Share This Episode
Family Life Today Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine Logo

Navigating Suffering Spaces: Heather MacFadyen

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
November 24, 2023 5:15 am

Navigating Suffering Spaces: Heather MacFadyen

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1219 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

November 24, 2023 5:15 am

Relationships on planet Earth: They're inevitably linked to hurt. Author Heather MacFadyen believes there's a deep humility in choosing to occupy our sacred spaces of pain—to the glory of God.

Show Notes and Resources

Find out more about Heather McFayden at and listen to more of podcasts of her on FamilyLife Today.

..and get her book, Right Where You Belong: How to Identify and Fully Occupy Your God-Given Space

See resources from our past podcasts.

Find more content and resources on the FamilyLife's app!

Help others find FamilyLife. Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Check out all the FamilyLife's podcasts on the FamilyLife Podcast Network

Matt Slick Live!
Matt Slick
Running to Win
Erwin Lutzer
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul
Wisdom for the Heart
Dr. Stephen Davey
In Touch
Charles Stanley
What's Right What's Left
Pastor Ernie Sanders

I think we try so hard to follow other people's paths, especially with social media. You have access, you have all these people telling you the five steps, the five ways. And it's like, there's a way, Jesus. And we walk with Him. We don't know the purpose of our suffering.

We can never see it. The simplicity is to walk with God no matter where we're assigned. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

This is Family Life Today. I remember being at the top of this hill. It was the Findlay Reservoir.

Yeah. It was a very romantic spot. It's where everyone went to make out. And we sat there talking. By the way, we didn't make out. Just in case our listeners are like... All we did was sit and talk about Jesus.

Yeah. And I remember thinking, I've never had a conversation like this. Super new in my faith. You were new in your faith. And I was stunned.

At your heart for Jesus. I literally remember asking you, what are you gonna do with your life? You were 18? 18. I was going in my senior year in college. You're going in your senior year in high school. And you said, you remember, you said, I'm going to go and do whatever Jesus calls me to do. Wherever it is, I'm in. And I remember thinking, she's doing that with or without me.

It doesn't matter. If I'm part of this equation, it's like this woman is going after His call on her life. And I remember thinking, that's what I want. I thought the same thing about you. I'm like, he's going to change the world.

It'd be so fun to change the world with him. Yeah, but here we are. We're going to talk about calling today. We're going to talk about calling today and then how 10 years later, I'm like, I don't even like this guy. Now I have kids.

I'm not changing anything except diapers. And that's kind of where it can go at times. We go through this crazy path. Well, I'm holding a book in my hand called Right Where You Belong, How to Identify and Fully Occupy Your God-given Space.

And guess what? The author's here. Heather's here. It's nice to have you back, Heather. It's so fun being with y'all. I was excited to get on this plane. Get here.

From Texas to Orlando. I'll tell you, on one of our first dates, my husband was telling me all his dreams and one included to live in South Africa. And we were going to have a pet cheetah. So I'm pulling out that receipt. I haven't seen that happen yet. The pet cheetah thing intrigued me more than anything, right? Yeah. I mean, is that something you were like, that sounds exciting? That sounds, for a 18, 19 year old girl, yes, let's have adventure together.

Yeah, that didn't happen. Well, your podcast, Don't Mom Alone. Yes. I mean, I know this is your second book. Do you talk about that a lot on Don't Mom Alone? Calling, you know, occupying your God-given space, which I love that phrase.

Me too. You know, I've preached on what I call the theology of place, which is what I think you're saying, right? That it's like God has you in a place and a space and that's where he wants you to make an impact. Is that what you talk about with Don't Mom Alone?

Yeah, I think with Don't Mom Alone, it is more mother oriented. We did a series related to this book and I think it struck a chord with a lot of women, particularly when we talked about being assigned suffering spaces. I think there's a theology challenge when if that's a God-given space, does God give us suffering? And then you have to talk through why do bad things happen to good people? All of that thinking. And really, my heart is so much energy often in suffering spaces is wasted, trying to figure out why that happened.

