What Is Your Anchor?
About the Guest
Lauren Chandler, mother to three and wife to Matt Chandler, takes listeners back to Thanksgiving in 2009 when Matt blacked out from a seizure.
What Is Your Anchor?
Bob: When Lauren Chandler’s husband Matt was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor, Lauren’s faith was put to the test.
Lauren: I was like, “This is not supposed to happen.” I remember getting into the front seat of the ambulance and thinking, “Is this the rest of my life?—that I’m going to take care of a brain-dead husband?”—and how devastating that would be—but also this surpassing peace of: “Lord, You’d be with me and You’d sustain me, even if that’s what You have for me.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, September 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear from Lauren Chandler today about the reality of the peace that passes all understanding and how that comes from God in the midst of trials. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. There are some days in our lives that start off as normal days; but by the time the day is over, we realize something significant / something life-altering has just happened. That was the case for our guest today.
Dennis: And Lauren Chandler joins us again on FamilyLife Today; welcome back.
Lauren: Thank you. Glad to be back.
Dennis: Lauren and Matt have been married since 1999. She is a mom to three. She found her contentment in her season of life with her husband, who is a great preacher, and her three children.
But there’s more to this book she’s written, called Steadfast Love, that you’ll want to check out—it’s in Psalm 107. In your book, you talk about how that psalm, Psalm 107, talks about there being storms that raise the waves. You went through a period in your marriage that really hit the high seas in Thanksgiving, 2009.
Take us to that moment when you and Matt faced some storms.
Lauren: You know, it’s interesting—I think, that on the days that are probably some of the most pivotal in your life, you wake up and have no idea the importance of that day.
Lauren: It was, you know, Thanksgiving morning, like any other Thanksgiving morning. I was getting dishes ready to take over to my mom’s house. We were going to have Thanksgiving lunch just a couple miles away.
So Matt’s in the living room with the kids / they’re watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; I’m getting dishes ready. All of a sudden, I hear this commotion in the living room. Now, we had this kind of partition decorative thing in the corner of our room, where our six-year-old, Audrey, would do gymnastic tricks on one of the chairs and knock something over. So I thought, “Oh, that’s Audrey again—doing gymnastics and knocking something over.”
But I didn’t hear: “Hey, hon, I’ve got it; don’t worry about it.” I just hear the low hum of the TV. I thought that was—I mean, I was curious—like, “Why wouldn’t Matt say something?” I’m walking towards the living room and I hear Audrey say, “Daddy?!” I walk into the living room. It looks, by all appearances, a normal morning in the living room—the kids are on the couch / the six-month-old’s in the little Johnny Jump Up—and there’s no sign of Matt. Then, I come around the couch and I see him, in the middle of the floor, having a grand mal seizure.
Bob: Was his whole body convulsing?
Lauren: His whole body was convulsing. I mean—so what I heard—the commotion I had heard was him falling down and hitting the fireplace tools.
Lauren: Yes; he had a horrible bump on his head. He ended up almost biting through his tongue—I mean, it was really painful later that day for him.
But I can barely remember kind of what happened—I just remember going into kind of panic mode: asking Audrey to get my phone / I’m trying to remember all the things I’d learned in my lifeguarding class—to turn him on his side but don’t put anything in his mouth—you know, all these different things, and just pretty much shielding my kids from seeing him seize, and just waiting for it to subside.
Finally, Audrey brings me my phone; and I call 911. At that time, we lived a mile from the fire station. I could hear the siren turn on. The paramedics come in. My parents lived just a mile away—I’d called them right after I’d gotten off the phone with the emergency services. My parents come over—they grab the kids—and the paramedics start to treat Matt. His eyes are open, but there’s just no recognition—
—I mean, he’s kind of looking through me / he’s not really focusing on anything. They put him on the gurney and wheel him out. I’m just looking at him, kind of talking to him—I mean, it was like I was a stranger.
Bob: Did you have any idea what was causing this?
Lauren: I had no idea. It was like, “Why would he have a seizure?”
Dennis: And I have to wonder what you were feeling, as a woman. Matt had been your rock.
Lauren: Yes; he had.
Dennis: I mean—and now, you’re having to roll him over on his side to prevent him from swallowing his tongue and strangling to death.
Lauren: Yes; yes.
Dennis: Were you having any of those thoughts, as a woman?
Lauren: Yes! I was like, “This is not supposed to happen.” I remember getting into the front seat of the ambulance and thinking, “Is this the rest of my life?—that I’m going to take care of a brain-dead husband?”—and how devastating that would be—but also this surpassing peace of: “Lord, You’d be with me and You’d sustain, even if that’s what You have for me.”
