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Listen on your favorite podcast app. Well, we all face storms in life, troubles we didn't expect, and they may be a minor inconvenience. Rain when you were expecting a sunny day and left the car windows open. But there are other storms that come with such intensity and ferocity that you wonder how you're going to survive.
Maybe a physical illness leading to disability, or a difficult child, or anger in your marriage, or financial ruin. Today on Focus on the Family, we're going to examine some of the common storms that we face and how God wants to help you weather those and navigate those with joy, peace, and hope. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, today we're going to speak primarily to wives and mothers, but I want to urge the men to listen in because we're going to learn a lot as well, especially about how your wife thinks, and that's an important thing for us. You know, for most marriages, I believe women are the emotional epicenter of the home. We have little cliches that reinforce that, like, you know, if mama ain't happy, no one's happy, or, you know, that mom's the thermostat of the home, if she's in a good spot, we're all in a good spot, and I think that just captures that idea that when there's emotional stability with mom, things are pretty much at peace. So this topic today is going to be important for us as husbands, and we want to talk with a returning guest who's written a great book, Help I'm Drowning.
This is the sometimes emotional feelings that moms are having. There's just so much going on, and we're going to cover that topic today. And Sally Clarkson is back with us. She's been here before, obviously. She's an author, speaker, podcast host, a blogger. She's been speaking to people for several decades, serving women especially, and inspiring them in their faith. And Jim, I remember when my wife Dina discovered Sally's writings, and that really spoke to her at that season, especially with younger kids in the home of feeling overwhelmed. Sally has more than 20 books, and as you said, Jim, Help I'm Drowning, Weathering the Storms of Life with Grace and Hope is going to form the basis for our conversation today.
And to get your copy of this great book, just click the link in the show notes. Sally, welcome back to Focus. I like being here. It's good to have you. Great to be here. Tough subject. Let's get right to it. How do you define the storms of life?
What does that mean? Well, when I look back on my own life as a young woman, I just wasn't prepared. I didn't know life would be so hard. I didn't know motherhood would be hard. Marriage would be hard. Dealing with, actually, Christians and believers would be hard. And I just was unprepared. John and I don't find it hard to deal with each other.
No, not in the least. But I was pretty naive, you know, and I look back and I just felt like it was a relentless blast of difficulties in my life that I wasn't prepared to handle. But I also look back and feel like it was more of a training grounds for me. And I just wanted to come alongside young women and say, you are not alone. What you're feeling is normal. There is room for lament. And so I just kind of felt like a lot of people, especially during COVID when I was getting letters about this, were having deep and terrible struggles and isolation. But then they would feel guilty about it instead of thinking, okay, this is a natural result of being in the storms of life.
It's interesting we don't see that as spiritual boot camp, right? Lord, I'm yours. I'll give you everything. And then the next day something happens. You're going, okay, maybe not everything.
But he's kind of taking you up on that offer, right? Mark 4, you use that analogy in the book. Many people are going to be familiar with this. It's the disciples and Jesus out on the boat, the fishing boat. And the storm's terrible. And Jesus is asleep in the boat. And it really doesn't sit well with the disciples.
They're like, he's not even tending to our needs, right? Describe what was happening and what you took from that. Well, of course, I pondered a lot as I wrote the book. But I think it's really interesting because they were seasoned sailors. And yet this was a special storm.
This is a squall beyond storms. And they had just been ministering and doing things. And they gave Jesus their whole life and followed him.
And then he's just sitting there sleeping in the midst of a storm, not caring at all that they're exhausted and that this is happening. But as I looked back at Mark and the whole passage, I realized that Jesus stood up and said, be still. But then he didn't look at his disciples and say, oh, I'm so sorry, I took a nap.
