How to Love Those Who Are Hurting
About the Guest
Each of us is broken in some way. Pastor Dave Furman and his wife, Gloria, tell what it's like dealing with a disability in marriage. Dave has reflex dystrophy, which makes the nerves in his hands and arms non-functioning. Gloria shares how God has met her need for help and hope, and trusts that God has them where He needs them.
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.
Dave Furman and his wife, Gloria, tell what it’s like dealing with a disability in marriage. Gloria shares how God has met her need for help and hope.
How to Love Those Who Are Hurting
Bob: It should have been one of the most exciting times in Dave Furman’s life; instead, he found himself discouraged and depressed.
Dave: Two months before I’m about to launch the church in the Middle East, I’m thinking to myself: “I’m about to get up and be a big hypocrite if I plant this church, and I get up and start preaching about healthy marriages and healthy parenting.” I was mean to my wife, disengaged, passively/aggressively blamed her for some of my pain and wasn’t walking with the Lord. So, I remember sitting one day, two months out from the launch of Redeemer Church of Dubai, going, “God, I can’t do this.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 29th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Even people who want to accomplish big things for God can find themselves discouraged, depressed, and hurting. So, what do you do when that happens?
We’ll talk about that today with Dave and Gloria Furman. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I don’t want to get too metaphorical or esoteric here at the beginning, but I was thinking about what we’re going to be talking about today. I thought, “There’s a sense in which every husband is married to somebody with a disability / every wife is married to somebody with a disability—marriage is two disabled people helping each other out through life, at one level”; right?
Dennis: Yes; sometimes, we see the limp.
Dennis: Other times, the limp is invisible. And we have a couple who have learned how to do life with a few limps that both of them have in their lives. Dave and Gloria Furman join us on FamilyLife Today. Gloria, Dave, welcome back.
Dave: It’s great to be back.
Gloria: Thank you.
Dennis: All the way back from?
Dave: From Dubai in the heart of the Middle East. It took a little bit of time for us to get to you, but we’re glad to be here.
Dennis: And you started a church, Redeemer Church, back in 2010.
Dennis: Tell us about how it’s going.
Dave: Well, it’s going really, really well. By God’s grace, we’re seeing men, women, and children come to know Christ. Our church has about 65 different nationalities, who come together to worship God every weekend. Our church is about 90 percent Easterners, and Africans, and Middle Easterners; about 10 percent Westerners. In God’s kindness, we’ve been able to be involved with church planting. We’ve seen people grow in their relationships with God. It’s a joy to serve there.
Dennis: A number of years ago, I had the privilege of speaking at a church in Beijing, China. There were over 60 nationalities represented as about 500 folks joined together. You’ve got about a thousand—right?—
Dennis: —coming out every Sunday. It really is something to be singing some of the great hymns, Bob, with folks from other nations, other tribes, other tongues.
It really is a privilege.
Dave: It really is a little taste of heaven every time we gather together.
Dennis: And I’m glad you mentioned that—a taste of heaven—because Bob needed a taste of heaven that is brought to him by three Dallas Theological Seminary graduates. [Laughter]
Dave: It’s good to be with you, Bob.
Dennis: It’s good to be with you, Bob.
Bob: It’s nice to have the intelligentsia here in the room. [Laughter]
Dave: We love you!
Bob: All I have is my poor undergraduate degree from the University of Tulsa, but it’s nice to have you sophisticated folks here. [Laughter]
Dennis: Bob is no second-class citizen to anyone. [Laughter]
Well, let’s cut to the chase; and let’s talk about these limps that we’re talking about. Dave, you just finished a book called Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting. And why don’t you explain kind of how this subject comes to the forefront here on this broadcast today from your own life?
Dave: Well, Gloria and I got married 14 years ago. There is a picture in my office, actually, of the day we got engaged.
I’m actually holding Gloria—I picked her up off the ground, and I’m holding her in my arms in Boston, moments after we got engaged. At that point, we got married. Three months later, we thought we were going to change the world.
