Revive Our Hearts Podcast

What’s Your Story?

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

Dannah Gresh: When we’re watching a movie, we expect the characters to face some challenges. In fact, it’s not really much of a movie without those plot twists. Those plot twists are what make an interesting story! But in real life, we don’t like them. We want to avoid all of those challenges!

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says there’s a solution.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Pain is painful! It’s never not painful. Suffering hurts! It’s hard! And when we’re in the midst of some unexpected plot twist in our own lives—I’ll just speak for myself—I’m not always peaceful and grateful and calm and collected.

Sometimes I feel frantic or frazzled or frustrated or upset or angry. . .or whatever. But believing the right things about God really does incredibly prepare us to face hardship.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh, for September 3, 2019.

Dannah: So what’s your story? Have there been plot twists that you didn’t expect? Were there chapters you regret and wish they’d just been written differently? This month on Revive Our Hearts we’re going to explore the topic of trusting God to write your story.

You’re going to hear some very important teaching from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth on the providence of God.

Nancy: God works in unexpected, unexplainable ways to accomplish His purposes. He’s not random! He works in ways that are unexpected and unexplainable to us, but He’s always working to accomplish purposes that He has in mind. We should not expect God to write our story the way we would write it.

Dannah: And then you’re going to hear the stories of some amazing women whose stories contain some dark chapters, some painful chapters. And yet, you’ll hear in their stories how they chose to trust God to write them.

Kim Wagner: Has it been hard? Yes! It was the hardest thing we have ever faced! Have there been many days of weeping? Yes!

Erin Davis: The doctor bursts 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.

Kerry Tittle: I do remember having to pull it out of the debris, and I remember seeing Rob and Torrey and Rebecca. And I knew, at that moment they had already been ushered into eternity.

Dannah: It’s all coinciding with the release of a new book entitled You Can Trust God to Write Your Story: Embracing the Mysteries of Providence. And today we have the co-authors of that book here in the studio . . . none other than Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and her Robert. Robert Wolgemuth, it is your beautiful bride’s birthday today! 

Robert Wolgemuth: It is! September 3, 1958. That makes her sixty-one today.

Nancy: I’m not very good at math, but I think that’s right.

Robert: That is exactly right; trust me on this one.

Nancy: And you know my goal in life has always been to be a godly old lady.

Dannah: Yes. You’re the only friend I know with that goal.

Nancy: Well, the “old” part is easier than the “godly” part! I mean, “old” happens whether you want it to or not, but we’re just grateful to be healthy and alive and together!

Robert: So true!

Dannah: If I could sing like Robert, I would sing “Happy Birthday” to you right now.

Nancy: I’ll let you.

Dannah: Oh, my . . . well, Robert, you have to sing with me. [Dannah and Robert sing “Happy Birthday” to Nancy.] 

Nancy: Wow! I have never been serenaded quite that way!

Dannah: And you probably never shall again, because that’s the first and only time Dannah Gresh will ever sing on the radio! Nancy, it’s also a special day, because this is an anniversary for the Revive Our Hearts ministry.

Nancy: Yes, it’s Revive Our Hearts’ eighteenth birthday (like I said, I’m not very good at math, but I think that’s right). That hardly seems possible! That’s the day we first went on the air, eight days before the events of September 11.

What a journey this has been and how thankful I am! As Robert and I travel, we talk with people; we get emails and texts and social media comments from people. We’re just hearing all the time these days about people who have been on this journey with us over the years.

I got one recently from a woman who read one of my books when she was in high school. Now she’s an older woman reading the new version and just saying how deeply it has impacted her life. You get to see fruit that remains, long term.

Dannah: Life after life after life. So many women impacted over these eighteen years!

Robert: It’s true.

Nancy: Thanks be to God!

Dannah: There’s another reason we’re celebrating today . . . this is just a big party today.

Nancy: It is momentous!

Dannah: It’s a birthday, anniversary, and also the release of the first book written by Robert and Nancy together! 

Robert: Together. We did it! We did it, by God’s grace.

Nancy: We weren’t sure that we could.

Robert: It’s like wallpapering the kitchen with your wife. You have to issue grace. We haven’t tried that, but here’s the deal with writing: you can’t compromise. You can’t say, “Okay, I want this word and you want this word, so let’s find one in-between.” You have to pick one or the other.

