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Stuck in the Past: Elizabeth Woodson

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
February 26, 2024 5:15 am

Stuck in the Past: Elizabeth Woodson

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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February 26, 2024 5:15 am

Stuck in a rut, thinking about the past? Elizabeth emphasizes practical steps and coping strategies on how to climb out of seasons of discontent and difficulty.

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Connect with Elizabeth Woodson and catch more of her thoughts at her website and podcast, Marked.

And grab Elizabeth Woodson's book Embrace Your Life in our shop!

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I always talk about disappointment is the friend we don't want that just shows up every so often because we just live in a fallen world. And so stuff is just not going to go the way we want it to. And sometimes we do have unreasonable expectations.

I think a life that is devoid of difficulty is an unreasonable expectation. 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. So I was thinking, like two tests for a marriage. These reveal the character of a person. How they handle prosperity. Yes. And or and or how they handle adversity.

Oh, yeah. Which one's harder? Well, when you're in it, you're thinking it's definitely adversity. But man, I've seen more people fall away in prosperity. You know, when adversity trials, hardship hits a person or a marriage. It's the test. Yeah, you find out what you're made of most marriages, a lot of families when they go through really serious hardship.

They don't make it. So we're gonna talk about that today. I know I'm excited. We've got Elizabeth Woodson with us.

Her book is called Embrace Your Life. Elizabeth, I mean, welcome to Family Life. Never been here, right?

Never been here. I'm excited to be here. I love this subtitle. Did you come up with it? I did. Yeah. I mean, everybody can relate to how to find joy when the life you have is not the life you hope for. Everybody just thought, yes.

Yes. And amen. Well, I wonder how many people think, well, I got the life I hope for. Now, most think I wanted it. But the question is, I don't have joy if I don't have joy. I don't have joy if I don't get it. So talk to us.

Why? How did this book come about? I tell folks it came about really for two reasons. One, it's just my own personal journey. Just seasons of discontent, seasons of difficulty. And I always tell people, it's like you're in the valley, and the timer has run out on how long you wanted to be there.

And God's like, Oh, no, we still got more time. And then it was stories of working in ministry. I've worked on staff at two different churches in my vocational ministry experience. And I would have this chair in my office. People come in, it's this big old chair, wingback chair, and they would tell me their stories. And some of them are really great. And some of them are really hard. And so there are two types of people that would come in with the hard stories. And there would be those who, man, whether it's financial, it's their health, it's a relationship.

I worked in singles ministry. So it was a lot of relationship stories. But it was also they were trying to press through. They were trying to make it they were trying to still have a joyful attitude in the midst of their difficulty. And then there was the other group, where it was the same story all the time. And I'm a person that believes in giving people time to process, right? Like it just takes time to get through some stuff. But year after year, I'm hearing the same thing.

What do you mean the same thing? I'm hearing the same complaints about their situation. It's never going to get any better. I hear people talking about, well, this person did this thing, however many years ago. And that's really the root of what I'm going through right now. And so really, it's people pointing back to a past event, where there's a broken relationship, it's financial difficulty, it's a health issue, and they can't move forward, because they can't get past what happened. And again, you know, we have to process the things. But when people they're just replaying the tape. Yeah. It's like, oh, you're stuck.

You're stuck. And I distinctly remember it was one girl I was talking to, and she was talking about a past broken relationship. And she couldn't move forward and receive new relationships.

She's a wonderful, wonderful woman. But she couldn't walk into that because of the bitterness. And because of the brokenness. And I was sad, because it's like, there's so much that God has for you. And you're gonna miss it.

And you're gonna miss it. Because you can't get past. Could she hear you?

No. And I mean, I try to be encouraging. But there is a point at which the Lord and the Holy Spirit has to do that work in you if we're receptive to it. And sometimes we're not receptive to it. Fear and a lot of different reasons that make it complicated. But that's why I wrote the book.

Because sometimes people need hooks to hang their hat on. How do I get out? How do I move forward? And that a lot of those stories and people were with me as I was writing the chapters of that book.

Have you ever gone through those times of adversity that you thought the same thing? Like, the timer has run out. Like, all right, that's it. Here's what I want to do. I want to bring a wingback chair in. And you're sitting in it.

In your office, in our office. And you're telling us your story. What was your story? I think one piece of my story is just death and grief. And so losing a lot of loved ones in a short period of time.