And instead, if we could embrace, it is happening. What do I do in this space? And I picture Paul in prison, you know, shackled. And what did he do in his space, right?

We were saying you're calling us to go and make disciples. Well, he did it right there in the prison cell. He's praising God.

He's singing. And he knew the God he worshiped is outside that space and could do anything. He sure did.

An earthquake, the walls come down. But what I loved is he didn't leave and he stayed. And then he made another disciple of the prison guard and that guard made disciples of his family and community. And then we read, the guard comes back and says that the authorities told him to go in peace. And so often we're in these places and we're looking for escape buttons.

How do I get out of this? Yeah, we're asking the why. One of our good friends, Jamie Winship, said, God seldom answers the why question. But what he will do is answer the, when we say, God, what do you want me to know about this time, this space, this situation? What do you want me to know? And how do you want me to be with you in it?

Yeah, that's good. Well, walk us through that, because it's later in your book, but you talk about your dad and your mom with cancer. No, a suffering space. You were in a suffering space. How did you navigate that?

Man. Yeah, that was a lot of this of just, this is not where I want to be. I was choosing the flowers from my dad's casket and shaving my mom's head because of the chemo. How old were you? I was in my 40s. No, I was about to turn 40.

I turned 40 right after my dad passed. So your mom had breast cancer. They lived in Costa Rica, they came to Dallas for her treatment, and then my dad got his liver cancer showed up. He'd had colon cancer before and had to move to his liver, and he passed away within a month.

But my mom had just started the hardest part of her chemo. In fact, we were in Orlando, our last trip as a family. And I remember my dad saying, like Christmas Eve night, he said, we're all sitting there and he said, this, this is my life.

Y'all are my life. And I think he's, you know, a lawyer. He was, he ran for political office. He mentored Mike Pence.

He's done amazing things. But at the end of the day, it was sitting around that table with our family. That's the whole of his life. And I think we overcomplicate the purposes of our life. These suffering spaces are part of our journeys to intimacy with God, to relying on other people where we may choose to do it on our own. So we don't need our families or we don't need relationships. And so we miss out.

We actually miss out. What do you mean overcomplicate? I think we try so hard to follow other people's paths.

Me too. Especially with social media, you have access, you have all these people telling you the five steps, the five ways. And it's like, there's a way, Jesus, and we walk with him. And even if it's Jesus went to a cross and suffered, and the purpose of that cross was for our salvation. We don't know the purpose of our suffering.

We can never see it. I am a strong believer that pain is not wasted. And I know even walking through my suffering space, the connection with my friends, people that God put in place years before that I needed in that time of need, I just feel like the simplicity is to walk with God, no matter where we're assigned. It's almost, Dave, like that night on our first date, we're talking about, let's go change the world.

But then we walk in, as you said, Heather, these suffering places where our marriage is struggling, my sister died. And you're thinking, wait, I thought we were going to change the world. And I'm sure David thought that, wait, I thought I was going to be the king. And now I'm hiding in the cave and Moses is this great, incredible leader.

And now I'm in the desert and I'm a herder, you know? So God takes us on these journeys we don't expect. And you're saying, God, you're going to use this journey of suffering. Yeah, and whether the cause is our sin, someone else's sin, God's purposes, it doesn't matter.

Like you said, with the why question, we don't need to know the why, but it's the how we walk through it. When we ask the questions, does God love? Does God care? Can God? And I think we have to answer, okay, he's powerful. He can do anything. He can shake those walls for the earthquake for Paul.

He can heal anything. We've seen it over and over in the Bible. And then when he doesn't, when we do bury the person we were praying for full healing, we question, does he care?

Yeah. Does he not love them? And then we have to come, oh, wait, you love them more than I could possibly ever know.

You love my kids more than I could ever possibly know. So answering those questions with the truth goes back then to our relationship with God and leaning in. Because what I find, too, is people walk through suffering spaces and they start to blame God, who's the source of the hope and the healing, ultimately. One of my friends had breast cancer and I asked her, I was in seminary, we were young, like 20s, and I said, are you mad at God? Have you told him? Like, are you really mad at him? Does it make you want to walk away? I remember she so wisely said, Ann, he's my source of strength, he's my source of hope, he's everything to me.

