Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Your Life Can Be a Masterpiece

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Dannah Gresh: If you’re like me, there are some situations in your life right now that you wish you could change. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds us that God can use even those things to tell a great story through our lives.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: God never goes, “Oops! I never thought of that!” or “I can’t believe that happened!” Situations that seem confusing or chaotic to us are actually plot threads that God is weaving together to create a story. He’s creating a beautiful, compelling work of art, a masterpiece.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh, for September 6, 2019.

Dannah: This week Nancy’s been in a series, “You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.” You’ll be encouraged even if the story of your life has some pretty dark chapters. Let’s listen in.

Nancy: We’re recording several programs in one day here at the Revive Our Hearts’ headquarters today with about, I don’t know, seventy or eighty women in the room. And in-between these sessions, we’re talking about some of our stories and things that we’ve experienced, things that those we love have experienced. We’re talking about how when you look at it in the moment, it looks so hard, so difficult, so “Why would the story turn out that way?” It’s not the way we would have wanted it. It’s not the way we would have scripted it?

But then you get some time and you can look back. You can see that God was doing something good through this. God was bringing about good purposes.

I’m sitting here looking at Randy on the front row. If it hadn’t been for desperate circumstances and failure in your life and in a lot of other people’s lives around you, you wouldn’t be sitting here today loving Jesus as a believer of about, what?—a year and a half? Your life would be in such a different place, but it’s in a beautiful place right now. It’s not easy. There are challenges. There are hardships, as there are with all of us. But it’s the hard things that have actually brought you to Jesus.

All of us in this room could say something along those lines. That’s why it’s helpful to hear each other’s stories and to remind each other about this new paradigm, this way of thinking: you can trust God to write your story.

Tayler Beedeis the daughter of a friend of Robert’s and mine. Tayler and her husband Kyle had dreams for her future. Tayler’s plans did not include losing a baby and having a brain tumor before the age of twenty-two. And this young woman is learning what it means to trust God to write her story.

I’ve read a number of pieces she’s written on blogs, and here’s a paragraph that caught my attention as Robert and I were working on this book. She said:

If I truly trust God with my life, that means I trust Him with every aspect. Each and every word, sentence, and chapter. Even when I feel like I can’t bear to flip the page and see what happens next . . . It’s all part of what makes our faith so scary and yet so beautiful. And because of our faith in Christ, we know that in the end He will redeem all of the scary and seemingly hopeless patches.

Here’s a woman who is getting a perspective on hard things in her life, things she would never have scripted, things her parents have grieved over with her. I remember when the news came out that Tayler had a brain tumor. I remember when the news came out that she lost this baby—and this was all when she was a young, married woman. 

And you think, How much can one young woman take? But God knows. And God knows how He’s going to tailor-make grace for that woman and her parents and her husband in this season.

We’re talking about trusting God to write your story. And that’s not hard when the story is going in a way that makes sense to us. Right? In a way that we like or that we think, Oh, that’s a beautiful story.

Robert and I talk a little bit about our story in this book, and one of the beautiful parts is how God brought our lives together. He gave me, at age fifty-seven, as a never-married woman, a chance to be married to an amazing man. I mean, that’s like a fairy tale story. Right? And it’s not hard to trust God when it’s all like the fairy tale story.

But it’s not so easy to trust God when your story or that of someone you love includes different kinds of details: 

  • Being abandoned by your mom when you were two 
  • Picking up your husband’s cell phone and discovering that he’s having an affair 
  • Having an unknown intruder break into your apartment and rape you the night before Christmas break during your senior year of college 
  • Suffering multiple, painful miscarriages and never being able to carry a child to term
  • Watching your child walk out the door in open rebellion, not knowing where she is or if you’ll ever see her again 
  • Sitting in a doctor’s office and hearing, “The tests are back. You have MS.”

And I could go on. These are all things that friends of mine have experienced as part of their story. And you could add your own things to that list.

There are chapters in our stories for which there are no obvious explanations and no easy answers. But I want to talk over the next couple of days about some truths that will help us get a context for trusting God when we cannot understand what He’s doing or why He’s doing it.

So I’d like to share some principles that have been helpful to me and that emerged in my thinking as Robert and I listened to people tell their stories that we captured and shared in this book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. There’s not a particular order to these. They’re not, like, points A, B, C, and D, but just some helpful thinking.

And the first one is: Perspective makes all the difference.

Perspective is so important. And the perspective that we need is to remember that God sees the beginning and the end and everything in-between. God sees it all. Whereas, we can only see this little, itty-bitty, present moment. We can’t see the context. We don’t have the view that God does of the whole big picture.

God has this omniscient point of view. He knows everything of all time. Whereas, our point of view is limited to what we can perceive from our earthly vantage point, which is so limited. God has a wide-angle lens, if you will. He sees the whole mural that He is painting in all of history, and we see only the little speck of time and space that we occupy at this moment. 

