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Erik Reed: Where is God When it Hurts?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
April 27, 2022 2:02 am

Erik Reed: Where is God When it Hurts?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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April 27, 2022 2:02 am

Where is God when it hurts? Author Erik Reed reflects on his intimate experience of God amidst his son's suffering -- and learning to trust God in the hard.

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To trust the Lord, to trust anything, is to put full confidence and dependence on that thing, right? The Hebrew verb there, to trust, is actually imaged by somebody laying face down on the ground with their back exposed, right? You're in your most vulnerable position. You're trusting whoever's in the presence of you to not harm you, to not take advantage of you, right?

You're fully exposed. And this idea of trusting God with all your heart, every fiber of your being, nothing held back, and not lean on your own understanding, that's the contrast. And so, the way that we learn to trust God is we have to know Him, and we come to know Him through His Word.

We come—it's not our opinions of God that matter, it's who is God and has He revealed Himself? 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. Well, I've often preached. See if you can finish— Yes, you've preached a lot. Well, I was just wondering if you can finish this sermon theme.

Sitting there in the front row— I do listen. I just don't always remember. I know, and I know you're going to be able to finish this.

I've often said it's not the size of your faith that matters, it's— The size of your God. Yeah. And so, it's that— Wait, do I get an A? Yeah, you did. Way to go.

Give me five. Yeah, I mean, I didn't know if you listened, but you heard it. Oh, I've heard that. Hundreds of times.

Hundreds of times in 30 years. But often we think, I need greater faith. And Jesus is the one who said, No, you just need mustard seed-sized faith, small faith. But if that faith isn't a God you don't know or you can't trust, it doesn't matter what size your faith is. It's really the size of your God or the understanding of who He is. And I think that's really important because when we go through hard or tragic times or even times, we just can't make sense of it. And we can't understand how God would allow this to happen or allow us to walk this path. That's when we go back to that and think, Is that real? Well, that's when we find out what kind of God do we believe in?

Yeah. It really is. And so, we have Eric Reid back with us, a pastor, a dad, a husband. Man, we've had a couple days with you talking about your book, Uncommon Trust, Learning to Trust God When Life Doesn't Make Sense. First of all, welcome back to Family Life Today. Thank you. Thank you. I've enjoyed being with you guys. And I don't know if we can catch our listeners up for the last two broadcasts.

I just said this, though. I just told Eric, I don't think I've cried through an entire two days of interviewing as I have lately. But this story is so compelling, hard, and yet it really does make us put our eyes back on Jesus. Yeah, and so I'll try and give a quick synopsis, and Eric, you can really jump in. It's really a story of a dad and a mom who have their firstborn son and have a totally unexpected outcome. He's going to need medical help his whole life, ends up needing a kidney transplant at almost two years of age. Yeah, go ahead and tell us in one minute or less.

Yeah. You were on track, a good kidney, a bad kidney, needed to remove the bad kidney, live a normal life after that. And they took both on accident, which propelled us into a very abnormal life. And we needed to get a kidney transplant.

It took two years to get that. Lots of surgeries, lots of ups and downs, even on the way toward that. And so there's a physical journey we're going through to get him to a transplant. And at the same time, we're going through a pretty profound spiritual journey of trying to figure out where is God in the middle of this, and how to make sense of this, and what's happened, and how do we navigate these things.

And so I outlined some of the things I started to wrestle with, even through Daniel 3. God is able to save us. He may not save us, but He's in the fire.

He's going to use your fire for others. And He showed us that we're going to need others in the fire, just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had each other. We were going to need community. We were going to need people to help us to stand firm and stay strong.

Honestly, I took those things back to my wife, who had a real hard time even being in the room with him. And I said, this is what I think the Lord is saying is how we're going to get by. And those become the guiding principles for us over the next several years of trying to live our lives, to not know what our future held, but trust in the one who held the future.

And I love what you said. It's not about the size of our faith. It's the object of our faith. It's Christ. It's the living God. It's not our faith. It's the object of our faith. And so that's really easy for me to say.

It's quite a journey to get to a place where I trust the object of my faith. Yeah. I mean, you ended up burying Caleb at age 15. Correct. So you got 15 years and ups and downs.

Well, wait, let's go to that. Yeah. Like the first day you recounted walking your two daughters to the hospital room saying goodbye to their brother. Yeah. And so you've gone through some hard, hard things. He passes, but go back to those 15 years with Him. Were those good years?

What was that like? Yeah, they were gifts from God every day. In fact, that's one of the lessons my wife and I from this were forced to adopt, but thankful to adopt is every day we had with Him, every day we have with our girls is a gift. It's not a right. It's a gift. And so it's a deposit. It's not a withdrawal.

That helps us to recognize, like, be thankful for the gift of this day, you know? And so 15 years, yeah, my son got his transplant at two and, you know, he had to have some medicines and some medical procedures. And we went in and out of the hospital for infections and all kinds of things over the course of the following years.