Bob: What were your kids feeling or thinking, or were they just confused?
Lauren: They were confused—Audrey was confused / Reid was most confused. Norah had no idea what was going on—she was six months old. Audrey was scared with the paramedics coming in with their big black bags. She had gone up to her room, and my parents went up there with her. It was just confusing for them. Reid kind of knew what was going on, but not a lot.
You know, they take him to the hospital / to the ER and they run tests. He finally comes to. I was so relieved that he just recognized me. I mean, that was kind of the first relieving moment I had.
Dennis: How long until he recognized you?
Lauren: The ride to the hospital—so, probably, it was like 20 minutes. When they pulled him out of the back of the ambulance, he looked at me and was like, “What’s going on?” And he recognized me, which really was a relief; because I thought, “He’s never going to know who I am the rest of his life or the rest of my life.”
They ran tests. The ER doctor said: “You need to go see a neurosurgeon. You need to get in as soon as possible. There’s some kind of mass in your brain.” We’re hoping that it’s just something that doctors need to watch—that it’s been there probably this whole time, and we just need to make sure it’s not growing—and we were hoping it would be something benign.
We saw a neurosurgeon the following Tuesday. He showed us the film and said, “This looks pretty bad; so much so that I’ve made room in my schedule on Friday to get you in to get this out.”
Lauren: Yes; brain surgery.
Bob: —on Friday.
Lauren: Friday; after a Tuesday.
Lauren: It’s not my brain—so I can understand why I felt this way—but I remember thinking: “We need to get this out as soon as possible. This is an intruder. It does not need to be in his brain.” And Matt—he fell apart, just thinking about our kids—
—would they love God?—who it seemed took their dad from them? That was a really hard 24 hours—those first 24 hours.
And then, I think, you saw his theology come to life—he was like: “You know what? I really do believe that God is good. I really do; and no matter what happens on Friday—whether I lose my life / whether I don’t come out the same person—I know that He’s good. He’s going to take care of my family / He’s going to take care of my kids. He’s going to take care of the church.”
You know, it took him about 24 hours to get to that point, which I think is—I mean, it could take longer for a lot of people; and that’s okay.
Bob: Sure; yes.
Lauren: You know, just wrestle and struggle through that. But I think he finally got to this point, where: “I just have nothing else to hope in. I mean, this has got to be true.”
Dennis: And I want to stop you there, because what I want our listeners to hear: “You don’t prepare for the storm in the middle of the storm.
Dennis: “You prepare for the storm when the seas are calm, all the way up until you face the storm.”
Dennis: And the reason Matt was able to believe God was good was he had been preaching, teaching, living the psalm that you talk about in your book, Steadfast Love—Psalm 107, verse 1—which says: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” You don’t get to that if you haven’t been living by that.
Lauren: Yes; yes. That’s what the storm does—is it exposes what you’ve been trusting in.
Dennis: Exposes the foundations.
Lauren: Exposes the anchors. What I use in my book is this symbol of an anchor: “What is your anchor?”
Bob: So, he got there.
Lauren: He got there.
Bob: Did you get there in 24 hours too?
Lauren: I feel like I got there in the ambulance ride, really.
Bob: —when you looked at it and said, “Okay; if this is what God has for me, He’ll be with me”?
Lauren: Yes; yes.
Bob: So, when you say you got there, you’re not saying that, from that moment in the hospital on, there was never fear; there was never anxiety; there was never doubt; there was never worry.
Lauren: No; there was always that.
Bob: All of those things.
Lauren: Yes; I mean, it was a struggle. I remember, after we’d gotten his prognosis—which was two to three years of life—I remember coming out of that room and looking at all the couples—like: my parents, Matt’s parents, our friends—just being sad and mad that I wasn’t guaranteed that my spouse would be standing there with me in two to three years. By all appearances, it looked like they were going to get to enjoy years of marriage together, where it seemed like I had kind of a shelf life on my marriage.
Bob: I was in a meeting, here in Little Rock, with two friends of mine, who are both medical doctors.
It was either early 2010 or right at the end of 2009, when, online, we got the detailed report of Matt’s diagnosis and his prognosis. I looked at these guys; and they grimly said, “People do not survive this.” Your doctors told you two to three years—and the vast majority / I don’t know what the number is—but better than 90 percent of people do not live beyond three years, if they have what Matt had.
