Hey there, David Robbins here, President of Family Life, joined with my wife Meg. And at Family Life, we are driven to be here for all the ups and downs of your family life. Yeah, and thanks to generous listeners and partners like you, we have the ability to create resources and content that cover a wide range of family issues. And these are changing lives every day.
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You can go to familylivetoday.com to find out more, or you can hear more about it later in the show. Nothing in life is going to be everything that you hoped it would be. Not money, not pleasure, not relationships, not friendships, not work, not status, not accomplishments. The garden of your ideal life is going to be littered with disappointment. And that's not meant to make you sad.
It's meant to make you sober. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Dave Wilson.
And I'm Ann Wilson, and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. So it's not often that we fight over books as we're preparing to do interviews, but we did that today. I mean, you kept stealing my book. I was holding it on the couch, enjoying this read.
You had had it a long time. We're going to interview the author, John, today, and you kept, like, literally taking it out of my hand. I know. The book is We Go On by John Onwuchekwa. And let me just say, the subtitle is Finding Purpose in All of Life's Sorrows and Joys. Yeah, and it's so well-written.
I mean, it's one of those I couldn't put it down. Couple reasons because it's so well-written, but because John is writing about struggles in his own life as he lost his brother. We talked about that in the last couple days. Yesterday, we talked about how that impacts a marriage when you go through trauma or grief. And today, we get to dive in with John.
He's back with us to talk about the book of Ecclesiastes because God met him through this book. So we're going to look at that. But what's really interesting is you discovered this guy wakes up, like, super early in the morning. Yeah, which I related to because when I was grieving over my sister's death, I remember waking up early.
And so let us ask you, John, since we've heard that you wake up early, why do you wake up so early? I started this four years ago by accident. And my daughter was one.
I was a pastor. Every hour of the day, people were pulling on me for something. And one day, I got up at 4 a.m. by accident. And from 4 until 7, it was just dark and quiet, and nobody needed anything from me. And I felt at such peace. So by the time the day started, I didn't feel tired.
I felt rested. Then eventually, it started to be my thing because I get up before the sun rises. And it's just my daily act of hopeful defiance where I'm reminded that I'm not going to live a life where the state of my soul is dictated by my surroundings. So when you get up at 4 a.m., it looks like midnight.
It looks like nighttime. The only thing that tells you that it's a new day is that clock. And you have to say to yourself, am I going to trust what I see or am I going to trust what that clock says and get up?
And I've learned, no, no, no. I'm going to trust what that clock says and get up, and I'm going to live, and I'm going to wait for my circumstances to catch up. I'm going to be reminded that every new day begins in the dark. And I feel like just that simple act for the past four years has reminded me that when grief comes, all right, that's a dark that I've got to lean into. But every new day begins in the dark.
The sun is going to come up. I need to wait for it, like the psalmist says, you know, like a watchman for the morning. Hopeful defiance.
In the last four years, do you think that has affected your marriage and your walk with God? Oh, absolutely. In what way?
Hands down. I am, or I have been for most of my life, an extrovert. A lot of that has been fueled, some by who I am, some by my desire to please people and to be liked, right?
I always got to have a story or a joke, right? I don't want to be liked. And, you know, getting up at that time, as hard as I've tried, I can't get anybody to get up with me. When you go to bed at seven o'clock at night? No. So most times I'm in bed by nine, 30, or 10. Sometimes.
But you're up alone. Midnight. Sometimes. And you still get up at four thirty? Yeah. When I'm up at that time, it's helped me because it's forced me to be with the Lord, be in silence.
It's forced me to process where I am and to think and to create and to get my mind clear and to unburden myself in certain ways where when my family wakes up, You're ready. There with them. Yeah. Ready.
Ready to face the day because I've done the hard work of fighting for joy while everybody else that I know is still sleeping. Is there a clock in your life besides a number on a screen that you anchor to say, I'm going to trust this over my circumstances? The scriptures are my clock. That's what I figured. Yeah.
Yeah. So I've been preaching consistently for 15 years. And when you do that, you know, you spend each week studying and text. So my pattern for the past 15 years in my own time with the Lord has not been to have a pen and a pad and study. It's just been to read large swaths of scripture, just large chunks and to think and to pray. And I think that's helped me to continually gain a sense of the whole. And so every morning I'm reading. Is there any scripture, even as you walk through your brother's death, the grieving that just stood out to you? In one sense, there's some, but in some sense, it's every scripture.
