So, when your sister was dying, I know what I felt. Did you ever doubt if God existed?
No. I remember it was the hardest thing I'd ever gone through, and I doubted if He was good for a while. When you see someone you love so much suffer at a young age and with four children that she was leaving behind, it shakes you to the core. And I did feel like all the prayers I was praying, I wondered if they were even being heard because everything seemed to go the opposite way. Yeah, and all of us are going to live there.
Some are living there right now, so that's where we're going today. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today.
We have Nikki Coziarz in the studio with us at Family Life Today. Welcome. Thank you guys so much for having me. It's an honor to be here.
I mean, you're sitting over there like, oh great, so we're going to talk about hard stuff. But, you know, you've written a book called Flooded, which is really, I'll read the subtitle, The Five Best Decisions to Make When Life is Hard and Doubt is Rising. You've been with Proverbs 31 Ministries how many years?
I think it's been almost 15 years now. And you're married. You have three daughters. Yeah, but you've got, what, goats and horses? No goats.
No, no, no, no. What do you have? I mean, you've got the Fixer Upper Farm. What does that mean? You're always fixing it up? Always. Something's always broken. We bought the farm about nine years ago, and it was foreclosed. And so everything was broken. And so we just started calling it the Fixer Upper Farm. It was when Joanna Gaines launched that whole Fixer Upper show.
And so we were like, we don't have a Fixer Upper house. We got a whole farm. Now, were you always like a farm girl? I mean, did you want this?
No, absolutely not. I could not even keep my girls' betta fish alive. They went away for the weekend and I killed it. So the fact that I run a whole farm with like 20-something animals now is hysterical to God and to me. It's impressive, actually. Well, your book Flooded is interesting because it's the story of Noah as well. Was it hard to come up with a title called Flooded when you're talking about Noah and the flood? Well, you know, interesting little tidbit about that title. I was actually sitting with the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, Lisa Turkhurst, and she's the best book brainstorm title person ever. And we were actually trying to come up with a name for the Bible study.
At first we thought it was going to have a different name. And I just looked at her and I was like, I don't know, maybe something like Flooded. And she was like, that's it. That's it.
That's the perfect name. Yeah, so you open the book, I mean, I'll read it. I want to hear what you have to say about it, but you say, I wrote these words through the suicide of my brother, a worldwide pandemic, a national race crisis, plus a dozen other hard personal things. So from the very beginning, we know we're on a ride. Walk us through what that was like for you. Talk about a valley. You were in it.
Yeah, just take us back there. I started writing the first words in October of 2019. And it was already just a really hard season because my mom had just recently passed away. She had had a brain tumor and I went through six months of taking care of her. And it was just what I considered then one of the hardest things I'd ever walked through.
Like right there. How old were your girls at that time when your mom was sick? So they were 17, 15, and 13.
I'm sorry, 12. Yeah, it was a really, really tough season. My mom was only 62. Were you close with her?
Yes, yeah, they lived real close by. And she was a four-time breast cancer survivor. And so when she got this diagnosis of this brain tumor, I really believed she was going to beat it because she'd always had. So went through that, was still just really grieving that whole process. And a year after my mom died, my brother started to decline. He had struggled with mental health and addiction for about 10 years. Was he older or younger?
Yes, he's four years older than me. And he lived in Seattle, Washington, was married, had three children, and just very quickly declined and tried to commit suicide four different times over that year. And on the fifth time, he did not come through. That happened in October and then got home from all of that. And our horse died. And for those of you that are horse people listening today, you can feel the pain in that. And then just several other very significant hard things hit.
And then boom, February 2020 rolls around and a pandemic hits the world. And life as we all knew it was flipped upside down in that moment. So Nikki, for you, you're not facing just one thing.
You're facing multiple things. Did that shake you as it did me? You've lost two people that are so close and dear to you. How did that shake you? What was it like? It was very hard because before the age of 40, I would lose half of my immediate family.
