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Hope is the First Dose | Dr. Lee Warren

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman
The Truth Network Radio
December 16, 2023 1:00 am

Hope is the First Dose | Dr. Lee Warren

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman

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December 16, 2023 1:00 am

At some point in your life, you will face "the massive thing." You might be going through a life-altering loss or change right now. On this Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, award-winning author and brain surgeon, Dr. Lee Warren will talk about the massive thing he faced in the loss of his son. Hear his roadmap to finding hope when the worst happens on Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman.

Featured resource: Hope Is the First Dose: A Treatment Plan for Recovering from Trauma, Tragedy, and Other Massive Things

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As time goes by, you'll find more and more traction.

Just pay attention to those little nudges of your spirit that says, hey, it's time to move a little bit. And that's when these bigger ideas, these treatment plans, and self-brain surgery and all those things will start being helpful to you. Welcome to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Today, a brain surgeon with 20 years of experience offers a prescription for hope after a catastrophic life event. His name is Dr. Lee Warren. He's an award-winning author, a neurosurgeon, and a rock board veteran. He's seen a lot of patients who have looked to him for hope. But the story he's going to tell today, the main story, is an experience that he went through which was the darkest night of the soul that you can go through, I think. A featured resource is the book Hope is the First Dose, a treatment plan for recovering from trauma, tragedy, and other massive things. We'll hear more about that as we go along.

Find out more at Gary, you've gone through some hard life events, and you've walked through some difficult times with families at your church, right? Oh, you're right, Chris. No question about it. Things with my wife and her cancer experience, you know, 12 years ago was a really traumatic time. But fortunately for us, you know, she came through that and always been grateful for that. But yeah, my office has been filled with stories of pain and trauma and hurt and disappointment and all of those things through the years. So I'm very excited about our conversation today, and I know that our listeners are going to find this to be helpful.

Yeah, especially this time of year when some of these events will come back to us as you head, you know, between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So let me introduce Dr. Lee Warren. He is a retired major of the United States Air Force, an Iraq war veteran who performed more than 200 brain and spine surgeries. He's an award winning author of the book I've Seen the End of You. He holds two U.S. patents for minimally invasive surgical equipment and is the inventor of numerous high impact medication devices. You've got to know that before we talk with him. He and his wife, Lisa, have four adult children, four grandchildren.

They live in Nebraska. And our featured resource again is Hope is the First Dose. You can find out more at Well, Dr. Warren, welcome to Building Relationships. Thanks, Gary. It's so good to be with you and good to be with you again, Chris. Well, first, I want to thank you for your service to our country. You know, sometimes we take for granted those men and women who serve in the military. So I want to thank you for that. Can you say a few words about why you got interested in neurosurgery and decided to serve in the Air Force?

Yeah. So I was one of those kids that for whatever reason, I just knew my whole life I wanted to be a doctor. My parents said they never said anything else other than being a doctor.

But I grew up in a really small town in Oklahoma, Gary. And I always thought I was going to become a family practice doctor and go back to a small town like the one I'd grown up in. But as it turns out, God had other plans for me. And during my third year of medical school, my son Mitchell decided to be born. He kind of wrecked my schedule and they allowed me to change my schedule so I could take a little time off when Mitch was born. And I ended up having to take a rotation in neurosurgery, which was never on my radar. And after just a day or two on the neurosurgery service, man, there were computers and lasers and brain surgery.

And it was just the coolest thing. And I found my calling because of a schedule change that came about because of my son, Mitch. And I had grown up around airplanes. Both my parents were private pilots.

And I just always loved flying and all of that kind of thing. So when I got time to figure out how I was going to pay for medical school, I found out about the Air Force Scholarship. And I applied for it and was blessed to receive a full scholarship from the U.S. Air Force. So I went to med school. You paid for it. So thank you for the taxpayers. Well, I'm glad that worked out. Now, if you were to share one story from your time in Iraq, what would it be?

Oh, wow. It'd be hard to pick one. But I think the one that stays with me the most is we had a gentleman who was brought in by American Medics. Most people probably don't know this, but the coalition medical forces, if there was a battle or a bomb went off or anything, we would pick up everybody. Even the enemy got brought to our hospital. So we operated on the, quote, unquote, good guys and the bad guys.

And we provided the same care for the insurgents that were setting off the bombs as we did for the military members and civilians who were injured by them. And so there was a gentleman who was brought in who was said by the security forces to have been the guy who set this bomb off. And it was amazing to see how everybody taking care of him was sort of almost afraid of him and, you know, just sort of at first, kind of almost begrudgingly taking care of this guy because he was the one who killed all these American servicemen. And as we did our jobs and we took care of him, a few days later, some other soldiers showed up who had been on the scene and they basically said, you all got the wrong guy.

