Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Trusting God as You Care for Your Spouse, with Kimberly Wagner

Episode Resources

Learn more about Kimberly Wagner.

Learn more about You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.

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Dannah Gresh: A little over two years ago her husband collapsed suddenly. He suffers from chronic pain to this very day. But Kimberly Wagner knows they’re not alone.

Kim Wagner: The Lord Jesus was so gracious to assure me, “I will not abandon you.” Has it been hard? Yes! The hardest thing we have ever faced! Have there been many days of weeping? Yes, yet I know God has good purpose.

Leslie Basham: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh, for September 17, 2019. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: How can you trust God to write your story when you are caring for a family member who is suffering physically? We’re going to hear a powerful story about just that today. 

All this month we’re discussing something that theologians call the Providence of God—it’s a sweet doctrine. That’s the fact that God wisely controls everything that happens in our lives, whether we consider those things good or not.

In fact, just last night my husband Robert and I were lying in bed singing an old gospel song called “Day by Day.” One of those lines reads, “He whose heart is kind beyond all measure, gives unto each day what He deems best.” And then it goes on to talk about how sometimes God gives pain, sometimes He gives pleasure, sometimes He gives toil, and sometimes He gives peace and rest.

Now, it may seem strange to us that our loving Father, whose heart toward us His children truly is kind beyond all measure, that that same loving Father sometimes gives us pain instead of pleasure and toil instead of rest. But here’s the thing: we can’t see the whole picture the way He does.

So our job, our assignment, is to learn to rest in God’s lovingkindness, His faithfulness, even in the midst of the pain. That’s something that my very dear friend, Kimberly Wagner, and her husband LeRoy are experiencing right now. In fact, in a sense, God is giving LeRoy the pain and Kimberly the toil at this season of their lives.

Maybe that’s something that you’re currently going through, or someone you know and love is walking through that journey. Recently, Kimberly sat down with Dannah Gresh to share her story. Kim and LeRoy live in Arkansas, and she’s the author of the book Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior. 

But above all, Kimberly is a mom and a wife, and these days she’s caring full-time for her husband, LeRoy. You won’t want to miss that story today and tomorrow here on Revive Our Hearts. Now, here’s Dannah.

Dannah: Oh, Kim! As I was reading Nancy’s newest book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story: Embracing the Mysteries of Providence, the most devastating and yet faith-filled story in this whole book is your story—the story of you and your husband that God is writing out in your life right now.

The thought I had was this: If you got to choose to write your story, you would probably not be writing this chapter.

Kim: Wow, that is so true! This is not where we thought we would be! Two years ago our lives looked very different than they do today.

Dannah: What did they look like two years ago?

Kim: Well, we were very much doing ministry. You know, Psalm 92 was my prayer for our years that would be that would be our what people call their senior years or final years of ministry . . . to be fruitful all the days of our lives.

And so, LeRoy was pastoring. It was exciting! We had just moved into a new campus, and we were traveling, too, with speaking engagements. We’d just completed writing Men Who Love Fierce Women.

Dannah: . . . to go with your book Fierce Women?

Kim: Yes, the counterpart to that for men. And actually, in the early stages of working on that book is when LeRoy started having symptoms.

Dannah: Symptoms?

Kim: We would call it his “yukiness”—a sensation that would come over him. We went to doctor after doctor, who said, “You know, you’re blood work looks great!” He’s always been in athletic condition. I mean, he’s the one pushing me up the Grand Canyon trails—just months before, even! I mean, he just kept pressing on.

I was speaking at a conference for the Gospel Coalition on Prince Edward Island, Canada. And on that island there is a hospital, but no doctors. While we were there LeRoy fell in the hotel lobby and he actually lost his ability to walk. One leg was completely paralyzed! He was partially paralyzed from the waist down, affecting every area except his right leg.

Dannah: Suddenly.

Kim: Suddenly! I finished my last speaking engagement, and we started working on earlier flights, to leave earlier. Our doctor back in our home state recommended that we go to Dallas to a hospital there that specializes in neurology diseases and problems. Our doctor suspected that that’s what it was.