If you can only see a little, itty-bitty piece, you don’t have the perspective that God has. That’s why this walk is a walk of faith. You can trust God to write your story even when you can’t see the story that He’s writing. We need to trust that He has a perspective, that He can see things that we don’t see.

You experience this in parenting your children. You make decisions, perhaps you and your husband make decisions for your children, and your kids are going, “No way!!!” (laughter) They don’t understand. They can’t see. But you know some things that your four-year-old child doesn’t know. You know some things that your fourteen-year-old child doesn’t know. And so you’re going to make some decisions that are going to seem hard to your child, but you know some before and some after. You have a bigger perspective.

Now, you’re not omniscient. You don’t know everything. But you have more life experience. You can see a spectrum of things that your child can’t see, so you make some decisions that are tough for that child. And the child has to trust, when it comes down to it, that you know something, that you have a perspective that your child doesn’t.

Well, how much more so with us and God do we have to trust that He has the perspective that we don’t have, that we can’t have on this side of eternity.

And then it’s good to remember that 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. He’s God, we’re not. If we knew everything that God knows, we would be God. God is infinitely wise.

I take great comfort, for example, in this passage in Romans, chapter 11, verses 33 and 34: 

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?

God knows. He sees things. I remember Chuck Swindoll saying years ago, “Don’t try to unscrew the inscrutable.” (laughter) His ways are inscrutable. The riches and the wisdom of the knowledge of God, they’re deeper, they’re bigger, they’re greater, they’re grander than anything we can know. So that’s why we trust God even when He works in unexpected or unexplainable ways to accomplish His purposes.

You see, God sovereignly and purposefully ordains and orchestrates all the circumstances of this world and of our lives.

Now, we’re going to talk more about that in the days ahead because some of it we’re going, “How could God have any involvement in that?” And there are mysteries and hard-to-answer parts of that question. But we need to start with the realization that God is sovereignly and actively engaged in every detail and circumstance in this world and in my life. There is no is such thing as happenstance or an accident.

My brother David was killed at the age of twenty-two in a car wreck. People sometimes say it was an accident. Now, I understand that terminology and what people mean by that, but words matter. And we need to remind ourselves: there are no accidents. What looked like an accident to us that day, as the little sports car he was driving was hit by a larger car, it was not an accident from God’s perspective.

God has a supernatural, bigger purview and overview, and He’s ordaining and orchestrating the details and the circumstances of our lives. He was not caught off-guard by that wreck that day that took my brother’s life.

Now, God doesn’t ordain sin. We live in a broken, sinful, fallen world because of sinful choices that human beings have made, whether our own or others. But God is still actively involved in this. Nothing catches Him off-guard. There’s no plot twist in your story that He’s not aware of or that He can’t overcome. God never goes, “Oops! I didn’t have a plan for that!” or “I never thought of that!” or “I can’t believe that happened!” We say that, but God never says that.

Situations that seem confusing or chaotic to us are actually plot threads that God is weaving together to create a story. And, if I could change the metaphor, He’s creating a beautiful, compelling work of art, a masterpiece. Incidents and events that make no sense at all to us now will one day make perfect sense, if not in this life, then in heaven as we see the masterpiece that God had in mind all along.

I bought a copy this week of a book I saw advertised by Landon Dowden. It’s a commentary on the book of Esther. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I love the dedication at the very beginning. It’s dedicated to his wife and children. He says, 

To Tara, Arabella, Adalaide, Adoniram, and Alastair,
Even when you cannot see Him, hear Him, or feel Him, God is alive, awake, and accomplishing His purposes for your good and His glory!

That’s the theme of the book of Esther. That’s the theme of the Bible. That’s the theme of your life. You can trust God to write your story. When you can’t see Him, hear Him, or feel Him, He is still alive, awake and accomplishing His purposes for your good and His glory.

And then we need to remember that what we see now is not the whole story. There is more that we don’t know about what God is doing than we do know. And if we could see what He sees and know what He knows, our hearts would be at peace.

What we see now is not the whole story, and what we see now is not the end of the story.

We’ll talk more about that later in the series, but I think of that verse in John chapter 13, where Jesus said to Peter at the Last Supper, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand” (v. 7).

Wouldn’t that be a great verse to have taped to your bathroom mirror, or wherever you contemplate the mysteries of the universe, or wherever you tend to grouse over the things going wrong in your life? John 13:7, Jesus said, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”

I’ve been reading in the book of Isaiah over the last several weeks and meditating, and you see God talking a lot about the problem circumstances now, the chaos, the disruption, the pain, the sin. But you also see this vision of the end where God will vindicate His own and He will judge the wicked. We don’t see now how that’s going to happen, but we see it in the Psalms.

