Hearing God In the Storm
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In the middle of life’s storms, it can be difficult to find our way. Dave and Ann Wilson discuss the struggle between trusting what we see versus trusting what God says.
Hearing God In the Storm
Dave: So when you’re the Detroit Lions chaplain for 33 seasons—
Ann: As you were.
Dave: —you go through a few hard seasons. [Laughter]
Ann: Yes; you’ve been through—
Dave: Why are you laughing right now?
Ann: Because I’ve walked through—
Dave: You went through them too.
Ann: I know I did, and we’ve experienced more hard than easy, but in comparison—
Dave: I was just going to say I mean those are hard seasons but it’s football.
Dave: It’s not life and honestly, if you win a Superbowl or not, it’s a great thing, I guess—I would think for somebody, but life isn’t dependent on it.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: You talk about tough seasons, 2020 was one of the hardest seasons/hardest years anybody’s ever gone through.
Ann: Yes, and I think we’re still recovering from that year and some years beyond that, too.
Dave: So one of the big questions is how do you deal with pain and hardship in your life? So we were asked to speak on the Love Like You Mean It® Virtual Cruise. Because there wasn’t a boat on the water because of Covid, we actually did a cruise virtually. Which you talk about a new way to do a cruise, it actually worked.
Thousands of people joined us on this boat that was fake, [Laughter] and listened to messages just like they would if they were on the boat. So when we were asked to speak on that, my first thought is “Let’s give a happy message. Let’s give a fun message about marriage.”
Ann: Because that’s generally who we are. We talk about some hard topics, but we still like to bring joy into it. But we have lived through some really hard times in our marriage and our lives as well as all of our listeners have. So I think that this message will be very relevant.
Dave: Yes. So we decided let’s go and talk about: “How do you find God in the middle of a storm?” because this year has felt like a storm. Hopefully, this is really going to help some people.
Ann: I think it’s a reminder of: God is with us.
Dave: You know this has been quite the year. I remember 35 years ago we moved to Detroit. Ann was pregnant. We rented this little house. We’re moving all our stuff in.
Ann: My parents are in town. I’m still kind of sick because it’s the beginning of my pregnancy and Dave suddenly, on the move in day, he says “Hey, I have to leave.”
Dave: It’s actually the next morning. She doesn’t remember but—
Ann: I don’t remember.
Dave: —we were stressed out, frantic. We were sort of fighting—any of you been fighting this year? Yes, I mean it’s Saturday morning. I have to get in the car, drive an hour. I don’t know where I’m going in Michigan—Dearborn, Michigan—because Bill Bright, the founder and president of Cru, is going to be there, and I’m supposed to meet him. I have to go. She’s like “You can’t leave. What do you mean? We still have boxes.” She walks out in the garage pregnant; we are yelling at each other. Can you imagine what the neighbors think?
Ann: I wasn’t yelling. I never yell. [Laughter]
Dave: No, she never yells. She was yelling, and I was yelling back. Her parents are still in the house and I’m so mad. I don’t want to do this, but I have to do this. I’m just yelling at her. I get in the car and I’m so mad. I put it in reverse, and I just slam on the accelerator, back up as fast as I can, and she starts yelling and flopping her arms.
Ann: Waving my hands like—I’m saying, and he doesn’t’ know what I’m saying—
Dave: She’s yelling. I think she’s still mad at me.
Ann: I’m yelling “Stop! Stop! Stop!”
Dave: I’m literally like “Yeah, whatever,” and all of a sudden, [Clap] I run right into a pickup that was sitting in our driveway.
Ann: My parents’ pickup.
Dave: [Laughter] Because we used it to move. I mean I hit it probably going 20 mph. As soon as I hit it, I realized she was trying to yell stop. She wasn’t yelling at me. [Laughter] It was just this embarrassing, crazy moment.
We thought of that because we thought 2020 has been a year of getting hit by the pickup. [Laughter] I mean hasn’t it really been—it’s been—
Dave: I mean we’re on a virtual cruise right now. Who would have ever thought we couldn’t get on a boat and go out because of a pandemic? But here we are, and it’s been a hard year.
Ann: Yes; it’s been really hard. I was thinking about it: the things that have happened in 2020. You guys probably have your own list. We lost our dog. We lost my mom in January.
Dave: Not to Covid.
Ann: My dad was in the hospital when she passed. We’ve just had a rough year.
Dave: Yes. I actually made a list of just one words that—
Ann: One word.
Dave: One word. [Laughter] A whole list of them that every one of us that has lived through this year, when you hear the word, it’s got an emotion.
Ann: Yes, it’s words that we won’t forget.
Dave: Yes. So here they are. I mean there’s just—we could do this all day. We’re not going to but just think about this: Covid.
Ann and Dave: Karens. [Laughter]
Dave: We all know some Karens, right? NBA
Ann: [Laughter] I like that you get all the sport words.
