Where is God in My Pain? with Kevin and Melissa Valentine
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Where is God in my pain–when dreams evaporate? Kevin and Melissa Valentine catapulted to a vicious reality after his accident. But they weren’t alone.
Where is God in My Pain? with Kevin and Melissa Valentine
Kevin: And the best way I can describe it is—there were mornings, early on, that I would wake up; and I would feel like I was sitting on a fence: and on one side was bitterness; and on one side, and this is not the right way to say it, was better-ness—I had a choice every day.
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 the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: It isn't every day we get to have good friends in the FamilyLife Today studio.
Ann: Isn’t it fun?
Dave: Yes; I mean, we've got the Valentine's back with us. They've known us for
25 years, maybe?—I don't know how many years—but it’s been—
Ann: It means we’re old; that's what that means.
Dave: Yes; I mean, we've been friends. We've watched them raise their kids. I threw passes to their oldest son to get him ready for college football.
Dave and Ann: Kevin and Melissa, welcome back.
Dave: Look at that; we said it at the same time. [Laughter]
Kevin: Thanks; good to be back.
Dave: Well, on the previous program, we heard the story of—boy, I remember that night, not like you do—but when you were trying to help a lady change a tire, on the side of the road, and ended up getting smashed between two cars. A woman hit you, going 50-plus miles an hour, and never hit her brakes. You should be in a casket right now—you survived—but you lost your left leg.
Ann: And you guys were only 22 and 23. You'd only been married just over half a year, and you're facing the biggest struggle of your lives.
Dave: You find out, as you wake up out of that coma, that you've lost your leg. Take us back—I mean, that was over 20 years ago—take us back to the journey of what that has been like over the last two decades.
Kevin: There were some moments, early on, that set us up for the next 20-plus years. I've been asked a ton, you know: “How were you not angry?” “How were you not mad at God?”—like—“How did you square—you're doing what God wants you to do—with you're getting hurt and losing so much?” I was angry for about two weeks.
Two weeks, after I woke up, the doctors kept talking about/ saying: “We're going to take you to the Jacuzzi® room.” So: “…the Jacuzzi room,” “…Jacuzzi room,” or “Maybe, tomorrow: Jacuzzi room.” Finally, two weeks in, they go, “Alright, it's the time; we're taking you to the Jacuzzi room.”
I'm thinking what you think of when you think about a Jacuzzi: it's going to be nice; it's going to be really relaxing; it's going to feel good. They wheel me into this room—and there are about eight to ten stainless steel vats, filled with water—it is sterile; it is gray; it is dark. They wheel me to the biggest tank in the middle of the room. They hoist me up to the ceiling; push me over and drop me into this tank; and then, they take water jets and focus them on all of my wounds to flush out road debris. That's the Jacuzzi room.
The nurse goes: “Alright, I'm going to set the time for 20 minutes; and I'll be back,”—and closes the curtain around me—first time I'd been alone. I just looked down at my body, and it was out of a horror movie. I just remember, for the first time, going, “There's no coming back from this,”—like it just felt final—“It's over.” I start to get mad at God. I am just going through all the things you would think: “I'm doing what You wanted me to do for my life. I'm following everything You asked me to do. I'm giving up everything that I want to do for what You want me to do, and this is what I get.” All that's going through my mind.
The best way I can describe what happened in this tank is I was ready to give God both barrels—everything I had of just how angry I was—it's like, as I looked up into His face to just blast Him, there were tears rolling down His. It was almost like, in that moment, if you just see a scene of Jesus there with me—when that car hit me, standing right beside; riding in the ambulance with me; being in the operating room; and then, sitting beside my bed for ten days; and now, walking with me every day—I just/I saw that in my mind, of just going, “You never left me; You went through it all with me.” It just/the anger just melted; it went from a 10 to a 1.
What happened in that tank is: I basically crawled up in Jesus's lap, and He just held me like a little boy. All I kept hearing Him say, over and over, was: “It's going to be okay; trust Me.” I mean, that went on for 20 minutes; and then, the lady came and got me, and took me back.