All of it. That say this whole time. So a few years ago, me and an intern at our church started this podcast called Windows and Mirrors. And the aim is each year, four chapters at a time, we walk through the Bible in a year, four chapters each day, a 10 minute reflection. And we start off each one and say this, hey, we just want to remind you and us that the Bible is more like a window than it is a mirror. We come to it to look through it and see God. We don't come to a primarily to look at it and see ourselves. I think sometimes the Bible isn't enjoyable for us because we treat it like a house of mirrors. We read it constantly to pick apart the things that are wrong with us as opposed to a window that has a view of something beautiful.
And we look through it and realize that joy comes not in fixing what's wrong with us, but in seeing something beautiful and being caught up into it. And then it's like, as I've seen that, it's after Sam died, I couldn't read my Bible. Then I picked it up. I couldn't either when my sister died.
Yeah. So I picked it up and then I started to read. And here's what was so hard.
I'm just going to start from the top. And by the time I get to the fourth chapter, I read about a brother murdering his brother and I wanted to throw up. I had to close it like it hit me different because of where I was. And I started to feel like, oh, my goodness, sin is something serious. And then I picked up and I started to read and read more.
And then I got to Joseph's story and a brother selling his brother. And all through, like, I just felt... Kept getting triggered.
Triggered. But the other thing that I saw was that, ah, but even in all this, look at what God is doing with the worst, most horrendous tragedies. He's doing something. And it just hit me like, all right, if God doesn't change, then his past acts aren't a greatest hits album. If God doesn't change, the work that he does in the past is really a future promise of what he'll continue to do. It changed the way that I looked at the Bible. And as I read, it's a drop me in any passage and I'll find some promise of the goodness of God. I do remember at that point, too, I could only read the Psalms. Because in the Psalms, I could relate, like, David's crying out.
That's good. You know, it's just, he's so really so honest that I could just, I could be in the Psalms and just sink deep into the goodness of God, but also the questioning, like, why, Lord? How long do I need to wait, Lord? And I just like the authenticity of the Psalms. One of the things that you wrote about in We Go On is just the study of Ecclesiastes.
And we haven't even really talked. I mean, you don't need to walk us through chapter by chapter, but as you think about how God met you in that book, and I mean, I love that book. I've never read it.
You guys, I don't. Whenever I've read this book, I'm thinking, this is the most depressing book ever. Oh, my goodness, but it's not. It's so hopeful, right? Right, but let's talk about that, because I can read it like, this guy is just depressed. This is depressing, but you're saying, no, it's hopeful. No, it's not.
All right. So we all have a sense that life is broken, that things just don't work right. But we all have a sense that we can fix the things that don't work right if we just get enough knowledge, get enough money, get enough status, get enough pleasure. And while the rest of the Bible says idols are bad, Ecclesiastes 1 through 5 says, no, no, no, no, no.
It's not just that they're bad. It's that idols don't work, right? And so the book just kind of leads you in and says this, no, look, look. Nothing in life is going to be everything that you hoped it would be. Not money, not pleasure, not relationships, not friendships, not work, not status, not accomplishments. The garden of your ideal life is going to be littered with disappointment. And that's not meant to make you sad. It's meant to make you sober. So the book starts off like that, and you're supposed to rise up and say, oh, yo, that is sad news, but it's good news in that I'm not crazy.
All right, I always felt like this thing was rigged. Like I was mad that I put in all the right work, but things didn't work out. I was mad that life didn't line up with my formula.
And I thought, well, maybe I just need to try this or this or this. And so the book is meant for him to say, no, no, wait, wait, wait, it's not going to be found in money. It's not going to be found in sex. It's not going to be found in pleasure. It's not going to be found in things. And then when we're calm enough, then he's like, no, no, no, but this is where it is found, right? So the book is just this thing is if you're looking for ultimate joy under the sun, you're not going to find it.
But if you do take a step back and start to look for your joy beyond the sun, right, that there's something else that's going to come that's going to bring meaning to our life, then you're free to surrender to life as it is and not mourn life as you hoped it would be. Because most of us lived there. Absolutely. Well, I was just going to say, why don't we believe it? Because we don't believe that.
No. We hear you say it. We read it. Solomon said it.
And we even go, this guy, if anybody knows, he knows because he had all this. Right. And I think at the end of the day, we think, yeah, but five more, 50 more square feet, five more RPMs, you know, 500,000 more. It's just like we just don't believe it. And we keep chasing the wind, but we know better. Right.