This man was just standing there. He was innocent. And it was amazing to see how everybody's attitudes changed towards this person because we had the right story attached to him.

And after that, this is really early in my deployment. And after that, it was amazing how everybody just made this decision. Hey, we don't know the whole story of anybody. And our job is to just take care of people. And that just really transformed the whole deployment is that we no longer had this burden that we thought we needed to know whether somebody was good or bad. And it just kind of reminded me of how Jesus takes care of all of us, even though we don't deserve it. So that that kind of was one of the memories that sticks out the most. Wow. That's a huge lesson to be learned in life. Wow.

Because we don't know, even in non-critical situations, we don't know behind the scenes. Well, your new book is Hope is the First Dose. And in it, you describe what you call the TMT or the massive thing. What is the massive thing? Well, I use that terminology because the subtitle is trauma, tragedy and other massive things. So I said that because we all talk about trauma.

It's easy to understand trauma. It's the car wreck. It's the accident.

It's the injury. Sometimes it's something that happens to you or that sort of thing. And tragedy, we can understand is the hurricane, the tornado, the innocent victim kind of thing. But we also have this whole group of things that happen to many of us in our lives that are less easy to define. These emotional wounds that happen to us, the death of a dream or the loss of a relationship or things that aren't necessarily classified as traumas or tragedies.

But they're equally massive. And so I wanted to give space to the people who are hurting out there with a less traditional definition of their problem. And so for us, you know, we we lost a son in 2013. I'm sure we'll talk about that. And it was it was the most devastating thing that ever happened to us. And it was something that happened to a member of our family.

And it was just it was massive. I couldn't find another way to describe it. So I so I just use that as the title to just try to cover all the different ways that humans can feel pain. Yeah.

Yeah. Before we talk about the massive thing in your life and hear that story, I mean, I really want to hear that. What are some of the ways that people handle massive things which they encounter in life?

You know, it's interesting. I've been studying this my whole career, you know, as a neurosurgeon, I interact with people at their worst moments. I'm the guy that tells them they have fatal brain cancer, that their child didn't make it after they hit their head or, you know, I'm the guy delivering that news all the time. And it occurred to me at some point during my career that, you know, hopelessness is really deadlier than cancer.

So one of my jobs is to help people find a way to land on some ability to move forward and find hope no matter what they're facing. And so I started studying the ways that people handle these issues. And I've noticed that there's kind of four different ways that I think most people are a blend of these things. But there are sort of four different categories.

I describe them in the book with graphs and pictures. But there's these people that seem to be almost untouchable, right, that they have their faith figured out. They know who they are.

They've made their decisions about what they believe. And when something hard happens, it's almost like it doesn't faze them. They just sort of plow through it and they set a good example for everybody. And I'm not one of those people, by the way, but you see them.

And then the polar opposite is the group that I call crashers in the book. And these are the people that would say that they have a faith or they're strong or they're happy or whatever. And then something hard happens and it just wipes them out. And, Gary, the thing I've noticed about these folks is that they crash emotionally. And even if they survive their illness, some of these people never make it back to anything that would look like a life again, a happiness or hopefulness again. And, you know, this person is the one that lost their wife 30 years ago or something bad happened to him 30 years ago.

And if you see him on the street today, that's still what they're going to talk about. They're still just identified by this thing that happened to them. And so they're crashers. And then there's the I think most of us are what I would call dippers. Something hard happens and it wipes us out for a while. We're shaking our fist at God. We're not sure what we believe anymore. And somehow we land on something that holds, the bottom holds, and we find our feet and we find our faith and we sort of make it back to some new state that's different but still meaningful.

And that's probably most of us. I call them dippers in the book. And the most surprising group, I had a patient named Joey who I call him a climber. Joey was this down and out kid who his mom died at birth and his dad was a criminal and never was around, abandoned him, and he was a drug addict.

And I met Joey when he was sort of got in a fight with the drug enforcement agent at a crack house that he was running and got hit in the head with a club and had a skull fracture. I had to do emergency surgery on him. And in the course of that surgery discovered that Joey had a brain tumor that had not been previously diagnosed. And so when I told him after surgery, hey, you've got brain cancer, he sort of shrugged his shoulders and kind of said, well, of course, you know, why wouldn't I have brain cancer?

Everything else in my life is terrible. And so he had this bad life. But over the course of the year in which his cancer was raging and he ended up dying, he found a chaplain befriended him and showed him about Jesus and he reconnected with his family. He just sort of came alive and found hope in the last year of his life. And shortly before he died, Joey told me this is the best year ever.

