Dealing With Loss
About the Guest
Love is gritty. It perseveres even in the hardest of times. Authors Dave and Gloria Furman tell how, four years into marriage, Dave began suffering from a nerve disability in his arms and hands, which makes even a loving touch painful. The Furmans tell what they lost as a couple, and how they've dealt with the loss with Christ's help.
Dave FurmanDave Furman (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) serves as senior pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which he helped plant in 2008. He previously served in various churches in the United States. In 2002, Dave developed a nerve disease and struggles with disability in both arms. Gloria Furman, a popular author, is his wife and primary caregiver.
Gloria FurmanGloria Furman is a wife, mother of four young children, doula, and blogger. In 2008, her family moved to the Middle East to plant Redeemer Church of Dubai, where her husband, Dave, serves as the pastor. She is the author of Glimpses of Grace, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, and The Pastor’s Wife, and blogs regularly at the Gospel Coalition and GloriaFurman.com.
Authors Dave and Gloria Furman tell how, four years into marriage, Dave began suffering from a nerve disability. The Furmans tell how they’ve dealt with loss with Christ’s help.
Dealing With Loss
Bob: What do you do when hope vanishes? Dave Furman, who suffers from a neurological disease, remembers thinking that doctors had found a surgery that could cure his issue—only to learn, after being prepped for surgery—that the procedure had to be cancelled.
Dave: I remember lying, all by myself, outside the operating room. They actually forgot about me for about an hour and left. I remember just letting out this loud scream. I was so discouraged. I had placed so much hope that I was going to have arms again. They had this miraculous surgery, and I would be healed of this nerve disease. Now, that hope was just shattered!
In those moments after that, Gloria stood by my side through those days of depression afterwards. She just reminded me, delicately, with a lot of silence interspersed in between, that Jesus was enough.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, September 30th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
When hope vanishes, the only way to recapture it is to focus on what’s really true. We’ll talk more about that today with Dave and Gloria Furman. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. How would you say—what would you say—is the way that Barbara, over the years, has most loved you in the midst of your weakness?—who you are and the areas where you’re weak—how has she best loved you?
Dennis: That’s a great question! I’d like about ten years to think about that. [Laughter]
Bob: I know I’m popping you for one of those instant answers—
Dennis: No; I would say—you know, with her words of belief that have just kept on coming, regardless of how many times I’ve blown it or failed her, or not met her expectations because of one of my weaknesses.
Yes; you know, love perseveres.
Dennis: Love doesn’t fail—1 Corinthians 13: “It believes all things, bears all things, hopes all things.” It stands firm / it’s a stabilizing force in a marriage relationship. It goes back to that point—it’s a commitment.
Dennis: It’s not a feeling; it’s a commitment.
Dennis: I think, Bob, we turn love into a feeling and into a romance novel. Love is gritty. It gets down in the tough places we go through in a marriage relationship, and it really does bear the weight of another person’s agony in the midst of doing life together in a marriage.
Bob: All you have to do is read those verses in 1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-7, and go: “This isn’t talking about Valentine’s hearts, and candy, and flowers.
“This is talking about real life—things like ‘Love is patient, love is kind, love’—as you said—‘bears all things and believes all things.’” That’s real life / real hard work.
Dennis: It really is. And we’ve got a couple here who, I would say, are in the process of modeling that kind of love. Dave and Gloria Furman join us again on FamilyLife Today. Gloria/Dave—welcome back.
Gloria: Thank you.
Dave: It’s great to be here again.
Dennis: They’re veterans on FamilyLife Today. They come back about every—what?—two or three years.
Dennis: Dave, you just finished a book called Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting. Dave and his wife Gloria are both graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary. They are in the process—not of starting a church—but they have founded a church, going back to 2010. It has over 1,000 people meeting at the—is it the Marriot Hotel?
Dennis: In Dubai.
Dave: Yes, we meet right there in the center of the old town Dubai.
Bob: You meet at 10 o’clock on Friday morning for church.
Dave: We do; we meet on Fridays.
Dave: Well, Friday’s the Muslim holy day—that’s the day that people typically get off. Sunday’s the first day of the week; so our kids are in school from Sunday morning at 7:45 a.m., and everybody’s at work at that same time.