They took me to the Jacuzzi room every day for about five days. Those are the sweetest memories I have in my life of time with Jesus; because He just helped me, and that's exactly what I needed. And the anger has never come back—like it, literally, has not been something that I carry since then—I feel like Jesus just released me from that anger by me realizing that He was with me, in that tank and with me through the whole thing.
Ann: I'm just curious—as you think about that with listeners, who are listening, who have really gone through some suffering, as you guys have gone through—if they're in it right now, what would you say to them?
Kevin: Through every ounce of suffering you've experienced, Jesus has never left your side. He never turned his back on you; He never forgot about you; He never left you in the dust. He experienced every single moment with you and loves you. That's what I experienced; I'm like, “Man, that is a gift that He gave me—was His presence in that tank—but just that experience of knowing that I wasn't left alone.”
I think for people, who are suffering—it's interesting—on this side of it, in some ways, I'm much more empathetic to suffering; and in other ways, I'm less empathetic. And what I mean by that is—for people, who are in the midst of tragedy, and don't know if life's going to ever come back, I get that; I lived that—Jesus showed up for me in that.
For—and this is just/it's so weird to say—but for people, who are experiencing difficult times, that are not a 10—maybe, they’re a 4 or 5; but they're making it a 10—I've kind of gone, “Oh, you don't know suffering”; you know? [Laughter]
It's an interesting dynamic, of just kind of going, “Man, I get it.” I have/I had a great friend, who had MS at the time. I spent four months in a wheelchair; it is so hard being in a wheelchair—you have no idea—she's got to load up the wheelchair every time, push me everywhere I go. People don't see you—when they do see you, they stare at you—you feel like you're an outcast. I lived that for four months.
I remember going to my buddy, Steve, and going, “Steve”—I called him after the first time; I felt like people were staring at me—"Steve, how do you do it?”—you know, just because he/and it was like he had a new friend, who understood his world. It was really kind of a cool connection point; because I was able to go to him and go, “How do I deal with this?” He was able to just feel like, “Man, somebody understands my world.”
Dave: Melissa, did you feel the same thing?—like: “Jesus is with me,” or is it a different journey?
Melissa: It was a little bit different. It was a terrible experience, and it was a wonderful experience—all at the same time—because God was right there with us; He was walking through this with us. We were getting to know each other in a way that we never would have otherwise: you know, we were sharing things; we were talking about things; we were going through stuff together that bonded us in a way that we never would have bonded if not for that.
Dave: Yes; and I know one of the memories I have—I think we did a video at church, where you talked about hiding; maybe, I'm saying it wrong—but you, even wearing a prosthesis that covered up—or I'm not sure exactly—but talk about that a little bit; because I remember you saying there was a moment, where you decided, “I don't need to hide this.”
Kevin: Yes, I think for me, I entered into the disability community. I never even knew an amputee before this happened. As I got back to somewhat normal life—it took me four months: I got a leg, and I started learning how to walk—I started feeling less than, like there was a bunch of things I couldn't do anymore. I couldn't run; I started feeling like less of a man. I started finding that people were looking at me a little differently, and that just kind of made me really insecure—because, again, it's all new; and I'm less than I was—and I'm trying to work through all that stuff.
And so I started having the prosthetist—I saw this guy walk in one day, and you couldn't tell which leg was the missing one; he was at the prosthetics office—I was like, “I want”—like—“Where'd you get that skin, man?”—like it looked real. It kind of started me on this journey, of going, “Hey, let's just put skin on that, and let's see how things go”; you know? We started kind of making it match the other leg. And while, on the one hand, it made a difference—because people didn't look at my leg while they were talking to me—you know, it was kind of like: “Hey, you know, I'm over here,”—it's just a distraction; it kind of fixed that.