Psalm 37—these words are true: “A little while.” A little while—we don’t know how long that little while is. It’s not now. It’s whenever God determines it’s time. “A little while,” Psalm 37, verse 10, “and the wicked person will be no more.”

That person who’s making your life miserable, apart from repentance and turning to Christ, in a little while, that person will be no more.

“But,” verse 11, “the humble” those who place their faith in Christ, who look to Him to write their story and for their salvation, the humble “will inherit the land and will enjoy abundant prosperity.”

You’re thinking, Wow! I cannot imagine a day when that’s going to happen. That would require the tables to be turned. Exactly! And that’s what God is going to do—in His way and in His time. Right now, you’re the oppressed one. Right now, you’re the one who’s being taken advantage of. And it looks like the wicked are getting off scot-free. But God says, “Not for long.” 

In a little while, the wicked will be no more. The humble will inherit the land and will enjoy abundant prosperity. The wicked person schemes against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him. [You say, “Yeah, I know that part.”] But the Lord laughs at him because he sees that his day is coming. . . . The wicked will perish . . . They will fade away like smoke (Ps. 37:10–13, 20 CSB).

Now, you don’t need to hasten that day. God knows when that day is. But in the meantime, He uses those people to change you, to make you trust God more, to make you conform to the image of Christ.

And, you see, the challenges that you face may be a part of God writing someone else’s story. God may want to use your story to be a means of His grace and His intervention in others’ lives, even, sometimes, for those who may have “wrecked” your story.

The Scripture says that Jesus—1 Peter tells us this: “He suffered for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (3:18).

But what was He doing all the while He was suffering unjustly? First Peter 2:23, “He continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

He trusted God to write His story, and what happens? Chapter 5 of 1 Peter: “By his wounds you have been healed” (v. 24). His willingness to trust God and take those wounds proved to be a means of grace and redemption in our lives.

You can trust God to write the story of those you love, not only to work through your story in their lives, but you can trust that He’s writing a story in their lives, your children, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your co-workers.

The danger is that we try to rescue people from circumstances that may be a chapter of the story that God is wanting to write in their lives—and that’s particularly true, let me say, moms, when it comes to your kids.

That doesn’t mean you don’t want to help your kids. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to be available to serve and bless them, but be careful that you don’t rescue them from circumstances that God may be using to bring them to the end of themselves so that they can come to Him.

You can trust that God is not only writing your story, He’s also writing your child’s story, your mate’s story, your friends’ story. So resist the temptation to pick up the pen and take over. Resolve not to interfere in the way that the Lord may be dealing with that person to bring him or her to repentance or to refine their faith through hardship the same way He refines your faith. You can wait patiently for the Lord to act in His way and in His time.

In the meantime, God’s giving you, through that hard thing that loved one is going through, an opportunity to demonstrate and to declare and to remind yourself in the process that God is still worthy of your worship and your trust and that He is still good—even if your heart is breaking, even if that person’s heart or their circumstances never change in your lifetime.

Get perspective. We don’t see the end. What is now is not the whole story. What is now is not the end of the story. We can trust God to write that story in our lives and in others’ lives.

I had a chance recently to meet a woman that I felt like I knew because we’ve corresponded a bunch over the years. She’s a blogger, and that’s how I first became aware of her story. Some of you may have read her writings. Colleen Chao is her name, and she’s been through a lot of chapters of her story that have been difficult. If you hear her whole story, it seems like she should be 103, but she’s not. She’s young. I think she’s in her early forties, if I remember correctly, and that’s very young.

And so we’ve corresponded. As Robert and I were working on this book, I wrote Colleen, and I said, “Could we share some of your story in this book?” 

She said, “By all means.” So, I got more familiar with it.

And then I was going to be in California, and I knew she lived out there. I contacted her, and I said, “I’d love to meet you personally.” And we got to spend an hour or two together, and what a doll she is. What a love! What a gem! I look at people like this and I say, “I would love to be that grace-filled, that compassionate, that caring, that others-centered.” She’s just very winsome.

And then you hear her story, and you realize some of the things that God has used in her life to bring her to that point—tons of health issues, prolonged singleness. She wasn’t married until later, and after giving up hope of marriage, God brought a man into her life. Then God gave her a child. That child has had severe physical issues—still does. So she’s dealing with her own health issues. She’s been battling cancer for the last couple of years. She’s written extensively about what God’s doing in her life and her family through that.

But she’s a woman who just has this perspective that is Godward. There’s been a lot of pain, a lot of tears, a lot of turmoil, a lot of moments when it would be so hard to trust that God really knows what He’s doing in this story He’s writing in her life.

