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When life’s circumstances knock us down, we can become hurt and disoriented, but Ron Hutchcraft reminds us that the confidence we have in Christ is what lifts us up over and over again.
Ron: The prayer that I have prayed for more couples that were struggling is
Ezekiel 36:26, where God says, “I will take a stony heart and turn it into a heart of flesh.
Ron: “And I will put a new heart and a new spirit in you.” You pray for a heart transplant, now, desperate with Jesus,—
Ron: —who did, by the way, chose a wedding as the sight of His first miracle. He still does marriage miracles.
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—
Ann and I were getting ready to do a Vertical Marriage conference—I think in Mississippi—a couple of years ago and 4sat down with this couple beforehand. We thought they were from this local area and this church. Find out—long story short—this guy and his wife had driven eight or ten hours—
Dave: —to get to this conference for their marriage. Of course, we were like—
Ann: —I just said, “What in the world?! Why are you here?!” And he said, “Oh, we watched you and Dave talking about your book on the Today show.” He said, “I turned to my wife; and I say, ‘Hey, hon, our marriage is a 10 out of 10; right?’” He said she turned to him and said, “No! We’re a 1.” [Laughter]
Dave: “So here we are! We drove ten hours to get here to find out how we get hope and help for our marriage.”
We’ve got Ron Hutchcraft here, who is the master of hope. [Laughter]
Ron: Oh, boy!
Dave: I mean, in some ways, you [are]. Obviously, you wrote a book called Hope When Your Heart Is Breaking by Ron Hutchcraft, the founder of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries. You’re on the radio all around the world.
Ann: You’re an author.
Dave: You’re a little older than we are, so you’ve got all kinds of wisdom. But seriously, I mean, we’re taking this whole idea of—as we’ve talked about previously about—I love your term, “defiant hope,” when your heart is breaking. You did such a good job helping us walk through the choices that we make when we’ve lost hope or we’ve been hurt: we can choose to wallow in that; we can choose to be healed and walk out of it.
Dave: You did such a good job helping us with that.
Ann: And you shared about losing the love of your life, Karen. You guys had been married 50 years. You have really been living out: “How do I find hope when my heart is so broken?” If you haven’t heard and listened to Ron’s story, and what we talked about previously, I’d really recommend that you listen in on that one too.
Dave: Yes; so today, we would love to take your idea of hope and apply it to marriages and families. I know you talk quite often in the book about four words: loss, grief, choices, hope. Walk us through that a little bit; and maybe, as you do, think about marriages that have lost hope: “How would you apply that to that?”
Ron: Let me give my definition of hope. I wanted to come up with something—you know, four words—you can make a campaign motto out of it or something. [Laughter] But it’s a little more words than I wanted to get it all done. But here’s what we mean by hope, because it really is sort of a floaty word.
Ron: “Hope: Ahhh!”
Ann: A lot of people have hope.
Ron: “Let’s have hope!” But to me, it’s pretty gritty: “It’s a buoyant confidence.” Okay, let’s stop for just a minute.
Ron: Buoyant means it may go under briefly, but it comes back up—it’s not a happy/happy: “I’m happy all the time, hey!”—but it’s a confidence that: “Things are okay; they’re in bigger hands than my hands.” It’s a buoyant confidence that allows you to make some choices that you wouldn’t otherwise make, acknowledging the hurt. It’s not a confidence that’s just whistling along, going: “You know, it’s not that bad,” or “She’s in heaven, and everything’s fine.” She is in heaven; everything is beyond fine for her;—
Ann: —for her!
Ron: —we’re here.
Dave: So it isn’t a denial—
Dave: —because often, you just sort of live in denial—but it’s acknowledging, feeling, experiencing the hurt.
Ann: I think sometimes, as believers, we’re afraid to acknowledge the pain/the hurt.
Ron: One of the things I had to realize—as kind of a radio guy, and a Christian leader guy, and so on—I’m like, “People will be wondering how I’m handling this”; because anybody who knew us, knew that “RonandKaren” was one word. Suddenly, it was just “Ron.”
I thought, “Well, what do I do?” I decided that I wasn’t going to just give the Christian talking points: “Oh, Karen’s in heaven; and I’m fine.” No! I wasn’t fine; it’s not fine without her! I’ve probably become more transparent and more vulnerable than I’ve ever been in my whole life.
I think, when I started to write that grief journal that I began after her home-going, I just said, “I’m going to be honest about this. This is Ron in the raw. This hurts. And who is going to believe the hope that Jesus is if I’m not honest about the hurt?—just to say, ‘The hurt’s not bad, but Jesus is great.’