God just did several what I call “God things,” miracles, to reroute our flight without any cost. 

Dannah: I want to back you up, because I’m thinking . . . your husband falls down in a hotel lobby; he’s essentially paralyzed from the waist down. You got on a plane! How did that look?

Kim: He’s dragging his leg and holding on to things, and once we get to the airport we get a wheelchair. Now, remember, when we flew to Prince Edward Island, my husband is hoisting my fifty-pound suitcase. 

Dannah: Being a gentleman. 

Kim: Yes, so just the transition from the flight there to the flight home—completely different! 

Dannah: Big life adjustment!

Kim: And, Dannah, that was in just the first weekend of what would become a couple of years of very difficult and challenging days! In that first night of that weekend, after he had lost his ability to walk, the Lord Jesus was so gracious to assure me, “I will not abandon you!” And you know, that’s what He’s given us in His Word.

I start out each morning writing out Psalm 9:9–10, those verses. Each morning is where I begin as I write them out in my prayer journal, and I pray them back. It is the assurance of this truth: “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” He has “not forsaken those who seek [Him].” And He will not forsake those who look to Him!

So He gave me that assurance that’s from His Word. But the Spirit is the one who brought that to mind and to my heart in such a real and comforting and tangible way. And so, He has never wavered, Dannah, from His character. He has stayed true to who He is.

Has it been hard? Yes! The hardest thing we have ever faced! Have there been many days of weeping? Yes. It is a strange and puzzling thing, that God would—in this season and maybe for all time, I don’t know—remove a man from being able to pastor and preach and communicate the Word, which he does so well.

Dannah: He does, beautifully!

Kim: And to set him down for a time. That’s puzzling to me. Yet I know God has a good purpose.

Dannah: Well, you chose to believe that and trust that from day one.

Kim: Yes.

Dannah: You could have turned toward the fear and the paranoia and the mystery, and focused on that, but you opened up the Word!

Kim: And that’s because of the grace of God!

Dannah: Would you say that choosing to have that pattern in your life is what you set you up, so that when disaster struck, the very first thing you did was turn to Him? 

Kim: Absolutely! And let me just say, it is by God’s grace that that pattern is in my life. It’s not because I’m a wonderful person, because I’m a stinker! And I definitely was a spoiled brat at the time when God came along and opened my eyes to the need for that, that I needed Him more than I needed to be independently, in my own strength, doing ministry or living my life.

Dannah: So take us to Dallas. What happened when you got off that airplane from Canada into the Dallas airport?

Kim: God was so gracious again. We have friends from our church that had arranged for a driver. He showed up, this chauffeur, in a limousine, if you can imagine! They had arranged to pick us up at the airport. And that young man was so kind and found the right hospital. In that hospital we just went through the emergency room. It was late at night.

It took them less than an hour to admit my husband.

Dannah: He was that bad. 

Kim: He was. They brought in a neurologist to check him out, and they admitted us. We were there almost three weeks. They did a three-hour MRI the second day we were there. They found lesions all up and down his spinal cord that were eating away at the myelin sheath. That’s the outer covering of the spinal cord which affects your ability to walk.

They were surprised he still had use of his arms and hands and that only the left leg had been paralyzed. And we were there almost three weeks as they began trying to diagnose him. They did all kinds of testing for different diseases.

And still today, Dannah, they are treating him for neurosarcoidosis, but they don’t have that as a definitive diagnosis.

Dannah: And what is that?

Kim: That is a neurological disease where your autoimmune system begins to attack different organs in your body, and it chose to attack his spinal cord. It can reoccur, even though he’s had treatment for it. 

But now, just within the last couple of weeks, Dannah, we’ve found out that not only does he have that; it has progressed. According to the doctors in Dallas it has progressed to a much more serious condition (I didn’t even know the name of this until two weeks ago): CRPS. 

His leg began turning purple and his pain has been so intense, no matter what type of pain meds or treatment they try to give him, it doesn’t seem to affect him, unless it totally knocks him out . . . and he’s unwilling to do that. He’s not going to be on medication that’s just going to put him under.

