Revive Our Hearts Radio

Lessons Learned in the Dark

Leslie Basham: Here’s Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: You know what I’ve learned as a true woman who navigates in the darkness of faith and blindness? It doesn’t have to be well with your circumstances for it to be well with your soul. We don’t wait for our circumstances to change so that we can experience a level of contentment in our faith, we ask God to change us in the midst of those circumstances.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, May 24.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Sometimes you receive news that you just weren’t prepared to hear. I’m sure you know what that’s like, so does my friend, Jennifer Rothschild. When she was a teenager, she received news that changed her life forever.

Jennifer was one of the speakers at the True Woman conference that took place this past March in Chattanooga. God used her message in such a significant way in the lives of the listeners. In fact, as I sat on the front row and listened to Jennifer, I found that many of the things she said were used by the Spirit to penetrate and pierce my own heart. It was almost as if you could hear a pin drop in that huge auditorium the whole time that she was speaking.

When she was finished, there was an extended time of seeking the Lord that was one of the highlights of the whole weekend. Those of us who attended that conference are still benefiting from the experience and have been given a new passion to become God’s true women as a result of what Jennifer shared, as well as the other speakers.

Speaking of the True Woman conferences, I just want to remind you that we have coming up this fall two more opportunities to attend a True Woman Conference. We’ll be in Indianapolis in September and in Ft. Worth in October.

That may seem like a long way off, but I want to encourage you to make plans now to be at one of those conferences. Remember, between now and June 25, we have a Spring Sale for groups that register for the True Woman Conference. We encourage you to go to ReviveOurHearts.com to get more information about that special group pricing.

Now the message we are about to hear is an example of the impacting messages you’ll hear at those True Woman conferences this fall. So before Jennifer shares, let me just pray and ask God to speak to our hearts during these next moments.

Lord, I thank you for this sister, Jennifer Rothschild, and how you’ve worked in her life, and how the beauty of Christ is radiated and reflected through her as a result of her responses to the circumstances you have brought in her life.

Lord, we have a lot of listeners here today who have difficult and painful circumstances. We need Your perspective in these hard things in life. So I pray that over these next moments that You would open our hears, open our hearts, and help us to hear what You would have to say and to respond in a way that is worthy of You. I pray that You would minister hope and encouragement and grace to many listener today who find themselves in difficult circumstances. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Now, here’s Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer: It was the late 70s, and I was a teenage girl. I was 15, and I had gotten my first diary. I would write down everything in my diary that mattered to me, and you know when you’re 15, a lot of things matter. I would write down what I wore to school and what I wanted to be when I grew up and if a boy talked to me. In the margins of my diary I would doodle, because I loved art. I loved to draw.

In fact, I wanted to be an artist. In fact, I had a little bit of a degree of talent because I was asked by my class to represent us on field day as the artist. So I got a brand new white bed sheet, and I took it to school this particular morning. A friend of mine and I unwrapped it and unfurled it upon the brightly lit gymnasium floor. As I began to sketch in the middle of this sheet, I noticed that the sheet was dirty. There were little patches of gray up toward the top left-hand corner. Of course, I was bothered by this, and I went to wipe it away, but I couldn’t seem to get the dust off the sheet.

The more I really focused on the detail of what I was drawing, the more I noticed it over toward the right side of the bed sheet. It appeared that someone had taken a Sharpie and jammed it, leaving dark, black spots. Well, of course I tried to clear those off, but they remained.

I remember saying to my girlfriend, “I don’t get this. We just unpackaged this sheet. It should not be dirty. This should be bright, clean white.” To which my friend said, “Jennifer, I don’t know what you’re talking about. This sheet is completely white.”

That was the first time I had a hint that something was wrong with my eyes. It wasn’t long after that my mom and I were going to visit a friend who lived in an upstairs apartment. As she and I walked up the stairs, I was stumbling. My mom stopped mid-stride and asked, “Jennifer, what’s wrong? Can you not see those stairs?” My response: “What do you mean, Mom? You can?”