Ron: “No; Jesus is big enough; His love is powerful enough that it is even—the hurt has to be real—for the hope to seem real.”
I didn’t finish the definition: “A buoyant confidence, acknowledging the hurt, but anchored in an unseen but certain reality.” It’s anchored to something; it’s based on the fact that I have a reality I cannot see. I know this Jesus walked out of His grave, under His own power; and it’s an unseen, but it is an unmoving, anchor. I will tell you, like that gospel song says: “The anchor holds, though the ship is battered; the anchor holds, though the sails are torn; I will fall down on my knees as I face life’s raging seas; the anchor holds in spite of the storm.”
You asked about marriage. We enter into marriage with our greatest hopes/our greatest expectations: “This is our answer. This is the end of our search.” And for many people, they feel like their dream is turning into a nightmare. Now, we are dealing with loss—because not only do loved ones die, but marriages die—
Ron: —and our dreams go down with them.
The principles are not all that different in terms of: “Okay, I’m at choice junction now,”—you know?—“Hope, this way; hurt, that way. What do I do?” I like the picture—and it applies to the marriage situation as well—of what happened on September 11 about 5:00 in the afternoon. Now, most hope of finding many survivors was dying. USA Today said that it was “the darkest hour on the darkest day.”
Who will forget the photo?—three firefighters go find a flag—
Ron: —raise it over the rubble. USA Today went on to say something like: “This was hope on a day when it seemed like all hope was gone.” They raised the flag; all there was/was rubble around them.
Hope is your flag over the rubble. Now, if you will, first of all, face into it and say: “Okay, grieve your grief. Realize you are grieving over a loss. You’re losing your marriage; you’re losing the love that you were counting on. ‘What are some of the hope choices?’—because the hurt choices are really easy to figure out!—‘Be bitter; give up; get a divorce.’” Or you can say, “Jesus, my heart is broken,”—here we go again—“My heart is broken; it is wide open.”
And now, I think step one is the prayer that I have prayed for more couples that were struggling—Ezekiel 36:26, where God says, “I will take a stony heart and turn it into a heart of flesh,—
Ron: —“and I will put a new heart and a new spirit in you.” You pray for a heart transplant, now, desperate with Jesus,—
Ron: —who did, by the way, chose a wedding as the sight of His first miracle. He still does marriage miracles.
Ann: Oh, I like that!
Ron: Ask Him if He would keep that promise; because by now, both of you/your hearts are turning hard toward each other: you’re bitter; you’re resentful.
Ann: You have a list of things they’ve done wrong or disappointments.
Ron: You can only see—yes, you forget what you fell in love with.
Ron: Again, “Let’s see; why did I marry this guy?”
Ron: But if you will say, “I need a heart transplant I’m asking You to do. I don’t even know if I really want it, but I’m choosing hope. I need a heart transplant; I really do.”
Forget winning! The hope choice is to forget trying to win; because when you’re trying to win the arguments and win this—you know, “I’m going to come out on top in this thing,”—you’re only wounding more. James 5:16 says: “Confess your faults to one another,”—not blame each other—it says: “Confess your faults to one another that you may be healed.” Now, that’s a road to hope.
Ann: At ten years, I told Dave, “I have nothing left, like I have no feelings; I don’t have hope.” We had just started this church, and I had nothing.
Ron: Wow; wow!
Ann: And I remember being on my knees. I said that to Jesus: “I have nothing, like I have no hope. My only hope is in You, Lord. You have to give me a new heart. You have to give me new eyes to see; because right now, I’ve been going down this bitter path; and all I see is the negative.”
And I remember, both of us got on our knees in our car and repented, because I was trying to find my life through Dave,—
Ann: —thinking that he would make me happy. He was trying to find his life through his career—starting this church—doing what God had called him to do.
I remember when Dave repented; he prayed in front of me: “Lord, I confess! I have put this in front of You! I have put this in front of Ann.” If someone would have asked me what my response to that prayer would have been, I would have said, “Amen! That’s what you’ve been doing!”—that’s what I’d been hoping for. But when he prayed that, my eyes and the Spirit of God who lives in me, automatically said to me, “And you, Ann Wilson, you have been trying to find your life through Dave.” I had that heart of: “Ohhh. Yes, that’s true.”
There comes a point when all of us have to get on our knees and say, “I surrender. God, I need that new heart; I need those new eyes. I need to put my hope in You and not this person or thing to fill me up.”
Ron: Even if the desire is not there—even if you say/if you’ve given up—
Ron: —you’ve already kind of crossed a bridge in your mind.