Please forgive me. But he said, where is your faith? And when I look at being a parent of adult children now, and when I look at my own life, I realize that that was kind of, I think, a testing ground for what would happen in their future. They were all gonna die violent deaths for the sake of Christ. And I think that they could probably all look back on that time as they got older and say, Jesus companioned us through that storm. Jesus is gonna companion me through all the storms of my life. So sometimes I don't think that God initiates storms and that he can't be tempted by evil. He doesn't put things in our lives that are totally devastating. But I think that God has redeemed a fallen world. He enters the fallen world.
He is with us at every moment. And I just didn't understand these things. I was young. I was a toddler in spirituality. And the more I would study these passages, the more I thought, okay, well, you know, he's still with me. And I need to make it through this time.
Yeah. And I think even when you're mature in Christ, if I can use that term, sometimes life's curve balls can still topple that confidence. It's not like you come to a point you go, okay, anything I encounter, I totally will handle well in Christ. I mean, so, you know, it just depends on what the circumstances are. I love Romans five. And you do mention this in your book where suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, character, hope.
And, you know, as an orphan kid, like I was, I mean, I think that was beaten into me if I could say it that way, just through life's experiences. And I think it does. I can envision the Lord smiling when he has that person's heart, like regardless of the circumstances, when we see the fruit of it, we see the benefit of it, we continue to trust or deepen our trust in the Lord because of it. I think he smiles. Well, I think he is cheering us on. He is with us. He never leaves us.
He is companioning us. And I think that when I was younger, I wanted to be used by God. But when I look back at all my storms, I realized that those suited me to have compassion on women who were going through what I had struggled through. And those suited me to say, oh, you're going to fail.
We all fail. You know, there's a grace in walking with God, but I just needed to grow and to learn. And I do think as I look back in my own life, I believe that the decisions that someone makes when they're in a storm, when they're tempted to quit, whether they quit, whether it's quit on their children, quit on marriage, quit on their church, whatever it is, quit on whatever, I think that the decisions that you make in the middle of storms have a great impact on the rest of your life. Sure. And in fact, Hebrews 6, you point to that scripture as the definition between choosing to do the right thing versus feeling. Right.
And you're saying in that that don't trust your feelings. Right. Right. But these choices that you need to make describe that. Well, I think I mentioned in the scripture, Hebrew 6, what does it say?
Yeah. And I mentioned in the book that the first part is it's okay to lament. And I think that in Hebrew 6, the whole book of Hebrews talks to us about enduring with grace and standing firm. And I just look back and realize that sometimes I didn't come up with a solution.
God didn't say, oh, it's going to work out in this formulaic way. But he did say, but your faith is very precious to me. And your life matters. And I will never leave you walk with me and you will see my ways. Sally in Help I'm Drowning, which is a great title, I'm sure taken from that scripture, right? Help me. Help me.
Lord, where are you? You do refer to disappointments in marriage and family. And you relate that to a time in your life where the Lord called you to love your husband, Clay, unconditionally. Now, most of us in marriage, when you hear the word unconditional, you might feel that for your children. Yeah. Like I would do anything for my kids. But sometimes in marriage, I'll only go to this level of unconditional, right?
Right. Describe the environment you were in with Clay, what was causing you to really lay your life down for him. Well, you know, I hate to say it, but I always thought I was right.
You know, you're the first one. I tended to see things from my perspective, but I was, I remember this particular moment and I, you know, we had had some kind of conflict or disagreement or whatever. And I was upstairs in my bedroom and I was just shaking my fist at God and saying, this isn't fair and it's not just, and why do I have to put up with these things? And it was as though the Lord whispered it to me and said, what if the only thing I ever asked you to do was to love him unconditionally and that a part of your service of worship was to honor him because you are his partner and you're the one who's going to make it in life. And I thought, really? That's the spiritual service of worship you want me to do?
You know, no one's going to know. And, you know, I've got to be humble. And I look back now, you know, I just had a hip replacement and Clay is just sitting there serving me, washing dishes, taking care of me. But I don't think that at that time with three teenagers in the house and a toddler I put so much pressure on him to perform in ways that he was never supposed to have to.