But my son went to school. He loved sports. He was a Tennessee Vol fan who suffered like me, you know? He loved hockey.

We had the National Predators were our team. And so we went to hockey games all the time together, got to coach his T-ball team. A lot of the things that I wanted to do and be as a dad to a little boy, I got a chance to do all those things.

You know, we dressed up as Ghostbusters and ran around Walmart like we were, you know, capturing ghosts in our little ghost captures. Like, we just did a lot of fun things, but one of the things, by necessity, we knew we had to do was teach him about the Lord and for him to understand that his life was on purpose and in God's hands and that God was using his story and that none of these things were—they're accidental in the sense of the world— none of these things were outside of God's plan for him and to embrace that. And so we were having big, giant theological conversations with this little boy his whole life.

What'd that look like? It looked like just a bit at a time, you know, a piece at a time, teaching moments when he would be in surgery or he'd be, you know, dealing with an issue. We'd just be explaining, you know, it's like, or why do I have to have this feeding pump at night?

It would just be ongoing. It would just be all the time we'd be talking about, where's God in the midst of these things? And we'd get our Bibles out, we'd have family worship, and my lessons, you know, would be very much about, you know, why are things like this in the world? Why do we see broken circumstances? And how do we trust God even if he doesn't change our circumstance, you know? And so the lessons we were learning, we were just sharing because we were still learning them.

And of course, now I'm pastoring at this point, so I'm leading a church to understand these things, you know? And those years were wonderful, years 2 through 13 for Caleb. He went to school, he gamed online with his buddies, you know, loved playing on the junior high basketball team. All of those things that a normal kid would do, he did. And if you didn't know his story, which so many people knew his story, but if you didn't, you wouldn't necessarily know anything was wrong, right? He's a little bit smaller than some of the people his age, but there was nothing drastic that would have made you think like, oh mercy, what's going on with that little boy? But he had a lot going on.

So when he was 13 years old, he started to have some issues, some eyesight issues. And we went to the doctor, nothing got picked up. They started having some really bad headaches.

And so we knew something was off. He got to a point where it's like, okay, let's just take him to the hospital. I mean, we were so used to the hospital. Going to the hospital was just normal for us. So people here go to the hospital, they usually freak out. It's like, oh, it's just like going to your neighbor's house for us. Let's go see all of our buddies at the hospital.

And so we go up there and they start running some tests, but nothing's, you know, nothing's kind of kicking up. And then he went unconscious. And he would stay unconscious for three weeks. And it was during that time that they discovered that he had something called fungal meningitis.

And it caused him to have a stroke. Our bodies would just, you know, be exposed to whatever it calls that and just kick it out. The immune system would just kick it out. But he's on immune suppressing drugs because of the kidney transplant. And so what our bodies would kick out, his body doesn't have that defense system. And so we had no idea, you know, if he would even survive.

It would come out of the coma. I remember during that time writing articles just to process in my own mind. Because here we are, we're back in the fire again in the heat of it. And Proverbs 3, 5, and 6 in that moment became really a staple for us. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths. And it's a really easy verse as Christians to read, and it's a very hard verse to live. You know, it's so easy to say, hey, just trust God. And that's the right answer. You put it on the wall.

Yeah, you open your kitchen. And what does it even mean to trust the Lord with all your heart? Yeah, that's a great question. To trust the Lord, to trust anything, is to put full confidence and dependence on that thing. The Hebrew verb there, to trust, is actually imaged by somebody laying face down on the ground with their back exposed. Right? You're in your most vulnerable position. You're trusting whoever's in the presence of you to not harm you, to not take advantage of you.

Right? You're fully exposed. And this idea of trusting God with all your heart, every fiber of your being, nothing held back, and not lean on your own understanding.

That's the contrast. And so the way that we learn to trust God is we have to know Him. And we come to know Him through His Word. It's not our opinions of God that matter. It's who is God?

And has He revealed Himself? So it's getting into the Word. It's diving in with others to learn about who God is and to walk with Him and fellowship and communion with Him. The more we know God, the more our trust for God begins to grow. But the battle we'll always face is what is the deterrent of our trust? It's leaning on our own understanding. Well, there you get into the theology of who God is. That's right. Help us understand who this God is.

What does it mean that He's sovereign? Yeah, that's a great question. I had a really powerful conversation with my daughter, my youngest, Kyra, six years old at the time. And we were riding down the road together and she was crying. She was thinking about her brother. She said, I miss Caleb. And she said, Dad, why did God do it this way? I gave her the really easy, good answer. I said, you know, one day when Jesus returns, He's going to make all things new.