That's a hard thing to swallow. But I realized in the process of working through this, Flooded, the book, actually took a very drastic turn when all that happened. I had intentionally originally started to write about grief and loss because Noah definitely experienced all of that. And I thought that's what the book was going to be about. But God was like, no, we're going to go an even harder direction. And the writing of the book actually became very therapeutic for me because I literally was sitting at my computer in tears, just getting off the plane from burying my brother. And I'm writing these words and I'm sitting in my home during those two weeks of quarantine when the whole country shut down, thinking about Noah with his family in the ark. I'm writing that portion of the book.
It was a little too real. Can I say that? Yeah, I would think. But I'm grateful because it allowed me to step into a place in my pain so that I could understand other people's pain.
And sometimes as leaders, we have to go first, unfortunately. But reading about and studying Noah, his life, his faithfulness to God, helped you walk through that. Yes, absolutely. I mean, was there, you know, like when I asked Anne if she doubted God's existence, did you struggle with doubt? It's in your subtitle.
So I'm guessing maybe? Yes, I did not doubt God's existence either. That was not where I went. I doubted His goodness. And that's a real struggle I think a lot of people have when they're walking through something really hard. It looks like God is good to the rest of the world, but when the hard days just keep stacking and stacking and stacking and you're looking at your friend whose life just seems to, you know, seemingly just go flawless and she has a few bumps here and there. But I think everyone listening can think of a time in your life where you just felt like asking God, like, please, like, can you just stop with the hard things for just a second?
Like, can we just get through, you know, a couple months of just goodness? And when that doesn't come, that's where I do think that our faith can become on the edge of what I call teetering between disbelief and unbelief. And unbelief is where we don't want to go because that's when we do really not believe in God anymore. But disbelief, I really wanted to normalize that in this message because it is a very common thing to be like, but why and how come and why are you not changing this story when I'm asking you to change it again and again? Yeah, I remember thinking and saying to God, it just makes no sense.
I don't see any point of why this could be a good thing with leaving her four sons, just didn't make sense to me. And so to have those conversations with God, that's an interesting way to put it, is disbelief. You're starting to question, like, what's the point of that?
So how do you two answer that question? If you get to the point of disbelief, what's your answer? I think it's time to really turn to truth. And even right now in our world, it seems like everything is upside down, right?
Like every time we open up our phones, there's more bad news or discouraging news or shocking news. And you just said something about it not making sense. We have to understand that there are things on this side of eternity that will never make sense to the human mind. And a lot of what the world is experiencing right now, we cannot explain. And I think we have to stop trying to explain God away. Like, people would say to me with very good intentions, I want to mention that, things like, oh, you know, heaven just needed another angel. Or, you know, God did heal your brother, just not the way that you wanted Him to, right?
And all of those things I know come from the best place inside of people. But that's not the story that was unfolding before me. I had prayed and believed for something and I didn't see it. And so when we don't see it, we have two options. We can turn away and go, well, He didn't do it for me.
He does it for other people. Oh, well, I'm out of here. Or we can turn to truth and we can say, this is what the Word of God says. And this is where I'm going to build my life. And this is where I'm going to stand even when I question. It's not our questions for God that messes up our faith. It's our questioning of God.
And there's a big difference. So He can handle our doubts. He can handle our questions. He can handle our fears, our worries, our complaints, our grumbling. All of that we can bring into the throne room of God. And He's like, come on, bring it in here.
Let's wrestle this down. I mean, we see Jacob, you know, literally wrestling with God in the Scriptures. Literally. Literally. Yeah. And there are times when we've got to wrestle down our faith and we got to say, okay, I didn't see this, but this is where I stand.
Well, I think that's what happened to me as well because you hear so many stories and you can see, oh, well that happened. But look at the beauty that came out of it. You tie the perfect bow around it. Right.
But for my circumstance, there was no bow and there still isn't. I still don't get it, you know? And so I think you're right. We may not get it, but we have an option of either turning away from God, as you said, or turning to God. That's right. And I love that your book is so practical because you talk even at the beginning about walking with God.