Well, it didn’t take long until I was at the eye doctor, and then an eye hospital in Miami, Florida. After several days of testing at this eye hospital, the doctors had my folks and me sit down in a conference room where they began to explain what they had discovered.

I had a disease in both of my retinas called Retinitis Pigmentosa. I’d had it for several years but just hadn’t really been able to detect that it was present. But within a few months as a 15-year old, it became so rapidly active that I was declared legally blind.

What it meant was that a significant portion of my retina had already deteriorated, but moreover, the prognosis of the disease was that the entirety, the remainder of my retinas would deteriorate until I was declared totally blind. That’s just not what I expected to hear that day.

Blindness is one of those words like cancer, like divorce, like autism, like bankruptcy that we just don’t ever expect to hear, and we certainly don’t expect it to become our word—the kind of word that invades our ideal picture of what faith is supposed to be, the kind of word that falls deep to the bottom of your soul, and it scrapes everything on the way down that you once anticipated gave you security and made sense. It left me silent. My folks were silent also.

We got in the car, and we began to ride home. It was about a 45-minute drive. We lived in Miami, Florida at the time. That’s where the hospital was. On the way home my daddy didn’t speak as he gripped that steering wheel. I know he was praying. I know he was also trying to figure out how this could be fixed. My mother sat to his right.

I remember sitting in the backseat and feeling my fingertips and wondering, “Am I going to have to read Braille, and, more importantly, are boys going to want to date me? Am I going to get married? How am I going to go to college?” I had lots more questions than answers.

We finally got home, and I went into our living room where our old upright piano sat. We’d had that piano since I was eight years old. My mother bought it at a garage sale. I’d had piano lessons for several years, on again, off again, so my skill level reflected it. On this day when we came in from that silent ride, the silence was finally broken as I began to play the piano.

On this day, of course, I could no longer see to read any of the music I once read—even though it had been only in the key of C or D that I could really play. Those are the musicians who are laughing. (laughter) I did not on that day play a song I had once memorized, but instead I began to play a song I never played before, and the song that flowed from my heart through my fingers filled my living room is the same song that still fills my darkness today with a hope and a truthfulness, because it was that old beloved Protestant hymn that says, “It is well with my soul.”

You know what I have learned as a true woman who navigates in the darkness of faith and blindness? It doesn’t have to be well with your circumstances for it to be well with your soul. We don’t wait for our circumstances to change so that we can experience a level of contentment in our faith. We ask God to change us in the midst of those circumstances.

People have asked me over the years: “Do you pray for healing?” To be quite honest with you, I don’t. Now there are days that are really dark and really bad where I will just cry out to God, “Please, take it away!” But as a matter of my own prayers and spiritual disciplines, I don’t ask God for healing because I trust Him to do it. I know He’s capable, and I want to rest in His sovereignty.

You know what I really need more than healing? I need contentment. Because if I don’t learn contentment in the midst of these circumstances, then if by the mercy of God He delivers me from it, I will be grumpy about something else.

There are women in this room who are not redeeming the difficulty God has allowed in your life because you assume you’ll be content when your circumstance changes. But my sisters, true contentment only comes in the midst of the difficult circumstance because God makes it well with your soul, not always your circumstance.

I went back to high school. Because there were such radical changes in my eyes, you can imagine it called for some real adjustments. So my folks took me out of my very large public high school in Miami and put me in a smaller Christian school in Miami, Florida. Word got around real quickly in this school that the new girl couldn’t see. Well, that meant that the new girl became very popular to be asked on dates because these boys knew I couldn’t see how ugly they were. (laughter) It was true. I couldn’t see my face; I couldn’t see their faces. There were a lot of adjustments that came during that time.

For me, one of the most difficult was this recognition that what I longed for I would probably never have. It wasn’t just becoming an artist, though that was a deep disappointment, what I really longed for was independence, an ability to drive a car, to make my own decisions, to look in the mirror and decide if I liked the color that I was wearing that day. Suddenly, independence on every level was being stripped away, consequently creating an insatiable thirst for independence. I figured the only way to quench it would be to go off to college.