Like I've had the best year of my whole life. And so he found that adversity for him kind of opened the door for him to come alive for the very first time. And so I just saw this this host of different ways that people respond to trauma and tragedy and tried to sort out what separates them from each other. Yeah, I'm sure that many of our listeners, some will identify with one of those and some with another.

But I think you've tapped into what seems to me to be also some common ways that people respond. This is Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . For more ways to strengthen your relationships or to take a brief online quiz to determine your love language, go to our Web site, You can also find our featured resource there. Hope is the first dose, a treatment plan for recovering from trauma, tragedy and other massive things. It's written by our guest, Dr. Lee Warren.

Find out more at Well, Dr. Warren, take us back to 2013 and the phone call that you received. You alluded to this earlier.

Yeah. So we're you know, we're living our life and we have Lisa and I lived in Auburn, Alabama at the time. And two of our kids were students were had been students at Auburn and we've made that made our life there. And our youngest daughter was still living at home with us.

And then my phone rings on a Tuesday night and I look down and answer the phone. And it's my ex-wife and she's hysterical and tells me that our son, Mitch, has been stabbed to death. Turns out that he and his best friend, they were both 19.

His boys had been best friends for many years. And police found them both in this house, both stabbed to death, three bloody knives in the house. And Gary, we never really got the story of what actually happened.

There was a lot of speculation. Was it a third party? Was it a murder, suicide?

Was it what? And the police never gave us a satisfactory answer. And so we were given this devastating, you know, horrible event in our lives.

And it was made worse by the fact that we don't really know what happened. Wow. Wow. Were you in a state of shock? I mean, I can hardly imagine getting that kind of news.

Absolutely. We were in a state of shock and we, you know, we lived about an hour away from where he was when he died in another small town close to Auburn. And so we gathered up Kaylin and called Kimber, our middle daughter, who also lived in Auburn, was going to school there. And Lisa's parents and we all drove over there and we're standing outside the house where these boys were. The police wouldn't let us go in, of course. And it just was this slowly evolving nightmare that you kept thinking they were going to walk out and say it was all a mistake.

You know, that sort of disbelief that you feel. Was he a student at the time? He had actually he had taken a break from school and he was working. And so that's why he was in the next town over there. He was kind of had some times where he wanted to flex his independence. And we'd argued about that. And, you know, he he was kind of one of these kids that wanted to kind of do things his own way for a little while. And he had just sort of started to figure it all out.

In fact, the day before he died, this was one of the things I struggle with God about is the day before Mitch died. He had called me and said, Dad, I want to come home. I'm ready to go back to school. You know, you were right.

I shouldn't have stepped out of school. And I love you. We had this great conversation for about an hour. Last thing I heard my son say was, I love you. And the last thing he heard me say was that I loved him.

And then 24 hours later, he was dead. Wow. Well, I'm sure the fact that he did call and did say that was some comfort.

I would think, you know, that you heard his heart, you know, at that time. Yeah. That's been a blessing to have that memory. Yeah. Wow.

Wow. Well, as you talk about this now, it's been more than 10 years now. Is it different now that you've had time to process it or where's it stand now?

What's it like now? Yeah. You know, it is different. And I think honestly, from a neuroscience standpoint, there's a real crossroads that you come to. And we understand now from brain imaging what happens in the cingulate gyrus and all that when you get stuck in complex grief. But there are people who get stuck in that place and it becomes kind of the only thing they can revolve around. And then there are other people, most people find their way through it. And what happens is if you find your way through it like we have, it has evolved over time to where it's this weird simultaneously worst moment in our lives. And at the same time, we've seen the way that God has been faithful and he's kept promises and he's made good things come of it. And so we've found meaning and purpose in our lives despite losing Mitch and in some ways because of losing Mitch that are, like I said, it's just complex. And anybody that's been through something like that will be able to articulate that there are ways in which their life has grown. And I know that I'm a better person now and I'm helping people in a different way than I could before.

But at the same time, if you could snap your fingers and have them back, you would do it in a heartbeat. I would think that when it's someone as young as that, it's more difficult than to accept a tragic death of someone who's further along in life's journey. Yes.

Yeah. I've talked to lots of bereaved parents now, you know, shortly after I lost Mitch is when I started writing and blogging and that led to podcasting and all the stuff that I do now. And that has put me around and Lisa and I around hundreds of other bereaved parents. And I had all these assumptions, you know, I thought, well, it'd be easier if your kid had cancer and you knew that it was coming. It'd be easier.

Turns out it's not. It's harder in those people in some ways. It'd be easier if we understood exactly what happened. But then when you have when you meet parents who know exactly what happened to their child, it's not easier. So I think that old saying about how grief expands like a gas to fill up the container that it's in. That means grief is different for everybody and we all suffer together, but we grieve alone.

