Revive Our Hearts Radio

The Process of Refinement

Leslie Basham: Here’s Yvonne Welch.

Yvonne Welch: God knows just how to get our attention. He knows just what to do to break this will that is inside of us. God was allowing me to go through a time where He was purifying me, where He was breaking me, and where He was truly refining me. We’re told as Christians we are going to be refined as gold.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, July 29. 

Here in July, we’ve been focusing on series about practical life issues. We’ll continue today, as Nancy gets us started.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I’m so glad you joined us for Revive Our Hearts today. It’s really a privilege this week to have two friends, one new and . . . well, Holly, I don’t want to say you’re an old friend because you’re not old. But you’ve been in my life for a long time. Holly Elliff—many of you know.

Holly Elliff: Long-time friend.

Nancy: Long-time friend. That’s the way to say it. Holly has joined us for a conversation with Yvonne Welch. Yvonne is a Bible teacher and speaker. Yvonne, I’m so grateful that you’ve been willing to take some time out to meet with us and share with our listeners.

Yvonne: Nancy, it is a blessing for me to be here. It’s really an honor and a privilege, so I thank you.

Nancy: You’re welcome. You’ve authored a study for women called Spiritual Rest in the Life of a Woman. That study grew out of your ministry that God has given you as a pastor’s wife to mothers, women, young women.

You had four little children at one time. Can you relate to this season of things just being stressed and crazy and busy? What was it like for you in those days?

Yvonne: I can remember that I would be so tired at the end of the day. I got so tired that Bob had to rush me to the hospital one night because I said, “Bob, I don’t know what’s happening, but I think I’m dying.”

So Bob rushed me to the hospital and the doctor looked at me and he said, “Your wife is acute chronically exhausted.” I said, “Yes I am.” I’d never heard that word before but at the time I thought it was only physical.

Then God began to show me that it was very much spiritual. One of the reasons that God has really given me a heart to encourage women and to teach women is because I was there. I can remember what it was like. I can remember what it was like to think, I don’t know if I can make it until lunch.

It got to be so intense that I actually did lose my health. I’m so grateful the Lord allowed me to go to a very godly doctor. That doctor looked at me and he said, “I can either give you all these antidepressants, or I can put you on the most vigorous exercise program you have ever seen.”

My husband said, “We will take the exercise.” In my heart I thought, I don’t know what I want.

Nancy: You probably didn’t feel like you could do vigorous exercise at that point if you were so exhausted.

Yvonne: I didn’t.

Nancy: I mean, that must have seemed like climbing . . .

Yvonne: . . . Mt. Everest. It did. I could barely run one block. Then the next day, I ran two blocks. Pretty soon the Lord helped me, and I was running one mile twice a day.

My little children, Mark and Lucy, were very little at the time. I would take them and put them in the sand area at the track at a high school in Birmingham, and I would run and I could watch them as they played in the sand. If it rained, I very slowly was able to build up to fifteen minutes of jumping rope three times a day.

Nancy, I’m so grateful for that. That was thirty years ago and I’m still doing it, because I feel that I don’t want to go there again.

Nancy: I assume it did start to help you feel better.

Yvonne: Oh, it was wonderful. In fact, my doctor said that if I would exercise every day, it would produce endorphins and that would help me to feel better. And he was right.

Nancy: So sometimes we deal with this whole anxiety and depression and stress level. Sometimes the answer, or at least part of it, is something very physical.

I’m thinking about Elijah, God’s prophet, after a great battle and a great victory. When he was just depleted, exhausted, God sent that angel to prepare a meal and to tell him to sleep. That can sometimes be the most practical and spiritual thing that a woman can do.

Yvonne: Oh, yes.

Holly: How soon, Yvonne, did you see some glimmer of hope, from the time you went into that doctor’s office and you were feeling depressed and fatigued and exhausted, until the point where you began to realize, “This is helping”? Was that a really long process? Was it almost immediate?

Yvonne: Holly, it was a very long process.

Nancy: No quick fixes.

Yvonne: No quick fixes, no. Probably after three years I began to get a little glimmer of hope. But I was running; I was walking. I was faithfully trying to exercise. But I’d just come home from the hospital with Lucy, our fourth child.

A very godly, older woman brought me a meal. I was so happy to see that meal. But she could tell. She could look at me and say, “You are hurting. This is more than just postpartum depression.”

And she was right. I really was hurting. I was depressed. She looked at me, and she said, “Yvonne, you really don’t know God.”

I remember thinking, I’ve been a Christian since I was nine years old. I walked down the aisle at the Second Baptist Church in Houston. I don’t understand.

She said, “No, you really don’t know God. I want to challenge you. I want to share with you a personal devotional that I have every day, and I want you to start doing it.”

Nancy: She said this to you?

Yvonne: Yes. And I started doing that.

She said, “I want you to take thirty minutes in the morning.”

I thought, How can I take thirty minutes with babies and children and being in the ministry? But I was desperate. I was so desperate.

So I began to do what she shared with me, and it changed my life.