I needed to look outside my home to develop friendships, to develop community, to find another friend who had gone through so many things. We put such pressure on each other in this isolationist world. You know, Sally, I'm just struck by that because there is that, I'm sure more than one, but certainly one woman listening who's living that right now. And, you know, she is creating a list of what she needs from her husband and his inability to meet that need is going to frustrate her to no end.
Right. How do you actually in practice, lay that down and say, okay, Lord, I'm going to give this over to you and not have those expectations. That's hard. Oh, it's really hard. And we have to realize that sometimes we're thinking in the wrong way.
You know, yeah, many times. But I finally realized that women were supposed to have grandmas and aunts and family and neighbors and people to help them when they had babies, jobs, life, marriage. And so when a woman is by herself in her home all day long and she's frustrated and things don't go well and kids insist on fighting and eating all the time and, you know, the messes happen, she is empty by the time she comes to the end of her day. And her husband, maybe he's been working in different stories, of course. And he walks in the door and she's like, you need to take care of all my needs, you know.
Wow. That would be an obvious situation. But I think that what we don't realize is that he's also just a human being with limitations and that marriages really are more balanced and more healthy when we cultivate other friends, when we cultivate people who are in our same life stage, who have struggled with the same things. And then I think women are responsible to take responsibility for their own feeling up. You know, I realized that there was a point in which I needed to say, okay, part of my agency is that I can spend time with people. I can read books. I can have a break every week, whether Clay is the one who designs it or not. I have agency to take care of myself so that I can become a full person. And that will mean that when Clay comes home, my tank is full. I can be his friend.
We can work together. But it's not that he's ever in his whole life supposed to meet all my needs. And it's so true what you're saying. I think what I've seen in Jean, though, is the guilt that a woman feels doing that.
Yeah, which is really silly. And they've got to let that go, that it's okay to take time, get a weekend away, do those things, talk it over with your husband. Don't feel guilty about it. Jean and I have kind of established that now. She can take that time that she needs to refuel. Yeah, I think that we're, you know, it's kind of like if you think of a teapot. Once you've poured it all out, it's all gone.
There is nothing left to pour out. And I realized that I needed to take care of filling my heart, filling my mind, filling my friendship, filling my need for fun, that this is a very long marathon. And if I didn't create rhythms in my life to take care of my heart, soul, mind, I was never going to be able to sustain my children, my husband, my friends. And once I put those rhythms in my life, I became much healthier. I had a better attitude. But it wasn't that somebody outside of my life was going to say, oh, you deserve a break. You know, I needed to assess that and say, I am a mature human being. I need a heart, soul, mind and strength.
I need to take care of those areas so that I can be the best person I can be long term. Sally, Proverbs 15 one is a verse that you point to moving from marriage to motherhood. And just so everybody can understand what it says is a soft or gentle answer turns away wrath. And you're applying that to motherhood.
I think it's a great thing to know in that journey. How did it impact you to have a soft and gentle word for your kids? One of my favorite verses in light of parenting is do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The great golden rule. The great golden rule. And I thought that's a parenting verse.
Absolutely. And so when I came to my children, I realized that they were like me. They didn't want someone to always be angry or disappointed that they needed gentleness. And I remember one time my son, he was, you know, a teenager and he was having to empty the dishwasher and he said, why does everybody in this house insist on eating? And, you know, and because it happens. Yeah.
Because it's hard reward. And I said, I want you to come back to my room. And of course, he's dreading talking to me. And I had a cup of tea and I had some cookie dough balls that I keep in my refrigerator and just so I can have these times with my kids.
And I thought he needs gentleness. And so he came back to my room and I said, honey, you are just the best boy in the whole world. And I love who you are. You help the family.
Are you feeling frustrated about something? Because I really appreciate having you in my life. And he went, Oh, thank goodness.
I thought you were going to lecture me. And he said, I just feel like my emotions are right at the top of my head when I get up and I don't know what to do with them. And of course, he was right in the middle of the teenage storms, which I was learning about. But by giving him grace and gentleness and learning that my children respond much more to me and my husband and my friends, when I give them a context, okay, there's something happening to make you this way. How can I love you? Well, and so it was a verse I taught my children, you know, over and over again, a gentle answer turns away wrath. You know, don't be wrathful to anyone.