How could I leave him? I can't walk a day without him. I thought, whoa, that's good. Like, it's a good reminder of like, oh, why would we pull away?

We need to get even closer to him. And I think when it's real to ask the questions, it's real and okay. Oh, that's what I was going to say.

It's okay. Because I walked through my own bitterness of, we were at family camp and a pastor was talking on Ruth and he said, her mother-in-law tells her to call her bitter, Mara. And I'm like, what kind of woman wants to be called bitter? And then another pastor quote, he said, worry is when you think God's going to get it wrong. And bitterness is when you believe God got it wrong. That's good. And I was sitting there and something resonated so much in me.

I was like visibly and physically impacted by those words. And so that night with friends who I've prayed with before, I just confessed to God, God, I do believe you got this wrong. What was he getting wrong?

The taking of my dad. But I had believed that in my core, even though my Christian girl mind says, no, God's sovereign. And no, he never makes mistakes. And oh, I'll see him in heaven. All the things that the Pollyanna voice wants to say, which are true, I still needed to wrestle with. My soul had held onto a belief that God got it wrong. So what happened when you confessed it? I was forgiven, of course, because God is like so abundantly willing to forgive us. And then I accepted the forgiveness, which is a step that we often pass over.

Yeah. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. And God's like, I forgave you already.

Yeah, yeah. Will you accept it? I've prayed with women and we get to that point and they say they're sorry, or they say the thing they've been believing that's not true about God or about other people. Or I should do something to make it right. Do something to make it right. And I'm like, okay, now accept the forgiveness.

And there is such a long pause often. There's such a resistance at that point in the spiritual realm that it's like, I think a really important step in our being set free journey is that accepting of the forgiveness that's available to us. And when I accepted that, it was almost like literally if I took this plant and I just pulled it right out, it was an unrooting of bitterness in my soul. And that same room where I'd heard the sermon on Ruth, the next day I was dancing with my kids. So I'm like, so you think you can dance game that they were playing?

It was like, he turned my morning into dancing. It was a before and an after moment for me personally, that needed to happen. But I could just imagine it when hard things happen, we hold those beliefs and we just keep bearing them under whether it's performance, whether it's distraction, whether it's, nope, I'm going to be a good Christian. I'm not going to admit that I believe this.

It's like David showed us. Yeah. Say the thing. Yeah. Lament.

Yeah. Tell God what you think about him and then remind yourself of what is true of who God is. Talk about and talk to the woman who's married. And she's been praying for 10, 15, 20 years that her marriage would be great. And she's been praying that her husband will change. That's what she's been praying. That's exactly it.

He will seek God. Yes. And now she's mad because God hasn't even answered that prayer.

Yeah. What would you say to her? If you are struggling to continue to pray, invite other women into your life and trade prayers. Trade prayers? Trade prayers. Trade prayers. You've been praying it so much that you're weary.

I pray for a friend for her husband because she's tired. And I mean, our timeline and God's timeline, we know this. You're so different.

Yes. You know, when the Israelites were in captivity, it's like, we use that verse all the time. I know the plans I have for you, la la la, in 60 years, you know, 40 years from now. It's like when I originally had an agent and I thought I was going to write a book and a friend said, well, why don't you just wait five years?

Because I had a newborn, a two year old, a four year old, a six year old. And when five years, I thought that's a billion years. I'm not waiting five years. This opportunity is going to pass.

I'm going to miss it. Yes. And here, my first book published 10 years after that first conversation. So, but even that seemed fast. It's like when we're in the waiting season, it is forever. And then God fulfills the thing and the praise. It's just like, OK, God, that was all you. Yeah, that was all you. That's good.

Yeah. I was thinking earlier when you're talking about accepting God's forgiveness, which is ours from the cross, not even because we confess. It's ours from the cross.