Grief is, I would say, no respecter of man. And so it just pops up at the most inconvenient times. And it just is like, man, I thought I would be past this. Lord, this is just really heavy. And I don't have what I need to function. Like, I don't have what I need to be present in this relationship, present on my job. You know, I'm bursting into tears.

And I got to excuse myself to go to the bathroom. Because it's just like, like, Lord, this is just really hard. And why does it keep happening?

And why in this season? And why this person? And so it just was really, it was really sad. I remember I moved to Dallas to be with my grandparents. And right before I moved, one of them passed away. And then right after I moved, probably about six or seven months, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away like four or five months later. And it's like, Lord, I've uprooted my life to spend time.

And at this moment, you've taken both of my grandparents to be with the Lord. And so it just is those probably situations of adversity and difficulty. For me, it just is, Lord, how? And I think about another one for me is the pandemic. And the pandemic really kind of exasperated some of the times of my difficulties with depression.

And so I was in my house, I live by myself, single, never married, tell people I'm wonderfully happy. But during the pandemic, it was a little bit too much of me. And I remember just being in my bed and just weeping with the Lord because it's like, I long to be with people and it's not happening this moment for obvious reasons. And it just is a sadness that wouldn't go away. After other seasons of difficulty, I'm like, Elizabeth, you can't stay in this bed.

You got to do something. And it was in that moment that that book, I was like, let me take the stories and lessons that I've given other people and put them on paper and how the Lord heals through the pages. And I saw him do that for me and just like bring healing. And again, mental illness is a complicated, difficult journey. So the book is not a simple answer for that, but it's how can I find hope in those places? It's like, this might not go away, but I still believe that the gospel provides me with something that can sustain me and let me go find it. And every single person that's listening has gone through or will go through something that's really hard that they need your book. They need Jesus. They need the Bible, but they need some hooks to be able to hang their hope on.

I like that. I mean, how did you, I mean, I'm sure it's multifaceted, but how did you get out of bed? I mean, what prompted you? I mean, I'm sure you didn't just sit back and write the book. Part of it was I was just tired. And I knew, you know, my experience with the Lord, you know, I've been a Christian for many, many years.

I come from a Christian family and I tell people all the good stuff about me comes from my parents who have loved the Lord and I've seen them love God in difficult circumstances. And so it's like, Elizabeth, you have the testimony of other people that you can put your feet on the floor. You know, I've had friends in a really simple way. I need you to put your feet on the floor. I need you to put some clothes on. I need you to take a bath.

I need you to put some perfume on and your day will be just that much better. And so it's just those simple things of other people who like I've reached out to them in difficult times and they said, I need you to practically do these things just today. We're not saying what you're going to do for tomorrow.

We're not even saying what you're gonna do for this evening. But just right now, I need you to do this and this is going to lead you into a better place. Even though you don't feel like it. Even though you don't feel like it. Yeah. And it's in those moments I listen to those people and the wisdom they've given me to just I'm gonna do this one thing and have enough energy for the next step and then the next step. It's one step at a time for me in those kind of seasons. Yeah.

And does it ever dip? Oh, yeah. Like you crawl out and you're on a journey. Yeah. And then you find yourself back in the valley.

Yeah, always. And I think that's the aspect of our journey with the Lord and our journey of healing is just that. And so journeys sometimes you'll have a great few weeks. You'll have a great few months.

You'll have a great year and then something happens. And so for me, it's always, can I get myself grace in that place? The Lord doesn't expect us to be perfect, but he expects us to be faithful. But then also, man, is my response time maybe a little bit shorter than it was before?

So maybe I stayed in the bed for a few days. You know, it's like, how can I be moving forward, but also give myself grace when I step back? I think sometimes we want the Lord to change us really quickly.

Yes, we do. He does it slowly over time. And so I was like, the Lord is with me. He loves me. He has grace for me. He's not abandoning me.

He's not disappointed with me. So let me love myself the way he loves me. And in this moment, give myself the grace I need. When you say embrace the journey, like embrace it. I'm thinking of you were on staff at Oak Cliff for a while with Tony Evans and there were so many deaths.

Tony lost his wife and Priscilla Shire talked about that. And so these are the hardships of life, some of the hardest ones. So when you embrace it, what do you mean?