We had no idea that a few years into marriage we would be at a hotel, and we would try to be floating down the Lazy River of a waterpark. I literally got stuck in the inner tube, and I couldn’t get out; because during those first years of marriage, I developed a nerve disability in my arms—where I ended up not being able to carry anything, pick up anything, even shake hands, or drive. We went through a number of surgeries, a number of procedures, and nothing seemed to help.
Dennis: What’s it called?
Dave: Well, there are different names for it, but one name is reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Basically, the ulnar nerve in both my arms—the nerve that connects with your two smaller fingers just doesn’t work. Almost the exact month that we made plans to serve in the Middle East, my nerves just kind of went.
We were, actually, living here in Little Rock, Arkansas. We tried to get all the help we could. My health just went down further, and further, and further until we moved over to the Middle East. One night, I was driving the car. During the drive, Gloria had popped in [a store] to grab some groceries. When she came back out, I was literally in tears, not being able to control the car anymore. That really led me into just a real deep, dark depression. The pain was so severe we really couldn’t make it.
Dennis: So, Gloria, you had to drive—
Gloria: Yes, today—every day, all the time, every trip. [Laughter]
Bob: Not just drive, but you have to cut food.
Bob: You have to open doors.
Dennis: Carry bags.
Bob: Take care of the kids.
Dennis: Go through TSA check outs here in America—
Dennis: —when you come back.
Gloria: Yes, yes; I do all of that.
Dave: Sometimes, we don’t even go together in the TSA checkouts; because oftentimes, they’ll look at me and even yell at me for being the passive husband, who is letting the wife do everything. So, there are times when I’ll just kind of go ahead with a kid, and go on my own, and leave everything to Gloria to do.
Dennis: In fact, you tell the story in the book about bringing some groceries out.
Dennis: You pull up—
Gloria: Oh, yes.
Dennis: —in front.
Dave: Where was that? Was that Nashville at the Opryland Hotel; wasn’t it? You were loading the car.
Gloria: I was loading the car. I had one of those bellman/bellhop carts with our suitcases on it / a Pack ‘n Play for a baby. Stroller—I was pushing that and pulling the cart at the same time. Dave just kind of walked up to the car. I unlocked the car and got Dave in, buckled his seatbelt, got the baby into her car seat, and started loading the back of the trunk.
Then, when I brought the bellhop cart back to the inside of the hotel—there’d been some ladies who had been watching me the whole time—they started heckling me and said things like: “You don’t deserve that. You deserve a man who can do these things. Your husband is no good. Why do you put up with that?”—just heckling me. I had a moment to collect my thoughts, as I put the bellhop cart back, and then, walked back out toward the car.
All I could say is, “He’s disabled,” and just keep walking.
There are rare moments like that; but mostly, the thing that kind of wears me down is the daily assumptions that people make—that I don’t need help with things. I’ve learned to compensate for all the extra work, but just the daily grind of it is probably harder to deal with than those ones of—every once in a while, someone says something really, really ugly. But yes.
Bob: I know that—and we’re going to spend a lot of time, Dave, talking about how you have learned to cope with this—but Gloria, we go back to your wedding day. This was not—I mean, you said, “…for better or worse…,”—you didn’t know this was coming.
Gloria: Right, right; right. I think, if someone had pressed me and said, “When one of you gets sick, what will you do?” “Oh, of course, I will serve! I will gladly serve. I will serve with the strength the Lord provides.” I just—I don’t think I envisioned that as something—
Gloria: —that was eminent, around the corner, and then, chronic and ongoing.
Bob: Yes; do you think, if somebody had said: “I’ve seen the future. Let me tell you what’s coming,”—do you think you would have rethought, “I do”?
Gloria: I would have had some serious soul-searching to do: “Am I able to do this?” I would have asked myself: “Can I? Can I? Can I?” And then, hopefully, Lord willing, the Spirit would assure my soul: “No; you cannot! With the strength the Lord provides, you can do all of these things that God calls you to do.”