But there was a point in the journey—I did that for a number of years—there was a point in the journey, which I think you're alluding to Dave, where I'm like, “Man, I am trying to cover up something that God has given to me as a gift in some ways.” Because I had gotten to the point, where I started looking back—and you know, you always wonder, like, “If I could go back and could get that changed, would I change it?”—I got to the point, where I'm like, “No”; because God had done so much great work in our life. There was a humility that God brought to that; a closeness that we had; an understanding of the goodness of God that I would have never had, had I not gone through this.
I started realizing: “I'm covering this up; and yet, this is a gift that God's given me.” I just remember getting to this point, where I'm like, “You know what? This is the leg that God has given me; and I don't want to hide it anymore. I don't want to be ashamed of it.” I don't know if I was ashamed, or embarrassed, or felt less than because of it; I'm like, “This is the leg that God's given me,” and so kind of took the cover off.
Ann: We all do that—they may not be physical scars or wounds—but we have emotional things that we hide, and we don't want people to see.
Ann: We cover it up.
Ann: There is something about, when God has done a miraculous healing—whether it be physical, or emotional, or psychological, and we see what He's done through it—like, “Oh, I've met God through this experience of allowing Him in,”—and then, that's what allows us to tell our story.
Kevin: Absolutely. I think—for 25 years, removed from that—I am astounded at what God has done in our life, and in our marriage, and in our kids’ life. My kids have grown up in a home:
Where my little daughter, Avery; she's our youngest—I can still remember her—she's like two or three years old. She came into our room in the morning. She went and got my leg, and pulled it over to the bed, and said, “Come on, Daddy, get up.” Like she's got my leg, and she's handing it to me, like, “Let's go”; you know?
And that's just kind of normal life.
I, hopefully, have shown our kids: “It's like you can experience a catastrophic life experience, and still put your life back together, and have a really full life.” You know, started playing golf really shortly after; in fact, I started swinging a golf club before I got a prosthetic leg. Actually, I've had/I've played better, this side of college golf and my leg; I've played better than I did in college now—you know, just because there's a lot of advancements in prosthetics—but we've just wanted to have as normal of a life as we could and have worked hard to get that.
Dave: Was the golf dream: was that a crushing blow? I mean, you didn't know if you'd make it—but you had this dream; you're going to go for it—and it was, in a moment, gone.
Kevin: I would say, for a while, “Yes”; because I knew, if God ever released me, I would have tried. And then, you know Melissa's like, “That would have been fun, caddying for you.” I'm like, “You would have gone too?!” [Laughter]
But there was also a calling that had been placed on my life as well. I think that really superseded the loss; but it definitely, kind of killed the dream. I think, in the back of my mind, I was like, “Okay, God, as soon as—I'll do this ministry thing—but as soon as that's over, I'm gone.” And that kind of went away after that: you know, that desire went away.
But I still, in the back of my mind, go, “I wonder if I could have made it?” You know, “I wonder if I could have made it?”
Ann: From what Dave says, you're a pretty amazing golfer.
Kevin: I can hold my own nowadays.
Dave: What do you mean “hold your own”? I hit my bomb—you know, drive about 210—and then, you just bomb yours like 350. I mean, it's just crazy how you can still swing a golf club with one leg.
Kevin: Yes; I'm surprised as well, that I've been able to put together a golf game that's as good as it is. I still compete in Florida amateur stuff; and then, national stuff with one-legged and adaptive golf tournaments. I think a big piece of that was just—you know, Melissa, throughout all the years, when I was putting things back together—just a cheerleader. Like I/it took me ten years before I walked 18 holes.
This is a great story: we/I went to my first national amputee golf tournament—I had heard that there's this thing out there—and the best players in the world come to it. It was being played at Bethpage, which is where the US Open had been, where Tiger had won the US Open. I'm like, “Man, let's/maybe we should go play in that,” because I hadn't played in any one-legged person tournaments yet. We decide we're going to go to New York/go to Bethpage.
They have this course called the Bethpage Black Course—it is the US Open course—it is walking only; you can't ride a cart on it. I'm like, “I really want to play this course”; so I need a caddy. I'm like, “Melissa, what do you think?” Melissa's like, “I'll caddy for you.” But I haven't walked 18 holes in 10 years. I don't know if I can do it; but I'm like, “I'm going to do it, even if I die on the 15th hole. We're going to make it happen.”