Give them gentleness and you will see a relationship that will be better. So another good reminder, Sally, you have a story about a doctor's visit that you had, and he kind of laid it out for you. What happened? Well, I was in my mid 40s. And I had a couple of books. And again, you know, I have a wide span in my children. And he basically met with me and he said, Well, you can die early if you want to.
It's always good to hear from your doctor. He said, you are bringing the candle at both ends. You are trying to do too much, but you are a human being with limitations. And if you don't slow down, you are moving in the direction of deep unhealth. And it was kind of good for him to say that to me, because I was waiting for somebody in my life to give me permission to slow down. You know, I was feeling very stressed. I have a ADHD, ODD, OCD, oh my goodness child. And, you know, then I had a toddler and then I had a, you know, these other two teenagers who were very hormonal. And he said, You need to really slow down and take life in stride. That's probably when I learned most of all to begin taking initiative for myself, so that I could handle this particular stormy season, not with angst or anger, but, you know, just take one day at a time. Sally, you had the benefit of that doctor who could analyze this, the woman hearing this, the mom hearing this, how can she self-diagnose this?
What are the symptoms that the doctor obviously was seeing in you that caused him to make that warning or give you that warning? What would you say to women listening or viewing that they need to be aware of? I think that yourself speaks to yourself. So if you're finding that you're angry a lot, or that you're exhausted, or that you're yelling, or that you're, you know, really, I think that's yourself saying, tilt, tilt, you know, this is too much for you. And so I think what you said earlier is so true.
Women don't tend to give themselves grace. And again, we're living in a time that has never happened before. People have never had the internet, so many people to live up to, so many examples. They feel like their children have to have every experience in the world.
Nothing like that has ever happened before. People were happy to be home, to have their schedules, whatever. And I would just say, if you see symptoms that you don't like in your emotions, in your family, in your own personal life, if you're being angry too much, you need to step back and go, what is the source of my anger? What can I simplify in my life?
What can I cut out that I don't need? Who am I comparing myself with? Because everybody has the right to have their own story. Their children are independent and individual.
They are too. You don't have to be anyone else. But you do need to take care of your heart so that you can actually become the person that you need to be.
Yeah. One point in the book that you make that I find really encouraging is think about heaven. And you encourage women to do that so that when it's all over, you're not flying into heaven with all this grudge and attitude issues.
That's really kind of funny. It's applicable to all of us, actually. But you do point toward women and say, remember the joy in life and try to take that forward. Right.
And that can be hard too, though. I mean, there's, well, people make fun of me, but I am known for tea. I really do drink as much tea as I write about.
But when I get up in the morning, I'm lighting my candle, putting on my music. I have my hot cup of tea. I have a tea time in the afternoon. I go on walks every day. I go out to breakfast every Saturday morning with some adult or friend.
We have Sunday afternoon tea. I put things in our lives that created humane, really enjoyable fun times for all of us because the world is never going to stop. But you have to stop the world. Yeah. Sally, one of the things that I see even in my relationship with Jean is the assumption that I will know what's going on in her life.
I know that's what my problem was with Clay. I was waiting for him to go. It's that common, is it? Yeah. I was waiting for him. He never stops. He works all the time.
I kept thinking if I was really doing too much, he would say, oh, bless your heart, stop working so much. Right. That's exactly right. And Jean had this analogy. I didn't know she was, for example, just drowning in how much laundry she had with two young boys and me. And she had talked about that with a girlfriend. And the girlfriend had said, oh yeah, I had a friend. When I was in that moment, I had a friend come by. I had taken all the laundry to a self storage place. You think that people would be going, hey mom, where's my pants? They're at self storage.
