Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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You Can Trust God When Facing Loss

Dannah Gresh: Hi, Nancy!

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: What’s that?!

Dannah: Well, through the wonder of recording technology, my voice has been doubled! Do you think this is a good sound for the program?

Nancy: Honestly, I think it’s a little confusing!

Dannah: I guess you’re right. [to engineer] Okay, Justin, you can turn it off. 

Is that better?

Nancy: Absolutely! I can actually understand you now.

Dannah: Okay. So a doubled voice is maybe not so good . . . but a doubled gift to Revive Our Hearts? Now, that is very good!

Nancy: Now, I see what you’re getting at, Dannah. All this month some friends of Revive Our Hearts have been doubling each donation as part of a matching challenge amount. And let me just say, it’s been so encouraging to watch many of our listeners respond to that challenge! But we still need help meeting that entire challenge amount.

Dannah: That challenge ends tomorrow, so if the Lord has laid it on your heart to give, we need to hear from you soon!

Nancy: Dannah, I hope that many more of our listeners will be prompted by the Lord to give a special year-end gift tothe ministry of Revive Our Hearts between now and the end of the day tomorrow. 

If the Lord is putting on your heart to make a gift, you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com. And that’s where you can get the most up-to-date information about where we are in this challenge. You can also call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Dannah: And, remember! There’s only one day left to turn this [her normal voice] into this [her doubled voice]. Hey, I like this! I should go home and show Bob. If only there were two of me, one could do the cleaning . . . and the laundry!

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, for December 30, 2019. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Last week we heard the first two parts of a conversation Nancy had with a retired pastor and his wife; Tom and Diana Elliff live in Oklahoma. Each of them was married for decades, each of them widowed. We’ll hear more about that today.

When we left off last time, Tom had just mentioned that God allows us to go through difficult times so we can experience His comfort, and then after we’ve experienced it for ourselves, we can turn around and comfort others. It’s a principle found in 2 Corinthians chapter 1. Here’s Nancy with more.

Nancy: Robert and I saw this as we talked with so many people whose stories we told in the book You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. A lot of them had experiences we hadn’t had, or they were different than ours.

They were gut-wrenching conversations because a lot of them were not fixed yet: the husband hasn’t come back or the prodigal hasn’t come back. These are people who are trusting God. Tom, our mutual friend, John Wreford, who was on our staff for many years, came to know Jesus under your ministry. 

Robert and I sat in John and Tammy’s home and interviewed them for this book, and three weeks later we were at John’s funeral. They talked about trusting God when you’re dying. So as Robert and I listened to a lot of these stories, we would come away . . . and it kind of took our breath away. These were people who had such a rich, grace-filled, beautiful spirit about them—even ones who were still in the midst of suffering and couldn’t see the outcome.

We would almost look longingly at them as we would talk about it afterwards. We would think, We want to have that kind of deep trust in God, that love for Him, that disconnectedness from the things of this world that we saw in these people. But then we reminded ourselves, “Here’s what it’s taking to get them there.”

Diana Elliff: That’s right. 

Nancy: It’s not that we haven’t been through hard things—we have—but we’re in a sweet season right now. We just realize as we look to the future—having no idea what that looks like for us, what our health will be, what end-of-life issues will be, what financial, whatever—we realize as we watch these people, you can trust God!

If you’re trusting Him now with the piece of the story you’re living right now, then you’re going to have the grace when you get to that hard part.

Tom Elliff: Yes, and you brought up a very important point a few moments ago. We’ve been talking about things which had an ending—someone passes away, a house blows away. But I would imagine that many of your listeners are living with an ongoing, painful, long-term perplexing issue that they are having to live with.

You mentioned a child that is rebellious or a family break-up that’s just ongoing and has all kinds of painful ramifications. God is still God, and His providence is just as certainly at work in that as it is in any of these other situations. It’s just a matter of our reaching out, taking Him by the hand, and aggressively cooperating with Him.

He’s not obligated to tell us what He’s going to do, but when He does, as we read the Scripture, we can cooperate with Him. The way to take that step is just to say, “I’m going to bury myself in the Word of God, and if I can’t do anything else, I can know God. I can know more about God, more of Him, experience more of Him now today than I did yesterday. I’m going to be content with that at this point.”

