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March 3, 2021 1:00 am
How can we have hope when it seems like things can't possibly get any worse? On FamilyLife Today, join hosts Dave and Ann Wilson as they talk with author Vaneetha Risner about her painful diagnosis, her husband's rejection, and how God faithfully saw her and her family through it all.
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When Bonita Reisner found out that her husband had been unfaithful and he said he might want out of their marriage. She had a lot of questions. Why was I not enough probably went on how dear you went on, how could you do this to me with all of my physical disability. Could you do this as a question. How can you do this to your children so all of those things and is it worth it to walk away from an entire life.
This is family like today hosts are David M. Wilson, Bob Payne someone family life today.com. Among the questions Bonita Reisner had to wrestle with.
She learned her husband had been unfaithful was God. How do I glorify you with the midst of all of this mess will hear how all of those questions got resolved. As we talk and welcome to family life today. Thanks for joining us. Anybody's ever read the first chapter of Job knows how startling the story that is first of all, Satan appearing before God and asking for permission from God to afflict Job and God granting permission to go what's going on. Oh yes you do, then you see the affliction coming and it's well one messenger is standing there the next messenger comes and says oh, and here's more bad news. Oh, here's more bad news and all. Here's more bad news and you get to the end of Job, chapter 1 and you kind of feel like this is got to be the most horrible story that's ever happened.
Anybody's it's hard to reach out. It's hard because of the suffering. I struggled with it for years to read it.
We been talking this week to somebody who I know you would not our unique naming LOL where neither eyes are joining us again a family like today. Welcome back, thinking you you don't think of yourself in terms like Job because you read Job one you go. I've had affliction, but not like this man. Yeah, I mean he lost everything all his kids ever yeah it's horrible but with that said, yeah election compared to others his pretty name. I think were misdiagnosed as a baby and the treatment led to polio in your life you been a quadriplegic throughout your life, your body cast for a year.
How many surgeries 21 to 513 you have been going through miscarriages and because again of a misdiagnosis. The death of a son that's seven weeks old, if that was the whole story we would go. This is more than most should have to deal with, lay down and cry with you at this point, Shirley. There's not more after the death of your son, Paul, your polio reemerged as an issue with what's called is a postpolio yes post polio syndrome. What is that I never heard of it times diagnosed with an or maybe I hadn't blotted out that basically it's 270% of the people who have polio and basically what happens is your muscles start to get backward. So all the whatever limbs were affected by polio, which for me was all for lambs, but times and bad legs.
They start to go back to where they were when you first got polio and for me I was a quadriplegic says the doctors basically said at that point I needed to cut out everything I was doing because the hardest thing about has polio is the more you do, the weaker you get. So they told me when I went in I went in because I had to some pain in my arm and they said my energy and strength is like money in a bank, and so every time I do something I'm making and withdraw that I can't make any deposits so the more I do, that we cry, So I used to be an artist. I did all kinds of things and they told me stop right now and I remember saying to them what if I don't stop what happens if I just keep doing the things I'm doing this woman looked at me and she said in 10 years someone will be feeding you. I was 38, 10, and I thought I and I had two young kids I can't have somebody feeding me in 10 years if I can. I think I will give me the price for an app that I radically had to change my life in terms of the things I was doing and was a change in identity for me. I feel like I was a helper I like to do things for people.
I would take meals and all of a sudden that wasn't me anymore. I couldn't take meals. I really couldn't help people physically in any way and I really needed help from people said that was really going to the Lord and saying okay, help me reframe who I am because my identity had been built so much on helping other people, which is really the greatest way to build your identity don't sit on that and so really crumbled quickly for anybody who knows any room to walk another doctors will you know if I will did you walk I did.
I want my sister and I went in there and I was stunned and mean. I cried for days and days and days and they told me I need to start using winter. I had never used whatever for that and when they sent that sound like failure to me at first because my parents had worked so hard that I wouldn't be in a wheelchair just refrained everything for me and said you though the things the adaptive devices that had as blessings and that took a while but I knew if I didn't have a wheelchair to use then maybe I wouldn't even be up to get around and sell when you need something, it is a way of looking at things differently in which is interesting because how many years is that they now that was 2003.
I think if I were you I would find myself every time I faced the choice like go get something out of the refrigerator. Do I spend this limited amount of energy that's left in my gas tank on that how you process that is a great question that has been very hard for me.
It was hard with my kids because they are always asking can you do this, can you do that can you go with me and feeling like I want to go. I want to do this things and then there's the things for myself and am making my own breakfast and Joel's amazing my husband because he does so much for me to make sure that I don't overuse my muscles that he's like if I can do it estimated to so I look like a little princess my eyes getting me everything I need, because he said I don't want you to wear at your muscles before you need to. Anybody who's been following your story as we talked about this week. Just heard you mention Joel, your husband, but we talked earlier about your husband yes and that's another part of your story you met Dave in graduate school at Stamford. Yes, she knew you had physical limitations when he married you.
That was not a barrier or an obstacle for him along the way your marriage you started to recognize there were cracks in the foundation yes so six years after my postpolio diagnosis.
When I was just figure life out. Dad came home and said he had met someone else and he laughed.
My two daughters Katie and Christie. They were nine and almost 13. At the time in our world fell apart. Dave ended up moving to another state where his company wise and he had been working remotely and my life just hit rock bottom. To be honest I didn't know how I was gonna make it because I was a single mom with postpolio struggling with lots of pain because postpolio actually is fairly painful as well and to kids who don't drive who were angry because their world had fallen apart. We were sort of the perfect little church couple and life as I knew it just unraveled the perfect little church couple yes what happened. I mean, there had to be signs before he said I'm out here were do not see anything.
I didn't email and I know a lot of people say how could you not have seen it and we were growing distant. I need that, but I kept thinking it's it's just distance were fine, fine.
It's no big deal and know if I could have seen the signs that much earlier. I didn't see them as you go back over life and you think what'd I miss what I miss and know if it was as much that I miss things is that things happen fast when your husband says to you about somebody else what goes on in your soul. Why was I not enough probably went on. How dare you went on, how could you do this to me with all of my physical disability. How could you do this as a Christian, how can you do this to your children so all of those things and is it worth it to walk away from an entire life. Did you confront him with those kinds of questions I did, and his response was I don't know I don't have answers to all of those things and back and forth honestly for a few years after he laughed. Just trying to decide what we were going to do and and those were hardhearted years for me. Just trying to figure out what is God calling me to do here because I wanted to be faithful to God and say out.
Do whatever you call me today and said knowing what that wise took me a long time you were in uncharted territory, something you'd never stopped to think I might be here someday. What will I do when I get there right you're trying to figure out how to survive in a country where you don't know how to live.
That is exactly right. And it's funny that you use that terminology because I remember one time.
This was after a few years after he laughed and just think we get back together like my space to do here and I read Jeremiah 29, not the I know the plans I have for you, which is a wonderful passage, but before that when Jeremiah says you need to live in this new country like plant gardens get married like this is where your new home. Yes, and in some ways I think that sort of a message. Ironically, for our guests in coven you know is like what we do, how we live in this place where we don't know what's can happen.
And for me. The Lord was like plant gardens.
This is your home right now like don't be looking to if this changes. This is what I'm going to do, but how I can live here now and not really helped me say okay I got it was soon working to be here and I need to to for my life because I feel like my life is on hold.
Just thinking working to get back together working to be this happy family. It's going to be fine and realizing it may or may not happen, but I need to live in this new country.
Did you have that attitude after you had written your husband's mistress a letter that attitude after yeah when that letter say hello still fighting a little personal woman to woman letter to you was that you mention that and I wrote her a letter for people to know it was not my idea.
It was really from a book crazy love by Francis Chan and I read a quote that I felt like God was using to talk to me to say, write her a letter and I said out loud. Are you asking me crazy.
I remember saying going to bed thinking this is not something that I am signing up for somebody else like crazy. Love doesn't just got up in the middle of the night could not sleep like an elephant was on my chest and I wanted to write one kind of a letter not want that kind of a letter written so it was a letter just sharing with her the gospel saying God has done so much for me and I felt called to write that to you and it may sound like a nice person but this was God's letter to her. This was not my letter to Mark.
I wouldn't have written any. Honestly, I'm really not that night is extremely gently good and so I rented it just sort of pouring out what the gospel wise and the most amazing thing was God changed me. I sent a letter thinking okay.
My first thought once I had felt really great about myself and use this to bring my husband back when she said, is incredible and has been right now and said that that's why I thought it was going to be some great little meat got to bring him back. Yes, they were to be about one story, but there was not about and hitting back. I didn't really hear from her about the letter I knew she had gotten it changed me because I was praying for her because I had written to her what it meant to know Christ and how that radically changes you and I just are praying for her every day and it's hard to pray for someone every day and to be really angry at them and so started to melt away. All of these feelings of resentment and anger way before we even decided where we were going. My ex-husband and I so I'm still wondering if he was gonna come back and yet I was not angry at her hearing that is so supernatural because your book and I found this interesting you say the unfaithfulness of your husband was harder and more hurtful than all the pain and you're gone through losing a child. Polio yeah that's how deep the pain was that anybody that's experience that knows that and then you you get to a place where you're a blessing to a woman that doesn't deserve it. That's super natural that can't be done in your own strength while I'm still stuck on. It's hard to pray for someone every day, and remain mad.
I'm thinking of marriages. I'm thinking of the times I was so mad it gave I didn't pray for them because I was so mad at him and yet had I prayed and I started to pray for him. It really supernaturally changes your heart. It really does think unforgiveness and bitterness. What we did is we just stack offenses on top of each other and so we replay them over and over.
They did this and they did this great things that I don't think you can still do it and not want anyone to hear this thinking I'm some saint because I am not a mean if you cut me off in traffic. I am thinking make me talk about you.
Even today, so if you give it changes you. It's not that year. This amazing person because I still hold grudges and get in the way didn't do all of those things but yet I felt that God just called me to do this and God coming to pray and God took all of that away. What did Dave say to the girls to his daughters. What did you say to your daughters about what Debbie was doing told them he was super confused about what was going on in his life, and didn't really have a lot of answers for them and I just told them to pray I was saying before that I wish to talk to them a little bit more about my own pain because I just sort of put up a wall about my own pain and just sort of listen to them or tried to talk to them but we didn't say a lot that can use this. I remember Laura story song blessings was out around that time into saying we don't know how God is can use this in our life but where can I trust that God is getting use it for guide, but it was hard because the girls would pray every night for a long time bring daddy back and got wrenching when you hear your daughters pray something in your praying it to do and then God cuts is now there was a day when Dave came back.
Yes, so he wants what he wanted to reconcile for a while and will come forth and he genuinely wanted but at the same time I felt like you at the time I felt like he wasn't willing to let go of everything I really needed a lot of proof.
Like I need to see repentance. I need to see these things and I didn't see them, and I really went to God with that and said you tell me what to do and really clear that cams like you need to do this because you think this is what a good Christian woman would do. And honestly, that was part of my view was, I need to stand this because Christian women stay in marriages no matter what I felt gave me the freedom to say what is right here where have you been wronged. And what of the lines you can draw and sell. I took a lot of courage. Honestly, for me to just draw the line and say if I don't see this and this and this, that I can't take you back was complicated because the other woman was pregnant with his child. Yes she was.
That made it very complicated no matter what happened in this situation, it wasn't gonna be pretty. And here because I want to commend your thinking and your processing before the Lord, the most loving thing you can do for someone in a situation like you were him is not necessarily to say welcome back home. But to say I want to be an ally in dealing with the sin patterns in your life that have emerged to become clear, and so there are boundaries here for your good, not just because you have to jump over hoops in order to earn the privilege of moving back in with me, but because you need to be a different person before the Lord for this to work. Some people I can hear you think what way you're supposed be pro marriage and I am pro-marriage and I'm saying to put these kinds of restrictions in place is the most loving thing you can be doing for this spouse who is breaking the covenant who is not loving you well to say I want you to be the husband and the man God has called you to be.
Therefore, I must say until you're ready to really deal with this stuff were keeping this up. Maybe as a as a motivation for your husband finally deal with the stuff that's exactly what I felt like the Lord was saying, as you know if it's too easy then they just need to be real repentance.
Somebody doesn't need to go to God because we can do a lot in our and strength, but to really change. We can't do that without Jesus was not you saying you go to do this to prove to me this sort to work jump through hoops. This is you saying this is the man God says you need to be so I will be your ally in helping you be that man and did Dave respond to that at all tried he wanted to bet he wasn't able to you and your pastor, I got our church really involved in terms of our pastor because I thought I counsel I could not go through this alone and I needed wisdom and I had a counselor, a Christian counselor as well and I remember one thing that Tom, our pastor said his repentance has freight and it's for your Tennessee and so he just kept saying to me you don't want to settle for something that's not repentance. And I think a lot of people do because they want something so much and people have good intentions, but a lot of us have good intentions, but we need to see that God is really doing the work and want to say that God is not changed him because I he is a believer and I do see that there's change in his life that I didn't feel like God is calling me back into that marriage then and didn't really see the fruit that I felt I needed to see where there were moments of weakness warily sounds right now like you were strong the whole time through just asking whether an evening where you know what I can lower the bar bring them home would be better for the girls were used pretty for right through the limelight jealous and now I was not strong I was so torn because I left our family and I'm so for family and so it was hard.
I wanted us back together again and said there were a lot of times where I would say I want this.
And I would call my pastor, my sister and say like how we process this because I think we can't sometimes process those things ourselves, as I would go to the Bible. I would journal I would call people because they were times when I thought it would be easier and yet inside I knew that wasn't what God wanted that wasn't the highest that God is so critical you soon. There's a listener listener noticed wrestling with something and they might be thinking I can do this on my own thinking you can't. You need the body of Christ. That's what the body of Christ can do.
You need a friend or two to give you wise counsel in your view, model data, but I just want to advocate for anybody right now make that phone call you need help. I've always in talking with people who have said, you know, do you think I have biblical grounds for divorce in the situation I have said to the elders in your church think you have biblical grounds. Have they walked through this did they know the inside of your story.
This is not, do I meet the criteria, check this box off. That gives me the grounds. This is people walking the journey with you who are stepping in and saying you have the right motivation for doing this right before the Lord with the right reasons and the appropriate terms, and here's what sub said that's not your call to make. That is the spiritual people around you. The godly counselors around you speaking in your life. I'm not saying that you don't have a voice and this is saying you don't make this determination about what steps you should be taking to try to heal a broken marriage on your own. This is what the body of Christ is for our feelings run so high I know when I'm trying to make a decision and I'm hearing from God.
I'm trusting what I'm hearing, but because my emotions are running so high in those matters. It is always good to get wise counsel L, I totally agree and was actually need to start pastor came to me one day and he said I want you to know you have the full support of everybody in the elder board. If you want to file for divorce. I ended up not being the one to filed. Dave ended up being the one who filed but at the same time. I didn't want to do anything that that wasn't in accordance with what God had for me. I knew I had biblical grounds, but that doesn't necessarily mean that that's what God is calling you to do and say you need to seek the Lord on it and that was a really good process for me not to just go with my first reaction. But to really get wise counsel and share from God through the word and I'm very thankful I was able to get through it that way. I know telling the story here telling the story in your book you had to have a lot of prayer just decide I'm a writable control of this I mean you girls are still living. All of this year.
Your ex-husband is still living. All of this. Why did you decide to tell the story as publicly as you told I didn't because I wanted people to see the inner workings of someone who has failed and yet left God through it and what it looks like to authentically walk through suffering because I feel like there's a lot of Christians that haven't. It's all good sort of veneer over everything that they say and you don't really have practical help when you're in the midst of the trenches, like my child is tied I've got a debilitating disease and I'm walking through a separation or divorce and how do I do and in the book. I really try to show what I did poorly, and what I wish I had done differently what God guided me to do well and what God showed me in the things I learned and it's really hard to do that in a book that sort of about doctrine, whereas in a memoir at there's a way to sort of a narrative theology like I can teach you things out of the Bible and things I've learned in the ways that God has been faithful and invite you into the journey with me is a beautiful theology of suffering or deformity right that it's so readable models of biblical viewpoint of how to suffer while we want to make your book available for the family like today listeners who are going through whatever challenges they may be going through other health-related as you write about the book or whether it's the loss of a child or a marriage that takes a turn. You have lived through these things.
You are process these things biblically you break the bottom in your book walking through fire and so were making the book available to any family like today listener who can make a donation to help support the ongoing work of this ministry. Your support of family life makes this kind of conversation happen and you help us distributed to more people more often through your financial support. That's what you're investing in the lives of marriages.
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Be sure to ask for your copy of the book walking through fire by beneath the Reisner now tomorrow working to get to a part of your story that will it's the happy part of your story was to say it's a hallmark channel part of your story, but there's no Hallmark movie that rivals the story of our engineer to keep lunch along with some help from Bruce Goff and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our hosts David Wilson on Bob, thanks for joining us tomorrow for another edition of family life family like to use a production of family life of Little Rock, Arkansas crew ministry help for today hope for tomorrow