So why do we keep chasing it? I think because- Maybe I'm just talking for myself. No. I'm the only one here.
No, no. But I think it's because of this. I think we are by nature stubborn and hardheaded.
And what it takes is us dropped on our heads to like jolt us out of it. So it used to be I would have a harder time convincing people. Nothing in life is going to be all that you hoped that it would be until March of 2020. You were right.
You are right. And now what I found in the course of the past- The pandemic. I could say that and people that were 40 plus said, oh yeah, because I've lived through some things. But now I say that and I've got 16 year olds that say, yo, I know exactly what you mean. I put my hope in all this stuff.
And I see just how everything could change in an instant. Like, so we're good. No, we're not good. What? There's a new strain.
There's not a new strain. It's more than- We're coming out. We're not coming out.
We're going to graduate. Yes. And so people have seen, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Everything that I thought was sturdy is not. And they're saying, is there an anchor?
Is there something that I can hold onto? Is there a way that I can get contentment and joy without getting all the other things that I had? And they're seeing people, Ecclesiastes is going to say, yo, here's the greatest curse. Somebody that has all the money in the world and they have everything except for enjoyment. And they've seen like, all right, wait, there's somebody who has all the possessions and they don't have enjoyment, but then in the person of Jesus, it's a, wait, wait, wait. But then you've got somebody who had none of the possessions, but he had an enjoyment and contentment, not just that he possessed, but he passed on. Maybe there's a better way to life and to joy than in the way that I've been chasing. And Ecclesiastes, I feel like is the greatest apologetic for, no, no, listen, all the stuff you thought worked, it didn't. And now if you can learn to lean into the life that you have, you can start to live the life of your dream by enjoying the life that you have. Yeah, I know that I remember years ago, I was at our church 30 years and we started it from scratch, but I think year 15 or so, we had a consultant come in and looking at what we're doing at our different campuses.
And he was sort of an expert on here's your first impressions type deal. And I'll never forget, he said this, tell me if you agree as a pastor, he said, you know, when a new person comes to your church, one of two things have probably happened and you can approach them knowing this. They're either desperate, life isn't working and they're like, I got to find the answer, I'm going to try church. Or just what you said, they've reached every goal they ever dreamed of and they're empty. And they're like, this wasn't it.
Maybe there is this something to this God thing. So he's like, you could walk up to almost any person and ask them, hey, so are you struggling right now? And they might go, yeah, I really am. But hey, you just got the house, you get the promotion and it's empty. And what hit me is that's true whether somebody comes to your church, but it's also true in your neighborhood.
Absolutely. You can start a conversation with your neighbor and bring the gospel in there because probably the reality, it's Ecclesiastes. We are all living it at one level or another, right? People are used to being depressed in a valley. People are thrown off when they're depressed on the mountain top.
They're like, no, no, no, wait, wait, wait. Depression is for people whose spouse walked out on them, who are wearing all black, mourning the loss of that. Depression is not for people that got the promotion, got the house, got the wife, got the family, got that. And then when they get that, they think maybe there's something that I missed, but what do you do when there's no other goals to chase? And you say, oh, maybe I was filling up on the wrong stuff. So how did the study of Ecclesiastes walk you through out of your grief or with you in your grief? When you experience such dramatic loss, you start to feel like, well, I need to fill up on things.
I need to busy myself. My brother was an achiever, right? He walked on, played ball, D1, graduated college in three and a half years, was getting his master's, lecturing at the school that he was playing ball at, teaching classmates in his class. That was Sam, right?
Investing in real estate at the time, all of this, and he was just running. And so I thought, all right, Sam's gone and I just need to do that. And so I just tried to achieve and to do things, but I'm great with creating to-do lists. I'm terrible with doing the things that are on my to-do list. And so I was like chasing and I couldn't climb to the heights that I did. And even when I did climb to the heights that I chase after, it wasn't fulfilling. And I'm like, maybe I'm crazy.
Maybe there's something wrong with me. And everybody has heard the phrase, misery loves company. In Ecclesiastes, I find, oh no, no, no, my misery needed company, that it was vindicating to be like, oh wait, there's somebody else that's already done this and he's come to the conclusion.
And it's like, all right, I've got a choice. I can sit back and say, maybe he missed something or I can say, no, no, maybe I've missed something. And so I took the advice of a mentor that I had years ago and he said, experience isn't the best teacher.