But it does describe how extreme that was. And this friend heard that, went down, got the key, said I'm going to do it for you, got all the laundry and then did it all. And Jean said secretly, she yearned for that friend to show up. To my knowledge, we did not rent a self storage laundry place. But anyway, but that is kind of letting your needs be known, right? Right. I mean, now I do do some of the laundry.
The boys since 12 started doing laundry. Now I know why. I was going to say my kids learned early. But that happens, right? Oh, of course it does. Just feeling overwhelmed.
Yeah. And I'm not a housework person, but I like things to be neat. Like I think I was really born to have servants and I don't have them. You know, I had my children.
But I learned to access my muscle over time. It does get better. You know, there are hard times in life. But I think that if you can put your finger on what is bothering you the most, what bothers your personality, we are all different personalities, and find a way to put that in a rhythm in your life in such a way that it's not going to be as big as it has become over time. That's really good. And I like the idea of communicating.
Don't assume that your husband understands where you're at. I mean, I would have jumped in if Gene would have, you know, in a bigger way if Gene would have said something. Right here at the end, Sally, you point to the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19, where the prophet wanted to give up and die. You know, that's wonderful. There's several people in Scripture that just wanted to die or not be born.
It's wonderful that we have these examples. But of course, God brought him comfort instead and said, No, your days aren't done, basically. What can we learn about the different ways God refreshed Elijah and restored him?
Well, I think we tend to be such a works-oriented society, and we measure our lives by what we accomplish. But when I look at Elijah, and he was exhausted because he had just, you know, been through a storm. And the first thing in every single situation that you study this, the angel came and touched him first. You know, a massage, a touch, you know, a pat, whatever it is, touch is restorative to us. Then he fed him food, and then he caused him to sleep. All good things.
Yeah, all good things. And I think that sometimes we think God is just standing in heaven going, Well, you disappointed me this time. Instead of understanding that he is the compassionate God, he wanted his disciples to have rest. He looks at us and wants to bring us joy. And so we need to understand that scripture says eating, sleeping, touching, being joyful is his prescriptive for us. He loves that as his will. And that's the kind of heart he has for us. He is not condemning us.
He's going, Yeah, they do make clothes dirty all the time. Yeah. You know, he keeps happening. Yeah, I understand. Yeah.
Yeah. Sally, this has been so good. And I'm sure for our listeners and our viewers, if you as a mom and a wife are thinking, Man, I am drowning right now.
This is the resource. I mean, Sally's gone to the great effort of putting down her thoughts, her ideas, her scriptural application to that moment for you. And I think it's a great reminder of how to kind of recalibrate where you're at and to bring you that health, that emotional, spiritual well-being that you need and physical, too. And it's a great resource. And as we often do here at Focus on the Family, if you can support the ministry with a gift of any amount, either monthly or a one time gift, we'll send you Sally's book as our way of saying thank you.
Yeah. Join the support team today. Donate as you can and get a copy of this great book, Help I'm Drowning.
Click the link in the episode notes or call 800 the letter A in the word family. And it may be that we've touched on a sensitive part of your life and you don't know who to talk to. We have caring Christian counselors here. Donors make that possible and we'd love to connect you with one of them.
Call and we'll set up an initial consultation for them to give you a call back and just talk through where you're at and maybe some next steps in finding some peace. Sally, it has been so good to have you with us. Thank you for being here. Oh, thank you for having me. I just love being in this environment with you. This is great. And we're also thankful that you could listen in to this great conversation with Sally Clarkson today.
Well, have a great weekend with your family and your church family as well and plan to be here on Monday as we hear from British evangelist, Jay John. He'll be describing the importance of having a godly perspective in life. When David saw Goliath, there were two possible reactions. The first reaction was, he's really big. Oh no, I better run away.
The second reaction, the second reaction, he's really big. How can I miss? On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. What is building up your teen girl's belief system? And that's the main thing actually that I've gotten from DeBrio Magazine since I've gotten them is just how to stay strong in your faith and how to just every day rely on God for everything, even if you're having a wonderfully good day or just an absolute terrible one.
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