By this time I was a senior in high school, and I had decided that would do it. So I was going to go an hour and a half north of my home to Palm Beach Atlantic University. That was 90 miles north. You know, close enough to be close, far enough to be far. So that summer after I graduated from high school, I got trained to walk with a white cane. So I had a sense of mobility and a little bit of confidence, and I even learned how to navigate those busy streets in West Palm Beach. I was feeling real good about it.

It was 1982. That meant that my mother and I went shopping for the rainbow comforter, the rainbow soap dish, the rainbow shower curtain, the rainbow wall hangings, the rainbow dust ruffles, the rainbow towels. Everything was rainbows in 1982 for my dorm room. I was ready to go. I bought all my Espadrilles—do you remember 1982? All my Chino pants and my Oxford shirts. I thought I was so happening and ready. So on August 15 th I was to be a freshman on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic.

I thought it was the best idea ever until August 14. About 3 o’clock in the afternoon it hit me: “I’m about to go off to college, and I don’t know anybody. Who’s going to help me?” I remember calling my mom out into the front yard and crying and negotiating and lamenting. “Mom, I can’t do this. I don’t know what I was thinking! I can’t go to college! Who’s going to tell me what food is on my plate? Who’s going to help me know I ironed wrinkles out of my pants rather than into them? How am I really going to know if it’s safe to cross that street in the middle of the campus? How am I really going to know?” I was terrified.

My mom, who wiped away her own tears, said, “Jennifer, you have to go to college. You chose to go to college. You have prepared to go to college, and you’ve got to go, but you only have to go to college for two weeks. If you can’t handle it, your daddy and I will come pick you up, and you can keep the rainbow comforter.”

Now that was quite an arrangement. We put all thirteen of my Espadrilles in the trunk of the Ford Fairmont, and we drove 90 miles north. I remember hugging my mom in the parking lot of Northwood Dorm. We tearfully parted ways. I flipped out my cane with just enough attitude to get through fourteen days, no more, no less.

Well, within the first fourteen days of being a freshman on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic, I met this guy. (laughter) He was in the cafeteria line, and he was like no other guy I had ever met. Now, because it was 1982, he had bushy, kinky, blonde hair. He had the most charismatic personality and his voice smiled. I’m telling you, I liked everything about this guy.

I remember calling my mom within the first fourteen days and saying, “Oh Mom, I’ve met this guy named Phillip Rothschild. Please, don’t ever make me come home from college again!” (laughter) and that’s the gentleman you saw walk me on stage.

Now here’s the deal, ladies: For some of you in this room, it’s August 14, and some of you are looking at your future, and you’re thinking, “What was I thinking? I can’t deal with all of this truth. This is a little much for me. When I look into my future, it’s uncertain. When I open my family photo album, the pictures aren’t so attractive. I’m not sure this is something I really can do.”

So much of the reason we hover in the front yard of our life, and it’s always August 14, is because we are so dominated by our feelings.

I was terrified. Fear is a legitimate emotion. You should pay attention to it, but you should allow it to become for you an intuitive detective that holds the hand of God and walks you to the place of truth. You don’t assume that fear is your destination. Fear is your tour guide that takes you to the place of truth so you can discern whether it is a godly, appropriate fear or not. When we are women who really want to walk with God, that means we truly walk by faith, not feelings.

Some of us are hovering right now on August 14 and saying, “Oh, what if? What if I really do trust God more than my feelings? What if?” or, “What if I really do try to really trust God and follow His Word and my husband doesn’t take it well? What if? What if?”

Some of you are so dominated by fear that it’s like this: “What if I don’t get the spinach cleaned, and my family gets E. coli? What if my husband loses his job? What if my baby never recovers?”

“What if” is the language of fear and speculation. We as women who want to truly follow God and walk by faith, we don’t speak “What if.” We speak “What is.”

Here’s what is: God who called you is faithful.