Because I want to stiff arm it. I want to embrace the journey. And we're all fearful of facing it. And so we don't want to embrace it. We're trying to run as far as we can and live it up in the moment.

For me, and this maybe is a logical aspect, you know, I have a background in business, you know, everything's debits and credits for me at some point. But it is, if I run, where am I going to go? There eventually comes an end to which all of the ways in which I want to ignore the pain come to you. And so I think that there's a frustration with that as well. It's like, I'm going to, whether it's comfort, whether it's control, whether it's approval, I'm going to run to a different relationship. I'm going to run to Texas's gift to the world, which is Blue Bell Ice Cream.

I'm going to run to that. Like Rocky Road, it does make something better. But at the end, it doesn't satisfy. And so I think there is this aspect of, part of the reason I encourage people to embrace is like what you really long for can only come forward. All that stuff you're going to go to, because you're going to go somewhere, all that other stuff, it's not going to satisfy you.

It's going to leave you with additional habits. Things that are easy and hard. And again, to me, like I want to emphasize, it is not always a straight line. It is not always easy, but what the gospel provides us is that what your heart is yearning for, God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can provide. And so it embraces like, Lord, I'm going to, I'm going to walk with you through the journey and I'm going to take what you give and I'm going to be empowered by you and I'm going to be healed by you. I'll be strengthened by you and believe, I think about the words of David, that the goodness of the Lord, I'm going to find that in the land of the living. Like I can thrive now and it might not happen today, might not happen tomorrow, but it is possible for me because of Jesus. Have you seen that happen as people come into your wound care in your office and you've probably heard a lot of different stories. Any stories in particular that you can recall that you've watched somebody just really embrace a really hard situation?

Yeah. I think about a friend of mine who had a chronic illness and it was one where she needed a kidney transplant. And so she's my age going in for dialysis. And she's like, this is not the life I'm looking for. So she's young. She's young and she is an actress.

And so this very just bubbly personality, super charismatic, but she cannot live in that space and gifted in that. And I see her continue to, when she's not on dialysis, continue to try to show up for auditions, continue to try to work, to try to live, to try to do life with their family. And the life for her story, her story has the blessing of a kidney transplant finally came through.

And to be in the hospital with her when she got the news, because she was in the hospital for a medical difficulty related to her illness, manages to see it's just like, it's been a long road. And God's come through. Like it just is to see the faithfulness of God.

To me, those are the things that anchor us. And she's seen this faithfulness to God in small ways, but she saw it in a really big way. And her health's not perfect now. So it still requires her to show up and to be present with God in his faithfulness. But to me, just to see someone labor for years in waiting on the Lord. And to see their relationship with God transformed when they saw God come through. And she's still walking in that now. And so that's the story that sticks with me because I was there when she got the news.

And so it was really fun to be a part of that journey with her. Now, have you seen the opposite? You know, people that didn't get through. You said earlier, you know, they all have the same sort of journey. I mean, it's like maybe they walked with Jesus and hardship came and another hardship came.

And they just said, I'm done. You've seen that? Yeah. I've seen it from afar and I've seen it up close. You know, I think it's a moment of disappointment with the church and disappointment with God.

Yeah. And so stories of friends and their kids or friends themselves who say, you know, the Jesus I see in this world, I really don't want to have anything to do with. I'm not sure what I still believe in, but there's just been too much harm done in the name of Christ.

And yeah, I don't want to sign up for this anymore. Or their pastor was involved in something and so he has this fall from grace and their faith is crushed. Because I believe the truth this person was speaking to me.

I believe what they were saying and what they said wasn't true and it just shatters. And then I've just seen people who, waiting on the Lord, the timer ran out for them and they chose just to go find what they were desiring on their own. Like it's too much, Lord. It's been too long.

It's been too long. You've abandoned me, they feel like. What do you think, I'm asking both of you, what do you think the difference is in the ones that embrace, I mean, what a word, by the way. You could have written walk your life or it's embrace.

It's like hold on, grab. What's the difference in people that can embrace pain and come out better, closer to the Lord, and others go through the same, maybe the exact same difficulty and they're turned away. Because if I'm listening, I'm like, I don't want to be this person, I want to be that person. What do I do?