What does that look like? And so that's one of your first principles. So let's go there a little bit. How do we walk with God in the midst of maybe being hurt, doubtful, angry?
How do we put that into action when we don't really feel it? When I studied the life of Noah, I saw a pattern with him. God commanded, Noah obeyed. God commanded, Noah obeyed. It says it repeatedly in the scriptures. And we know anytime we see something repeated in scripture, that is a big like, pay attention to this. And so I sat with that for a long time and I realized that every action that Noah took, whether it was to build the ark, bring the animals into the ark, bring the food, bring his wife and their children, it was all a decision, right, that stemmed from that action. It was like this place where Noah was literally so in tune with the voice of God that if God said, take a step left, he went left. And if God said, take a step right, he went right. Like Noah was just so in tune with God every single day that it was like this communion that they shared every day together. The reality is, this is our decision.
We can go to church, we can go to Bible study, we can sign up for all these programs and listen to podcasts and all the things, but it is our decision to decide that we're going to walk with God. Nobody can make that decision for us. And I actually say in the first chapter, I was a little bit nervous about being a little blunt like this, but I felt like I need to say it. I said, you are actually the greatest mess you're ever going to have to overcome. You.
What do you mean by that? Sometimes we look at life and we go, if I only had this or if I only had that, and if God would just do this or do that, but really it's us, we're sinners, we're messed up people. And we're looking to everything else for solutions and God is saying, no, let's start with you.
Let's look at you. And so we have to have responsibility when it comes to our relationships with God. Like our pastor can't do that for us.
I can't do that for you. It's a decision you have to make. And so when we talk about walking with God, that's what it means. Like it's that daily decision of God, even when this doesn't make sense, I'm going to stay in your presence.
I'm going to follow your promises and I'm going to ground myself in your truth every single day. So here you are, you've just lost your brother. You're starting to write this book. You're still reeling from the pain of everything. Your mom, you have your girls. How did you walk that out?
Because when you said that, like Noah is so in tune with God, he would hear him and obey. I want that. I think our listeners like, I want that, but how did you do it? Like in this first step, what did that look like? It was messy.
Let's just be really honest. In a season where you just walk through suicide with someone, it was messy. And so some days that looked like me driving down the road, just bawling my eyes out, just saying, God, I don't understand this, but I know you're with me.
And then putting that worship music on and just letting God's presence soak in my life. Other times it was me flat on my face in my office. Like I literally, I was about to call my publisher up and say, you got the wrong girl for this assignment and they probably would have understood, right? Like I just had all this major loss.
So sometimes it looked like that. Other times it looked like calling up my friend, her name's Christy D. And Christy D loves me enough to not let me stay stuck in that place of doubt and fear. And sometimes I would just call her up and I would say, all right, get me out of this funk, like preach me out of this and she would, you know? And so it looks different for everyone, but you have to decide that you're going to do whatever it takes to get back to that place with God.
You have to desire it and you have to want it and it doesn't always come naturally. I want to affirm that over someone who's just experienced a huge loss in your life. You may not want that right now. I remember soon after my sister had passed away driving and I remember talking to God and I just would talk to him all the time. And I remember saying, God, I feel nothing. I feel nothing. I don't feel your presence. I don't feel your pleasure.
I don't feel joy. I feel like my heart is shut down and it's numb. I want you to know this is where I am and I need you desperately. I need you to meet me. I need you to be with me. I need to experience you. And then I would be just still. And I didn't have a miraculous, I wanted some miraculous moment, you know, of healing like, oh, and you're a mate.
I wanted that. And I've had those things happen in the past, but in this instant, it was just this daily, just talking to God. The worship music was huge for me as well. I couldn't sing it.
I couldn't sing it because I felt like my heart was so shattered, but there was something so soothing about the words and the music that did my heart good. Worship music is one of our greatest weapons against the warfare that we face. And I just encourage you, like whenever we're in a season where doubt is really trying to write a bad story in our lives of going to that place of unbelief, put that worship music on.