Dave: I’m glad we have football.
Dave: And here’s what I think a lot of us are asking, “God—
Ann: —where are you?”
Dave: “What are you doing? Why aren’t you here?” What’s really interesting for me is I decided at the beginning of 2020 I was going to walk through, daily, the Book of Psalms. I had no idea that in February and in March we’d be in a lockdown in a pandemic but as you read through the book of Psalms, it’s really a great book.—150 Psalms, many of them are laments, much like we just said, “God, where are you? Why is this happening? Why aren’t you meeting me here right now?”
Ann: And God’s in it. We’re saying it’s been hard, but there’s been good too, hasn’t there? But a lot of us are thinking those questions/we’re asking those questions and it’s been a hard year.
Dave: One of the interesting things I think that happens when you become a Christ follower is there’s sort of this belief that if I add Jesus to my life, life will be easier.
Ann: And my marriage.
Dave: Yes, our marriage will be better. I mean it’s just like everything goes better with Jesus. Wasn’t that a commercial back in the day? Everything goes better with Coke®. It’s like “If I just have Jesus in my life, everything will be easier,” and yet here we are, and we have Christ in our life, many of us, and it’s still hard, isn’t it?
What we decided to do with you tonight is walk through a story of a man in the Old Testament, a man named Elijah. I don’t know if you’re very familiar with him, but he was a prophet in the Old Testament in the books of 1 & 2 Kings. He was a prophet to a king, a king named King Ahab. If you know anything about King Ahab, here’s what you know: he was called the most evil king of Israel. Now, this is in a list of 19 kings over 200 years who were all evil, and yet this king, Ahab, is called the most evil. So he was just a nasty evil, evil dude and Elijah is a prophet, so he’s going to speak the words of God wherever God sends him.
Now, guess what we’re going to find out? We’re going to find out that God sends Elijah to King Ahab to give him a not very popular message. It’s pretty crazy, but there’s a message that I think is in this story for us as married couples in the middle of a pandemic when we’re hurting.
So we’re going to just sort of read you through this story. Here’s what’s interesting: as he goes to speak to King Ahab, you’ve got to know something about King Ahab. He worships a god named Baal. It’s not a god at all; it’s a false god. Baal is the god of fertility and rain, alright, and he’s also—King Ahab is married to an interesting woman. What’s her name?
Ann: You guys all know the name; it’s Jezebel. It shows the power that we have in our marriages and as wives because Jezebel, I feel like, she really led Ahab into this direction of worshiping these idols.
Dave: And I will just say this to you, especially if you’re parents, teach your children to marry the right people.
Ann: Yes, really.
Dave: Because who you marry really determines your life. You don’t know this about my story, but I almost married a Jezebel. [Laughter] I mean that was not her name. I won’t tell you her name but for four years I dated her, and I thought I was going to marry her. But as I came to Christ, I began to realize “she’s serving a different god.” If I would have married her, I’m telling you right now, we’re not sitting here today. I’m a divorced man not in ministry and I didn’t make that decision. I would just encourage you to—and by the way, I hope you’re not watching this going “I’m married to Jezebel.”
Ann: That’s what I was going to say, and it doesn’t mean that God can’t transform us and change us. And right now you shouldn’t be looking at your spouse saying, “That is you.” We’re not saying that.
Dave: Alright, let’s read the story.
Dave: By the way, 1 Kings 17.
Ann: “Now Elijah said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’”
Dave: So what’s really interesting is picture yourself being Elijah and God says you’ve got to go give this message to the king and notice what he just said: there’s not going to be rain for the next years. The god that Ahab serves is the god of rain. So God’s telling you, if you’re Elijah, you got to go tell him there’s going to be no rain. You’re going to challenge his very god. Now, some of you know, later—we’re not going to talk about this story but there’s a showdown later, a couple of chapters later, at Mt. Carmel between the God of Elijah and the god of Ahab. Find out who it is. But at this moment, all Elijah knows is I have to go tell the king who believes that his god is going to bring rain that your god is not going to bring rain.
Ann: And they were not following God at that time.
Ann: “Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.’ So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.”
Dave: And so what’s really interesting, I think, about this is he ends up in this Kerith Valley which you don’t know this, but you know what Kerith means? Cut off—it means death valley. So you think “Okay, if I follow God and do what he calls me to do and obey Him, it’s all going to go good.” No, we end up in death valley but—
Ann: He’s hiding.
Dave: But yet in death valley what happens is he provides food and water. He takes care of them. It’s almost like “Oh, yes, this is how it is when you obey God, and you do everything He says. It may be tough at times, but God will meet you right there,” right? That’s how it goes. He’s always going to take care of you and provide for you.