Dennis: So what does their week go by? Is it Sunday through Thursday?
Dave: It is; Thursday through Sunday would be the normal week—school goes on those days / the work week. Then Friday-Saturday would be the weekend. We have our church service on the equivalent of, I guess, Saturday morning, here in the U.S.
Dennis: How about that? Amazing!
Well, you guys were married for how many years before you encountered a physical limitation that dramatically impacted your life, Dave, and also you, Gloria, and your marriage?
Dave: Not many when you think of it. We’ve been married 14 years. I guess three to four years into marriage, my disability started coming along.
Bob: You had to assume, when you first experienced these symptoms, that this would likely be something that would be temporary, that it would be reversible, that it was a season you’d go through and it’d be over; right?
Dave: We did. I was actually in Gospel of John class at seminary. My little finger of my right hand started tingling. We went to the doctor / went to occupational therapy—wore a brace. We thought, “Oh, maybe a couple months / a few months of therapy, and some medicine, and we’ll be on our way.”
Bob: But, over time, you’ve learned. I guess it was probably after your surgery on your elbows—and some of these things that you tried to get to work, and they weren’t helping—the thought had to settle in, “This is not a season.”
Dave: Yes; we kept hoping in things, but that season never ended. We kept thinking: “Another procedure…” “Another therapy…” “Another pill…” “Another surgery…” “Another nerve block…” We kept thinking, “Oh, okay; now maybe we’ll get healed or get enough comfort through that.” That ultimate comfort just never came.
Dennis: That was almost eight years ago?
Dave: That started, probably, about eight to nine years ago. For about a period of four to five years, we tried everything.
Bob: And, Gloria, I know you had to be thinking, “Maybe this next thing will help,” when it began to dawn on you, emotionally, “We’re not getting help here.”
Bob: Did that spiral you into a season of, “Okay; I’ve got to recalibrate life now”?
Gloria: Yes; emotionally, we had to both come to grips with that reality. I think our emotions had gone up and down like a roller coaster. We had to kind of go through that together; then, individually too, I would have lots of questions about what he was feeling, because you can’t see anything wrong with his arms. Now, I can see muscle atrophy as it’s gone and done its work over time; but in the beginning, he still had normal, muscular arms.
Bob: You told me he was huge—he was buff.
Gloria: He was huge! [Laughter] Hugely normal.
Dave: She married me for my biceps.
Gloria: That’s right! [Laughter]
I couldn’t see it. When he would tell me: “That hurts me. Don’t…”—you know—“That hurts when you touch my forearm,” or “It hurts me. Can you open this bottle for me?”—
—stuff like that—I: “Really? Really! Are you just being lazy?” I struggled with those emotions of sadness, and anger, and bitterness in those early days. Then, when I saw, “He really cannot do those things,” and then when I would see him be injured worse because he couldn’t do something, it started to be real, I think.
Bob: Yes; I asked Dave earlier about not being able to open the door for you, and how that affected him as a man. How about the fact that you guys can’t walk, holding hands somewhere.
Bob: That he doesn’t put his arm around you when you’re watching a TV show or something. Has that been hard for you?
Gloria: Yes; yes! I’ll answer that: “Yes; it has.” We can hold hands a little bit, softly; but that still feels a little bit funny and odd—just to me—because I remember, not too long ago, seasons where I couldn’t touch his hands or his arms or he would just [sound of pain]—it would be so painful.
So now, I feel a little more skittish around him, physically. I don’t want to bump him; I don’t want to touch his hand. If he’ll reach for my hand sometime if we’re walking, I might pull away, thinking, “Oh, I don’t want to touch—Oh! It’s okay. I can touch your hand a little bit now.” So that’s been rough to deal with that between the two of us.
Bob: One of the five love languages, according to Gary Chapman, is physical touch; right?
Bob: If that was yours—I mean, if that was the thing that you said, “I most feel loved when my husband touches my hand, plays with my hair, puts his arm around me…” I mean, you can see where somebody would go, “It’s hard for me to feel loved, given your disability.”
Gloria: Yes; I can see that.