And your brother is going to be restored and sin will be no more and death will be no more. And you're not thinking like she's going to be like, oh, okay, I get that, Dad. And she goes, no, but if God's going to do it that way one day, why didn't He just start it that way? I said, it did start.

Again, I'm still trying to give like some basic. I'm like, you know, it did start that way. But then we sinned and rebelled and she's like, no, no, no, Dad, I know all that. But I know one day God's going to make it where none of these things happen again.

Why didn't He make it where it couldn't happen to begin with? And it was in that moment that it hit me. I was like, this is a profound question. I was going to say, that's not a six-year-old. That's a 60-year-old question as well.

That's right. What's told me, her little mind's trying to grapple with understanding like, how do I understand God in this world where my brother's gone? And God could have done something different. And I said, sweetheart, that is a question that philosophers and theologians have wrote major books about. But let me give you the best answer I can think of. I said, there's something about this kind of world where we experience love and then loss and hurts and pains and sadness and have to anticipate future days where those things are.

There's something about this kind of world where God fixes it at the end, makes it new at the end, that gives Him more glory and us more joy and more understanding of who He is than a world that would not have had those experiences. And that's the only answer I know to tell you. How'd she respond? She said, I just want that day to come.

Don't we all? And I said, yes, baby. That's why the Bible ends with, come, Lord Jesus, come. And we live like that. So here's what it's really done as a family.

You know, we've gone from saying how many at the restaurant, you know, five to four. And every time we say it, it stings. And yet we long for the day where that loss is not a reality anymore, where all things are made new. And so we long for heaven. Life with Him there and us here makes us long for life there. And I think that's one of the things that suffering and pain and loss do in this world is that God actually loosens our grip on this world. The more people we lose that we love to the next world, the more we long for that world and lessen our grip on this one.

I think that's right. How does walking through a valley like you've walked through affect your marriage? And how does a husband and wife walk through it together? It will either make or break you. We have watched families that have gone through trials, whether it be, you know, when we knew them in the hospital or, you know, because of our circumstances, we've watched marriages end. We learn later that the majority of marriages that have children with special needs and different issues usually end in divorce because it's so stressful. There's no normalcy.

The routines get ripped wide open. And so for us, first off, we've always just said our commitment is, I mean, you're stuck with me. I'm stuck with you. So it's either let's find a way to make it work and be enjoyable or we're going to make it work and be miserable. So I think really, though, that commitment to say there's no quit for us forces us then to say, so how do we walk with each other in a way that, you know, when she's upset, I know when to lean in and when to give her space. I know, you know, I know when to talk about things and when not to talk about things. But those are hard things. There's been days where I've wanted to talk about Caleb and I don't want to trigger her into being upset.

I just keep it to myself, you know, and that's hard. But it's also trying to learn like, hey, I don't want to unnecessarily cause grief for her. Like I may want to say something and I can just say it and enjoy being able to talk about it and move on. And now she's wrecked the rest of the day.

So it's just learning. It's knowing each other, you know, it's knowing each other and it's being honest with each other and sensitive to each other's needs. And me and her talked about this. It's like there's nobody else on this earth who has walked through what we've walked through together. We share this together in such a way that there's nobody in the world who we can say we share it with similarly. And it's forged a bond that's just like we've suffered together. You know, this is one of the reasons we do a Respite Weekends.

I have a ministry called Knowing Jesus Ministries and we produce resources and articles and videos and teach theology. And one of the big aspects is helping people develop a theology of suffering. But we do these Respite Weekends where families who have lost children come to our home for the weekend and we just minister to one another. And for me and Katrina to do that together is important for us because it's good for us.

We don't like come give all the answers. It's like, I mean, we're blessed by the people who show up and talk and share their own experiences. And it's just been phenomenal to have that together. Katrina's growth and spiritual maturity was forced, both of ours. I mean, we were both in very similar places.

And going through this, it forces you to figure out real quick what you think and what you believe. And so she was in the same journey as I was and learning to forgive and learning who is this God that we're putting all of our chips in on, you know, who is he? I'm curious, when you came home or you were probably at the hospital, you both were, when you shared with her the story of seeing the doctor who botched the surgery and it had taken you a while to forgive him. But when you saw him, you told him, I forgive you.

And he just broke down. What was her response when you shared that? You've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson talk with Eric Reid on Family Life Today. We're going to hear Eric's response here in just a second. But first, we'd love to send you a copy of Eric's book, Uncommon Trust, Learning to Trust God When Life Doesn't Make Sense. It's going to be our gift to you when you make a donation of any amount this week to support the work of Family Life Today.

You can give at familylifetoday.com or you can call with your donation at 1-800-358-6329. Again, the number is 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. All right, now back to Dave and Ann Wilson's conversation with Eric Reid. She broke down crying as well.

Because? Because we were entangled in this together. She held bitterness and resentment just like I did.

And my forgiving him face to face was like an us forgiving him. And she felt very much a part of that. And she was also just amazed that God orchestrated that encounter.