And then you get the next verse that says sometime later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Which is like “Oh my goodness, here it is. If you obey God, your life will be blessed.” Well, Elijah’s obeying God and yet he has no water. You know what he said was going to happen: there’s going to be no rain. There’s no rain and it affects him as well.
Again, it’s this perspective if I follow God, everything will go right but here’s the truth: even when we follow God sometimes, there’s pain. Even when we obey God and do everything He’s asking us to do, things don’t always go the way we hope or we want. Here is Elijah doing the right thing and life is really hard. Sometimes you and I struggle because we think “Why am I struggling in my marriage?” “Why are we struggling in our job or in our health when we’re doing everything God has asked us to and life can sometimes be hard. Why does that happen? Where is God in that moment?”
What’s really interesting is you find out in this story that God is right there. But in the moment/in the valley, often, we don’t believe that.
Ann: I feel like we didn’t. I remember when we were really struggling—and maybe some of you have experienced this too—when we’re really struggling in our marriage, I felt like God wasn’t even hearing me. Like “Lord, do you see us? Do you hear us? We’re praying for help.” I felt like—I felt like it was kind of a call out to nothing. I knew He heard me, but we didn’t see it.
Dave: I remember when I came to Christ it was my junior year in college. What’s really interesting in my life at that time is everything was going almost as I could have dreamed.
Ann: Like perfectly.
Dave: Yes; I’m playing college football. I actually had hair. I didn’t realize I sort of had a comb over going. I’m playing college football on a scholarship. I had just led the nation in passing percentage my sophomore year. I’m a preseason All-American pick going into my junior year and right before my junior year, I was empty. Even though I’ve done everything I thought I could do and accomplished success, I was empty. I come to Christ—that’s a whole nother story, but now I’m a Christ follower and here’s what I thought: this year, football, school will be the best year ever.
Ann: Because God will bless you.
Dave: Because I’ve got God now and I’m following Him. Here’s a preseason All-American; I start that season. Guess how I end up? In a hospital bed. I rip up this knee/tear it. I can’t finish the season. I’m laying in a hospital bed in Muncy, Indiana because I went to the incredible Harvard of the Midwest, Ball State University. I’m sure y’all know that; but I was in Ball Memorial hospital, literally by myself after surgery, looking at the ceiling, and I’ll never forget this—just looking up and going “So this is what you do? My life was better last year without you in my life than you in my life now. I don’t even know if I can play football again. I don’t know what the future is. Where are you? What are you doing?”
I felt abandoned by God, which I know many of us feel when we’re in the valley. It’s like “God, you’re supposed to make my better; my life is worse.” Here’s what a lot of people do; they walk away. I thank God I didn’t walk away but at that moment I didn’t really understand: is God here? Now, I can look back 2020 and say, “He was right there.” In fact, He was doing something in my life even in that hospital room that I couldn’t see in the moment, but I can look back now and almost it’s as if He was preparing me through this pain for something greater. And the same thing can be true in your marriage. I mean the most difficult years of our marriage—
Dave: —when we felt like God had sort of abandoned us. He’s not answering our prayers. We look back on now and so those years were incredible years of building something strong in us that would help us last to now in our 40th year of marriage.
Ann: I love the quote by A. W. Tozer. He said, “It’s doubtful that God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” And I know that can sound like “Oh, that sounds terrible because I thought God loved us so much,” and yet God does love us. He loves our marriages. He sees us. He knows the pain we’re in, and yet that very pain can transform us.
Dave: Here’s the amazing thing about Elijah. As we thought about this message, we were going to end it right there and go to some life’s truth, which we’re going to get to in a minute, but we weren’t going to read the rest of the story. But look what happens in the rest of the story because he’s in a valley. The brook is dried up. He doesn’t’ have water now and so he’s struggling to say “Okay, God, where are you?” and then watch what God does.
Ann: “Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.’”
Dave: Which by the way, I’ll make a comment here. Often God meets us through people. Don’t miss that. We’re always thinking God—often He places people. Here is a widow that Elijah doesn’t know, and God uses a woman/a stranger, literally, to be the face of God to Elijah to provide for him.
Ann: “So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’”
Dave: And by the way, here’s another great principle when you’re struggling, ask for help.
Ann: That’s really hard sometimes.
Dave: I mean you don’t want to ask for help. You sort of don’t even want to tell anybody you’re struggling. Some of you are struggling right now and that’s okay. Ask for help. Here’s Elijah, prophet of God, he asked a widow a stranger for help. It sounds like a simple little thing but that’s where a miracle begins.
Ann: “As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’ 'As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.’”
Talk about losing hope.
Dave: I mean notice, she’s given up.
Ann: She knows this is the last bit of food that she has.
Dave: And often, you think “I’m not going to ask somebody that’s lost hope,” and yet look what God does, pretty cool.
Ann: “Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.”’”