Already there. And confession sort of helps us agree with it and receive it. But I was thinking, talk about this, if we don't receive that, if we struggle and block that, hold on to Mara, be bitter, can we live out God's calling in our life? Can we live out what he wants us to do right where we belong?

You know, I was thinking in your title and this whole concept of I'm supposed to do what God's calling me to do, make disciples right here. But if I'm stuck, it's like I'm not living out. I know. That was my heart.

No, I do. What I pictured was you've been given this space and I always think of just a square. I don't know why I think of a square.

I think because I thought of four boundary lines, but it could be an octagon shaped space, whatever. And you're not all the way in it because so much of the space is filled with your bitterness. So much of the space is filled with your own regret. So much of the space is filled with your fear. And so a lot of the book, too, is how are you cleaning house with God? Because when you let go of those things, you can walk in freedom and you can fully occupy the space. Not the fears, not the shame, all the things we've been given power to be set free from, but we don't. We are the new high priest who cleans out the temple, the temple being our body. I mean, if you really narrow your God given space all the way down. It is your physical body in this present moment. I think people aren't even aware of the things that are in their space.

No, because they're so busy with other people. Exactly. Shame, guilt and fear. The self-talk of hatred and your past pain and your past trauma.

Jesus is like, I'll take all of that. I want to set you free. I want you to walk in freedom. And yet we've lived it and we've been covered with it so long.

I don't even think we understand how it's affected our lives. And I think, as I'm saying that, I think for women, like, are you free? Jesus came to set you free.

Are you free? Yeah. And a good way to tell if you're not, take an inventory of your day, what comes into your mind, what thoughts come into your mind, what preoccupies your energy and your time. And if a lot of your energy is worrying about what other people are doing, worrying about what your kids are doing, worrying about what your husband is doing, worrying about what your friends are doing, what's in your hoop? Because I really, really feel like if you stick to what's in your space and you stored that well, that is going to occupy a majority of your time and your energy and your relationship with God so that you can then shine a light for Him.

Because you're going to look so different, change from the inside out, that that is a testimony in and of itself. Now, you said hoop. Is that your hula hoop theology? Yeah. It's in your book. Yeah. My pastor's wife, Vela.

So I think she went and learned it from, she would say, her counselor of just this concept of self differentiation. So I'm only responsible for what's in my hoop. So I could be with my spouse and my spouse could be feeling shame or sadness and I can empathize with, man, I'm so sorry that happened. I'm so sorry you're feeling that shame.

I don't have to succumb and now be unhappy too and join into the hoop to where I feel the exact feelings he's had and I'm all of a sudden sad and feeling shame. I can be near, but not become codependent and I'm not okay if you're not okay. This is so hard with kids, especially. I was just thinking kids because so much of, like, I know Anne is like, they're part of her. Totally. If they're not doing well, I'm not doing well.

Yeah. And now grandkids. So when you're a parent, they're in your hoop just by nature of care and love and they can't be outside.

But I think it's what the middle school years are that my generation generation are struggling with is they are trying to self-differentiate. They're trying so hard to push back on this helicopter, whatever, lawnmower or backhoe parenting, whatever kind of parenting you're doing. The lawnmower is like you're clearing the path, making it easy so that they don't have anything hard.

The backhoe is you cleaning up their messes behind them. Whatever kind of parenting you're doing, they have their own unique God-given space that God wants to occupy with them. So your role, I feel like in those early years when you are in the same hoop, is that they so intimately know love and care that they want to know God. So that then the major don't-mom-alone move is that the Holy Spirit's in them. So you don't have to be micromanaging and controlling because they are led by the Spirit in their space. But yeah, I think even mom friends could be better friends if I was confident and at peace in my own parenting decisions and my own space and how we're choosing as a family to occupy it so that you could, in your space, occupy the way you are being led by God.