Bob: But you’ve figured out how to say, “That’s an expression of love, but that’s not the source of love.”
Gloria: Right, right; yes.
Dennis: What we’re talking about here is a disability that results in a loss.
Dennis: And it’s not just loss for the person who’s disabled.
Dennis: It’s how that loss impacts the spouse.
Life is one long process of us learning how to deal with our losses.
Dave: It is.
Dennis: I mean, growing old results in loss. There’s the loss of hearing. Some people experience the loss of taste. You know, there’s the loss of being able to do things you used to do, like chopping wood. You know, a few years back, I was enjoying splitting wood. All of a sudden, something popped; and it wasn’t the wood—[Laughter]—my shoulder!
Dave: Eating cheesecake. There’s only so much cheesecake you can have as you grow older.
Bob: I have not found an end to that yet. [Laughter]
Gloria: But you’ve heard—
Bob: I read Ecclesiastes 11; right?
Gloria: You’ve heard about it.
Bob: I have heard about it.
Bob: Ecclesiastes 11 is a description, metaphorically—the shutters get drawn, the eyes go out, the teeth/the grinders go away.
Aging—there is loss that comes with it. I think you’re right—we’ve all got to figure out how we’re going to handle loss.
I think what’s interesting, Dave—the subtitle to your book—and by the way, we’re talking to Dave Furman with his wife Gloria. Dave’s book is called Being There, and the subtitle is How to Love Those Who Are Hurting. You wrote this, not from the perspective of one who has loved the hurting—you wrote this from the perspective of the hurt one, who has been loved well.
Dave: Exactly. And, by God’s grace, I’ve had a wonderful wife who has come around me and cared for me. I’ve had wonderful kids, and other family members, friends and church members, who’ve come around me. So it’s really written both from a biblical perspective and my personal experience of people loving me, the hurting.
Bob: So, from that personal perspective, tell us the things to do with hurting people, and tell us the things not to do with hurting people. Just give us a tutorial here so that we can serve the hurting well.
Dave: Well, this would take a while. There are a lot of things that we could think about. Maybe, first, we could start with the things not to do—[Laughter]—the things that we often think are helpful for the hurting; but really, really aren’t. I can think of a few things. One would be to be the “fix it” person—to kind of be the one who has all the answers. We might have a hurting friend in our lives. We might think: “Oh, we have an acupuncture reference that we should send them,” or “…another cream that we should give them that will heal.”
Bob: How many nutritional healings have you heard about?
Dave: We have a bag, [Laughter] I think, filled with ointments and creams, somewhere tucked away in our closet, that well-meaning people / people who truly loved me and wanted to care for me handed out. But, see, when you do that, you pretty much are telling them that you don’t actually have a true idea of the kind of issues that they’re facing. It’s possible that God could miraculously heal me through a smelling salt or a tea, but that’s not the normal prescription for nerves that are mangled and don’t work.
Dave: Along those same lines, you don’t want to judge them or assume that you know the mind of God in what happened to them.
Bob: I’m thinking of Job’s three friends right here; right?
Dave: Exactly! So you’ve got Job’s friends. Job’s friends were amazing for that first week! Actually, if you go back through the book of Job, his friends were great. They had sackcloth and ashes—they grieved with him. They actually shook their head back and forth, which was a great sign that they were caring for Job. I mean, they were wonderful!
Job’s friends were great until they opened their mouth. [Laughter] Job’s friends are fantastic until they talk! They really were! And they didn’t talk for seven days. I mean, the first part of Job is a great model of biblical friendship. Then, they started speaking, and what did they do? Well, they started judging Job. They started assuming that Job’s struggles were because of his sin.
I think all of us—we all have hurting people in our lives. We all have aging parents, a spouse with a chronic disability, a child with a disability, a friend with cancer, or a neighbor with pain. We want to love them, and we don’t want to be Job’s friends; right? But we just don’t know what to do.
So, don’t be the “fix it” person. Don’t judge them and condemn them. Don’t try to explain why the person is suffering, thinking that you know all of that.
Don’t play the comparison game. This is something that maybe you have heard or dealt with, and this is a temptation for all of us—it’s kind of saying, “Well, I know exactly how you feel.”