How do I embrace it? My thought is, I'm thinking of one of my mentors in seminary. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. And I remember saying to her like, are you mad? Are you mad at God?

She was probably in her late 40s. And she said, how could I be mad when God is the only place that I will find any kind of hope or help? And I think it's what you had said earlier, Elizabeth, like what are my options? Because if any of us have lived long enough, we've tasted and seen when we try to go hide or we get triggered and we try all of the ways in which we're just trying to escape any kind of pain.

It just doesn't work. And yet there's something about falling on your face before God over and over and over. And then he takes our eyes off of ourselves and he puts them somewhere else.

And I think when we're in the midst of pain and we feel his presence, and we don't always feel it. Sometimes it's just an act of faith. But for me, and I get on my knees and like, Lord, I'm just going to be obedient today and do the things.

It's exactly what you've said. I'm going to put my feet on the floor. I'm going to take a bath.

I'm going to go take a walk. But then when you feel his presence and when you're in the word and it's still like, even this morning, it's like when I'm in the word, my soul comes alive. Like this is what I was made to do to be with him.

What are your thoughts? Yeah, I think it's similar because in those moments you're making withdrawals from the deposits you've made previously. If you're just showing up in a hard season and the spiritual account is empty, it's going to be difficult because it's this process of remembrance of, even though my feelings are telling me God abandoned me, he's not good. Or even some of the ways in which our sufferings get twisted.

Like God is punishing me for something that happened like 20 years ago. Like there's just all this stuff, people here in church. And so we can start to think things that are not true. But if we have been internalizing the character of God, the stories in which he has delivered people in scripture, the testimonies of believers today, that's why I love people sharing their stories. Because like, I need my heart to be emboldened based upon what God has done for you. Because if he did it for you, he can do it for me. And to me, it's that we're making those deposits. And that's why we're in our word. Many reasons why we're in our word. Because it becomes more easier for me to withdraw in those seasons of, Oh, I don't have much to give, but Lord, I know all this to be true about you.

And I'm going to walk in that. And I always say, even for the people who do kind of leave and take that exit door, what I love about the Lord is he doesn't move. And so he's always waiting. He's always there. He's always there. And he's pursuing his people. And so that the grace of journeys, I think sometimes we all kind of have, even if we like hop out the room and hop back, you know, that God is, in his grace, I think about the story of the prodigal son and the father, he just ran into a son. And that's the image that we would have for the Lord, even in those seasons where it's difficult for us. I mean, I love what you said about making the deposits before the storm.

I mean, I remember Dr. Tony Evans years ago saying, You don't build a foundation for your house when the storm, it's before the storm comes so that it's going to stand. But, you know, the thing I was thinking when you were talking about it, even when I was reading your book, is expectations and disappointment. Because it's like, and you said at the very beginning, you talk about, I didn't sign up for this. How many people say, I didn't sign up for this? We work in the marriage space. That happens almost in every marriage. Like, I didn't think it'd be this hard.

I did not sign up for this. And so you go into, whether it's marriage or a job or you name it, going to live with your grandparents, you have these expectations. I mean, in Detroit, everybody knows about this because every football season they have expectations.

The Lions are going to, maybe the Cowboys, same thing. And then, you know, when it doesn't work, people are throwing things or putting bags over their head because we didn't come through like they expected. I think we do the same thing with life. So talk a little bit about that expectation disappointment.

How do you balance the two? Because disappointment's going to happen. It's going to happen. I always talk about disappointment is the friend we don't want that just shows up every so often because we just live in a fallen world. And so stuff is just not going to go the way we want it to. And sometimes we have really good expectations about something. There's nothing wrong with the expectation that my marriage would be good and happy or that I would have a relationship with my children that is like full of joy. Like all these things that we expect to happen, sometimes that we do have unreasonable expectations. I think a life that is devoid of difficulty is an unreasonable expectation because scripture points us so much to the difficulties we will find along the way. But are we willing to live with open hands? I think the problem comes is when we hold our expectations so tightly that when they don't happen, it crushes us instead of saying, Lord, life is a good gift that you give.

And so when it doesn't match up with what I want, I know that you know better, even if I don't understand why you would allow this to be included in my journey. Okay, I'm going to give you a scenario because as you were talking and sharing that, I thought, oh, this reminds me of this woman I met in this women's ministry. She's in her 50s. She has a child.