And don't forget that you don't even have to sing it. Let those words just sing over you and your spirit and just watch the power of God move in your life. Well, it's interesting to hear the two of you talk about walking with God because in some ways, at least is what I heard, it is like Noah. You are obeying even when you don't want to today, but I'm going to today. I'm going to obey and go through the walk because this is what I have to do.
Is that right? Absolutely. And let's just be real. Noah probably did not want to obey God.
Okay. I'm sure he wasn't like, yes, this is the greatest assignment ever. Talk about a hard place of wanting to obey God. And I'm sure there's many days where he was just getting out of bed, just going to get the wood, just doing what he had to do that day. And a lot of times grief and hard things, that's what it looks like. It's just us going through the motions and just doing the thing that's in front of us that day.
So yeah, you're exactly right. So your first decision is to walk with God. Your second one is to listen to God. What's the difference? How does that flesh itself out? Okay. Well, can I give you an example? Because I have these three daughters that live in my house and, you know, girls have a lot of shoes. Oh yes, they do. Don't they?
Yes, we do. And for some reason in the Fixer Perform house, my girls just love to throw their shoes everywhere. And sometimes I will just get into that mode where I'm like, I just want my house in order.
And so I'll call upstairs and I'll say, Hey, girls, can y'all come help me pick up your shoes? I'm trying to get the house cleaned up. Silence. Nothing.
Nobody's coming. And so, you know, I'm just walking around doing my thing and thinking they're coming any second. And then, you know, I go to the stairs and I say a little bit louder, girls, come get your shoes.
I need them up now. Nothing. Silence. Whatever. I'm sure they can't hear you.
I'm sure that's what it was. But then I go to the stairs and I say something like, girls, if you don't get down here now and pick up your shoes, I'm taking everyone's phones away. And that is like Mary Poppins snapped her fingers and all of a sudden they all appear at the top of the stairs and they will come stomping down the stairs like, okay, you don't have to yell at us. We heard you. And I want to say, which time did you hear me?
Like the first time, the second time or the third time. But there's a difference between hearing and listening, right? Like it took that threat for them to listen and to follow through with what I asked them to do. Don't you wish that God would just yell at you, right?
Wouldn't that be a whole lot easier? I think we are sometimes like waiting for this loud, like ta-da or, you know, the doorbell to ring and like the answer just to be right there or, you know, sometimes we'll open up our phone and we'll go to social media and we're like, hey, someone's going to post something that is just what I need. I just need to hear today. And he does that at times. He does.
Absolutely. He does that. But, you know, I think if we feel like God is being quiet, it's time for us to get quiet because God is never the one who stops speaking. We're the ones who stop listening. There are times where we do need to become very intentional and, you know, I talk about some of the spiritual disciplines and the Christian faith and one of those disciplines is silence. And, you know, we don't really teach that in the church anymore.
I don't know why. We teach people how to pray and, you know, study the Bible and read the Bible. But man, solitude and silence is something we see Jesus model. And it's something that we need to experience in our lives too, because we live in a really loud world. And so there are times where we just really need to get quiet and just listen to what God is saying to us through His word, through worship and through prayer. How did listening for you help you walk through, you know, your valley? Well, there were times where God was saying things and I wasn't listening.
And that's just the truth. That's David Ann Wilson with Nikki Koziarz on Family Life Today. We'll hear how listening to God helped her through her valley in just a minute. But first, if you've been listening to Family Life Today, you know how important it is to be a family on mission. We believe that God calls us into community and to serve each other with the abundance of resources that He has blessed us with. As Ecclesiastes 4-9 says, two are better than one. Right now, there are two ways that you can partner with family life to impact lives for His kingdom.
The first is, if you feel led to start a small group, we want to offer you a discount on all leader materials with the code 25OFF, that's 250FF. The second way is to partner with us financially to help us achieve our fiscal year end goal and to help equip families to move toward oneness with practical resources. You can donate securely online at familylifetoday.com. And as our thanks, when you give today, we'll send you a copy of Jenny Allen's book, Find Your People. Again, you can give online at familylifetoday.com or by calling 800-358-6329.