Dave: Or maybe it’s: “I have a cousin, and she hurt her elbow too. I bet she went through the same thing you did.” I had someone come up to me once and say: “I have tennis elbow. I know what you feel like.” [Laughter] You know, unless you’re Jesus, it never really helps to tell someone that you know exactly what they’re going through.
Dennis: Yes. I want you to think about the answer to this question, but it’s going to be the first time I’ve ever asked a guest on FamilyLife Today not to answer the question.
Dave: Oh, okay. I am a preacher, you know!
Dennis: I know!
Dave: I’m going to have to work hard here not to talk.
Dennis: You’re going to have to work hard, but the reason is—I’m going to turn to Gloria and have her answer it first—but I want you to know what your answer is. The question is this: “How has Gloria best ministered to you?”
Think back to those months, like a year-and-a-half, when you were in dark, deep depression. You were barking at her, being angry with her, mistreating her and the kids, etc. How did she best demonstrate Jesus Christ’s love for you?
And now, Gloria, how did you do that?
Gloria: I don’t know!—by the grace of God. [Laughter] Well, I knew that Dave’s anger, and discouragement, and depression wasn’t about me. I knew that however angry he was at me / however many accusations I had heard about, “You didn’t do this the right way, and now I’m in more pain,” I knew that wasn’t personal about me. But I think that’s different for Jesus, because our accusations and our shaking our fist at God—that’s personal.
Bob: But I think we shouldn’t overlook that; because so many times, that’s the case—where somebody is angry with a spouse—and it’s displaced anger.
Bob: They’re really angry with somebody else.
Bob: They’re just taking it out on a spouse. To the extent that we can look behind the anger and see the hurt—and know that this is coming from a wound, not from real anger—but it’s a hurt deep down just getting expressed. That can soften our response and help us to have compassion—
Bob: —rather than to just get ginned up with more anger of our own; right?
Gloria: Right, right; yes. And I had some help with that perspective too. There was an older woman in my life—still is in my life—she offered me great encouragement and hope in that. She reminded me often: “This isn’t about you. You may feel responsible for some of these things—maybe some of these things could be helped if you did different things around the house or moved something out of the way. Those temporary things could help, but ultimately this isn’t about you.” She encouraged me in that.
Dennis: How did she know that?
Gloria: I was transparent with her / I told her. I would even play out different scenes in the home: “He said this, and then I did that. I said this, and I’m pretty sure my non-verbals said that too.” [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes! You know, you’re laughing about it; but I think a lot of people misunderstand that the church is the key in bearing one another’s burdens. But to do that, many times, you’ve got to admit vulnerability.
Bob: Be transparent; yes.
Dennis: Here’s a pastor’s wife! I mean, he’s up there preaching. How could you have a need? How could he be anything other than the perfect husband, because he’s opening the Scriptures for us every Sunday?
Dennis: Or, in your case, every Friday.
Gloria: Right! [Laughter]
Dennis: But, you know, you admitted a need. I want to come back to you now. How are you going to answer the question, “How did she exhibit love for you?”
Dave: Well, there are a million things I could say, by God’s grace. I think a couple of things—one, she brought hope to me. She was a silent presence, like Job’s friends were at first. Then, after that, when she did open her mouth, she didn’t try to explain everything away. She didn’t tell me to just gird up my loins and work harder. She didn’t tell me to suck it up.
She didn’t tell me I couldn’t be depressed, or hurt, or grieve. At the same time, she brought me hope. She was a dealer of hope. She brought the good news of the gospel to me / she applied it to my life.
I think of one particular incident about a couple of years in to our life in Dubai, where I had a surgery with some world-class physicians. We were getting ready for this surgery. It was amazing that these Johns Hopkins physicians were actually going to be in Dubai and were going to do surgery in Dubai. They had promised about 85 percent chance of full healing—that I would be healed of this disability and be playing tennis in no time.
We go to the hospital on their very last day in Dubai. We got there about noon. We were there all day long—I am ready for the surgery. The problem was, as the day went on, no one was ready for me—I am there, hooked up to the IV. Finally, eight or nine hours in, I got wheeled down to the surgery. I wait there for about two hours, and then the crushing news came that it was too late in the day. The doctors needed to catch their flight, and the surgery was completely cancelled.