Bob: Has there been a time, over the last five years, as you’ve adjusted to this—has there been a time when you’ve thought: “I didn’t want this. I didn’t sign up for this. Why this burden on me? I mean, we’re trying to go reach the world for Christ. We should get the easy path, not the hard path”?
Gloria: I think I have thoughts and questions. Sometimes, those questions do tumble around in my mind; but I’m assured very quickly because I’ve seen the grace of God at work in our own lives and in the work of the people whom we serve in the Middle East.
One particular example that comes to mind is when people come—and they come to our church. Perhaps, they’ve been exposed to Christianity before. Maybe, they’ve seen a preacher on the TV claim crazy things about what godly, holy people get to do because of Jesus’ favor on them. Then, they come and they see a disabled pastor. It doesn’t make any sense with their worldview / it doesn’t make any sense with the Christianity that they thought they knew. Then, Dave gets to minister to those people. He talks them out of their prosperity cult—[Laughter]—and shares the true gospel with them—that just because you follow Jesus, doesn’t mean you get an easy / physically-easy path.
Bob: Have you had people say, “You should claim your healing and be done with this”?
Dave: Yes; it’s a normal thing. So, oftentimes, people will meet me—maybe, they’re new to the church—and they come up to me and say: “You’re disabled. You’re hurt. You know what? You’re a pastor / you’re close to God”—or—“You’re a man of faith. God will heal you. Just keep on believing that.”
And certainly, I’m to keep on praying for healing; and I do. I pray that the Lord would change my heart in the midst of the pain; but yes, there are those that will promise deliverance to me.
Bob: But Paul prayed three times, at least—
Dave: At least.
Bob: —that his thorn would be removed; right?
Dave: And God, for whatever sovereign purpose and loving purpose God had, those thorns remained. And for our family, this thorn has remained too.
Dennis: Another word that Paul had—and I want you both to comment on this—in the last few verses of Philippians, Chapter 4, it says: “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance….”
I’m going to read that again: “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
How do you apply this to your lives? This is not theory to you—these are your circumstances.
Gloria: Yes; I’ve seen God provide for me in the plenty.
Dennis: In what way?
Gloria: Lots of help, lots of extra hands, lots of encouraging words, lots of people want to pray. I’ve seen God provide in my loneliness, too, where I’m the only person doing all of this heavy lifting.
When I hear those passages that you just read, I’m reminded of probably the biggest miracle that God’s done in my life—He’s kept me—my faith perseveres. I do pray for help, and I get help in those times of need; but the bigger miracle, I think, is that I love Him and I trust Him.
Whatever may come in the future with Dave’s health—if it continues to decline or if want gets bigger and scarier—I know who He is and I trust Him. So, I’m grateful for His provision of those things.
Dennis: Gloria, this is not—this is not TV / it is radio. So, listeners aren’t able to see your face when you were describing that you hadn’t lost your faith; but you’re still trusting / still following. It was interesting to watch you express that. You meant that.
Gloria: I do mean it.
Dennis: Comment on doubt because I think a lot of followers of Christ don’t know what to do with it. They think that somehow doubt is unspiritual. Yes; they don’t know how to get out of the doubt to get to faith. How have you?
Gloria: Well, we see in the Word that faith is a gift.
We also see that God loves to give good gifts to His children. If you asked the Lord, “Please, would You sustain my faith?”—would He not? So, be encouraged by the promises of future grace that you read throughout Scripture. Hang onto those promises of future grace like—like I have to because I have to! [Laughter] So, I hang onto God’s promises of future grace in Christ because that’s what I have.
If I look at my temporary circumstances, if I listen to hecklers, if I look at physical stamina and statistics, then, those are all shifting sands. They are all just going to keep moving under my feet; but if I’m looking to the Word for those promises, I’ve got solid ground to stand on. That builds my faith.
Dennis: I have to believe there are some women, probably—and some men—facing some circumstances in their marriage who just needed to hear what you just said.
What about you, Dave? How have you applied Philippians 4 in your life?
Dave: Well, first of all, I didn’t always apply these verses.
The first year-and-a-half we lived overseas, I was deeply depressed and discouraged and wasn’t content in every circumstance. There was a time where I had boils up and down my fingers. I couldn’t touch anything, couldn’t eat with a metal fork, couldn’t drink, and couldn’t button my shirt. Some of those things, I still can’t do; but it was such a dark moment that my mind just went all kinds of dark places.
I started thinking, all day long, “If only ____, then, I’d be happy.” And for me, it was, “If only my arms were healthy, then, I’d be happy.” I tied my joy to my ever-changing circumstances—that’s where I put my hope in. So, the days—which were most days—when my arms were incredibly painful, I had no joy. And it was about a year-and-a-half of dealing with dark depression / a year-and-a-half of dealing with kind of what-ifs: “What if I didn’t have arms? What if I just…” I didn’t want to live at times.
Dennis: Yes; I was going to ask you—did you ever think about suicide?
Dave: Yes; I never planned suicide. I never thought deeply about it; but I said a thousand times a day: “I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead, and I wish I didn’t have arms.”
Those thoughts just filled my mind, and filled my heart, and soul on a regular basis. That went on for a year-and-a-half—so these verses weren’t true in my heart.
Then, about a year-and-a-half in, God’s kindness—we were rebuked by some friends / got ahold of some good material on the gospel and applying it to my heart and applying it to my trials. I began to see a little bit of what Paul’s talking about here—that your joy needs to be tied into your identity in Christ, and not your ever-changing circumstances, but the one great permanent circumstance that is the gospel / that is our union with Jesus.
Finally, a year-and-a-half in, I began to see that there was more to this life than healthy arms and that I could, in fact, have joy, even in pain. That was just a new reality. It just blew my mind, and I think these verses in Philippians 4 were a big part of it.
Dennis: I think of the encounter that Jesus had with the disciples, where it said He said some things that were kind of hard. And sometimes, He says things that are hard, that we have to endure / sometimes, we are facing circumstances that are hard, that we have to endure.
And the disciples, who were left, said—when Jesus turned to them, He said, “Are you, too, going to leave me?” A bunch of them left Christ because they couldn’t absorb it. The disciples say, “Lord, where would we go because You alone have eternal life?” What I hear from both of you is kind of like: “Okay; if I give up on God, what have I got?”
Dennis: I mean, how are you going to make any sense of this?
Gloria: Yes; I’ve tasted enough of the fake hope to know that it’s no good.
Bob: Well, I want to ask you—and by the way, we’re talking to Dave and Gloria Furman. Dave has written a book called Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting.
I’m just wondering—in the year-and-a-half that you were pastoring, and depressed, and wrestling with thoughts throughout the day of “I wish I was dead,”—and then, getting up on Sunday morning and declaring the good news of the gospel to your congregation—
—were you just faking it?
Dave: Well, in God’s kindness, that year-and-a-half was the first year-and-a-half we were overseas. We actually planted the church just a couple months after that depression snap; but actually, what you’re saying is part of what snapped me out of it. I was—two months before I was about to launch the church in the Middle East, I am thinking to myself: “I’m about to get up and be a big hypocrite, if I plant this church, and get up and start preaching about healthy marriages and healthy parenting.” I had totally, basically rejected my daughter— I wasn’t spending time or caring for her at all. I was mean to my wife, disengaged to her, unkind, passively/aggressively blamed her for some of my pain, and wasn’t walking with the Lord like I should.
I remember sitting one day, two months out from the launch of Redeemer Church of Dubai, going: “God, I can’t do this. I can’t start this church.” That was part of the repentance process that, two months beforehand, turned back to the Lord and started walking with Him. In God’s kindness, we started the church; and I was able to preach and teach as a repentant man.