Nancy: It’s like Spiritual ICU.

Yvonne: It was. It was.

She encouraged me to get a notebook and to write at the top of the page the word praise and put five things to praise God for. Then the word confess, five things to confess and then thanksgiving, five things to thank Him for. And then intercession, five things to intercede for someone else. And then supplication.

So she said, “What I want you to do is to take Psalms and I want you to be looking for five attributes of God every single day. I want you to write those attributes down. After you’ve found five, that’s as far as you read. Then the next day I want you to look for five more.”

Nancy, I’ve been doing that now for thirty years because I’ve seen God’s character as I have written it down under the outline of praise, that He is our rock, He is our fortress, He is our shield. He is my glory. He is the lifter up of my head.

Nancy: He is our sanity.

Yvonne: He is everything!

Nancy: You think about how crazy this world is and how out of control our lives can be or feel. It’s God who provides for that. That’s what the rock is. It’s a safe place, a secure place. I think if it weren’t for the Lord, we’d all be nuts.

Yvonne: We really would be. I know I would be.

Holly: So along with the physical issues that were going on in your life, as you began to get help in those, what really got you out of that pit was getting into God’s Word.

Yvonne: Oh yes, Holly.

Holly: And seeing Him for who He is.

Yvonne: Oh, yes. In fact, I found that when I would memorize Scripture, I didn’t hurt as much. So I began to write Scripture on index cards. I put them on my sink. I put them by my bed. I put them on my refrigerator. God’s Word began to very slowly heal my spirit because yes, I was depressed. But the root cause was spiritual.

So I began to memorize verses like 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (KJV).

It was as if God were saying, “Hang on, Yvonne. I’m not going to give you more than you can bear. I’m going to provide a way to escape. I’m going to provide a way for you to get strong again so you can take care of these four children, so you can minister to your husband.”

As I began to go through this personal devotional and I would write down all of these things, I would get down on my knees, and I would actually begin to praise God. We’re told that God inhabits the praises of His people, and we’re told in Isaiah to put on praise as a garment.

So as I began to praise God, as I began to confess so that I would be clean, and as I would thank Him for the depression (1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” NKJV) . . .

It was almost as if I could say, “Lord, I just want to thank You for that pile of dirty clothes. I don’t have the strength to wash those, to get the food together, the meals on the table, but, Lord, I want to thank You.”

It was almost as if, not that the problem would go away, but I would seem to have more strength. I would seem to be able to make it. It was during the darkest days of my depression that a dear friend sent me a poem. I didn’t know this poem was a song.

But I can remember being up with Lucy to nurse her at 2:00 a.m. in the morning, thinking, Lord, I’m not going to make it. I am physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally exhausted. In fact, I really don’t think I’m going to be able to make it to be a mother.

But this poem was written by Annie Flint Johnson and it goes like this:

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater. 
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase. 
When you’ve reached the end of your hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving has only begun.

I thought, That’s me. I have reached the end of my hoarded resources. There’s nothing left. It was as if I could hear Jesus saying, “Praise God. Now I can take over.”

When you’ve reached the end of your hoarded resources, our Father’s full giving has only begun.

Since that time, I’ve seen that it’s a beautiful song. My daughter Lucy made a calligraphy for me out of that that I have on my wall. There are going to be times in life when we think we have reached the end, and we don’t have any more strength. We can just say, “God’s going to take over.”

Nancy: That’s actually the place we have to get to in order to experience the fullness of God’s grace and God’s strength. As long as we think we can manage, we can handle it, we act as if we don’t need God. We always do need God.

But it’s when we come to the end of our own resources: that’s brokenness. That’s where God’s strength and grace take over. And that’s how God is glorified.

Yvonne: I know it. It was during that second year of my depression I heard a Bible teacher say that there are three kinds of sickness. There is a sickness unto death. Well, I knew that I wasn’t dying because the doctors had me running two or three miles a day.

There’s a sickness unto the glory of God. I thought, This is not very glorifying that I can barely function as a mother.

And then he said something that pierced my heart. He said, “There is a sickness unto chastisement.” I knew it was me. I knew that that’s exactly what God was doing.

In Isaiah 48:10 we are told, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.”

Nancy, I began to go through the furnace of affliction. I came home from hearing that Bible teacher and I got down on my knees and I said, “Lord, show me the sin that is in my life.”

God knows just how to get our attention and He knows just what to do to break this will that is inside of us. God was allowing me to go through a time where He was purifying me, where He was breaking me, and where He was truly refining me.

We’re told that, as Christians, we are going to be refined as gold.