And the trust she has in God now has been hard fought for. It didn’t just, like, you know, some people are just more spiritual than others. “That person can trust God, but I can’t.” No. She’s fought for this. She’s clawed for grace. She’s made conscious, hard decisions to trust God when her eyes were filled with tears and there was so much pain and many, many, many, many, many doctors’ appointments and tests and difficulty.

Well, when I saw her, there was reason to believe that things were going well. She’s been through a lot of cancer treatments and thought maybe she was coming to the end of this season, but there’s still tests. I got an email. (She has a group that she keeps updated with email updates, and I received one just this last week.) She tells about how it was not good news. It was not good reports. They don’t really know what’s going on, but it may be worse than they even thought.

Let me just read to you an excerpt out of that email, because I want you to get the sense of what it looks like to trust God to write your story when you’re in the midst of a story that makes no sense at all. She says:

These newest test results weren’t fun to hear. It was a heavy day for me, because I’m weary of bad news. 

And, by the way, that’s okay to say. You can be honest with God. We’re not talking about, “Oh, this is just like trust God to write my story. Isn’t this wonderful?” No! She’s saying, “This is hard.” She says, 

I’m weary of bad news. I’d love to know I’m on the mend and that I have the cancer-driving problem under control. [Which it appears now, they need to go back and figure out the whole thing.]

BUT what continues to tangibly encourage me is when I go running back to the Word and read really, really good news, and I’m reminded that this life is just the blink-of-an-eye, and not one day is promised any of us anyway, and an eternity of PURE JOY waits for us on the other side. Today I have life and breath, today I get another shot at doing work that matters and lasts—and that is a GIFT! 

This morning I spent time looking at Scriptures that talk about the Lord being “our portion.” Here’s some of what I found. Because the Lord is my portion: 

  • My future is SECURE, my present circumstances are GOOD, and I have a beautiful inheritance. (see Ps. 16:5)
  • It’s okay to be weak, to have my flesh and heart fail me at times. (see Ps. 73:26) 
  • I can cry to him and he’ll rescue me. (see Ps. 142:5) 
  • I can be content, even when I don’t have what others around me have. (see Deut. 10:9) 
  • I can put all my hope in him. (see Lam 3:24).” [A book of lament that points us to trust in God to write our story.]

Well, after that list, oh man, that encourages me. I often feel bad for writing and talking so much about cancer, when there are a thousand other worse evils and sorrows in the world. But the incredible thing to me is that whether our trials are big or small, public or private, we have HIM, and that is everything. He is our insanely good portion.

Christ’s suffering and resurrection healed us, freed us, gave us life. And now He takes our own sufferings and turns them for others’ healing, freedom, and life. That’s really good news—good enough to trump all the bad news.”

That’s a woman whose trusting God to write her story when it makes no human sense at all. But she gets up above this moment and this little, itty-bitty piece of space that she occupies. She lifts her eyes up, though they’re filled with tears, and says, “God, I choose to trust You. You are my portion. You are enough. If You never explain this to me this side of heaven, it’s okay. I’m going to let You do what You want to through this story. I’m going to let You work in others’ lives. I’m going to bear this. Yes, it’s hard, but, yes, You are good, and I trust You to write my story.”

As I’m challenging you to do throughout all this month and, Lord willing, for the rest of your life, I want to just encourage you to think right now about a piece or a part of your story or the story of someone you love that’s really hard right now. Are you thinking about it?

Would you just in your heart say to Him, “Lord, I don’t get all this. I don’t know what You’re doing. I don’t know where all this is going. I can’t see any possible way You could redeem this, but I trust You to write my story.” Period. 

It doesn’t make it easier. It doesn’t mean your circumstances are going to change. But in the process, you’re going to change, and you’re going to know Him, and you’re going to bring others to know Him in a way that might not otherwise have been possible. You can trust Him to write your story.

Dannah: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is inviting us to see our story as a part of God’s bigger story.

Now, I know you might be going through some tough situations, and I’m hoping you’ve been encouraged today. If you have, I’d love to read your story on your social media account. Be sure to use the #TrustGodToWriteYourStory when you share how you’ve been encouraged on social media. Let us know what of Nancy’s teaching today spoke specifically to you as you begin to trust God with your story.

Nancy and her husband Robert offer this same kind of encouragement in their brand-new book entitled, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. It’s available anywhere, but when you get it from Revive Our Hearts, it’s a really special way that you can both encourage us and help the ministry continue to bring you programs like this one.

So for a gift today in any amount, we’ll send you a copy of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story as our way of saying “thank you.” You can make that donation at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Next week we’ll hear from a woman who suffered from panic attacks for years because of a difficult family situation. Find out how my dear friend Erin Davis learned to trust God as He wrote her story. I’m Dannah Gresh, inviting you back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you embrace your place in God’s grand story. This podcast is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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