Dave: And I think, again, we need to stop for a second. I think there’s a really important truth right here. God is saying through this widow, actually, to Elijah, are you going to trust what you see or are you going to trust what I say?
Ann: It’s really good.
Dave: And it’s true in this story. I think it’s true for you and me today. If we look at what we see, it’s easy to lose hope.
Ann: Especially today.
Dave: Oh, my goodness, there are no signs on the horizon that things are going to turn, right? So if we only look at what we see, if the only thing you and I do—and I’ve done this way too many times is pick up my phone in the morning and read the New York Times, or any news, and read of spikes and things going on in the world, I start to lose hope.
So if I look at what I see, we’re in trouble; but if I look at what He says—in fact, we’ve learned instead of opening up the news in the morning, open up the Word of God and look at what God says. Because right here, there’s a question looming. Is Elijah/is this widow going to trust what God says, “I will provide. I’m here. I’m with you.” or are they going to look at what they see? I think that’s a principle we live with every single day. Am I going to look at what’s happening in our marriage—
Ann: That’s what I was going to say.
Dave: —and think we’re not going to make it? Or am I going to look at “Wait, wait, wait, God’s still here. God’s got a plan for us? I know the signs don’t look good but there’s a God that’s with us that we can trust.”
Ann: It’s kind of like we say, “God, are you seeing my husband? Are you seeing my wife? I don’t have a lot of hope.” Even what our kids are going through—the hopelessness or maybe depression that our kids are going through and it’s easy to lose hope.
Dave: And look at how this story ends, and again, I can’t believe we almost skipped this part. I get to read this part.
Dave: It says, “So she went away”—so this is the widow—"she went away and did as Elijah had told her.” So guess what? She’s trusting, not what she sees but what He said/what God says. She did as Elijah told her. “So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” I mean it’s this really pretty remarkable, not pretty, spectacular—
Dave: —miracle that takes place in the middle of this thing. I know you’re thinking “That’s the way God’s going to always take care of me.” It doesn’t always work out that way but here’s the thing: they trusted God even in the middle of the valley, in the middle of a drought, and God shows up in a pretty spectacular way. That isn’t the way it always goes but here’s the truth. God always works even when we don’t think He’s working.
Dave: That was us on the Love Like You Mean It Virtual Cruise 2021.
Ann: That last part: will we trust what we see or what God says? Like that’s pretty big and it’s not easy.
Dave: No, I mean it’s so easy, like the woman, when Elijah said, “This is what God’s going to do,” it’s like I don’t see that. All I see is darkness. I see a valley, and yet God comes through Elijah and says there’s a reality that you can’t see that you’re going to have to trust. It’s the Word of God.
Ann: And I think that’s key because what I end up doing when I get in those situations that feel like I’m out of control, I start conjuring up a plan: what are we going to do? What am I going to do? And sometimes it’s easy to not go instantly into God’s Word, and His Word is so powerful.
Dave: Yes, and I would just add—we’re going to talk about his as we finish this message, but you’ve got to be in His Word.
Dave: Because it’s so easy to keep your eyes almost looking around rather than looking in His Word, and His Word is His truth, and it reminds you He’s actually right here, right now.
Bob: It’s hard to function without hope. Anytime you lose hope whether it’s in your marriage, in your job, circumstances, relationships, the events of life, we feel helpless. Dave and Ann Wilson have been pointing us to the place where hope can be reignited, and that is God’s Word.
We’ve been listening today to part one of a message from Dave and Ann Wilson. A message that actually was presented on the 2021 Love Like You Mean It Virtual Cruise. Because of Covid we were not able to go cruising last year with our Love Like You Mean It cruise. We did that virtually, and Dave and Ann spoke on that cruise.
Dave and Ann are going to be speaking again on the 2022 Love Like You Mean It cruise. Which this time is not virtual; it’s in real life. We’ll be gathering together, leaving from Port Canaveral on February 6th, and sailing for eight days and seven nights. It’s going to be a great cruise line up with not only Dave and Ann but Dr. Juli Slattery, Ron Deal. The Kendrick brothers are going to be there. We’re going to be previewing their newest movie that’s coming out in theaters next year a great line up of speakers and artists for the 2022 Love Like You Mean It Marriage Cruise.
Right now, we’re at about 70% capacity, and so this is kind of last call for those of you who are interested in joining us on the cruise. We have a special offer going now through October 4th where you can save some money and join us on the cruise. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information about the cruise; or if you have any questions, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. The cruise is such a great getaway for couples to relax, refresh your marriage, and grow closer to one another and closer to Christ. Again, find out more, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear part two of Dave and Ann Wilson’s message about how to find strength in the storms in your marriage. We’ll hear from them about the benefits that come our way in the midst of suffering when we’re in the valley. I know it doesn’t feel like it at the time but there are benefits there. God’s Word tells us that. So I hope you can be with us tomorrow.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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