Nancy: Let me say, I don’t think we could have done this in our first year of marriage. 

Robert: That’s probably true!

Dannah: That’s good advice.

Nancy: It takes humility and listening.

Robert: But truth is, the night before we started to write this book, standing in the kitchen we looked at each other and asked, “Should we do this? Is this the right thing to do?”

Nancy: He’s being kind. Actually, I was having a meltdown, standing in the kitchen, and saying, “I don’t think we can do this!” It wasn’t just because of us writing together, but there were a lot of things going on in our world, in our lives, in our work at that time.

Robert: I’m going to say a “Nancy meltdown” is sort of a restrained meltdown. You know, we’ve all seen meltdowns that are made for movies, right? It was tough! And we looked at each other and said, “We can send the contract back; we don’t have to do this.” So I did my best to take the pressure off, so it was not like, “We have to do this; this is life or death!”

Nancy: And as soon as he said, “We don’t have to do this,” I thought, Okay, we can do this. That was the challenge!

Dannah: Then you wanted to do it.

Nancy: Yes! But it was a sweet process, and we’re so, so thankful for all that God did in us through the journey of writing this book and for the things we’ve learned, for the people we’ve talked with, and the stories we’ve heard. Now we’re so anticipating the fruit that God is going to bring through it in other people’s lives.

Dannah: As am I! I’m so excited; my heart has been stirred. We’ve all faced those times when we’re like, “God, what are You doing!? Are You there? Is this part of Your plan? Help me understand this!” And I think, this month, whether you’re in one of those seasons and you need someone to just come bolster your faith and your hope; or if like for me, it’s been a preparation, I feel like pondering the providence of God. Choosing to trust Him to write my story has prepared me for whatever is ahead in that story.

Nancy: We’re walking with friends and loved ones who are in hard parts of their story. So even as Robert and I wrote this book, and we were digging deep into the Word, we were thinking about Providence. We were thinking about our stories and other stories, and we were constantly meeting people who are in difficult places themselves.

When we would talk about this concept of trusting God to write your story, they would just tear up, saying, “I need this now!”

Robert: Oh, it’s true. In fact, we’re about to celebrate our “forty-sixth anniversary.” We celebrate months, so the fourteenth of every month is an anniversary.

Nancy: That’s the only way we’ve been able to catch up to our friends!

Robert: So we’ve been married almost four years and, how many times, Honey have we told people about this book? We tell them a little bit about our story and then give them the title of the book: You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. You know, the rental car guy, bus driver, people standing in airports, friends in the neighborhood . . .

Nancy: . . . flight attendants . . .

Robert: . . . everybody! This touches them in a very deep way, because everybody has a story. So we’re grateful for the opportunity not only to tell our story, but a lot of other stories, and give listeners and readers a chance to identify with that and rest in God’s leadership, in His providence, in His sovereignty. It’s a big deal!

Dannah: Yes. You are a wonderful storyteller, Robert. I’ve always admired that about you. I’m excited to see how people respond to how you have unfolded these stories. And, Nancy, you’ve just folded in deep biblical truth. So the story opens up your heart, and then there’s a place for that truth to be planted, because your heart is so open.

Nancy: Those stories in the book are true stories. They’re the stories of friends of ours—many of them longtime, close friends—that we have watched walk through really hard places . . . everything imaginable.

We interviewed a couple who, he was dying of cancer, and three weeks later we were at his funeral. So we wept with them in those last parts of his life; we wept with her at the funeral. We’re now walking through the process of widowhood with her.

So these are real stories with real people that we actually talked with. We said, “Just unfold for us . . .” And they’re not all happy endings . . . yet.

Dannah: Right.

Nancy: There are some stories of marriages that did get put back together, some that haven’t and may not. There are people with prodigal children for whom the child is still out there. These are parents who through tears and anguish at times are saying, “God, as horrible and hard as this is, we still trust that You are writing a story. We trust that in the end it is going to be for Your glory and our good.”

Robert: That’s huge! The word “trust” really is the heart of what you’re saying. We can trust God because we believe He is good. At the end of the day, we believe that He’s good. Even in the moment, we may not see it or know it or feel it, but we trust Him. So that really is the message of these programs this month, as well as the book.

Nancy: You trust Him with what you can’t see. You “trust His heart when you can’t see His hand,” as some great theologian said.

Robert: That’s perfectly said.

Nancy: But it’s true. When we can’t see the end, we can’t see how it’s unfolding, we can’t see how in the world this crazy scene could ever be part of a good story.

Dannah: Nancy, that takes me back to your birthday. It is an anniversary for a time when God asked you to learn to trust Him in a new way. Can you take us back to your twenty-first birthday?

Nancy: Oh, wow, yes! A lot of memorable things have happened around Labor Day weekend for me. I was actually born on a Labor Day.

Dannah: That’s fitting!

Nancy: That was a day of labor for my mother!

Dannah: Your mom did that well!

Nancy: But it was also on a Labor Day weekend, my twenty-first birthday. I was actually working at a church in the South, and my dad asked if I would come home for my birthday because the whole family was going to be together for the first time in a year-and-a-half.

So I just felt like even though I had a lot of stuff going on at the ministry there, I needed to honor my dad and be there for that weekend. And Friday night, as we all got home from dinner back at the house, my dad said to a friend of one of my brothers (who had come along), “You’re really fortunate to be with us tonight, because—who knows?—we may never all be together this way again.”

That was a Friday night. The next day, Saturday, my dad and mom took me to the airport. I flew back to Virginia. This was in the days before cell phones.

Robert: And your daddy was wearing his tennis outfit.

Nancy: He was wearing his tennis clothes, because he was going from the airport to play a tennis match with some guy friends. I got the call from my mother that while I’d been in the air, my dad while playing tennis had dropped to the ground, had a heart attack, and instantly was gone.

That was a part of a script—a plot twist—that I never would have written! I never would have thought, How could this be good? I was very close to my dad. I’m the oldest of seven children. My mom was forty years old. At that time, there were seven children, ages eight to twenty-one.

I loved my dad! In fact, we compared notes after he died. All seven of us kids thought we were his favorite!

Dannah: What a gift!

Nancy: So I’m sure I was, right? No, they’re all sure they were! It’s really interesting, Dannah. There were a lot of tears to follow, a lot of questions, extended time of grieving and loss. To this day, many years later, I sometimes really miss my dad!

But in that very moment of hearing the news that he was gone, the Lord brought to mind a verse I had read (I think it was just days earlier) from Psalm 119 that, paraphrased, says, “You are good and everything You do is good.”

In that moment, what a grace that was from the Lord to put that verse into my head, because it represented something my dad had spent those twenty-one years teaching me. And that was that God is good and that He can be trusted to write our story. And it wasn’t like this flippant thing, “Oh, God’s good . . . so, you know, He took my dad.” It wasn’t that at all.

Dannah: In fact, let me say that I think it’s important to note that it’s okay to grieve, it’s okay to cry tears in conjunction with trusting God.

Nancy: Totally! Because you do it against that bedrock thing—at the bottom of all your grief and your pain and your heartache. It says, “Deeper than all of what I’m feeling right now is this reality: that God is good!”

Dannah: And, Robert, you too have a story. You’ve been acquainted with the loss of a loved one.

Robert: I have. When this book was beginning to take shape several years ago, a publisher contacted me on the phone. There were really two things he was wanting us to talk about: our marriage (Nancy being fifty-seven, never married before), and my having been married almost forty-five years, and the story of losing Bobbie after two-and-a-half years of valiant battle with cancer. 

And the connection of Nancy and Bobbie was a really sweet thing. Nancy visited Bobbie. We lived in Orlando. Nancy was there for a conference, and she came to visit Bobbie. I was out of town, but Bobbie had just begun chemo, so she was just beginning to lose her hair.

When I got back from my trip, I said to Bobbie, “How was the visit with Nancy?”

And she said, “It was wonderful. She brought a friend along.” Then she said, “We prayed when she left, and then when she hugged me good-bye, she wouldn’t let go.” 

So there was just a sense in which, I think, again, in the providence of God . . . Maybe there was something in the back of Bobbie’s mind that said, “You know, if the Lord takes me home, if I step into heaven, I wonder if Nancy would be somebody that my husband could love.”

Now just imagine that! It takes my breath away even just to think about it, to say those words. But, again, in the providence of God, that’s what happened!

Dannah: That’s exactly what happened! That is a plot twist right there. Explain that, Robert, what happened. 

Robert: Before she died, Bobbie told two friends: “I want Robert to remarry.” That’s so interesting, because I’ve spoken with women since then, and some don’t want that. They don’t like the idea of envisioning their husband in love with somebody else. So it’s a very unselfish thing, really.

But not only that. Because Bobbie had met Nancy, she had read her books. . .actually, we had been on Revive Our Hearts singing as a family. So we knew each other. I had represented Nancy professionally in her writing.

So she told two friends, “I want Robert to get married again.”

Her friends said, “Yes, we know that.”

“But I want him to marry Nancy Leigh DeMoss.”

Dannah: Unbelievable, really!

Robert: It is! You know, Bobbie walked with the Lord, and so I believe that the Lord nudged her with that. Now, the thing is, she didn’t tell me that.

Dannah: She didn’t tell Nancy, either!

Robert: No.

Dannah: Nancy, when this whole love relationship began to unfold, you really were one of my few single friends who loved being single!

Nancy: And I never envisioned marriage as part of God’s story for my life!

Dannah: And so, actually, you had to trust God to enter into this relationship.

Nancy: Let’s just say, there were a few adjustments that needed to be made in my life, which is a good thing, but that can be hard. It was letting go of some things that I had become very comfortable with, familiar with.

I knew how to be single. I didn’t know how to be married. In fact, people would ask me sometimes, “Do you think you’ll ever be married?”

And I would quip half-kiddingly (only half!), “I don’t think so, because then I’d have to live out all the things I’ve been telling married women all these years!” 

Robert: That is interesting. Just to confirm what you just said. When we got engaged on May 3, 2015, when I asked Nancy if she’d marry me, she said, “Yes, with all my heart!”

I said, “So let’s talk about a wedding.” (I didn’t like, in that moment, but a few days later.)

She said to me, “I’ve never dreamed about a wedding.” 

Dannah: Not even when you were a little girl, when you were a small child?

Nancy: Not that I can remember. 

Robert: Even as a small child she was committed to ministry. Nancy dreamed about teaching. As a small girl she dreamed of reading, teaching.

Dannah: Yes, I believe that!

Robert: So this is, like you’re saying, God’s providence. We talk about the fact that you have two choices, really: One, God is out of control. He’s standing by and saying, “Well, that’s an interesting twist! Hmm, how interesting.” Or two, He really can be trusted, and He’s really writing the story, for good or bad. And so, our choice is to trust Him.

Throughout Scripture there are stories of people raising their fists, people who walked with God and said, “This can’t be happening! I don’t like what You’re doing here!” But at the end of the day they trusted God. And that’s the lesson that we learn from this.

Nancy: The beautiful thing is that God and only God has the power to redeem the broken parts of our stories. There are choices that we make, that people have made, that have affected our lives, and we all know people who have been just so deeply wounded and damaged by a sin committed against them or sinful choices they’ve made.

You think, How could God ever make something beautiful out of this!? But He can turn ashes to beauty! He has the ability to redeem the faults, the failures, the guilt, the sin, the shame, the abuse, the things that have been committed against us.

We’ve all walked with friends and loved ones and experienced it at some level ourselves, that God can make all things beautiful in His time and in His way.

Robert: Yes, the message of the gospel is that God turns a cross into an empty tomb! That isn’t only there; that’s throughout redemptive history. It’s our story, that’s the story of our friends who are listening now, that’s your story, that’s the story of you and your family. It happens over and over again. But a word picture is, from the cross to the empty tomb, God is writing this story.

Dannah: It’s beautiful! You two talk about this so peacefully, almost gratefully. You talk about your pain with some quality that is really unique and hard sometimes for others to understand. But as I read through the pages of your book, I saw something. Nancy, I’ve known you for over a decade, and this book is just full of things I didn’t know about you.

And what I saw is that, through your childhood, your family prepared you for those moments of pain . . . to choose trust.

Nancy: And let me say that pain is painful! It’s never not painful. Suffering hurts! It’s hard! And when we’re in the midst of some unexpected plot twist in our own lives—I’ll just speak for myself—I’m not always peaceful and grateful and calm and collected.

Sometimes I feel frantic or frazzled or frustrated or upset or angry . . . or whatever. But there is something that both of us have been given as a great gift from our parents—which I realize that many of our friends and many of our listeners don’t have, but they can give it to others.

And that is the gift of growing up in a home and in an example of being grounded in the Word of God and really good theology. That just means what you believe about God. Believing the right things about God really does incredibly prepare us to face hardship.

I’m thinking about Steve Saint, who’s the son of one of the martyred missionaries in Ecuador (Nate Saint was his dad, along with Jim Elliot. They were two of those martyred missionaries.) Years later, Steve Saint and his wife lost a child in a very awful, sudden freak illness, where she basically just dropped dead. She was twenty years old or something like that.

When I talked to him about that later, he said the way he watched his mother and those other widows respond to the news of those five women losing their husbands, when he saw them anchoring their hearts in the Word of God and in the goodness of God decades earlier, that prepared him for that moment when he and his wife would be holding their daughter’s lifeless body.

It doesn’t make it easy, but it does say that if your heart is tethered to who God is and to His Word, then you have in that moment like when I got the news about my dad being taken suddenly on the weekend of my twenty-first birthday, that what comes to mind is the default that’s been placed in there through the Scripture. And that is, “God is good, and everything He does is good.”

So you weep, you wail sometimes, you wish it were different. Sometimes you kind of push back and say, “I don’t think so!” It’s not what you would choose, but you realize that if you knew what God knows, it is what you would choose. And one day we will see, we will know, and we will say, “Lord, You did all things well!”

Robert: Yes, you’re so kind, Dannah, in saying that we sound peaceful talking about these things.

I’ve gotten Nancy into baseball in these last years.

Dannah: I’ve noticed that! (laughter)

Robert: This is like looking at the box score the following morning. That’s pretty objective: “Well, this is what happened.” But in the middle of the game, when you hit a pop-up and the bases are loaded, I mean, it’s frustrating in real life!

We cry, we struggle, we question, we wonder, we doubt—all of those things—in the moment. The model there is the Scripture; the book of Psalms is filled with lament. Seventy percent of the psalms that David wrote are laments, like: “Why are You doing this? What are you doing!?”

Nancy: “How long, O Lord?!”

Dannah: And even Jesus said, “Take this cup from me!” Even Jesus lamented in the Garden of Gethsemane and said, “Really, Father is there another plan, is there another way to do this?” So it’s okay to do that.

Nancy: Because He knew that beyond the cross there would be the resurrection—the promise of life! 

Dannah: Yes, He did!

Robert: His Father could be trusted! That’s the message.

Dannah: As you’re sharing these thoughts and your stories, I’m thinking that trusting God is kind of a little bit like banking. You don’t want to get to one of your painful periods in life or a time when you really need to choose to trust God and not have built up something in your emotional account in terms of truth and pondering God’s Word and hearing other stories of trusting Him, so that you’re ready for those moments, right?

Nancy: It’s a reserve that you have for the difficult, rainy, stormy day.

Dannah: And that’s what we’re going to do this month on Revive Our Hearts. We’re going to build up the reserve of women. You may not be in a particularly difficult, painful time right now, but you’re going to be preparing your heart for when and if those times come.

Nancy: And there will be some listening who actually need a lifeline, a life preserver, at the moment. .And there is the whole range of everything in-between.

Dannah: You know what I’m thinking? It is God’s providence that they’ll hear just the right words on just the right program on just the right day for their story this month. How exciting is that!? I just got chills!

Robert: When I was a kid somebody said to me, “You pack your lunch before you’re hungry.” So it’s the vault, it’s the bank, it’s putting money in reserves. Someday you’ll need to write a check on those funds. That’s what this is. Even when you don’t feel like it, you commit to doing the right things day after day because someday you’ll need that.

Dannah: Yes. I cannot wait to get this book into the hands of men and women, Nancy and Robert. It’s called You Can Trust God to Write Your Story: Embracing the Mysteries of Providence. We’d love to send you a copy of this book when you make a gift in any amount this month to Revive Our Hearts. You can make that gift at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Nancy, I am very excited about unfolding some of the more transparent parts of your story, and Robert of your story, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts as we continue to talk about trusting God to write your story.

Reminding you that God does all things well, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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