His disease has progressed to the state, now, where he has what is considered the most painful form of neurological disease you can have: CRPS.

Dannah: What does that pain look like?

Kim: Oh, Dannah. That’s the most difficult thing in all of this! It is watching when these muscle spasms come over him. They grab his leg all the way up through his groin and he feels like his leg is being twisted off. There’s nothing that he can do to relieve them. He tries deep breathing exercises and just. . . and we pray. He calls them “super spasms.”

And, Dannah, it was funny. Again, I think it was gracious of the Lord. Just in the middle of the night one night I was jerked out of bed with some charley horse in my leg. And it was a horrible muscle spasm that brought tears immediately.

Dannah: I was just thinking of charley horses. I had a few of those while I was pregnant, and I can’t imagine pain beyond that!

Kim: Yes, it was horrible! Tears are streaming down my face, and I knew immediately, “This is what LeRoy feels every day!”

Dannah: Probably much worse, right?

Kim: Yes! Every day! Multiple of those! There’s nothing that we have found yet that can relieve that. We are investigating now a spinal block injection-type thing. We’re investigating that. I don’t know if we’re going to go that route. Dannah, you are faithfully praying for him. We have a sisterhood group that is praying together for his healing. I have no doubt that God can do that! No doubt!

Dannah: Yes, you know, it’s been neat as we’ve prayed as a sisterhood to see God . . . I guess, without you communicating (because you’ve become a full-time caretaker and your time is very consumed). At the same time, you’re still ministering through your blog. You’ve been so faithful.

I’d think that every blog would be consumed by the pain and the trauma that my marriage was facing, but you continue to put out just beautiful encouraging content for women. 

Kim: Thank you.

Dannah: So you’re not updating us every moment and telling us what’s going on, but at one time the Lord was speaking to me and another friend about how to encourage you, and it was like He was speaking the same thing. Describe what happened that day.

Kim: I remember, one of our friends, Carolyn McCully, sent a book to LeRoy. It was about a man who walked through a very strange, mysterious illness for two years (I believe). He was a pastor who had to step down from his church. There were so many similar parallels to what LeRoy and I were walking through. And God just did a miraculous healing for that man!

LeRoy was reading that book for the first time, that morning, when you texted me. You sent me a video clip of this same pastor, who was preaching. You sent me a clip when he was speaking at one time when he was very ill, and you could hardly understand what he was saying.

And then two years later, as God has done this healing, he is preaching in strength and testifying to the goodness of God! It was incredible! You sent that, and so then I just did a group text with you and Carolyn and I said, “Carolyn, look what Dannah just sent me!” I sent a picture to you all of LeRoy reading it right then, reading the book that you had sent.

Dannah: I’ve got to tell you, not having walked through what you’ve walked through, I don’t always know how to encourage you. As the Lord brought that man’s name to my mind that morning, I thought, “Lord, You’re really just burdening me to share this man’s story with my friend. But how cruel would that be if this story of his miraculous healing isn’t what you want LeRoy to hear right now?” 

And so, I sent that text obediently, but with a lot of insecurity. I was kind of like, “Don’t watch it if you don’t want to.”

Kim: You were tender and kind in how you sent it.

Dannah: So I guess, for those of us who are walking beside friends like you, don’t ignore the Holy Spirit’s prompts. It’s perfectly okay to say, “I may have this wrong, but I feel like God is just encouraging me to reach out to you.” That day was such an encouragement in my prayer life for you, but also our friendship.

Kim: Yes. And Dannah, what I love is you don’t preach at me. The sisterhood friends, they don’t preach at me. Like, “You need to do this; you should do this!” You’re tender and kind in the way that you convey truth and encouragement and Scripture, and that’s “weeping with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). 

You’re coming alongside and you’re saying, “I care; I’m praying for you, and I love you. Here’s something the Lord’s laid on my heart. If this isn’t the right time, maybe save it for later.”

Dannah: One thing that’s been as sad for me as the physical manifestations is the emotional challenges that you and LeRoy have faced. What was the moment when LeRoy understood, “I need to step down from the pulpit. I need to step aside and let someone else lead right now?”