We get there early in the morning, and we tee off. My goal was I wanted to break 80 on the course from the US Open tees. It was like that's just what I wanted to do. The very first hole, you tee off; and it goes down this huge hill. I tee off, and we've got to work our way down this hill. Melissa's got my golf bag on her back. She's ahead of me on the hill; I've got my hand on her shoulder. She is back-stopping me, all the way down; because if she moves, I just fall down the hill. She's carrying both me and the clubs down the hill for that first one.
We go on, and we play 18 holes together. We get to 18; it's super-hot. If I par 18, I shoot 79. It's like I—what was really cool is I walked and played golf all the time in college and before—I loved it; I hadn't done it for ten years. On the back 9, it starts becoming, “I think I'm going to make all 18”; and we just start enjoying our time together, like it's almost like going back to/I remember what this felt like. We get to 18. I know if I make a par—I get up there, I have 8-foot putt to shoot 79—and I miss it; I shoot an 80. But we had finished the round, and it was just a milestone.
There’re all these milestones, as I think back on things, that we didn't know we could do. And then we found out: “You know what?—we can do that,” and “I can do that.” And we're still hitting milestones like that; we just didn't know we could do. I always look at it as: “There are things you decide, before you try, that are not for you; but then, once you go and you give it a try, you realize: ‘This whole time, I have been holding myself back.’” And there's just story after story of that—for me and for us—that we've just kind of worked through and found there's a lot of cool things we can do that we didn't think we could.
Dave: Well, what's the—
Ann: Wait, wait—this picture of them doing/walking the course—[Emotion in voice]—I mean, I can picture you, Kevin, holding onto Melissa's shoulder, as she's walking down, like you'll fall if you don't hold onto her/have your hand on her shoulder—and Melissa, you've got the weight of Kevin on your shoulder, but you're also carrying these golf clubs. That is such a picture of marriage right there: [Laughter] you're carrying this weight of kids, and responsibility, and jobs; and sometimes, our spouse is weak, and they just need to put a little bit more pressure on us.
Dave's done that to me in the past—and sometimes, I don't want to have his hand on my shoulder; because I feel weak, myself—but it's such a beautiful picture. And the picture I see with it is Jesus holding you, too, Melissa, like you have your hand on Him—and He's just/He's so proud of you guys—you know, as a team. Did that feel good to you, Melissa, to be with Kevin and hit that milestone?
Melissa: Yes; I think I hear your picture—and it's beautiful—especially because, when God gives you a calling or a mission, and it's a calling or mission that you have together, that's what carries you through. You know, I wasn't thinking about Kevin's weight on my back or the bag; I'm like: “We are going to finish this,” “We are going to do this,” [Laughter] and “How fun to be able to do it together.”
It's the same in ministry—you know, when God calls you to do something, and you get to do it together—it's so fun to be a part of that; there's nothing like that. I remember being so proud of him and so happy to have been a part of it.
Ann: And so sweet, Kevin, that you would even ask Melissa to do that.
Ann: Because you could have asked some other dude, or whatever; because you know, those clubs get heavy after 18 holes and walking. [Laughter] But the fact that you asked: Melissa, I bet you were super honored that he would ask you, his best friend.
Melissa: Absolutely. And the beautiful thing is: I needed him, too; because I wasn't a caddy. I didn't want to mess up anybody else's game out there; so I'm like, “What do I have to do?” “Where should I stand?” “What am I doing?” [Laughter]
Dave: “Just hand me that club.”
Kevin: Yes, seriously—“Just give me that one,”—but it was super fun.
That kind of started me on journey of playing in these golf tournaments every year, which just became another part of the story. I've been able to—you know, it's almost like what I gave up/what I had to give up because of the accident—God gave us back, in some ways, of being able to compete against some of the best players in the world. I've traveled around the world, playing in golf tournaments as an amputee, which is super-fun; I've traveled around the United States. I'm like, “I still kind of get to go out and do some golf stuff—travel and play golf, which I—you know, what a gift.”