Honestly, just an elevator encounter. Katrina, you know, at Caleb's funeral, one of the things that I mentioned to the people gathered was, you know, I'm the guy that's on the stage at church preaching. I'm the guy that my wife is the most quiet, unassuming, behind the scenes person. She's a hospitality queen. She loves to have people over.

She loves to cook for people. She's not, you have to hunt her down. She's not going to be here. She's not going to find her. And if I would have told her like, hey, you're coming with me to be on this light pot. Oh my goodness, she would have melted to the floor.

She's like, no. What I said at Caleb's funeral was people do not realize the strength of her faith. Because if you're a mother who has to walk through years of all these questions and uncertainties about your son, and then you hold his hand when he passes into glory, and you can wash your face and love your girls, and keep taking the next step forward in faith without wavering, you are a mature believer. And she may not write books, and she may not stand up and ever give a speech, but she has a faith worthy of imitation. It had to be something to be able to be the one who gave a part of her own body, her kidney, to save her son's life. And did it selflessly. She'd never even had a surgery before. She's going and having an afrectomy done. But it was never a question for her.

She was scared, but it was never a question. Like, of course I'm doing this. This is what we do as moms. This is what I'm here for. I'm here to take care of this kid.

Talk to the mom or dad, husband, wife, sister. You've got daughters who are sister, Caleb. And you have credibility, because you've walked down this valley, some of us wouldn't. That's just hearing you and going, I just can't get there. I don't see myself able to get to that kind of trust. What would you say to them?

I'll say a couple of things. For the person who is trying to imagine being in our scenario, and imagine being okay with going through our scenario, that's not how it works. God doesn't give you grace to imagine going through the trial. He gives you grace in the trial. So don't get yourself worked up to say, do I have the kind of trust that can imagine going through the most horrific thing and being okay with it before it ever happens?

No, that's not how that works. You're giving grace in the hour of need. Grace is not something that's stored up on the grocery shelves for you to stock up on.

It's hand to mouth every day. They saw him in the fire. That's it, in the fire. And so this is what I would say for the person in the fire then. I would say this, surrender, surrender. Say, Lord, help me to trust you. You don't have to have all the answers.

You don't have to even do it in a way that looks beautiful to the outsider looking in. What you have to do is go humbly before your God and say, I trust that you have my life. And I'm not going to worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow has enough troubles of its own.

I'm going to ask you to be my provider, just like you feed the birds of the air and clothe the lilies of the field. I'm going to ask for today's grace. And he gives it. He's faithful to help you take the next step. And I can say that as somebody who is still trusting every day for grace to take the next step. He is faithful, and he has no respect for a person's.

Eric Reed does not impress him. So he will give it to the man and woman listening to this today, too. You've been listening to Family Life today. Now, if you know of anyone who would benefit and needs to hear today's conversation that Dave and Ann Wilson had with Eric Reed, you can share it from wherever you get your podcasts. And while you're there, it'd really help if you'd reach out to them. And if you'd like to learn more about family life today, or if you'd like to learn more about what's going on in the world, or if you'd like to learn more about what's going on in the world, share it from wherever you get your podcasts.

And while you're there, it'd really help if you'd rate and review us. Now, I've got with me today the president of Family Life, David Robbins. And David, this has been a heavy few days thinking about trusting God through difficult times.

But it's an important conversation, right? Yeah, when I think about the trials and sufferings that come as a part of a broken world, when I think about the waiting and longing that a lot of people experience of desires that have been put on their heart, but yet God's not showing up in the timing or in the way that we want, there's a lot of pain out there. There's a lot to process. And especially as I think about listening to today and what Eric shared, it just hits the nail on the head of how much we all ache and long for real restoration and healing in so many different areas in our lives. And at Family Life, that's precisely what we want to enter into. We believe that Jesus is the healer.

We believe that he restores all things and makes all things new in his time because of the gospel. And I just want to take a moment to thank those of you who are family life partners who give financially, whether that's monthly in an ongoing way or with special gifts, as you're able, you enable us to meet real needs that people have to minister to people with the beauty and redemption found in Jesus in their time of need, bringing specific topics like we talked about today, meeting people right where they are. Thank you for continuing to partner with us. And we are grateful for those of you who would be interested in beginning to partner with us to continue to take this help and hope to more people.

Yeah, that's right. And if you want to help with that, again, you can support Family Life Today by donating at familylifetoday.com. And when you do donate as our thanks this week, we're going to send you a copy of Eric Reid's book, Uncommon Trust. So how do you keep from becoming merely roommates with your spouse?

You ever felt that before? We're going to hear tomorrow from Ron Deal and Greg Smalley on just that topic. On behalf of David Ann 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.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-09 15:19:38 / 2023-01-09 15:30:52 / 11

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