Kim: Early on, he tried to preach, and he did preach a couple of very good messages. But because of the pain and the debilitating nature of this, it wasn’t very long into it. It was probably about nine months before he started talking to the church about it. We had very good leadership at the church that was stepping in to help.

Dannah: And you didn’t know, really, what was happening.

Kim: Everyone was praying for healing. The treatments were slow in beginning, but there was such hope. They kept saying, “After three treatments, you’re going to be good to go!” So, as the doctors kept giving us hope, our church held on to hope. Our church still hopes for his recovery!”

Dannah: And so do I.

Kim: Thank you. But you know, Dannah, something that has been so helpful to me this year (now we’re coming up on the two-year anniversary). The Lord kept laying on my heart that I was to study James and teach it to the women at church, starting in January.

See, I hadn’t taught for over a year. I wasn’t sure that I could do this, because every day is a new day. I hold it with an open hand. Today, coming to do this interview was with an open hand: “God, if you allow me to do this, I will. If LeRoy needs me and I can’t go, I won’t go.”

Dannah: Yes, I actually was praying about that, because I knew you would be faithful to be with your husband if he needed you during this time. The Lord must have wanted you here for someone, for someone to hear your story.

Kim: So as I went through James with the women . . .

Dannah: . . . which is what you’re walking through. James is what you’re walking through. 

Kim: Yes. Count it all joy when you face various trials. When you meet those trials, count it all joy. Why? Because it’s going to produce steadfast faith; it’s going to produce maturity. (See James 1:2–4) And then, the very last chapter talks about the prayer of faith. The prayer of faith for the sick will bring healing.

It sounds so simple. It sounds like, okay, you pray in faith and you will be healed. If you’re not healed, you didn’t pray in faith. I struggled through that section, Dannah! With the women, as I taught it, I taught it weeping!

But I introduced with Joni’s story, Joni Eareckson Tada. She has prayed in faith, and God has not brought healing. And yet, God has been greatly glorified through her life!

Dannah: Not just the paralysis that started when she was a teenager, but she’s faced cancer multiple times and all other sorts of physical ailments, and yet continues to be a bastion of faith and believes in healing for others.

Kim: Right, yes! Absolutely! We have to trust. On my bathroom counter, there’s a little yellow notepad piece of paper that. While we were actually in the hospital in Dallas, I wrote out this Scripture, and it’s still sitting on my counter.

It’s Psalm 138:8, and it says: “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. And you will not forsake the work of your hands.” And I look at that little Scripture on my counter multiple times in a day, and I know that that is true! God will fulfill His purpose!

But just as Nancy’s book says . . .which I’m so excited about this book. It’s going to minister to so many!

Dannah: Me, too; I’m excited.

Kim: But just as her book says, God’s story He’s writing in our lives may look very different than the story we would sit down to write. But God’s purpose is good. He is all wise and He is all loving! 

Nancy: Now, it’s one thing for a healthy person like me whose life is going relatively smoothly at the moment to say that God is good and wise and loving. But when we hear that from someone like Kimberly Wagner, who’s living in the thick of pain and sorrow right now, wow! that’s powerful. We’ll be back with more, tomorrow, of this conversation with Kim and Dannah.

The book that Kim mentioned is one that my husband, Robert, and I wrote together. It’s titled You Can Trust God to Write Your Story: Embracing the Mysteries of Providence. We want to make it available to you as our way of saying “thank you” for a donation of any amount in support of Revive Our Hearts.

To make that gift, just visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com and look for “donate” in the menu. You can give your gift online through our secure server, or you can call us and do it over the phone. Our number is 1–800–569–5959. When you make your gift, be sure and ask for a copy of Robert’s and my latest book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.

Tomorrow, Kimberly Wagner is going to answer a tough question from Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: Do you ever feel like you wish it were terminal, like the pain could be ended?

Nancy: Tomorrow we’ll hear how Kim responded . . . and more on trusting God while caring for a suffering spouse. Be sure and join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Share your story with #TrustGodToWriteYourStory. Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth points you to the source of true hope, and is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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