Yeah. There's a story that you tell in the book, Lee, about getting a phone call. And this is in the middle of the grief when you've just said, I'm out of here, I'm not going to I can't I can't work, I can't do anything. And there was a doctor who just wanted to consult with you.

Can you talk about that? We owned our own business, Gary, and had 10 employees. And, you know, after a few weeks, it became apparent that we were either going to have to close our practice and let all our employees go or we were going to have to go back to work. And we saw a kid at home and mortgage to pay. And so we just had to go back to work. So I made a decision that I was going to go back and see patients, but not perform surgery for a while. And in that very first week of going back to the office, I received a phone call from the emergency department of our hospital about a little boy who had been hurt on the playground at school and had a brain hemorrhage and agreed to look at the scan to give some advice. And as soon as I saw the scan, I knew this child was not going to survive long enough for us to fly him to Birmingham or Atlanta. And I was the only neurosurgeon in Auburn, so I had to decide that I was going to go back to take care of this kid or he was going to die. And I just, Lisa and I talked about it for a minute. And although I didn't think I had it in me, at the same time, I couldn't let this boy die and have another set of parents go through what we had just gone through.

So I went and took care of him. So we can function even in the midst of processing our grief to some degree, right? Yeah.

You alluded to this earlier. You say in the book that cancer is not the deadliest thing that can happen to a person. So what is the deadliest thing that can happen? I think it's hopelessness. Like I said, if you lose hope, you just get stuck in this misery and hopelessness. And it can almost become, as my friend the chaplain said, like your grief or your massive thing or whatever it is that happens to you, if you lose hope, it can become like an idol, like bigger than God. It can become something that's so big that you can't see a possibility of even God being able to help you with it. And so hopelessness turns out to be the single deadliest thing that can happen to you because at that point it doesn't matter what your disease or what the situation does. You're still not going to recover unless you can find a way towards hope.

Yeah, yeah. That makes sense. What are some of the physical and psychological damages of hopelessness? Well, I think it's really clear.

I can just give you my example. In my own body when I'm grieving, when I was suffering after losing Mitch for a while and I was in that early place where you don't think it's ever going to be okay again. I woke up and my molars were cracked. I broke all the teeth in my mouth. I developed shingles. I developed gray hair overnight.

I went to bed blonde headed and woke up mostly gray hair one day. And just physiologically my body was breaking down and I felt like that guy in Lamentations that talks about how God is grinding him to dust, breaking his bones and grinding him to dust. We also know that it creates tremendous neurotransmitter problems in your brain and so hopelessness creates an avenue that easily becomes crippling anxiety or depression or stuck in grief states. And so physiologically also you can have hypertension.

You can develop hormonal issues and imbalances and it can promote illness and reduce immunity. So hopelessness really hurts you all over your body. You say in the book that you can't change your life until you change your mind.

Unpack that for us. Well, it's an almost tongue-in-cheek thing that I teach people on my podcast that we call self brain surgery. But the reason it's not tongue-in-cheek is we know from the Bible, for example, Romans 12.2, if you want to stop conforming and being anxious all the time to what the world wants you to think about, you have to transform your mind.

And the Bible says that plainly. Philippians 4 is about you want to stop being so anxious, be more grateful and think about better things. So it's clear that what you think about makes your life better. But now we can put somebody in a functional MRI scanner, for example, and we can ask you to think about something negative and we can see what happens to the blood flow and neurotransmitter state in your brain.

And then we can ask you to think about something happy, some good memory that you have, and we can watch that stuff change in real time. The things you think about turn genes on and off in your brain. They influence the transcription of proteins. They influence the levels of neurotransmitters and the production of hormones.

And that influences how cells get produced or reproduced in your body. Thoughts become things, we say. So if you really want to learn how to change your life when you go through something hard, you have to do what Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, when he says you have to take your thoughts captive. You have about 40,000 negative thoughts a day.

It's been measured in five to one. They're not true. Feelings and thoughts aren't necessarily true, but they come with such a commanding voice because it sounds like your voice that you think they are true. And so if you can't learn how to think about what you think about, then you're always reacting to those negative thoughts. And if most of them are false, then you're spending most of your life reacting to something that's never true. And that can't lead you to a good place. So I had to learn, for example, we had to get our thinking under control.

And I'll give you a good example of that, Gary. I teach something called the bad thought biopsy just because I'm a brain surgeon. So if I want to know what something is, if I see a spot on your scan, I want to know what it is, I put a needle in it and take a piece of it and look at it under the microscope. So I can identify what it is before I decide that you need chemotherapy or brain surgery or whatever you might need, right? If I told you we're just going to go to surgery every time you told me you had a headache, then you'd think I was crazy.