Dave: I remember lying, all by myself, down in the basement, outside the operating room. They actually forgot about me for about an hour and left. I remember just letting out this loud scream. I was so discouraged. I had placed so much hope that I was going to have arms again. They had this miraculous surgery, and I would be healed of this nerve disease. Now, that hope was just shattered!
In those moments after that, Gloria stood by my side through those days of depression afterwards. She just reminded me again and again, very delicately, and with a lot of silence interspersed in between, that Jesus was enough—that Jesus was enough to sustain us.
So, the first thing I would say is, she cared for me. She pointed me to the gospel—the good news that Jesus Christ has saved me from my sin and that there is a future hope and future grace that exists. She prayed for me throughout. She let me know her prayers—she let me hear her prayers along the way. Then, she just waited. There were times when she could have waved the caution flag or thrown in the towel and said: “You know, we need to leave Dubai. We need to go home.”
Maybe many people would. I wondered at times, “Should she have?” But I’m thankful that she stood by my side, and persevered, and realized that life was going to be hard—that pastoral ministry in the Middle East was going to be hard / that there would be spiritual warfare. She waited on God’s timing.
Dennis: As you were talking, I was thinking about a Psalm I read recently—Psalm 22. You’re going to recognize the words: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy…” He goes on to talk about who God is / the truth about God.
Our condition doesn’t change who God is. I’ve said this many times on this broadcast—it’s a great quote by A.W. Tozer: “The most important thing about you is what you think about God,” because if you understand who He is and that He is not mean—
—He is not bringing things into our lives to destroy us; but, ultimately, to build us, and strengthen us, and bring comfort to others. I’m thinking of the woman who brought comfort to you [Gloria]. I wonder how she learned those lessons herself.
Gloria: She said that she learned it in that same way—in her own experience, through dark times in her marriage and in ministry.
Dennis: I think there’s a lesson for our listeners here—not only for the person who’s hurting—but to the person who may have a word to encourage those who are hurting and comfort others. Paul wrote about this in Corinthians: “Comfort others with the comfort with which you have been comforted.” That’s what she did and that brought life and hope to your life.
Bob: Yes; and I think you guys, together, are bringing life and hope to a lot of folks who are hurting—just through the counsel you’re able to give here / through what you’ve written about, Dave, in the book, Being There. This is a book that will help those who are hurting, and it will help those who care for those who are hurting. It’s a book that we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order a copy when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to request your copy at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Our toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, it was 40 years ago today, on this day in 1976, when Patricia and Joseph Johnson, who live in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, became husband and wife. It’s the 40th anniversary for the Johnsons.
They listen to FamilyLife Today on WKBO. We just wanted to say, “Happy Anniversary!” Forty years!—that’s a big deal!
In fact, we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary, here at FamilyLife this year—40 years of God’s grace, His favor, and His faithfulness—I know the Johnsons feel the same way. If it’s your anniversary today: “Happy anniversary!” to you as well. I hope you will take time to celebrate well.
Anniversaries really do matter. Part of our mission, here at FamilyLife, is to help more couples celebrate more anniversaries. We want to provide practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family, day in and day out, on this radio program, on our website, and through our events. All of what we do is made possible because folks, like you, help us with that mission when you support FamilyLife Today.
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Do you know what tonight is? Seven o’clock tonight, in both Tampa, Florida, and Sacramento, California, we’ve got two FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways happening this weekend, with hundreds of couples coming out for a great weekend getaway. So pray for the couples going to a Weekend to Remember in Sacramento and in Tampa. We still have a lot of Weekend to Remember getaways happening this fall. You can get more information about the weekend when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
And I hope, even if you’re not going to a Weekend to Remember this weekend, you have a great weekend.
I hope you and your family can worship together in your local church. And I hope you can join us back on Monday, when we’re going to talk about dating—being single and how you navigate all of it today. Lisa Anderson is going to be here with us to talk about how she handles this as a single woman. I hope you can tune in for our conversation with Lisa.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend! We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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