Somebody else's experience is the best teacher because you learn the same lesson and don't have to experience the same heartache. And so it was using Ecclesiastes as my clock that I can trust what I see or what I feel, or I can say, no, this is what the clock says. And I think there's a way to find joy and peace apart from seeking it in achievements or relationships. And I think we do that naturally without even realizing it. I've seen in my own life over the years when I take my eyes off of Jesus and I think that can be just that natural flow of being busy, our life's demanding, our kids are demanding, there's a lot going on. And so there's this gradual drift and I've done that with my walk with God in the past.
I don't have time to read or listen or I don't have time to just, and so what can happen without me knowing it as I've had my eyes on Jesus all these years, I think what we naturally can do is we put our eyes or our hopes somewhere else. It's what Ecclesiastes, it's in, for me, it's, and I think for a lot of women, it's relationships. And so then I look to Dave and I think, hmm, why aren't you meeting my needs?
And I don't know that I'm doing this. I don't know that my marriage is now becoming an idol. I'm thinking, why aren't you meeting my needs?
If you would meet my needs, I would be happy. But the truth is no matter how great Dave was, if he was the greatest husband in the world, there would still be that ache in my soul. I know some listeners are thinking, eh, I don't think it'd be that great, the ache.
But there is because there's only one that can fill that void. I remember I had this defining moment as a 19 year old girl. I went into a nursing home and I saw this woman in her nineties and I remember looking at her. And as a 19 year old, I'm this driven young woman, I'm thinking I'm going to change the world for Jesus. I'm going to have a great marriage.
I'm just thinking all these things are going to fill me up as well as Jesus. But as I started talking to this woman, she's incredibly frail, she couldn't walk any longer. She was in a wheelchair and I had never in my life seen so much joy on someone's face. And I sat beside her.
She didn't even know me. And she took my hand and she said, I'm so glad to meet you Ann. And I said, oh, that's so nice of you.
Thank you. She goes, when I opened my eyes today, I knew Jesus, you must have a reason why I'm on this earth. Let me know why you have me here today. And she looked at me, she said, you're the reason. I'm looking at her and I'm thinking of all the things that she had lost her husband. She told me she had lost many of her children already. So she doesn't have much family. She's lost her looks as a woman.
You know, you try to find some sort of identity. She doesn't have, you know, she can't even take care of herself or take care of her own needs. She can't walk. The only thing she can really do is she has her voice and she has her mind. And she said, and with that every single day, I will minister to the people around me because isn't it amazing that I'm alive today and God wants me here? I'm thinking as a 19 year old, what is happening? Like this is breaking all the molds of what we think will find success and hope and contentment in, and she's lost all of those things.
And the only thing she has is Jesus. And I do remember walking out thinking, I pray God that I'm that woman, that I will always have my eyes on you because you are the fulfiller of our soul and our destiny really. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Jon on Waukeshaqua. His book is called We Go On, Finding Purpose in All of Life's Sorrows and Joys. You can get a copy at familylifetoday.com.
Just click on today's resources to find it, or you can call 800-358-6329. That's 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. You know, we asked Dave and Anne to talk a little bit about who we are and how we move forward as a ministry each day here at Family Life. I don't know if you've noticed, but we rarely mention our nonprofit Status of Family Life and our reliance on listener support. And there is a reason for that.
We really don't want to encumber you with all those details. We want to give as much time to the program as possible, because we want to equip you and help you so that you can cultivate relationships that matter most. Plus, we also realize that young families are in need, and they're not always in a position to give generously.
But that's not true for everyone, and that's why I want to speak directly to you. The majority of our audience is actually capable of providing a year-end tax-deductible gift, and there's never been a better time to maximize your investment. Look, we're in the final hours of December 2022, and it's super important that we remind you about the most important deadline of the year—Saturday night at midnight.
This is critical, guys. December 31, we will close the books on 2022, and it's also the last day to receive your charitable gift toward the matching challenge. So let me ask you, while it's fresh on your mind, give us a call or go online to FamilyLifeToday.com and give whatever amount God has placed on your heart. And when you do, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that God is using you to help families in your community and all across our country. Thanks so much. Yeah, sincerely. Thank you.
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That's 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Okay, next week is going to be special. David Ann Wilson and all the other podcast hosts within Family Life will be linking up and going through highlights of the last year. It's a great time to catch things that you've missed and hear from the other hosts.
And I may or may not be one of them. You'll just have to listen for yourself. I hope you'll join us because I'm definitely going to be there.
On behalf of David Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. Have a great New Year celebration this weekend. 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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