It's been a lot of fun to be able to do that—and to represent the US in other countries, playing—and also to just play, nationally, in tournaments here. I kind of feel like God's like: “I still got you. I’ll still give you a little bit, every now and then. You can go out and do your fun,”—you know play against and compete.
Dave: I'm guessing there's a couple listening right now—they've gone through/maybe, they're in it—you know a tragedy/a trauma. It could be like yours; it could be worse; could be a little less. Maybe it's not even a spouse; maybe it's one of their kids. What would you say to them to get through it? What do they need to know?
Kevin: From my perspective, there was a number of days, in a row, that this happened; and then, periodically, for years. And the best way I can describe it is—there were mornings, early on, that I would wake up; and I would feel like I was sitting on a fence: and on one side was bitterness; and on one side, and this is not the right way to say it, was better-ness—I had a choice every day.
I would just remember sitting on that fence; and there were days I chose to be bitter, and they were horrible days. And they were days—where you only see the bad; you only see the difficult—and you complain, and you gripe, and you are: “Why?” Then there's this choice you can make to just be better; it is such a difficult choice.
What was interesting is: I had to make that choice, for years, to where it became just the choice that was made. Does that make sense?—it was the choice. “Now, I made that choice; I don't have to go visit and sit on the fence anymore,”—it was made. I feel like—for many, many years now—I've been able to live on the better side of the fence and not be bitter. And that's a daily choice—it's every morning: you wake up; especially, when you're in the thick of it—you've got to make that choice. I think, with God's help, He can help you choose better.
Melissa: I think my advice kind of marries with that: “Tell God; tell Him everything. He's not surprised by the things you're telling Him; it's not the first time He's heard it. Not only can He take it, but He can speak into it. He can meet you there, like nobody else can.”
I mean, nobody, for a long time, even asked about my story. I was walking, along with Kevin, and trying to help him, and be there for him; and nobody really asked me my story for a really long time. But Jesus knew my story; and it was those little conversations that: “You know, God, I don't know what to do. I don't like this part; I miss the Kevin who could run.” You know, all that stuff was completely safe with God.
It's so beautiful when the things that you read about, and the things that you think about God, become personal; you're like, “Not only does He love me, but He loves me. He's shown me; He's met me here. He's been something to me that nobody else can be to me.” It becomes very personal. There's nothing like leaning on God, and there's nothing like just the things that He tells you when you trust Him enough to tell Him the things that are real. He just/He meets you there, and He loves you—whether it's the right thing to think or not—you know, He's going to show you things and meet you there; and it's a beautiful thing.
Shelby: You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Melissa and Kevin Valentine on FamilyLife Today. Kevin's going to share the importance of looking up and being honest with yourself in just a minute.
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Okay, here's Kevin on the importance of looking up and being honest with yourself through your trials.
Kevin: The God-piece of recovery—when He is your daily go-to, and you’re honest: “God, I am just/I feel like a loser today,” “I feel like less than a man today,”—man, He just receives those comments and just steps in and gives you exactly what you need. We learned through that/through this experience to do that.
And we still do—I mean, I'm like—“God, I feel like a crappy parent right now.” I've got this ongoing/everything that comes to my mind, I'm sharing, you know, whether it's good or bad. Or I'm like: “Well, this is wrong; but this is what I think…” And God's just shown up for us, for 25 years now, in just a fresh new way. Like this changed the game for us in a—believe it or not—in a positive way.
If we could go back and change it, would you change it?
Kevin: Me neither. It's like we're grateful that God chose us to go through this. And when we get to heaven, that's going to be a good day.
Shelby: Are you already feeling overwhelmed during this Christmas season? It's just the day after Thanksgiving, and here we are. Well, tis the season to be stressed—right?—or is it? Well, next week, on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson talk with our very own Bob Lepine about how we can all survive this Christmas season; that's coming up next week.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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