Lauren: Yes; I know.
Bob: So, you could hope and you could pray; but you were hoping against pretty strong odds that you had to get ready for life without Matt.
Lauren: Yes; I did.
Dennis: In the meantime, he was recovering from the surgery. Things got worse before they got better.
Lauren: Yes; yes. Right after surgery, in the neuro ICU, he was himself—
—he was cracking jokes. I mean, he looked terrible—he had a bandage wrapped around his head, but—
Dennis: But that was a big deal; because you wonder: “When you invade the brain:
Lauren: Yes: “Is he going to remember me?”
Dennis: “’Is he going to be there when he comes out?’”
Lauren: Yes; and he knew where he was, he knew his doctor’s name, he knew us. Then, he was cracking jokes. So, it was a relief; but he still was in bad shape—I mean, I could see that. The days following, it’s kind of—you don’t know what was pain meds / what was the result of the surgery—but he just started to kind of fade. His personality faded / he had a flat affect—so just hardly any facial expression / any modulation in his voice—I mean, which—
Bob: And anybody who knows Matt Chandler, facial expression and modulation are defining characteristics; right?
Lauren: They are; so it was alarming.
In fact, two of our friends who were on staff at The Village had come to see him a few days after he was out of the neuro ICU. They just rode home, crying; because they thought: “This is not the same man. This is not our friend. I don’t know who this is, but he’s a shadow of who he was.”
So, those days were really hard. He ended up going to an in-patient rehab after that. He slowly started to kind of come back to life; but there were those questions of: “Okay; is this it? Is this as much of Matt as I’m going to get back?” Then also, the surgeon had asked that I not tell Matt his diagnosis yet. I knew Matt’s diagnosis for about a week before he did. There was only one other person who knew, too; and it was one of the other lead pastors. I was convinced that I needed to keep it to me and to this man, and other people didn’t need to know it yet.
Dennis: You didn’t tell your parents—
Lauren: I didn’t tell my parents.
Dennis: —his parents.
Lauren: I didn’t tell his parents, because I didn’t want Matt to be the last person to know. I felt like, “If there’s anyone that should know, it’s him before everybody has to know,”—and so that everybody else doesn’t have to put on a face for him.
Dennis: They had to be pestering you.
Lauren: They weren’t; but they would say, “I can’t believe we don’t have a diagnosis yet.” I wouldn’t say anything.
Bob: So, when the doctor gave Matt the diagnosis and the prognosis—
Lauren: Yes; I felt like the doctor was a little bit more optimistic with him—where I got the cold, hard facts—he kind of got, “Well, worst case scenario is that you die in a car accident on the way home,” you know. I felt like the surgeon was much gentler delivering the news with him, whereas: “Hey, it’s a Grade 3 oligodendroglioma. We’re going to do radiation / we’re going to do chemo; and we’re just going to pray that the Lord heals you,” because the surgeon is a godly man.
He didn’t really get what I got—so that kind of concerned me, because I didn’t think he felt the gravity of the situation. I tried to coax the surgeon in telling him: “Hey, this is what you told me.” The details are fuzzy; but I don’t think Matt really knew his prognosis for a long time after that, because I didn’t want to be the one to tell him, but—
Bob: So he’s thinking: “I’ll get better; and then, we’ll be okay.
Lauren: Yes; yes.
Bob: “And I’ll go in, in six months, for a checkup; and the scans will be clear, and everything will be good.”
Lauren: Yes; yes. Once we started meeting with his neuro oncologist, that’s when she was kind of able to give him some more facts—and just like, “This is what…”
Bob: Cold, hard truth.
Lauren: Cold, hard truth; yes.
Bob: We just need to say: “This all happened in 2009.”
Lauren: —at the end of 2009.
Bob: I was told by somebody—tell me if this is true—that, at the end of two to three years, when you went back to see the doctor—and they were surprised—
—I mean, it’s not like they hadn’t seen you—they were very relieved; but they said, “Okay; the next marker is seven to ten years.”
Lauren: Yes; Matt was having some kind of key man insurance put on him at church. They had to get some kind of deadline on his life from the oncologist; and they said, “Seven to ten years.”
Bob: I was told that Matt asked the question, “So, when I get past ten years and I’m still scan-free, what will you tell me then?”
Lauren: Yes; I know.
Bob: And they said, “We don’t know, because nobody’s ever done that.
Lauren: Yes; you’re right.
Bob: No one!
Lauren: I think there have been a few, right now, that are probably like 15 years-in; but they’re very, very few. There’s just no statistic, really, for him.