She's single and she's never been married. And she's come up to me every month and she said, I'm walking away from God. I said, why would you do that? Because you're like, you're fantastic.

You're smart. She goes, because he's not there for me. And she said, I have been wanting to be married my entire life. I've been asking him to bring me a good man my entire life.

And you said, it's overrated. I've been married a while and that's not always it. But she said, but he doesn't love me. He doesn't listen to me.

I don't make that great of an income. And I'm in a job that nobody notices me and I'm tired of it. And she actually ended up trying to take her life. And I just saw her right after that. What would you say to that constant disappointment? She goes, I've been trying to walk with him, but he has not delivered. She said, I have delivered. I've done my part, but he has not done his part.

I bet you've heard that before. Those situations to me are always just super sensitive because the compounding impact of disappointment just is super, super weighty. I like to point people to, in the most gentle way I can, of, I know it feels like God hasn't shown up in any way, but maybe let's just go down memory lane and let's talk about some of the ways he has shown up.

And as we start to kind of, man, whether it's that morning he showed up and we go to the past month and the past year and the past few years, all of a sudden the heart softens just a little bit to realize, okay, maybe he hasn't fully kicked me to the curb. The goodness of God is in my life and that's what disappointment does to us. It just strips us of our vision and perspective. Do you think the enemy is in that too? I do because I know the enemy would love for us to forget all of what God has because I think even back to Genesis one in the garden, and as the enemy is talking to Eve and promising her that she'll be like God if you do this thing, the thing is she already was like God because she was made in his image. We already have all we need because we're connected to God, but the enemy wants us to forget that. So this despair and disappointment make us forget and remembering what God has done.

I always tell folks, if there is breath in your body, you are blessed. And so if we remember, it doesn't make the disappointment fully go away, but it's like, okay, maybe all of what I'm thinking about God, I need to kind of come back to that because he is showing up. And what does that mean about who he is and what he's doing in my life and what he can do if he's done those past things, he can do some future things.

That's really good. I mean, that sounds like if I'm listening and I'm struggling, you just gave me step one. Like that's something I can do right here, right now, today. It's almost like open the word and get another glimpse of who he is. I mean, think about scripture. Let me remind you of the faithfulness of God. You know, like Moses did that over and over, how he rescued us here.

He came through here. Maybe if you've had a journal, go back in your journal and see how God has rescued you. Maybe you start a journal and just one of those, a grateful journal, you know, of God. Maybe my eyes haven't been seeing the faithfulness that you've bestowed, but help me to remember today and go back and even tell my family, here's how God has been present today.

I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to David Ann Wilson with Elizabeth Woodson on Family Life Today. You know, remembering the past is one of the intentional ways I try to help my own heart in the present. I've been on missionary teams before when we've done this thing called an Ebenezer jar. It's basically this big glass jar that we put kind of in the middle of the room during one of our staff team meetings. And we just write down on little slips of paper all the ways that God's been faithful. Things that we're thankful for, things where we've seen him show up, and things where we really have just been intentionally grateful to Jesus for the fact that he has worked in our lives. And we take the time to read those little pieces of paper out loud to the whole room, and then we throw them into the jar in the center of the room. And we really just kind of applaud and praise God for what he's done. It's really cool to see that jar fill up over time. And it's really a testament to how God has worked in the past so that we can remember in the present that he is faithful.

And then as we look toward the future, we'll know that he's going to be there too. Elizabeth Woodson has written a book called Embrace Your Life. How to find joy when the life you have is not the life you hoped for. I think probably everybody could relate to that in some form or fashion.

It's not turning out maybe the way that I wanted to. The book is really for anyone kind of wrestling with unmet longings and searching for joy in the midst between the gap of what they want to see happen and what the actuals are of their everyday life. And so this book is going to be our gift to you when you give today. So you can get your copy now with any donation by going online to and clicking on the donate now button at the top of the page. Or feel free to give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. The number is 800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Or feel free to drop us a donation in the mail if you'd like to.

Our address is Family Life 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida 32832. Now tomorrow, how do you embrace peace, hope, and community during life's challenges when things are super, super hard? Well, Elizabeth Woodson is going to be back with David Ann Wilson tomorrow to unpack that for us. 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 donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-26 07:48:09 / 2024-02-26 08:00:24 / 12

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