Nancy: I’m thinking, Tom as you’re talking, of those three Hebrew young men in the fire. They didn’t know the outcome. They said, “We’re going to serve our God; we’re going to worship Him. We’re not going to worship this pagan king. If you kill us, King, we die, but we’re still going to serve God. And if He rescues us, that’s great. But if not, we’re still going to serve Him.”

So in the fire they go . . . which was a certain death sentence. But when were they ever closer to Jesus than when that fourth man like the Son of God came and walked with them in that furnace? Somehow, He miraculously worked so that when they got out of that furnace, there was no damage! We couldn’t write that story!

Tom: No, and they would never have dreamed it up either, a story like that.

Nancy: You can’t make that up. 

Tom: They wouldn’t even have wished it, because it was so ludicrous to even think of that possibility. Neither Diana nor I (I can certainly say myself) conceived of marriage after our spouses passed away. We didn’t think of that as being on the radar screen.

Nancy: In fact, can I put you on the spot?

Tom: Go ahead. I’m going to get under the table right here. 

Nancy: I was watching the livestream of you preaching at Jeannie’s funeral. I don’t know how you did that, but it was magnificent. You made quite a statement. I kind of winced when you said it. I know you remember what it was. 

Tom: Yeah, I did. I felt that I would never marry again. I felt that I was on my way to heaven, and I would see her there; she had gone just a little bit before me. I assumed that I would never, ever . . . It was just beyond comprehension that I would ever remarry!

Nancy: And you kind of went on the record about that.

Tom: Yes, I kind of went on the record about that. It wasn’t long after that I called one of my mentors. He was at the time ninety-eight years of age and living in Dallas, Texas. He’s very active. He still runs. He’s just a brilliant man, a great, passionate Christian.

I said, “I need to come talk to you about being single. I’m not doing very good at this.” 

And he said, “I’ll come see you.” 

He lives in Dallas, I live in Oklahoma City. I said, “No, Orville, that’s three-and-a-half hours.” 

He said, “Well, I have a brand-new, red Camaro, and I want to drive it up there to see you!” 

And so he drove to Oklahoma City. And being a runner like he is (he’s running for a world record next month in the six-hundred meter) . . . We went for a walk and sat on a park bench. I said, “Orville, I will never get married.” 

He said, “Don’t say that.” 

I said, “Well, you didn’t get married.”

He said, “Well, for Pete’s sake, Tom, I was ninety-two years of age when Esther Beth passed away! Why wouldn’t you get married?” 

I said, “Well, I see a selfish side of me that I don’t like, and that is: I’ve begun making appointments with people to each lunch. It’s not because I have anything to speak into their lives, really, it’s just that I don’t want to eat lunch by myself.”

And he said, “Well, suppose God brings into your life someone that you can help and someone who wants to help you?” 

And I said, “Well, in that case I might get married.” 

That was in November, and in March the next year, Diana and I went for a walk in the same park, came to the same bench, sat down. I told her that story and dropped to my knee and proposed to her.”

Nancy: The mentor’s counsel worked!

Tom: Yes, that’s right!

Nancy: Diana, when your husband went to be with the Lord, did you have any sense of what that future story might look like for you? 

Diana: Oh, not at all! I was so in love with Wayne. I remember telling him just a few days before he died (I didn’t know he was going to go and be with the Lord then; I knew he was very ill). But the ring that I had on my finger at that time, I just looked at him and said, “I just want you to know: this ring will never come off my finger because you are my forever husband!”

He was so ill. He looked at me, and he was so sweet natured. He said, “Well, if you go before I do, this ring will never come off my finger.” And then, a few months later after Wayne had passed away, when I met Tom, I thought, Oh! But I’ve said that to my husband! But I meant it that day when I said that.

I never anticipated marrying again, because Tom and I both, we could say our first spouses were our life’s mate!

Nancy: Almost fifty years for both of you.

Diana: Yes, so I just never had even thought about it. Before my late husband passed away, he needed some water, and I took him water. I was about to walk out of the room and he looked at me and said, “Tom Elliff’s wife died.” 

I said, “What happened?”

He said, “I don’t know.”

Nancy: It wasn’t like you were close friends. You just knew of them.

Diana: No, we just knew of them. I walked out of the room and went on about my day, taking care of him and doing things that a wife does around the home. We had gone to The Cove, the Billy Graham training center in Asheville, North Carolina. My husband preached from a wheelchair on a Friday evening; he was really getting crippled at that time.

We went back to our cabin. Our son was there, and our son was able to finish out for his dad. We went to sleep that evening. Wayne was in a recliner because he couldn’t breathe very well, and I was on the sofa. I said to him, “I love you!” 

He said, “I love you, too, baby.” Those were our final words with each other. I woke up the next morning, and he was gone.

Our son that was there said the sweetest thing to me. He said, “Momma, the last face Daddy saw on this earth was yours! And when he opened his eyes, he saw the face of Jesus!” And that blessed me so very much!

Tom: And the same was true of Jeannie. She looked up at me there in our home and said three times: “Love you, love you, love you.” 

And I embraced her and said, “I love you.” 

She closed her eyes, and later on that evening, God took her home. I was lying beside her quoting Scripture. And the One who loved her more than I gathered her up in His arms and took her home to be with Him. 

And so, Diana and I never conceived of the relationship that we have now. 

Nancy: Because in the moment of that huge loss, you feel like, “That’s the end of the story.”

Tom: But God wasn’t through with that story.

Diana: Well, in the meantime, my daughter and her family had come in. We had to run an errand. While we were in the car she said to me, “Momma, Steve Green is coming to Albuquerque.” 

Nancy: This is the singer. 

Diana: Yes, he was to sing at a foreign missions conference. And she said, “You need to come.” 

I said, “Oh, I’d love to!” Because it was just something to look forward to in the future. I said, “I’d love to. I love his voice; I love his heart!”

And she said, “Tom Elliff is going to be the missions speaker.”

I said, “Oh my goodness, Stephanie, your daddy just mentioned his name to me!” 

She looked at me and she said, “Well, Erik [her husband] and I think Tom would be a great match for you!”

Nancy: And you hadn’t even buried your husband yet!

Diana: No. And so, here just a few days before my husband passed away, he mentioned Tom’s name to me. And then before we’d had his celebration service, my daughter mentioned his name to me.

Tom: And it’s not like we had lives that intersected all the time. We scarcely knew of each other.

Nancy: But God . . .

Tom: But God. I would say that the prayer that helped me the most over that year-and-a-half before Diana and I met or began talking about this . . . I prayed constantly that my conscious sense of Jesus presence would become larger than my conscious sense of Jeannie’s absence. And God honored that prayer. Christ became bigger and bigger to me.

Coming home from the cemetery after I’d sent the kids on home and I was by myself, I remember thinking, For the first time in my life on this earth, I’m not the most important person to anyone on this earth. And for the first time in my life, no one is the most important person to me.” This is a vulnerable place for a man.

I actually made a mental list and came home and made five phone calls to five different men. I said, “I want to meet with each of you on a separate day of the week.” I did that for over a year. I said, “I want you to hold me accountable.” I’d have lunch with one on Monday and breakfast with one on Tuesday, then breakfast with my son-in-law on Wednesday. Then I ate in the home of another friend—the Snows—on Thursday, and then on Friday a friend would call from out of town.

I realized I was in a very vulnerable place. I’m captivated with the subject of this program, because what you’re saying to us, Nancy, is that unknown to us, there is the rest of the story of our lives that God is writing.

And we’d like to guess what that might be; we’d like to suppose what it might be. But it is far beyond anything we could ever ask or think, as the apostle Paul says. (see Eph. 3:20). Those are our prayers. God is writing this incredibly rich story for the life of everyone of our listeners out here, and He does that out of His providence, out of His sovereign love and grace for us.

Nancy: Which is, at times, mysterious. If we were writing the story—thank God He’s not leaving it to us to write, but if we were—we wouldn’t have cancer and ALS and prolonged singleness and all the other things that make people’s hearts hurt.

Tom: But nobody would ever read a book like that, either.

Nancy: Isn’t that the truth? Boring!

Tom: So in the end, He’s getting the glory to Himself by His grace.

Diana: And as we’ve mentioned prior to this, we learn so much from our sorrows and from things that happen to us in life. I’m not telling you this story so that anyone could feel sorry for me, because as I’ve been sitting here thinking about the things that I’ve shared, there are those that are listening at this very moment that have suffered far greater than I have!

My daddy went to be with the Lord twenty-seven years ago, and I had said to myself and to my late husband, “If something happens to my daddy, I cannot live. I can’t go on without my daddy.” Well, again, the peace of God and the grace of God and the compassion of Christ so rose up within me that while I was at the funeral home with my momma and my siblings . . .

The Lord spoke to my heart in this manner, and He said to me, “Every godly characteristic that you saw in your daddy, now I want you to take those and live on. Carry those same Scriptures, the same heart that he had for God and for God’s people. Now you carry that baton on.”

So God revealed to my heart as the days went on, as I missed my daddy so much, that, yes, in Christ Jesus I would go on. I could live this life apart from my daddy. And then the same with my baby . . . and then with my husband.

As I look back over my life, there have been times with Tom . . . God has put such a love in our hearts for one another, a love that we never expected we would ever experience again. There have been times that the thought has come to my mind, “Oh, what would I do if something happens to Tom?”

And it is as if the Lord just stops me right there! I have never taken it beyond that thought because I know God’s grace is sufficient, because it always is!

Nancy: And in that moment, it will be.

Diana: Oh, yes! Yes! That’s right. I don’t want anything to happen to Tom. But we have fewer years left in our lives to live with one another than we did with our first spouses, so we’re seeking to cherish the days that God gives us together. It is just so sweet to know the verse in the Scriptures where it says God will cause us to persevere.

He didn’t say I’m going to persevere in my own strength, but God will cause us to persevere.

Nancy: That’s His grace, too.

Diana: Yes! No matter what happens in our lives, He will cause us to continue to walk on in Him. He’s loving us all the while, all the time. He’s loving us. I was telling a group of people yesterday that in the Bible when it speaks of the fact that we are poor and needy, but God is merciful and gracious, His mercy is fresh every morning and will be with us every step of the way of our journey.

Nancy: And then you think that end of Psalm 23 that “goodness and mercy shall accompany me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v. 6 paraphrased). I think something we have to remember in the hard parts of the story is that this isn’t the end. That there is a beautiful end to look forward to.

And, Tom, I’m thinking of your nephew Josh and his sweet wife Andrea who went through that horrific bout with cancer—multiple surgeries, multiple treatments. I’m sure you remember this. When Josh would send updates about how Andrea was doing, they were hard! There was no good news for the longest time. But he would always sign them, “The best is yet to come.”

Tom: Exactly! And we can say that when life is at its worst, as well as when life is going well. I have a personal friend who lives in a country which I cannot mention to you. His father took the life of his daughter. Now this is a grandfather taking a life of a granddaughter because he was afraid she was going to become a Christian. 

He saw her daddy reading the Scripture to her. Horrible! How could he do that? And yet, through that, my friend has persevered by the grace of God. He is one of the fathers of one of the fastest growing church planting movements on the planet right now. People by the thousands are turning their hearts to Christ.

He would not in any way have been able to persevere had he not believed in the providence of God—that there is more to this story than what happened here. “How do I live this out?” He would be a hard, embittered, angry person.

Nancy: As many people are.

Tom: But instead, he released that to God, and it has become so much a part of his story that it became a part of an incredible movement of God where he lives. Those are people who live a life and have a faith that I know not of, I will tell you.

Nancy: “Of whom the world is not worthy.” (see Heb. 11:38).

Tom: At the same time, their God is my God. In that same instance, my God will be just as gracious to me as He was to my friend and to his family.

Nancy: The best is yet to come. And you know what? Even when you’re enjoying these things—you in your new marriage, Robert and me in our new marriage, this is a really sweet season for us—it’s still good to remind ourselves that this is not “the best.” It’s wonderful! It’s wonderful, sweet, following a lot of pain, but the best is yet to come! 

When we can’t see, which we can’t, we trust. We trust the character, the name, the heart of our faithful God.

Tom: I believe it was Helen Roseveare, that missionary doctor in central Africa, whose life and testimony ultimately broke the back of a rebellion and brought a great sweeping move of God’s Spirit. But it was only after a horrible incident in which she was totally humiliated and abused—physically, morally, emotionally . . .

Nancy: . . . sexually. 

Tom: It was an experience that I cannot even describe on the radio. But she said, “As I lay there on the ground and all this was taking place, God said, “Do you trust me enough to thank Me for something I may never give you the privilege of understanding?” He was writing the story.

And, of course, later when she told that story, suddenly the crowd that surrounded her—the mob that wanted her life—began to weep in brokenness. God moved in and moved on with the message of the gospel. 

Nancy: This side of heaven, we may not understand, right?

Tom: That’s right. That’s exactly right. 

Nancy: Wow! Well, I know there are a lot of people who are listening to us right now who are in the middle of one of those really hard places. And we could tell stories all day, sitting at this table, in these different categories: financial pain and loss, physical ailments, addictions, longing for a mate, the longing for a child that’s unfulfilled, the loss of a child . . . there are just so many! 

We’ve talked about some of those, but my hope is that as you’ve been listening to this conversation with Tom and Diana Elliff, that your heart is saying, “Lord, thank You that You can be trusted to write my story when I can’t see the outcome. It’s not neat; it’s not clean from this perspective. But I believe that You are good; You are God; You are writing this story, and I’m going to trust You with it.”

And that may be all you can do, but that’s a lot! I’m hoping that kind of experience and heart conversation with the Lord is happening with many listeners right now. 

Tom, you’ve prayed for a lot of people at funerals and in hard places, and you’ve had people do that for you in your hard places.

I want us to join together. Would you just lead us in praying for those listeners who are in a hard place right now, that God will minister that tailor-made grace. We’re joining hands here at this table, and we’re going to ask God for that.

Tom: Father, we are joining hands, we’re joining hearts, and we wish like crazy that we could reach out through these radio waves and touch the hand and the heart of each person who is listening right now. Because, Lord, we live in a world that has gone wrong. It is a world that is spiraling, seemingly, out of control.

We talk about things that have happened to us and what we’ve seen You do in the midst of that, in writing our stories. And yet, Lord, we know that there are those out there in the audience who could almost snort and say, “Boy, they don’t know the half of it!” 

And yet, Lord, You are their God, too. You have every ability and are using it to write the story of their life as they trust in You, Heavenly Father. 

We thank You that all the paths of the Lord are good and true to those who love You, to those trust in You. Father, we’re grateful for that. We thank You for Your mercy. We pray for those who right now say, “Well, those are really good stories and I’m glad to hear those, but if only I can make it through the balance of the evening.”

And You have said to us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and [your] minds in Christ Jesus ” (Phil. 4:6 KJV). 

Oh, God, keep their hearts and their minds focused on You! You are writing this story, and in the end it will all rebound to Your grace and Your glory, because in the end the resurrected Christ will say to the entire universe, “Yes, I not only can create that which is perfect, I can fix that which is broken!” And so, Lord, touch and mend broken hearts right now, I pray in Jesus’ name, amen. 

Dannah: Tom Elliff has been praying for all of us who are facing difficulties and challenges. And let’s face it, that’s most of us. We’re all facing some sort of challenge, and I know so many of us have been encouraged by the conversation today.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking with Tom and Diana Elliff about the providence of God. It goes along the theme of the book by Nancy and her husband, Robert: You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. It’s something we’ve talked about a lot on Revive Our Hearts this year.

Nancy and I have interviewed a lot of people who know what it is to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but they’ve discovered the Lord walking with them! Now, if you’ve missed any of those conversations, listen to them in the archives at ReviveOurHearts.com. And if you’ve never done that, please know that there are some classic series in those archives!

You’ll find some of the best teaching from Nancy, and also some hard-hitting interviews like the one you just heard today. They’re all available for you to download or stream at ReviveOurHearts.com. All these programs are made possible by listeners who support the ministry. 

And here’s another reminder about what we talked about at the beginning of the program. When you donate today or tomorrow, your gift will be doubled as part of a matching challenge. This is an amazing opportunity we don’t want to miss. So would you pray about how the Lord would have you give? Then visit ReviveOurHearts.com by tomorrow! Or call 1–800–569–5959. 

The year 2019 has been a tumultuous year in so many ways. Tomorrow, Nancy will open the Bible and show us how Jesus is our peace and how we can rest in Him for the year ahead. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth points you to the true hope in Christ! It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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