So we have to look at the tissue. And if you do that with your thinking, sometimes you'll find that the thought is negative and when it is, and it's false, and you need to discard that false negative thought and replace it with a true one. But the tricky thing, and I think this is a work of the enemy, sometimes it's psychology and sometimes it's spiritual warfare, but sometimes you have a thought that is true. And for the bereaved parent, you'll have a thought like, well, I've lost a child, I won't ever be able to be happy again, or I'm not a good parent. And you'll have those kinds of thoughts. But then you'll say, wait a minute, that is not true that I'm not a good parent because I've been a good parent to my other kids. And then you can react, instead of reacting to that false thought, you can react to the true thought that you are a good parent who's lost a child, right? But then sometimes you'll have a thought that is true. Like, I've lost a child and I'm always going to be sad about that. And that's true.

I'll always be sad about losing Mitch. But then what happens is they throw that sneaky second thought in there. Like, well, since I can't be happy again, then I might as well just drink until I can't feel anything. And that's not true.

Right? So you have to watch out for that follow-on negative thought and react to the true ones and replace the false ones. And that's how you can change your mind and change your life. The turning to drugs and alcohol during the midst of that is pretty common, right?

It's very common. And the problem is, and it doesn't have to be substances, it can be eating or television or Instagram or, you know, anything. But we use things to numb ourselves from what we're feeling, to stop feeling the things that we're feeling. And the problem is we wake up the next day and we still have those things to think about. And now we've got other problems because of the numbing behaviors that we've done or the ignoring things that needed to be dealt with. And we have this what we call the tomorrow tax.

Like you wake up tomorrow and you got to pay a tax on what you did yesterday and you still have the same problem. And so numbing is a bad choice because you can't feel anything else when you're numb either. You can't selectively numb part of the problem and the rest of your life is okay. You can't. You just end up numbing your whole life.

Then your quality of life becomes defined by which numbing agent you choose instead of the opportunity you have to move forward. Thanks for joining us today for Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. You can find us online at We have some great resources, a list of seminar locations coming up for Dr. Chapman. You can hear a podcast of the program and find our featured resource, Dr. Lee Warren's book, Hope is the First Dose.

Just go to Dr. Warren, I want to know about the way that you grieved and was it any different with other members of your family, the folks that you love and you care about and who loved Mitch too? And how did you navigate that in the family?

Yeah. That's an interesting question and I think it's important to note and really for people that are listening, if you're going through something hard like this, no two people grieve in the same way or on the same timeline. And I think especially with married people, we have this role that we play of trying to be a comforter for our loved one and for your children too. And so you try to buck up under it and make sure you be there for them when you can tell that they're having a hard time. And so we almost have to go in these cycles of, you know, I'm having a hard time and she's going to be strong right now. And it seems like we sort of play off each other and try to help each other. So you have to notice that people have grieving schedules that they're going to go through that are different than yours. And so I think it's a human nature thing that, you know, somebody that outside of your family will say weird things like, oh, that happened a year ago. You haven't moved past that yet.

You're not okay yet. They've got some kind of clock that happens when you're supposed to be groovy. And we have to be really careful not to do that with our loved ones because everybody's on a different timetable. And I think as an aside, I think it's almost unfortunate that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's work has been applied so broadly across anybody who's hurting over anything. Because, you know, everybody knows the five stages of grief and they're all taught that in school and it's all over the Internet. But Kubler-Ross's research was very specifically looking at people who had received news that they were dying, right, that they had terminal cancer. And it was specifically studying how people react to the news that they have a terminal illness.

And it was never, she never intended it for a general model of how people grieve over any type of trauma or stress. And so you'll find if you lose a child or you go through something massive like this, you're not going to proceed through denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance or depression and acceptance in an orderly way. It's going to look more like a labyrinth and you're going to go back and forth. And some days you'll be really angry and some days you'll be sort of okay and the next day you'll be denying it again.

Like it just, you're going to move back and forth. And I think we tend to want it to be orderly when other people are experiencing it. And so we tend to sort of say, wow, you haven't moved through that yet?

You should be further along. And we just have to be really cognizant of the fact that we suffer together, but we grieve alone. In my counseling, I've often had husbands who say to wives, you know, when they both experienced some trauma in their life, you got to get over this now.

You got to get over this now. And he's probably not over it either. He's found a different way of kind of coping with it and he feels like he's further along than she is. And so he's preaching to her. But it's empathy and allowing people to grieve in their way, right?

That's right. You say there's a single predictor of people's ability to withstand hardship. What is that predictor? Yeah, I think after all the research I've done and all the experience that I have now, both observing other people's problems in my own. I think the thing that separates those four types of people that we talk about the most, I think it's how tightly coupled we have between circumstance and our emotional state. In other words, the people who define whether they're happy or hopeful based on who they're married to, how long they live, what their financial situation is. If they tie their emotional sort of fortitude to a set of circumstances that they could potentially lose, then they're in great danger because you will lose those things.

And that's what I've noticed. There is going to be a massive thing for you. You are going to go through something hard. And so the more tightly coupled emotion and circumstances are in your life, the more danger you're in of becoming hopeless when you lose some of those things that you thought you needed to have. And the other sort of corollary to that is if you tie your emotional state to a set of circumstances, then you almost always find that when you achieve the thing that you thought you needed to be happy, the target will change and something else will become necessary for you to be happy. And you can see this in people who achieve some great thing or famous people or celebrities or athletes.

When they finally get to that place that they thought they were going to be happy in, now they need to win one more award or become the MVP or something else needs to happen or they can't maintain that happiness or that peace of mind. And so I think circumstance is the real bugaboo here if you tie your joy or your hope to something that cannot be taken from you. And of course Christians have a whole different definition of hope. Our hope is not for something, it's in someone. And so I think that's the secret for me.

That's what I think I've noticed the most. Yeah, which brings to my mind that Christians really have a tremendous asset when they're going through trauma as opposed to people who don't have a relationship with God, right? That's right, absolutely. And I think it's important and we ought to say it. Christians have a, well not just Christians, but lots of people when they go through something hard they'll say, well I don't believe in a God who would allow this to happen or I don't understand how a good God could let my son die.

They say things like that. But it's very important that we put good theology on our suffering because we can't hold God responsible for a promise he never made, Gary. And the promises God did make, if you look at Jesus, he said two things. John 16, 33, in this world you're going to have trouble.

But take heart, I've overcome the world. John 10, 10, he says, hey there's a thief and that thief is going to come to steal and kill and destroy your life, but I've come to give you an abundant life. And he says that in the midst of the story, right? He didn't say I've come to zap you up and beam you out of this world and make everything go your way.

He didn't say that. He says I'm going to come down in your story with you and help you manage it in a way that you can have hope and real joy and real peace in the midst of that difficulty. And then I'm taking care of the rest of it on the back end. And so I think that's the important piece. We shouldn't apply bad theology to our suffering. And that also plays into things that people say to you when your child dies and people come along and say, well, I guess God needed another angel.

Yeah, things like that. He doesn't make angels out of people, folks, that's bad theology. Yeah, that's so true. But I think there's a lot of people who have the sense that if you're a Christian, you won't have problems.

God won't let those big things happen to you. And that's just false for the reasons you just stated. Now, there are some patients you describe in the book, Lucky Chuck and Tina. What lessons did you learn from your patients?

Well, I told those two stories to illustrate kind of two sides of the same coin. Tina Tisdale was a woman who had a brain tumor, unfortunately not a cancerous brain tumor. And she had it removed successfully and was cured of her disease. But she developed a pretty common pain syndrome called post-craniotomy syndrome, where people that have certain types of brain surgery, they have sort of a headache and their incision kind of hurts.

And they always have a little reminder of pain that they used to have a brain tumor. And she was convinced in her mind, Gary, that she had a brain tumor growing back because she could feel something in her head. And she could not believe that she was cured, even though multiple doctors and multiple scans showed her, there is no more tumor in your head. And that belief that she should be pain-free and that that lack of being pain-free meant that she still had a tumor drove her so desperately to her knees that she ended up taking her own life. She just could not accept the idea that you could be free of disease and still have pain. She couldn't believe it. And so she ended up killing herself.

She couldn't even look at the scan and let me show it to her with her eyes. Her belief was so powerful that she ended up committing suicide. And Lucky Chuck was this guy whose wife had died of cancer a few years before.

And she told him something that turned out to be important while she was sick. But while they did the biopsy and they hadn't had the results yet, she said, hey, Chuck, you decide now, before we get these test results, you decide who God is to you. You decide what he means. You hang on to his promises because if I'm getting sicker and dying, you don't need to be worrying about whether God's real or not then. You need to be able to rely on him then.

So you make these decisions now before the hard time hits. And when he later developed brain cancer, which is when I met him, he had already covered all that ground. He knew exactly who God was.

He knew exactly what the promises were. And he made a decision. He had this fatal brain tumor. He didn't want to go through chemotherapy and radiation and all that painful stuff. He just wanted to go home. So he made this informed decision that he was going to just let God take him home. He didn't undergo all the treatment and he ended up passing away from his brain cancer. But he never wavered in his faith because he knew who he was. He knew where he was going and he knew what God who God was to him. And so he had something really wrong but he didn't let it destroy his quality of life because he had hope in Christ.

And Tina had nothing really wrong and she let it ruin her life because she couldn't believe that you could have pain and purpose in the same life. Yeah. Powerful illustrations. I have to ask you, Dr. Warren, we haven't covered this yet. You titled it Hope is the First Dose.

Why did you choose that title? Well, you know, I try to give you a brain surgeon metaphor type treatment plan for what you do when life hurts. And we kind of walk through the ways in which my medical practice parallels a good plan for what to do with these massive things. But the reason I called it Hope is the First Dose is if you come to my office and you've got a brain tumor or something wrong with your back, I can give you the best plan.

I can say, hey, you know, Gary, Chris, here's the plan. I can if you just come to the hospital, I've got the team ready. We've got the operating room ready and we've got the plan that will put you back on your feet and we're going to take good care of you. But the morning of surgery, if you wake up and you say, you know what, I don't think those doctors can help me. I really don't think I'm going to go down to that hospital.

You can't get the treatment plan unless you have enough hope in the efficacy of that plan to put yourself in the car and go down to the hospital and sign the consent form and get surgery. Right. So hope turns out to be the first dose. Like hope is the reason that you can get yourself in the hospital and let the great physician take care of you. You know where I see that most, Gary, with you is phone calls here about marriages. We're over, we're done. I have no hope. You experienced that with couples, right?

Yeah, absolutely. Because many times they're in the office and are on the phone who tell me, we just don't have any hope. You know, we're too different. It's not going to work.

And they lay out all those things, you know. And I've sometimes said, you know, if I have real empathy for them and kind of see where they're coming from, I say, you know, I can understand how you might feel that way. So why don't you go on my hope? I have hope for you.

I remember the pain I felt in my marriage in the times I thought there was no hope too. So, you know, which is really a basic way of trying to help them go on my hope for a little while until they can get hope, you know. But hope really is a choice, right? I mean, it's not an emotion. It's a choice. Absolutely. And you can create it. You can create it by learning how you take a look at what people in the Bible did, for example, when they were hopeless. And you can find a way to do it yourself all the time.

Yeah. We know that there's a lot of counselors out there and there are people that specialize in trauma counseling. So how does therapy fit into the treatment plan? I think therapy is a crucial piece because we can't always, in fact, many of us can't ever put everything together in a way that makes sense when we're talking to ourselves because we're not always a faithful witness for ourselves.

We don't always have the tools to be objective enough about our own lives. So I think a good therapist, especially one that's biblically grounded, I think can help us break down and understand. For example, the trauma is not the event that happens to you, right? It's what happens inside you in response to that event. And so then you can learn, well, if it's not the event that happened because I can't change that, it's the responses. Then I can learn to analyze those responses and change them and I can develop healthier responses.

Then I can really find hope again and move forward. So I think the role for the therapist there is crucial to help us to break down those internal stories and those voices that we hear and the patterns of behavior that we've developed and protected. And the therapist is a really crucial part of that plan.

Yeah. I think that is the role of the therapist is to help just walk with you through that thing and begin to help see other perspectives. Is it possible for someone, I think here's a question that a lot of Christians would ask. Is it possible for someone who's experienced deep trauma to also experience the abundant life that Jesus talks about having? Is it possible? Absolutely.

It's absolutely possible. Now, I would just I would refer the listener to the Book of Lamentations, which doesn't sound very helpful. But in the Book of Lamentations gives us a perfect example of that. You've got this horrible situation in the first two chapters of cities been ransacked and the people have been drug off to Babylon. Kings been killed and all these terrible things are happening.

Women are starving in the street. Babies are starting to death. And then the writer in the third chapter, in the middle of the problem, not after the problem has happened, but in the middle of it, he finds a way towards hope by remembering what God has done in the past. He goes back in memory and says, wait a minute, I'm not the first person this has ever happened to. God's come through for other people before. He's come through for me before.

I've got to this point in my life and I'm alive. So good things that God has been able to do good things out of bad things in the past. And therefore, there's a reasonable basis for hope that he'll do it again. And he goes through this thing, even gets to the point where he says, I've lost all hope. And then in the next breath, he says, but in this, I take hope. And then he recounts all those things. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercy has never come to an end.

All that stuff. And he builds a case for why it's reasonable to take hope. And so then he starts moving forward as if those promises are true because he knows they have been in the past for other people. And that's how he's able to find himself hopeful again, even though the story isn't over yet. And I think in a New Testament theological concept, we have the same idea when Paul says, you know, forget what's behind strain towards what's ahead.

