “Where are You, Lord? How long? I called to You day and night, and You do not respond.”

Nancy: Yes.

Kelly: So I think there’s a really important place for questions in suffering. I know a lot of women who are just feeling like, “I don’t have control over whether I get a spouse.” If they’re experiencing miscarriage, “I don’t have a control of how to keep this baby alive.” These things that feel out of control and in the hands of God, and it feels like He’s not for them.

Nancy: And then as the child gets older and walks away from the Lord or the faith or gets into really foolish life-threatening choices, that mom . . . There’s someone listening today who’s going through that. You can’t control it.

Kelly: You can’t.

Nancy: You can’t control that child, but there is a presence of Christ.

Kelly: Yes.

Nancy: Jimmy, you wrote that song to remind your sweet wife who was walking through this, swimming in this ocean of pain, that Christ was with us.

Jimmy: Yes, He is.

Nancy: And that you were going to be with her as well. You were going to walk through this together.

Jimmy: Yes. I think about Paul writing to the Corinthians. I just read it last month where he says, “Who’s weak without me being weak?” (see 2 Cor. 11:29) I thought, What an interesting, profound thing. When somebody in the Corinthian church suffered, Paul said, “I suffer.”

Nancy: I feel it.

Jimmy: Yes. It’s, like, Wow! I want that. That’s something I’ve been asking God for lately. It’s just, like: Grow in me a willingness to share in another’s suffering. There’s something that reflects the presence of Christ when a person can exhibit that to another person.

Nancy: Come alongside. Yes.

So, as you guys look back on those hard things—we’ve talked about some of them. There have been others, and there will be more, but as you think back on some of those hard places you’ve walked, what are you seeing is the fruit that God is bringing about in your lives, your marriage, your ministry? Not that we have to see there’s something great that came out of this, but there are good things that God has done in you.

As you look back, what helps you say, “God actually did have good purposes in this, and I’m seeing a little bit of that?”

Jimmy: Yes. There’s so many good things He’s produced in our heart, but I would just have to say the ultimate thing is there is such a bigger, more profound sense in both of us that the best thing Christ has to offer us is Christ.

Kelly: Amen.

Jimmy: He gives us so many great things and so many extra things and blessings. He’s kind. And our Father is a good Father. He loves to give good gifts to His kids. And yet, I think of all the times, we just shared about our hard things, all the millions of other things that I’m thinking about that we didn’t share. I think, What was the result of those? And in all of those times, what happened in every one of those moments is: I was more drawn to my Savior.

There was a season of time, just a couple of years, when I lost my ability to sing. For six months I couldn’t even talk. I was on vocal rest.

Nancy: Wow.

Jimmy: It was crazy. And when people ask me, “What’s been the sweetest time with the Lord?” Over the past few years, I would say it was that. It was Jesus meeting with me in those times, and me realizing, “If I have You, I have everything. And if I lose everything, but I still have You, I haven’t lost anything.” That has been the precious gift.

I think God is always up in the lives of His people, trying to get them to see that the punchline of the gospel is Jesus. You get Jesus. 1 Peter 3:18 (paraphrased), “He died once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God”—not to get all these other bonus features. Those are great, but we get God. And I think in suffering, He proves that to be true, that that’s the best thing He can give us.

Leslie:

I believe that God was there, watching over us.
I believe He heard our prayers.
He cried along with us, even when our hearts are scared.
He’s closer than He seems, and I can hear Him sing.

Those are words from a song by Jimmy Needham called, “In the Middle.” We heard it earlier in the program.

It summarizes well the heartache and hope Jimmy and his wife Kelly talked about today. I hope their conversation with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth encouraged you for whatever it is you’re facing today.

If you like what you hear on Revive Our Hearts, would you consider helping us continue this program each week day? Your financial gift helps us continue producing more uplifting programs like this one.

Ask the Lord, would He have you contribute to keeping this podcast updated with fresh content.

When you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts this week, we’ll say, “thanks,” by sending you the 2019 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. It’s become at tradition for so many of our listeners to get the calendar each fall and be ready for a new year.

The theme for 2019 is “Seeking Him,” based on Nancy’s study book of the same title. It’s filled with colorful artwork and beautiful lettering designed by our team.

I know you will want to get this year’s wall calendar to hang in your home. So when you make a donation of any amount, be sure to ask for the wall calendar. Visit us atwww.ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can give us a call. Our number is 1–800–569–5959.

Kelly Needham knows the devastation her husband’s pornography use brought to their marriage. She also knows firsthand the amazing power God gives to forgive and to change. We’ll hear more of Kelly and Jimmy’s story tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts to discover how you and your spouse can find freedom.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is reminding you that God is with you even in the middle of your struggle. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

1 Jimmy Needham. Clear the Stage, "In the Middle." (c) 2012 Inpop Records.

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