That's 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. All right, now back to Dave and Anne's conversation with Nikki Koziarz and how listening to God helped her through her valley. I want to be careful that I don't try to paint this over-spiritualization picture of what this really meant in that season. Sometimes for me, the listening part was simply just the obeying and the stepping into it. During those hard seasons, there were still assignments that God had given me to do. I had to write a book.
I had other things that I had committed to. And I needed to listen to God say, you have my strength with you. You have my power with you.
You have my authority with you. And so it wasn't like God and I were sitting in the morning at five o'clock having this great conversation. It was just these really simple things, again, all grounded in truth. God wasn't saying things to me that don't align with His word. That's never how God speaks to us. And so it was just going back to His promises, and that became part of my listening to God process in those really hard places. Now, on the flip side, there are times where I do need direction in ministry and life.
I mean, you guys know that, right? So when we're walking through something hard, listening to God can be really, really simple. And it's just those like, you have my strength, you have my glory, you have all those things. But then there's other times where we do need His wisdom. And James tells us that if any of us lacks wisdom, we can come to Him and He will give it to us. But do we want to hear the answer?
And will we obey? Right. Yeah.
It can go in the midst of hard things or even in the midst of just like big decisions and everyday things. There's different ways that we can learn to listen to God. You know, back in the, well, I don't know, eighties, you're a little young for... I was born in the eighties. Oh, there you go. Well, you're just a little toddler when CB radios were a thing in cars. Do you remember that?
Yeah, absolutely. And if I wasn't the big CB guy, but Ann's brother was, and when you'd pick up the thing, he would say, you know, breaker, breaker one nine, you got your ears on, good buddy. That was like, is anybody listening? And I've always remembered that phrase because like, you're just trying to say, is anybody listening? If you are, I have something to say. And I thought that's sort of God saying, are you listening? You got your ears on, good buddy? Because I'm about to send you a message and I always preach this.
I don't know if anybody ever remembered it, but I'm an acrostic guy. So I always said, God speaks to us through the PEWS and people sit in PEWS often in church, right? So you can use that. And here's what I said, because we always think it's going to be this audible voice, which I'm not saying he can't do that, but often it isn't. PEWS stands for he often will use a person.
People could use your kid, could use your pastor, could use a good friend. Like you said, when you call and you just need God speaking through a person, E is events or circumstances. Often he's lining things up and he's sending a message.
But again, if we don't have our ears on, we miss it. The W is word of God. He often uses the word of God to speak. I can't tell you, and I'm sure you have the same experience, when you open a word of God in a life situation, you're like, oh my goodness, this is exactly what I need to know today. And then the S is the Holy Spirit can nudge, can give us a nudge and say, here's where I need you to go.
Here's what you need to know in this thing. Am I right? The PEWS. I've always remembered the PEWS because it's a really good way to remember that God's always speaking.
He's just doing it in different ways, but to be looking, and I like that too, like he is speaking. We just need to listen and hear. Yeah.
That's a really good example. Can we go back and add that into the book? Go ahead.
It's yours. I've never put it in a book, so it's yours. We're going to write a book called Sitting in the PEWS. Yeah.
Listen, I like that idea. You've been listening to Dave and Anne with Nicky Koziarz on Family Life Today. Her book is called Flooded, the five best decisions to make when life is hard and doubt is rising.
You can order a copy at familylifetoday.com. You ever wonder about where that line is between what's constructive criticism and what's actually tearing someone down? Anne Wilson's words feel so relatable to me. She says, how many times have I used my words to tear Dave down? And to destroy him thinking I was actually helping him and doing him good? When all the time I had this power of influence to be able to speak life into him. Wow. Could your relationship use a shift toward using words to respect and cherish each other?
I know mine could. Check out marriage studies at familylifetoday.com and use the code 25OFF to save today and beef up your communication so your marriage becomes more life giving for both of you. Tomorrow, Dave and Anne Wilson will talk again with Nicky Koziarz about how she faced the upward battle of walking through her doubt. That's tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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