Ann: —and checked out!
Ron: Yes, as soon as you start to think that way, you’ve guaranteed it will probably end; because you’ve allowed that option.
So in a sense, you were grieving your loss; you were very honest about it. Giving Jesus the open door to come in and change your heart—but to do something else, and this is part of the miracle—is to help you see your spouse through His eyes:—
Ron: —“What does He see when He sees Dave?”
“Well, I’ll tell you what I see! I see this guy, who’s driven by his career. He doesn’t care about me; he loves that more.”—no, no, no, no, no—“Lord, when You look at Dave, what do You see?” He sees the needs behind Dave’s deeds; He sees the wounds; He sees the scars; He sees a man created in His image; He sees a man who was worth dying for, as the Son of God.
If you can begin to say, “Lord, help me see…”—this is where the heart transplant comes along—you see them through God’s eyes; you start to see yourself through God’s eyes. You’re willing to start to say those three hard words: “I was wrong.”
Let’s say your spouse is 90 percent wrong; would you agree with that?—“Yes, yes; at least!” Okay, let’s say you’re just 10 percent wrong/unlikely. Would you deal with your 10 percent?—would you be willing to say, “I need you to forgive me. I was wrong about the way I haven’t been…” or “…I have been...” Take care of your part; see what God does. He says, “Confess your faults to one another that you may be healed.” So would you do your part of that?
Two things I would say to forget—these are the hope choices in marriage are—“Forget winning,” and “Forget fixing.” Quit trying to fix your mate. I think Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s wife, said it very well—you guys have heard this quote—she said, “It is my job to love Billy; it is God’s job to change him.”
Dave: That’s a great quote. I think that’s where we get stuck; because it’s like, “No! I’m bleeding, and it’s your fault. I wouldn’t be bleeding if it weren’t for you.” It’s hard for me, because it’s almost like I’m the one repenting.
We’ve had couples come up to us and say, you know, “Your story is so beautiful. Both of you repented and God showed up and saved your marriage. My husband won’t repent,”/“My wife won’t repent. What do I do? I want to repent/I am repenting, but they’re not.”
Ron: Well, first of all, don’t expect a sudden response.
Ron: These wounds have accumulated over a long time.
Ron: A disease or a wound, that has been a long time coming, doesn’t necessarily get cured overnight. It’s going to take some patience, which you’ll have to get from God.
Here is an interesting prayer to pray: “Lord, I’m really having a hard time loving her. There’s not much I’m getting back that would make me feel those love feelings. But I know You love her, and I know that You love her enough to die for her; so I’m going to take a risk and offer this to You, Lord. If You would give me Your love for her, I will deliver it. I have none or very little left to give; but I know that whatever happens to us, You still love her. You’re going to keep loving her, so I’d be willing to be Your UPS guy to deliver love from You. Would you put some of Your love for her in my heart? That’s the least I can do for You for the way You’ve loved me.”
These are prayers that, again, are not, “Lord, if it be Your will” things.
Ron: He says, “I’ve been waiting for that green light,”—He doesn’t force Himself into our situation; He waits for the invitation—again, these are the choices.
And you know, Dave, let’s go to the worst-case scenario: he never repents; she does. She is, at least, bless-able by God and has made her situation/put it into His hands. She is—rather than making choices that will make her a harder person, a bitter person, a more angry person, a more frustrated person, a more controlling person—she’s making choices that will, at least, leave her with a soft heart instead of a hard heart/a closeness to God instead of a distance from God, from not cooperating with what He wants to do.
Something happens when you see yourself as an instrument of God in your spouse’s life to deliver what you don’t feel like; but because you love God, you’re, “Okay, alright; You love him, and I’ll deliver. I’ll try to pass on what You put in my heart. I’ll pass that on to him.”
Dave: Do you think it’s possible to have defiant hope—and again, I love that term—if your spouse never does repent? Can you hold onto that—even though you’re the UPS deliverer of God’s love:—
Dave: —you keep doing that and you’re consistent with that; you know, you’re just faithful in that—and it just never turns his or her heart—can you still have defiant hope?
Ron: Well, first of all, I think I would add a word to what you said. It has never yet happened.
Dave: Oh, yes.
Ron: You say, “Well, it’s been ten years”; you know?
Dave: “Yes; yet, it could still happen.”
Ron: It depends on where your hope is anchored. If it’s anchored to that unseen, but certain reality—to say, “Jesus, I’ve made this Your marriage, not my marriage, to fix. I’m going to stop trying to fix him, and I’m trying to have a forgiving heart,”—at least, you will be a free person inside. He will not be until he reaches the same point, if he does.