Bob: You feel like God’s healed him.
Lauren: I do. I’m just like: “Lord, You used that season. I’m going to believe that You chose to heal him; and until You show us otherwise, we’re going to trust You for that.”
Bob: If you’re sitting in an oncologist’s office, at a regular checkup and scan, and they come in and say, “Well, it’s not the news we’d hoped for this time,” is your heart ready for that?
Lauren: I don’t know. I would hope it is, because of how God has sustained me in all these seasons. That’s the thing about the book—I don’t start with the brain tumor. I go way back to these other seasons of my life, where the Lord has shown me that He’s enough: “I think I’ll just take one day at a time and say: ‘Lord, I’ll trust You. I know You are still good, and I know You still sustain me with Your steadfast love.”
I’ll ask for the Lord to heal, but I will receive what He has. I mean, it’s not going to be easy / I’m not going to trick myself into believing that it’ll just be easy, but I do think and I pray that I will trust Him in it.
Dennis: And so, what would you have to say to a listener, who’s at the beginning of this process?
Maybe it’s their health, maybe it’s a child’s health, their spouse’s—what would you instruct them to do as they read Psalm 107?
Lauren: Take to heart that these people cried out, and that you don’t have to be okay with it. I sat with a woman, whose husband has been diagnosed with cancer—with a really aggressive form of cancer—and she’s pregnant with her second child. It is a really hard situation; and she’s like, “I’m not okay with it right now.” I said: “I really don’t think you have to be okay with it. I think you can be like, ‘Lord, this is not right.’” And it’s not—I mean, it is the effects of a broken world.
I think it is okay to struggle with that and to not make peace with the problem or the trial, but just to make peace with God.
You cry out to Him, in all your snot and all your tears, and you ask Him for healing; but more than anything, you ask Him to be near and for Him to show you how near He really is.
Dennis: God is not threatened by our angry shouts—
Lauren: Right; yes.
Dennis: —our tears—our cries of anguish, of grief, of sadness, of sorrow, of potential loss.
Dennis: He can handle—He’s not insecure.
Lauren: That’s right.
Dennis: But He is the anchor that people are looking for. And to that person, who doesn’t know Jesus Christ right now, who’s listening—who may think they’re ready for heaven but they have no idea how they’re going to get there / they have no idea what it takes to get there—what would you say to that person?
Bob: Yes; somebody who—you described yourself, earlier, as somebody who was trying to please God but not really surrendered to Christ; right?
Lauren: Right; that’s the cross—I’ve heard it the most simply put:
Jesus lived the life you couldn’t live and died the death you deserved to die.
And He didn’t do it out of duty; but for the joy, set before Him, He endured the cross. There is a God who loves you—who desires a relationship with you / who is the God who designed us to be with Him—that He is the God with us. From the very beginning of time, His desire has been to be with us and among us and to dwell among His people.
He will use any trial and any season to draw you into Him. How we can see that His love is true and it is lasting is by looking at Jesus, who gave up, willingly endured one of the most violent, horrible, humiliating deaths so that we could know what it’s like to be in a relationship with God. And then, the proof of it is that He didn’t stay in the grave; but He rose. So just this proof of, “I did it for you, because you couldn’t on your own.”
So it is that simple—to just trust Him / to trust that Jesus has done it for you—that a relationship with God is possible, and that’s what you’re meant for. You are meant to draw near to Him / to know Him—to be used according to His purpose—and that’s where life, at its fullest, is.
Dennis: Surrender to Love Himself.
Dennis: His love endures forever. He died for you. He provided the way to a relationship with God the Father. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” He is your salvation—surrender to Him.
Bob: There is, on a website, at FamilyLifeToday.com, a link to something that’s called “Two Ways to Live.” It really lays out the options that are in front of each one of us: “Are we going to live as slaves to our own passions or slaves to Christ? Are we going to follow God, or are we going to follow our own desires?”
That’s the fundamental issue that everybody needs to wrestle with, and you need to decide: “Which side are you on?” You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says: “Two Ways to Live” to find out more about what it means to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
That’s where you would go, also, to find out more about Lauren Chandler’s book, Steadfast Love: The Response of God to the Cries of Our Heart. It’s a book that we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the book is called Steadfast Love; it’s by Lauren Chandler. Order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329 / 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we are going to hear about another moment in Lauren Chandler’s life that was a defining moment that God really used in her life. I hope you can be back tomorrow to hear her share that story.
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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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