And I don't feel the need to let you know that, oh, that's not what that podcast episode said or that's not what that article said or I read this post that said this. And I need to correct you, like you're not supposed to do that with your kids because they're going to turn on X, Y, and Z. It's like I can be friends with you. We can parent alongside each other with our own hoops. I think this is the hardest thing with adult kids.

I can only imagine. Because at home, we have control. As they get older, you can feel that now. Middle school, high school, they're forming their own hoop and they don't really want to be inside of your hoop anymore.

And it makes me want to just cry about that. But then as they get older, we really are done parenting them and we should be. We're friends, we're coaches, but, you know, we're peers instead of parents. And so to let them have that hoop and to not be in control, it's so important. And I think it's hard to do that apart from Jesus because he's the one that allows us to not get our identity from our kids' success or failure to. Yeah.

And you know that as a mom and your Mom Alone podcast, you're probably talking to moms all the time. I have to preach it to myself. Yeah.

When your kids are failing, you feel like you're a failure. Yeah. Yeah.

You have to find, I mean, your identity in Christ, like that to me is the biggest goal if you haven't dug into that for yourself. I know for me, it's this constant reminder of it. Yeah. And even having friends remind me when I fall into the trap of, oh, I'm a terrible mom because X, Y, and Z. Okay, remember, Heather, you're important, but you're not essential.

I'm like, okay, that's right. You're important, but not essential. And so spending that energy on how will I walk through this next to my adult child? How will I support them and deal with my own need to fix and correct and let them know where they're wrong? That's on me. Yeah.

Where am I struggling instead of? It seems a little easier to do it for others in their space. It's so much easier. I can judge your space all day long. Well, I mean, in some ways, it sounds like you're saying, I mean, we want to have our eyes on others to reach them and help them and make disciples. But it sounds like you're saying the hoop idea is have your eyes on your own hoop, your own boundary lines. Sounds selfish, but it's like if you do that well and just take care of what God's call is for you. You said it earlier, you'll be dancing. You'll be free.

Is that what you're saying? And think about Jesus, like how he discipled was he walked alongside. He was walking with Father God. He was going away from the crowds to spend time and pray.

He was focused on his relationship and his hoop. He wasn't concerned. The Pharisees could say what they wanted to say. He didn't veer off course. His disciples could be wrong. Okay, let's just build tents up here on the mountain here.

This is a good idea. He wasn't deterred. He knew his mission. Even the moment when he says, take this cup from me, it's like seeing all the suffering he's about to walk into, but not my will, yours be done. He had to have a moment of surrender. That's what I feel like we, if we are walking intimately with God in our spaces, we're going to have surrender after surrender of our will.

It's not a one and done. Is that what you mean by tending your space? Tending.

One of your chapter titles is that, Tending Your Space. I mean, my yard right now, y'all. Texas heat with random rainstorms leads to unwieldy weeds, okay?

It feels like a never-ending battle. And I can't say, well, I weeded once this summer. Check.

That's what I want to believe. It's this tending, and oh, I've got to pop the heads off the begonias, and I've got to water that tree. It's a monitoring and a watchfulness. Wait, are you supposed to pop the heads off begonias? I just like to take the dead ones off so that it doesn't rob from the plants.

I know what he is doing next week. Like, I've never done that. Okay, I need to pop the heads off the begonias.

But, yeah. It's the pruning. The pruning. You know, Jesus was trying to give us the example with the vineyard, and you know, you can't create the fruitfulness that we want in our lives as believers. Fruit of the Spirit. It's the Spirit in our life. We can't have that if we're disconnected from the main vine, which is God, through Jesus. He gave us access to God, the main vine.

And there is some pruning in there so that we can have good growth, but we don't control the outcome. And that's the other thing I really wanted to help bring peace to people is to stop being so outcome-focused with your life. How can I get here? How can I get the book deal? How can I get the speaker invitation?

How can I get the kid who's, you know, this? If you focus in on what God's asking you to do today, listen and obey. The word in Hebrew is Shema.

It is connected. Shema is to listen. Samuel said, speak, Lord, your servant is listening. Shema, hear, O Israel.