But now, your hope is not contingent upon a happy ending—it may or may not have a happy ending—but for you, you will be a whole, healthy, close-to-God, liberated person inside; because you will know that you have done all you can do—better yet, you’re allowing Jesus to do; you’re not in His way anymore; you’ve gotten out of His way.
Now, does that mean that your husband is going to change?—definitely no! Your husband has choices to make, too; Jesus doesn’t make the choices for us. He creates the environment, where we’ll make the right choice. So again, raise the flag—
Ron: —over the rubble.
Ann: That’s what I would say, too: “I can attest to that and would give testimony to that. When I repented myself—when I raised the flag over the rubble of our marriage—
Dave: She’s saying the rubble was me. [Laughter] I think that’s what you’re saying.
Ann: It was our marriage.
Ann: —“I felt so lost; I was miserable. And all I did in my head was think, ‘If Dave would only…’—it was just this mantra—‘If Dave would only…’ ‘If Dave…’” And I’ve talked to so many women, [who] have that same verbiage and that same dialogue in their head.
Our marriage wasn’t fixed overnight—but because of putting up the flag of: “I can’t do it! It’s not my job to change my husband, Lord. But I’m going to keep my eyes on You, and I’m going to follow You,”—I found myself so needy I had to pray that prayer continually: “Lord, I can’t do it apart from You. Give me Your eyes; show me the way You love Dave. And I pray that You would change my heart.” There was a freedom! Our marriage wasn’t fixed yet; it wasn’t great yet; but there was this new hope, not in Dave, but it was in Jesus!
Ron: You had just shifted your dependency—
Ron: —from your husband to your Savior.
Ron: Your husband might disappoint you;—
Ron: —your Savior isn’t going to. And that’s why hope has won at that point.
Ron: We have this hope: Jesus! “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hope is a matter of choice.
Someone is listening right now; I would say that your choices right now to open up your heart—which is probably already open through the loss you’ve been through—to this Jesus, who loved you enough to die for every wrong thing you’ve ever done, who’s powerful enough to conquer what only one person out of the billions who have lived on this planet ever conquered/that’s death. If He’s bigger than death, He’s bigger than what you’re facing right now. And He can speak peace to your storm. It is possible to go through a storm with His peace, with His protection, and with a sense of being loved and okay.
My prayer for Ron, for Dave, for Ann—for someone listening—is Romans 15:13: “May the God of—
Ron: —"hope fill you with all joy”—really?—“and peace, so that you may overflow with hope”—go figure! I barely have enough for me! [Laughter] You’re going to have enough to give away—“…may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,”—divine power from the One, who spoke billions of galaxies into existence, to make you a hope-deliverer.
When you start to say: “It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus, and it’s about turning my hurt into hope for other people,” and “They’ll listen to me because of what I’ve been through; I’ve got the credentials now,” believe me, you will not be starved for hope anymore. You will have hope, even though your heart it breaking. You’ll have a hope that is stronger than the hurt; that’s my Jesus!—
Ron: —the living hope.
Bob: I have been hearing, ringing in my head, the words to the hymn: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” If our hope is in our circumstances, or in how someone else is going to behave or perform today, we will be disappointed. But when our hope is in Jesus and in the gospel, well, that’s a different story.
Dave and Ann Wilson have been talking today to Ron Hutchcraft, who has written a book on hope. It’s called Hope When Your Heart Is Breaking. As Ron has shared with us this week, a lot of this comes out of the story of losing his wife five years ago and learning how to live with hope in a season of profound grief and profound transition in his life.
Maybe you know someone you’d like to pass this book along to, or maybe this is a book you need for yourself. We’re making Ron’s book available this week to FamilyLife Today listeners who can help advance the work of FamilyLife—help us reach more couples, more moms and dads, husbands and wives with practical biblical help and hope through this daily radio program, this podcast, online at FamilyLifeToday.com, through the events we host and the resources we create.
FamilyLife Today exists to effectively develop godly marriages and families. When you help to advance that cause with a donation today, you’re invited to request your copy of Ron Hutchcraft’s book, Hope When Your Heart Is Breaking: Finding God’s Presence in Your Pain. You can make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to donate: 1-800-FLTODAY is the number. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to donate: 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Be sure to ask for your copy of the book, Hope When Your Heart Is Breaking, when you contact us.
Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to talk with Ron Hutchcraft about how shame, and regret, and past failures can rob us of the hope that we need in our current situation/our current circumstance. I hope you can join us, again, for that tomorrow.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Join us, again, tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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