The same God in the book of Isaiah chapter 45 who said, “I will give you treasures in darkness,” is the same God who is speaking to you. It may be August 14, and you may be looking ahead of you. You may be seeing nothing but darkness and uncertainty, but He is the God who will give you treasures in darkness, riches that are stored and hidden in those secret places, but you may never receive them if you choose to cling to that which is known and certain, if you hover in the front yard of your life and you always let it be August 14, saying, “What if? What if?”

Be women who says, “Here’s what it is: God is faithful, and I trust Him more than I trust my feelings.”

Nancy: That’s Jennifer Rothschild from the True Woman conference in Chattanooga talking about what I think is one of the most vital principles of the whole Christian life. Reminding ourselves, counseling our hearts that God is faithful, and I can trust Him more than can I trust my feelings.

After Jennifer spoke, I sensed God wanted to do something special in the lives of the women in that room. So we took time, an old-fashioned, Old Testament Selah to stop, to think, to meditate, to ponder this. We just stopped and took time to seek the Lord. Many of the women came to the front of the auditorium and we made an alter out of that area in front of the platform.

Others went to a place we had set aside as the prayer room. Some were praying alone, some were praying with partners, some in small groups. It was a holy moment. I think all of us, including Jennifer, recognized that God was doing something special in that moment.

Jennifer: The responsiveness of the women was so refreshing because it really was a response that acknowledged that women truly were seeking God—not just seeking deliverance from difficult situations, not just seeking things from God, but really seeking God.

Some of that response was measured in the amount of tears that they cried. But really, what I believed the response was, was a surrender—just saying, “Yes, Lord. I want to be who You want me to be, and I can’t be that woman unless You are full and alive and present within me.”

Nancy: A woman named Marion was at the True Woman Conference. She shared how Jennifer’s message really stood out to her.

Marion: I would see the women with a cast on their feet, women in wheel chairs, like myself, and then—I don’t want to get emotional. But the blind woman that spoke is a blessing. God allows whatever we go through. For you to get up and tell somebody else what He did because somebody thinks, “I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I have this wrong with me and that wrong with me.” Follow God, because God brought you through everything He did for a purpose. He has something for you to do. That just really touched me. I just love it.

Nancy: That’s just one of many lives that were touched in such a profound way at the True Woman conference in Chattanooga. I know God is going to do a deep work in many more lives at the True Woman Conferences coming to Indianapolis in September and to Ft. Worth in October.

As you can imagine, a conference like True Woman requires a huge amount of financial investment. When I see lives that are impacted in such a deep way as a result of these conferences, I know that the investment is worthwhile. At the same time, I’m also aware of the pressures these conferences are putting on our budget. We’ve tried to keep the conference registrations as low as we could so as many women as possible could participate. That means that the registrations are not covering all the costs related to the conferences. And that’s at a time when we’ve seen a decline in donations. As a result, and as I’ve been sharing with you over the last few weeks, we’re facing a serious budget shortfall as we near the end of our fiscal year, one week from today, May 31.

I just want you to know how very thankful I am for each one who has had any part in helping to meet this need. I want to let you know by way of update that we still need to hear from many more listeners over this next week as we are still far short of the $350,000 that we need to be able to close this fiscal year in the black.

If you’ve been thinking about sending a gift during this crucial time, would you contact us today and let us know what God has put on your heart? And remember, if you’ve never before given a financial gift to Revive Our Hearts, through the rest of this month we have a special matching challenge that will match dollar for dollar every gift from a new donor. As of the most recent figures that I’ve seen, we still have about $75,000 left of that matching challenge.

So if God has used this ministry to touch your heart in a significant way, would you consider sending a special gift to help meet these current needs and enable us to meet this full matching challenge? Whether you’ve given before, or if this is your first gift to Revive Our Hearts, we’d like to send our newest book, Voices of the True Woman Movement to say thanks when you send your donation. To send your gift, just contact us 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow, we’ll hear part two of the message from Jennifer Rothschild. Please be back, for Revive Our Hearts!

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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