Bob: Dave, I just—I’m sitting here thinking about this situation. It’s not that I always open the door for my wife when we’re going somewhere; but part of my understanding of who I am, as a man, is that I should. You can’t—has that—I’m just thinking about your sense of self as: “I’m the man. I’m the husband. I’m the provider. I’m the protector, and part of me is disabled in that assignment.” How have you coped with that?
Dave: Yes; that’s a ridiculously hard and difficult thing to work through. I would love to drive my wife on the long road trip from Dallas to San Antonio, or to get the doors for her, or to help with the children, and change diapers, and things like that.
The first thing to recognize is—it’s really difficult / it’s difficult to do that physically—but what I’ve learned along the way is that masculinity under Christ—
—my biblical manhood that I want to live out—isn’t just limited to my physical strength but my spiritual and emotional leadership. I can still lead in the home / I can still lead my wife. I can lead my kids and point them to Jesus. It really highlighted what I can do and, really, what all husbands and fathers should do. It’s not that I do that perfectly; but I’ve certainly found ways that you can lead and love a family, even in weakness.
Dennis: So, I’m looking at Gloria’s face.
Dave: She’s laughing right now; isn’t she?
Gloria: No! [Laughter]
Dennis: She’s grinning.
Bob: She’s beaming!
Dave: She’s beaming with joy.
Bob: That’s right!
Dennis: Honestly, I’m just kind of emotional about watching you [Gloria] [emotion in Dennis’ voice].
Gloria: “Amen!”—what you said. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; but I was getting ready to ask you—until I looked at your face—and I thought, “I’m not going to be able to get the words out here.” But how has he carried your burden?—because it’s more than a man carrying a suitcase.
Dennis: There are burdens in life. How has he carried those with you and for you?
Gloria: Yes; I think remembering the gospel is the first thing that comes to mind. Any man can carry a suitcase / a man of any faith background can carry a suitcase, but my husband cannot carry a suitcase. What I need from a Christian husband is to lead us to the gospel—we need to sit at the foot of the cross every day. We need to be led back there when we want to look around and see if there is a better option.
So, all of those things that he said about leading your family, spiritually and emotionally, and how that has to highlight what he can do, and ought to do, and should do—it really outweighs everything that he could do physically for us—that anyone can do. Those are the things that a husband does.
Dennis: So, Dave, this is not a word from heaven; okay? So, hear this for what it is—
Dave: I’m ready; I’m ready.
Dennis: —this is an idea from me. In about a decade, I’d like to have a book in my hands, entitled Any Man Can Carry a Suitcase.
Dave: It’s a great title.
Dennis: Yes; it is. I want it to be the lessons you’ve learned; because almost like someone who is blind and whose hearing becomes acute, your sensitivity to carrying burdens and leading undoubtedly is going to help a lot of men. Go for it!
Dave: It’s a great challenge—I’ll remember that.
Bob: We’ll give you a little time off since you just finished writing Being There. [Laughter]
Dave: Thank you.
Bob: We do have that book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. And if our listeners are interested—and I hope they are—you can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to order Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting by Dave Furman; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request your copy of the book. So, again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, TODAY.”
Well, today is a big day at the Durkee household in Cedar Springs, Michigan, where John and Kim Durkee are celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary. “Congratulations!” to the Durkees. They listen to FamilyLife Today on WCSG and have been to the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. We just want to say, “Congratulations!” as the Durkees celebrate four years together.
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Here, at FamilyLife, we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary this year, focusing on how God has cared for this ministry and how He has worked through this ministry over the last four decades.
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And when you do get in touch with us to make a donation, ask to receive the FamilyLife 2017 calendar. It’s all ready to go. In fact, it starts with October—so you can put it up as soon as you receive your copy. It will keep you focused on how your home can be an embassy for the kingdom of heaven. So, ask about the calendar when you get in touch with us.
And I hope you can join us back tomorrow. Dave and Gloria Furman will be here again, and we’re going to continue our conversation about how we love each other in the midst of pain—whether it’s physical pain, or emotional pain, stress/strain. How can we support one another when that’s happening in a marriage? We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. Hope you can join us for that.
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. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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