Shema. But they would also, when the Hebrews would hear it, they wouldn't disconnect it from obedience. To hear was to obey. So are we stopping in our lives to listen to God, like listening and asking for his direction? And are we choosing to surrender our will and obey, whatever, if it doesn't match Sally Sue next door and what she's doing with her family?

But we feel God's leading us this direction. What does that look like for you, Heather? Like on a daily basis, what does that look like? Well, we live in Dallas, so we don't do a lot of the things the same.

We don't even live in the same neighborhood as a lot of the people my kids go to school with. It may be loving a neighbor who doesn't look like someone who goes to my church, but who needs love and care like all of us do. It may look like surrendering a vacation for a mission trip. It may mean, I don't know, choosing to hang out with a family that needs attention that isn't getting invited to the thing.

I don't know. It's whatever God's leading you that day to do. It's talking to my, I said the grocery earlier, you go to the same grocery probably every week and probably see the same people.

When my son came with me, he's like, Mom, it's like a, I don't think he said soap opera, but he's like, it's like a TV show that you know all these people, you know what's going on in their lives. And I'm like, because I go here every week. As often as I go to church, I'm going to the grocery store and how am I showing up there and interacting with them? And what I hear you saying too, is you have a daily surrender to Jesus.

I think it's a choice you have. I see that in you. Like every day, I imagine you saying, God, I give you my day and show me the space that I can occupy today. And then watch what he might do.

What do you have for me today? He is the biggest networker. He's connected to the universe. If he wants something to happen, he can bust open a sea, prison walls, trust the outcome and the fruit to him. And let me add, I think if all of us would daily surrender, and it could be hourly that you're re-surrendering, but then to ask Jesus, like, just show me where you want me to go. Let me know what you want me to say. What do you think about this? What do you want me to know, God?

What do you want me to do, God? Those are just great prayers to help occupy our space. I would just say that conversation with Heather about making a difference right in your space, occupy that God-given space, is the DNA of family life. It's exactly what we talk about all the time.

You say, make a dent for your scent. Yeah, and family life's motto is on the corner, you know, where, you know, make an impact on the corner where God has put you. It's in our symbol, the house impacting another house impacting another home.

And that's what we talked about for the last couple of days. It's just exactly what God has called every one of us to be and do and families to do to impact the world for the kingdom. I think of her podcast called Don't Mom Alone. And I think of us in family life today as a team, but I also, we see you as listeners as being a part of our team that we don't want to do this alone. So if you've never given to family life, I would invite you to become one of our monthly partners, because we can't do this alone. Yeah, you think about, you make a financial contribution, it doesn't stop.

Yeah. It multiplies, and it's you using the gifts that God has given you to bless others. So thank you for doing that. If you've never done that, jump in. Be our partner. I'm Shelby Abbott. You've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Heather McFadyen on family life today.

That's really well said. And I really love the conversation today and yesterday with Heather. You know, she's got a book called Write Where You Belong. And the subtitle is How to Identify and Fully Occupy Your God Given Space.

This is really going to help you to figure out, like set boundaries, embrace your talents, and figure out where you are going to find fulfillment amidst kind of the conflicting messages of productivity and rest that comes from today's culture. So if you want to learn more about that, you can pick up Heather's book at in the show notes. And as Anne and Dave were talking about, we'd love it if you'd partner with us so we could do family life today together. If you want to be a partner with us, you can go online to and click on the donate now button at the top of the page. Or you could give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329.

Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Or you could drop us something in the mail if you like, if you want to become a partner that way. Our address is Family Life, 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. And since it's Friday, be sure to check out our Cyber Monday sale coming at the start of the work week next week. You could find out more at And speaking of Monday, next week, we're going to talk about Jesus moments. I'm going to be sitting down with the president of Family Life, David Robbins, his wife, Meg and Dave and Anne Wilson. And we're going to highlight some Jesus moments from the past year on our show, Family Life Today. That's coming up next week. 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 donor supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-24 06:31:00 / 2023-11-24 06:44:36 / 14

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime