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Trusting God in Adversity

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
April 22, 2020 9:00 pm

Trusting God in Adversity

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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April 22, 2020 9:00 pm

FamilyLife COO Chris Herndon and his wife, Mary, remember God's goodness as they reflect on Mary's diagnosis of a brain tumor in 2017. Almost a year later, their son, Charlie, was diagnosed with MRSA, a type of staph infection that is untreatable by many types of antibiotics. After 23 days in the hospital and with his condition worsening, Charlie was transported to a children's hospital in Cincinnati where he spent another 30 days. By God's grace there was a breakthrough, and his recovery is now documented in medical journals.

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Jesus has promised us that in this world we will experience tribulation, sorrow, suffering. Mary Herndon says most of us have areas of life where we think it would be unfair for God to visit us with sorrow or suffering. I think in life we have things, you know, like we are willing, Lord, we would go to Africa and serve for you. We'll go to ministry, we'll raise support, we'll do whatever.

But I think if we're honest with ourselves, we all have an untouchable list. Like, no, not my child, not that Lord. You can do anything else, we'll go anywhere you want us to go, but not my child, not my marriage, not my grandchild. And so I think there were things, I felt like God was just prying my fingers loose of the things that were heaviest on my heart that are heavy on His too. He cares about the same things we do.

And sometimes the things that we grip the tightest are the very places He wants to get in there and work. This is Family Life Today. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.

I'm Bob Lapine. You'll find us online at What do we do when suffering that is unexpected visits us, when something that was on our untouchable list is all of a sudden being touched? We'll hear today how one couple has learned to deal with that and drawn closer to God in the process. Stay with us. And welcome to Family Life Today.

Thanks for joining us. I don't think many of us realize when we get married that there are going to be detours that are going to come our way, times of sorrow and suffering, that will hit us unexpectedly. And most of us are probably not fully prepared for the detours when they come. Yeah, we say for better, for worse. And honestly, even when I got married and now as a pastor doing weddings, I don't think very many couples think there will be much of the worst. I don't think they want to think about it because it's scary to think what the worst could be.

Well, and you're hopeful. It's your wedding day and you see the glory ahead and there is glory ahead, but there's also going to be challenge ahead. And in fact, we're going to meet a couple today who are a part of Family Life staff. Chris and Mary Herndon speak at our Weekend to Remember Marriage getaways. Chris serves as the chief operating officer for Family Life and gives leadership to a lot of what we do here. They're a great couple and they've been on a little bit of a detour journey recently.

They wrote about this in a devotional book that Family Life released recently called The Story of Us, where it's a 52-chapter devotional, so a devotional week for couples to go through. And they're not the only authors. Oh, you're in there? It isn't just the story of Herndons.

That's right. You guys are in there. I've written in there. So we've got people from our speaker team, from our staff. You can find out more about that devotional on our website at But you were there when I sat down with Chris and Mary at a small gathering recently and asked them to share a little of their story and the journey God's had them on. You guys have experienced, you've been on a little bit of a journey over the last couple of years that was an unexpected journey for you. And it began with you having some headaches, right? Yeah, I was just sitting in Bible study and had some weird vision things. I really just thought it was blood sugar and didn't think much of it.

And over the next couple of weeks, it would happen multiple times. And so finally, you know, between Chris and my and our daughter, they like go get it checked out and the physician was like, yeah, I think it could be like a mini stroke. You know, some other things going on and wanted us to get an MRI.

And we're thinking in the next few weeks. And he was like, no, tonight. And so the MRI showed that ball, golf ball size tumor. It was a brain tumor in this the center of my head, right on my brain stem.

And so like, yeah. Do you remember when they called and said, or I guess they brought you in the office and said, let me show you the MRI. It was like we were in the hospital that night.

They sent us to the heart hospital because the doctor said you can get in and out quicker there than anywhere else. So we did had a CT scan and it was clean. And the physician said, you know, I'd really like to do an MRI because sometimes it'll pick up stuff that a CT can't. And so we come back and he said, Hey, I want to show you something on the screen post MRI. And I just remember looking at the screen and just being dumbfounded.

Like, I can't believe what I'm looking at. So they would not let us go home. The conversation was, do we allow you to drive your wife to the hospital to the other hospital or through an ambulance?

And yeah. So you're immediately in a whole new world with there's a, there's something in your brain. You're going to have to have brain surgery that that puts you on a journey to try to figure out what's the best process.

You want to go to MD Anderson in Houston for diagnosis and for treatment. What were they telling you? Did you have a sense of whether this was benign or malignant? What did you know? They had a very strong sense that it was benign, that it was an acoustic neuroma, which it was.

So we're very grateful for that. The difficulty was it's its location, as Mary just said. It's it's almost like if you draw a line between your two years and I mean, it's like in right in the middle, very difficult to get to. And surgery would be extremely difficult and very long.

And it was about 13 hours. And the risk associated with the surgery is related to your hearing. So they said that my tumor was tangled in three nerves. So it would be the nerve that controls your face, your hearing nerve and your balance nerve. And so to get it out, they knew there's no way to get it out without damaging some of those. And so they damaged my hearing nerves. I lost all the hearing on one side and it's completely gone, which is good because there's no noise. Yeah. And you're right.

Yeah. And they had completely snipped my balance nerve on that side. My face was fine. Just talk about the fear. I don't feel like as we went into it, I don't remember that feeling like that God was preparing me, that this was going to be the end for me. And I remember I went to lunch once with Barbara Rainey and she was like, you know, OK, I know what you're telling everybody else.

What was the real story? And I think when you go into a difficult surgery, sometimes you think, OK, what's the worst that could happen here? And I remember the feeling, you know, as a believer, if you wake up in the arms of Jesus, that's not a bad thing. It kind of stinks for your family.

But personally, that's not bad. If things go well, that's awesome, too. I think with brain surgery, you think the worst case scenario would be if I wake up and I'm not me again and I'm not able to be a mom or a wife in the same way that I was before.

And you don't want to be a burden to your family. And so that would have been the worst case scenario for me. What about you in terms of fear? Yeah, I think I would align with that thinking.

But I would think of our middle daughter in prom and if she were ever to get married that her mom wouldn't be with her. And it's amazing where your mind goes in 13 hours. But his presence was always there.

No doubt. We had the experience when Marianne had her tumor. I've always looked at people in situations like this and go, where does that strength come from? Thinking when you're not in the moment, you think, I don't know that I'd have it. And I realized that if you're not in the moment, you don't need it. But in the moment, God provides it. And so you can be outside the moment thinking, I don't know that I'd be that strong. But in the moment, you're that strong because God floods you with grace. In your weakness, his strength is perfected. So living now with a disability, do you find it challenging? Do you find yourself going, God, why this?

Why is this my life? I mean, I don't challenge it. I mean, I think you just have to laugh. It still holds my earring.

You know, my ear is still there. You know, we just laugh about it. You know, I think especially in the Western world, when difficulty comes your way, we sometimes have the tendency to just want it to go away as quickly as possible with no fallout. And I think from the very beginning, God just pressed upon our life, I mean, on our hearts that our lives are not our own and that he really can be trusted. And, you know, we went into it with the prayer, like, Lord, brain tumors are too hard. So help us to walk the journey well. Don't waste our tumor and help us to be a blessing in other people's lives and shape our character through this in some way. And so that was our prayer.

And we do work in that story to some degree at the weekends, remember? And it's almost every event a man or woman would come up and go, I have the exact same tumor. And they're walking in it, and Mary has the opportunity to encourage very uniquely. We've talked before, when our kids were still at home, we talked about the fact that you kind of grit your teeth in saying this, but I said to Mary Ann at one point, it would be easier for me if you were suffering with something than if one of our kids was suffering with something. I think that's just because we know we're grown-ups, we're adults, and we know we can tough it out. But when your kids are going through it, it's a tougher deal.

You had that experience happen then a year after you had had your surgery. So tell everybody what happened with your son. Yeah, we picked Charlie up. He was gone for a week-long camp in Arkansas, and we picked him up on Saturday morning and had about an hour and a half drive back to home in Little Rock. And he just fell asleep in the car, which for him is not necessarily completely unusual. We just probably thought he didn't have sleep or eating poorly that week. And Saturday to Thursday, he would always run a fever in the afternoons, and we'd give him an Advil, and it would break, and he would get back to normal. Well, Thursday, Mary took him to his primary and said, it's probably a virus that will run its course in a few days, but by Sunday, if he's still running a fever, call me.

And he was, and we did. And the doctor said, take him to Children's Hospital, let him just admit him, check him out, make sure everything's okay, and run a barrage of tests. And about two days later, they had determined that he had developed MRSA bacteria and that it had just settled in the middle of his liver. MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant form of staph, and it's bad news.

No idea where it came from. He had a tooth pulled in May in preparation for braces. He had two teeth, and one of them did get infected.

We called his dentist, and she gave him, I think, moxicillin, something very simple, and two days later, it was gone. So we really didn't think about it, but if we had to guess, that's something they made up. But there's no way to know for sure. So he's in Children's, they're diagnosed with MRSA, it's antibiotic-resistant, so they didn't know what to do. They didn't, and we watched our son go from a healthy kid to, I mean, right now he's 140 pounds. He ended up getting down to like 92 in a feeding tube, and his fevers would get to the point where you'd give him medicine for fever instead of going down, it'd go up. And so his vitals were tanking, and they were doing everything they needed to do, and it wasn't working, and we knew that it was going to be a serious deal. And what we learned in that first week was there were, I believe, 15 reported cases of someone with MRSA in the liver.

He was the 15th one. The other 14th were already severely compromised with leukemia or some other really life-threatening illness, and you're right. I mean, Children's Hospital, it's a great hospital, but they were really clueless.

They did not know a course of treatment, and every day he was just getting worse and worse. And man, as a parent, you feel helpless, and you're right, Bob. That comparison of a spouse and your kid, it is different. Talk about the day you came to work. It sounds so stupid that I went to work, but Mary is a mom.

She refused to leave Charlie and would spend the night in the hospital every night. We still did have a daughter, and she was a senior at the time, so I would go and stay until 10 o'clock at night, and then I would go home. Typically, the doctors would round about 9 o'clock in the morning.

I'm a morning person, so I would go into the office, and I would work for an hour and a half, and then try to be at the hospital every morning, and then gauge what the day would unfold, whether I would just stay and help continue to support, or if it was kind of a holding pattern day, I would go back to the office. That morning, I backed into the parking lot at 7, maybe 45. Our program, Family Life Today, is 730 to 8, and this was July 18th. It was 10 days after we figured out what was going on with Charlie, and he had atrophied tremendously, but that was the first day that Ron and Nan were sharing about their story. And their story is the loss of their son, Connor, who at age 12 died from a MRSA infection, from a staph infection. Yeah, and we knew this.

Yeah, and we knew the story very intimately. And their sharing that on day 10 is, unfortunately, when they lost Connor. And I'm sitting in the car, I'm listening to this program, and about 745 when they say that, I just had this question hit me, like, what are you doing? Why are you getting ready to go into work? And it just dawned on me again that this is day 10 for Charlie. So I cranked my car going to the hospital, and it was a tough day. It's just one of those days, I think we have them all, where it's a mental snapshot in your mind of your life.

You can go back to certain days as a kid or whatever, and you can see it in color. Like, you know it. You can smell it. I mean, it's just one of those days.

That was one for me. And in the afternoon, we're with Charlie, just having a conversation, and he just says to me, like, I don't think I'm ever going to leave this room. And I knew I should have brought a hand towel. But, you know, your first reaction is, you know, he's complaining because he's in the hospital.

Who wouldn't? Ten days lying in the bed. You can't get up. He's miserable. He's throwing up all the time. He can't keep food down.

He's got a feeding tube. But when I looked at him, what he meant was, like, this is it. So at 10 o'clock, I'm driving home, and I just lose it. And Brian, yesterday morning, shared a question that Jesus asked his disciples. It's the exact same question Jesus asked me on that 20-minute drive home. When I'm doubting, when I'm angry, I feel helpless.

Chris, who do you say I am? And there was a deep stake in my faith that night that Jesus just drove a little bit deeper for me. So that was day 10.

On day 23, he continued to digress. The decision was made that he needed to be airlifted to Cincinnati. And then one of the toughest things in my life I've ever had to do was watch the door close, and me get back in the ambulance to go back to the hospital, where our car was.

And then our middle daughter and I got in the car the next morning, and we drove the 10 hours to Cincinnati to join them. But he spent another 30 days in Cincinnati. The good news is there was a breakthrough. There was. I mean, I think just because there was no one else like him, there was no protocol of how to treat him. So when you have a surgery, sometimes they give you all the things that could go wrong. And for us, it was a blank sheet of paper because they didn't know what it would be.

And he was taking the strongest antibiotics, five or six of them at the highest doses, and nothing was working. And so, I mean, as a mom, I think you reach the point where you're like, we knew Nan and Ron. We knew the risks.

And so I think you have to process these things on difficult levels. And, you know, my moment, you know, it was my Abraham and Isaac moment of just, you know, you know that control is an illusion and you have absolutely no control here. And I remember wrestling with God and, you know, I felt like he was asking me, do you believe that I love Charlie as much as you do?

And if I chose to take him home, would you still think I'm good? And I think in life we have things, you know, like we are willing, Lord, we would go to Africa and serve for you. We will go to ministry. We will raise support. We will do whatever. But I think if we are honest with ourselves, we all have an untouchable list. Like, no, not my child, not that Lord.

You can do anything else. We will go anywhere you want us to go, but not my child, not my marriage, not my grandchild. And so I think there are things that I felt like God was just prying my fingers loose of the things that were heaviest on my heart that are heavy on his too. He cares about the same things we do. And sometimes the things that we grip the tightest are the very places he wants to get in there and work if we will just give him access. And so, you know, we know, like God doesn't love us or our child anymore than the child across the hall whose story was going to end differently. And so we had to get to the point, you know, like, Lord, if Charlie got to go be with Jesus, that's great for him.

It would be something I probably would never get over as a mom, but I have to trust that you are good and you have a plan. We were all in Little Rock praying for you guys and hearing reports, well, they're going to try this. No, that didn't work. They're going to try this.

No, that didn't work. I mean, this was kind of the, well, they're going to now try this. What was the breakthrough medically? What did they do? There was some resident in Cincinnati who had read a study about something in China that, you know, had never been done before.

There wasn't, you know, nobody knew. He would be put under every Monday and Thursday. They put drains directly into his liver and would inject vancomycin into his liver, shut it off, hold it for several hours and let it out at the end of the day. And so he was put under anesthesia two times a week for a couple of weeks and his fever finally broke. It was like the first time in like, I think, 60 days there had been no fever. And so, yeah, it was, it worked.

Like he's now in medical journals, his story of how, they did write that up. Yeah. Because that had never been done before. Yeah. Yeah. Because the vancomycin and the cocktails they were giving him in his PICC line weren't touching it. Yeah. Any liver damage?

Any issues? I mean, there is a small scar from where the tubes were placed, but that's his new normal. But his liver is functioning normally now. Yeah. I mean, I think the biggest for him, his immune system's taking a hit. We have to work to get that built back up.

Yeah. You know, he had strep throat this year and you give him antibiotics and it really doesn't touch it. You give him some to some of those and it'll just take a while for those things to work again. So we just be careful. I need to teach him to wash his hands a lot more. As you think about what you've been through, your health issues, Charlie's health issues, and the mission that God has called you to, to effectively develop godly marriages and families, to change the world one home at a time, how has what you've gone through affected your thinking about the mission that we're a part of?

I mean, I think it, family is the Trojan horse. I was recently with a group of women and we went around as our, our last day together and we're like, what is your prayer request? As you know, God puts you on my heart. How can I pray for you? And every single person in the room, it was, here's what's going on in our marriage.

This is where I am with my children. It was all prayer requests about the family. And so there's a tender spot in the heart of every human who wants their family to go well. And so because of that, you know, once life goes poorly, people are willing to hear about God and Jesus in ways that when life is perfect, they're not.

And so we know that intimately, like it's a sacred spot to be able to walk through with families through hard things. And really life is not about the good things or the bad things that happen to you, but what do you do with those? And we, we quickly realized that our lives are not our own and there's always an army of people watching you. I remember when Charlie was sick, you know, especially since we had all of our international staff in from all the different countries and I'm reading all the prayer requests to him and we have the blog and like I looked at it this morning, there was like 55 countries following his story and I'm like, who but God, you know, like you realize that you have the opportunity to show like when life is going great, so be it. But when life goes poorly and you handle it and walk through it differently than everyone else, I think that's when people are like, tell me about this Jesus.

How, how, how can you be calm when life is chaotic? I heard John Piper say, he said, if, if you're a pagan next door neighbor, if something good happens to him, he says, well, that was lucky. And the fact that something good happened to you and you say, well, praise the Lord, that doesn't cause your next door neighbor to go, oh, I want to know more about Jesus.

But when you go through trials and you say, bless the Lord, your next door neighbor goes, no, I need, you need to explain that to me. Right. Right. Yeah. It's kind of a takeaway thought for me this weekend that hit me last night was that the characteristic of God does not change given my circumstances and how that provides just peace and hope to your point of people who do not know him when they are in the valleys.

Well we've been listening to a conversation I had not long ago with Chris and Mary Herndon, speakers at our weekend to remember marriage getaway, part of the staff, the team here at Family Life, sharing about the journey that they've been on. And we've said so many times, Matthew chapter seven says, if your house is built on sand, when the storms come and you're going to be in trouble, big, great crash. But if you are working today in the calm to build your marriage, to build your family on the rock, when the storms come and they will come, your house can stand. And it is really difficult to build a foundation in a storm.

Yeah. For the storm knowing they're coming. And we've seen Chris and Mary's story and their storm reconciled because they had a foundation on Jesus. I love how Chris ended too because he talked about how God's faithfulness never changes. He's always there with us, for us, fighting for us. And sometimes it doesn't feel like it, but he's always there. Circumstances are going to change.

God's character won't change. And that's our anchor. That's our rock in the midst of the storm. Chris and Mary shared this story as a part of a new devotional that Family Life has put together, a 52-week devotional for couples. There's one devotion each week for 52 weeks. And these are devotions that are written by couples who speak at our Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaways, some of our Family Life staff and team. The devotional is called The Story of Us. You've got a devotional or two in there.

I've got one. This is just a great tool for couples to continue to direct their marriage toward God by once a week reading the devotional together, praying together as a couple. And we'd love for you to get a copy of The Story of Us Couples Devotional. Go to to order or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order your copy of this devotional.

Again, it's called The Story of Us. You can order online at or call 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word TODAY to get a copy of The Story of Us Couples Devotional. And you've heard us say this before, but the time to build strength in your marriage is not when the storm hits.

It's before the storm hits. You build the foundation when things are going well. So to be in a devotional like this once a week throughout the year, that's part of how you build a foundation.

Or maybe you get the video series we've talked about this week. This is how you build a foundation so that when the storms come, your marriage can stand strong in those storms. Again, go to for more information about the devotional The Story of Us or about the Vertical Marriage video series featuring Dave and Anne Wilson, the five sessions that are available on Vertical Marriage. The website again is or call if you're ready to order these resources, call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word TODAY. And again, thanks to those of you who make Family Life Today possible, our legacy partners who give each month, those of you who will donate from time to time, I want you to be thinking about it this way. Your donations are doing more than just keeping Family Life Today on this local radio station, although that's a big part of it. Your donation is helping thousands of couples draw strength and encouragement and hope from what they hear as they listen to Family Life Today, what they read online, access to articles and resources we make available.

You're helping husbands and wives and moms and dads have stronger marriages and families to be anchored in what the Bible teaches about marriage and family. So thank you for partnering with us to strengthen the lives of so many couples and so many families. If you're a longtime listener and you've never donated to support this ministry, you can do it easily today.

Go to to donate or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to help us reach more people more often through the ministry of Family Life Today. We appreciate your ongoing support of this important ministry. And we hope you can join us tomorrow when we're going to hear a remarkable story of a young woman whose life got derailed early in her life as a teenager and how God ultimately rescued her from being trafficked.

It's a powerful, compelling story. We hope you can tune in and hear it tomorrow. I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Bob Lapine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life of Little Rock, Arkansas, a crew ministry. Hope for today, hope for tomorrow.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-02 23:27:39 / 2024-03-02 23:39:47 / 12

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