Nancy: Yvonne, as you’re sharing, I’m thinking about a couple of passages of Scripture. One of them is a familiar one in the Old Testament, Psalm 32, where David describes what happened to him when he had sin in his life that he wasn’t willing to confess, to bring into the light. He says,

When I kept silent [about my sin, when I didn’t agree with God about it], my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. (vv. 3–4)

He really describes some of the characteristics of depression, just physical symptoms. It was God’s chastening hand on his life, not to punish him but to restore him. That’s what we read about in Hebrews chapter 12, that classic passage on the discipline of God. It’s says if you’re a child of God, expect that God as a loving heavenly Father will discipline you. Why? Hebrews 12:10 says that God disciplines us for our good:

  • that we may share His holiness
  • that it may purify us
  • that it may refine us

He’s not trying to beat us down. He’s not trying to destroy us. He’s trying to restore us.

And then verse 11, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant.” That’s what you’ve been describing—this painful consequence of your own choices inflicted by a loving, wise heavenly Father.

You say, “Why would God put painful discipline into the lives of His children?” Well, verse 11 says, “Later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

So the question is not, Will we be disciplined, but Will we receive the discipline that God brings into our lives?

You really began through this process to turn your heart to the Lord and to say, “Lord, what is it that You’re wanting to show me? What is it You’re wanting to teach me?”

Not so much Why is this happening to me? but, What are You saying to me through this?

Yvonne: Oh that’s exactly right, Nancy.

Nancy: I think, Yvonne, you have painted a picture out of your own life where so many of our listeners are today. You have thrown out a lifeline as you’ve shared how God walked you through this process.

You’ve said it wasn’t a quick fix. You didn’t just pop some pills or have somebody zap you or a magic formula and it all went away. It was a long process. It’s been a hard process.

Thirty years later you’re still having to make choices that keep your head lifted up. Yet God has delivered you. And the things that you have shared so practically out of the physical realm and the whole area of your personal relationship with God and His Word are exactly what some of our listeners need today.

I think you have just spoken words that will give . . .

Holly: . . . exactly what we need today.

Nancy: It’s exactly what I need every day. And we do. We’re in a different season of life now. Both of your children are a little older. Yvonne, yours are grown and out of the house. But you’re in a different season of life. You need in your season; I need in my season, and Holly, in your season, we can’t make it without God’s grace.

Those choices physically in terms of our time with the Lord, that’s really what does make all the difference.

But I want to say to someone who is in that black pit right now and you can barely get up off the couch to put on your sneakers, there is hope. It may be just taking a step, getting a friend who will bring that meal, who will say, “Do you really know God? Where are your tennis shoes?” That’s what the Body of Christ is for.

I have people like that in my life who have come around me and lifted me up when I couldn’t lift my own head up. But ultimately they point us to Christ. They get us to His Word.

I’m thinking of that verse in the Psalms that says, “He sent his word and healed them.” We have seen that happen in our own lives over and over again.

I want to encourage you, take a step, just a step. Realize you’re not going to get out of that pit overnight. You didn’t get there overnight. But take a step.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss talking with Holly Elliff and Yvonne Welch about despair and hope. They’re not finished and will be right back.

Today’s conversation is part of a series called, “Healing from Bitterness.”  To order a copy on CD, or to download a free mp3, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

As Nancy’s talked with countless women over the years, it’s clear that one of the main sources of bitterness is unforgiveness. She describes this further in her book, Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom.

But Nancy doesn’t just describe the problem. She shows you a way out of bitterness. She’ll take you to Scripture on forgiveness, help you understand why forgiveness is such a huge deal, and will walk you through a process of forgiving those who have wronged you.

Don’t let bitterness continue. We’d like to help you find freedom but sending you a copy of Choosing Forgiveness when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

Ask for the book when you call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow Yvonne Welch will describe how easy it is for a wife and mom who’s always serving to become bitter. She’ll explain why that bitterness is so dangerous. Now let’s get back to Yvonne, Holly, and Nancy.

Nancy: Yvonne, I so appreciate your honesty and the simplicity, and yet how profound it is what God has shown you and done in your life. I wonder if you would just lead us. In fact, I’d like us to join hands around this table, Holly and Yvonne and myself. Yvonne, would you lead us in praying for one or more listeners who may be right now where you were with those four little ones and just pray that God would be the lifter of their head? We’ll join our hearts with you in asking God to bring hope and help and grace to that one who has come to the end of her hoarded resources. Let’s pray.

Yvonne: Heavenly Father, we just want to come right now and we want to lift up anyone who is hurting. I know that there are women who are going through what I went through thirty years ago.

Lord, I just pray that You would give them hope. I pray, Father, that You would give them the ability to get up and to take that first step. And, Lord, I pray that You would encourage them and that You would show them, first of all:

  • Is there any sin in my life that would be causing this?

Second of all,

  • Do I really know God?
  • Do I really trust Him?
  • Do I really believe that He is my Rock and my Shield and my Fortress?

Oh Father, I pray that You would give them a heart and a desire to go pick up their Bible, to open it up and to begin looking in Psalms for Your attributes.

Father, how I thank You for the many times when You have strengthened my heart, You have encouraged me in the times when I didn’t think I could lift up my head. Yet as I went to Your Word, You did it.

And so Father, we pray that if there is someone listening today who is hurting, who has totally lost their joy, I would pray that You would give them hope. Lord, I just know that there is hope in You. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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