God's got a plan for you and he's going to help you change your mind. And it's not you never need to give up. It's always hope is always just around the corners.

How Romans 12, 12 is translated in the voice. I love that. Hope's always just around the corner.

Yeah, around the corner. Yeah, that's great. I want to go back to your family because you experienced this as a family. How did you help your family working through the shared grief and trauma that all of you were having? Yeah, you know, the first thing I think was Lisa and I had, I think it was a blessing that Kaylin, our youngest, was still in high school.

She was a junior. And I think we had this pressure to know that we had to move to help her. We had to get moving again to help her not get stuck. And so we had this tangible person in our house who was looking to us, literally saying, what am I going to do today?

How am I going to make it through this? And so that put the point on the problem where we couldn't just wallow in our misery because we had her right in front of us that was depending on us. So the first thing is we just loved on her and tried to make sure that we helped her as much as we could to get back on her feet. And then for me, we had other three kids were scattered around the country. And I felt like I'm this guy who communicates best through writing. So I started emailing all of them as a bunch every day, something hopeful. I just said, I'm going to find some way to encourage my family today. And so Lisa and I would scour things and find scriptures and just we started emailing and the kids started forwarding that stuff. And before long, that turned into a newsletter and blog and all this stuff that I do today. But it started with this this burden that I had to say, I believe God has promises for us that are still valid, even though we've lost a child. And I need to share that with my kids so they don't lose hope, too. And so for me, it was just this daily sort of interaction with the kids that made me I knew that they weren't going to get up in the morning and decide to lead me. They were looking to me to lead them. And so Lisa and I did that.

And I'm just grateful that Caitlin was still at home with us. I think sometimes families don't talk, you know, don't communicate through this. You know, they just kind of let everybody handle it on their own and feeling like if we don't talk about it, if we talk about it, it'll make it worse. But that's not true, is it? Communication is important.

Yeah. If someone's listening to us now who has their massive thing, that's the term we've been using, massive thing happens and they're going through it now. What would you say to them as we close our program today? I think the first thing is so you've been hearing us talk about treatment plans and moving forward and all that. But just like I tell my trauma patients in the E.R., like if you really get hurt and you're bleeding, like the day of the injury is not the time to be implementing a complex treatment plan.

The day of the injury, if this is happening now, if you're in the middle of that massive thing now, just put some pressure on it to stop the bleeding and get some people around you who are going to comfort you. Find you something that's encouraging, some scripture, some words or some books or some podcast or something when you're ready to just start feeding yourself something hopeful. But don't think that you've got to recover and you'll get in therapy and sign up for support group and all that the day it happens. You're not going to be ready for that.

It'll let the acute phase of the injury settle down a little bit. But there's going to come a time in some period of time, it'll be different for everyone when you know it's time to start moving forward in your life again. You just feel it. You feel like I got to get moving or I'm going to get stuck here. And if you do that, if you feel that, then it's time to start moving.

And that might look different for everybody. For us, there was a day when we said, you know, we really ought to get out of bed today and put our pants on and go check the mail. It was little things like that.

There were some days when that's all we had the juice to do. As time goes by, you'll find more and more traction. And if you put good people around you, that's why I think community and church and things like that are so important. You put some good people around you, people who love you and are going to say, hey, you know, maybe we ought to take a walk today.

Maybe let's go get some lunch. You know, you start moving and moving creates energy. Energy creates optimism, I think, and optimism can create hope.

Just pay attention to those little nudges of your spirit that says, hey, it's time to move a little bit. And that's when these bigger ideas, these treatment plans and self brain surgery and all those things will start being helpful to you. Well, Dr. Warren, I want to thank you for being with us today and thank you for writing this book. I hope you're listening not just for yourself, but you're listening for others that are in your circle of influence. And this book can be an extremely helpful tool, I believe, to help people who are going through trauma.

So let me encourage you to get a copy for yourself, but also think in terms of other people that you might want to give a copy of this to. But again, thank you, Dr. Warren, for being with us and sharing your own experience, as well as what you have learned through the years in terms of responding to very difficult things in life. Thank you, Gary. It's a real pleasure to be with you. Thanks so much.

And thanks, Chris and Andrea, too. Dr. Lee Warren's book is at our website. You can find it at It's titled Hope is the First Dose, a treatment plan for recovering from trauma, tragedy and other massive things.

Just go to And next week, just two days before Christmas, we'll celebrate the reason for great joy. God with us. Please join us in one week. A big thank you today to our production team, Steve Wick and Janice Backing. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in Chicago in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute. Thanks for listening.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-16 03:23:02 / 2023-12-16 03:43:36 / 21

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