Hope When Life Goes from Bad to Worse: Rachel Faulkner-Brown
About the Guest
- Learn More About How to Blend Your Family with Ron Deal: FamilyLife Blended® provides biblically-based resources that help prevent re-divorce, strengthen stepfamilies, and help break the generational cycle of divorce.
- Don't widow alone. Find connection through Rachel's "Be Still" Ministry, along with resources for your grief and struggle at
- Grab Rachel's 30-day devotional, His Name: Our Hope in Grief, or receive it free with any donation this week.
- Find resources from this podcast at shop.familylife.com.
- Find more content and resources on the FamilyLife's app!
- Help others find FamilyLife. Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
- Check out all the FamilyLife podcasts on the FamilyLife Podcast Network
Rachel Faulkner-BrownRachel Faulkner Brown is a powerful Bible teacher and storyteller marked by vulnerability, passion, and humor. With two husbands in Heaven and one here, she has walked a road most will never wander and still chooses to inspire joy and hope wherever she goes. As the Executive Director of Be Still Ministries, Never Alone Widows and a national speaker for Folds of Honor Foundation representing Gold Star families, she is committed to helping women encounter the person of Jesus everywhere she goes....more
After losing two husbands, author Rachel Faulkner-Brown collided with grief as life went from bad to worse. But God had more hope for Rachel.
Hope When Life Goes from Bad to Worse: Rachel Faulkner-Brown
Rachel: We all have to live with a level of mystery. I think that’s the biggest thing with suffering. When you go through things that are hard, to the degree that you can be okay with mystery is the degree that you will be able to really live.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife—
So there’s a question we ask when we’re walking through the valley, through a really, really dark time. At least in my mind it’s, “God are You here, and do You see? Do You know?” I’ve felt that many times.
Ann: Or “Where are You? I don’t see You in this.”
Dave: You don’t feel Him, you feel alone, you’re like, “I know He’s here. I know Scripture. I believe He’s here, but I just don’t feel it right now.” You wonder if He’s here.
Ann: There are times—I don’t know if you do this—I beg Him, like “Lord, I need to feel Your presence. I need to know that You’re with me.”
Dave: Yes. We are in day two of a story with Rachel Faulkner-Brown. She’s back in the studio.
Ann: Which is a gripping story.
Dave: Yes. First of all, let’s say, “Welcome back.”
Rachel: Thank you.
Dave: Again, if you’re a listener and you missed it—
Ann: Go back.
Dave: —hit pause right now, and go listen, because we can’t go through everything that happened, but your story is full of “God, are You here,” right? Losing two husbands before you’re 31 years of age. Again, the listeners are like, “What?” Go listen to it. We’re not going to go through the details. It’s hard enough to go through one; to go through two! I was like, “Really? You really felt God’s presence that strong in it.”
Ann: That was so inspiring, Rachel.
Rachel: How can you ever know what He’s doing until you look back in reverse? I could never have known that in the moment, what He was preparing me for, but it’s funny. We went to Israel in 2019, and we were on this bus, like everybody does in Israel. I remember them looking out, right outside Galilee. They were like, “Crops only grow in the valley.” Man, y’all, it was as if the God of the Universe said, “That’s right.” Because the mountain is not where you grow your crops. It’s in the valley.
Ann: Where the rain comes.
Rachel: Where the rain comes. I looked out on those date fields and all the beautiful things that they’re growing, and I just thought, “I’m not going to despise my valley.” Just don’t despise your valley because you just don’t know what He’s doing.
Ann: Yes. We’re talking about the book that you wrote called His Name. The subtitle is Our Hope in Grief. Tell us a little bit about what you do now.
Rachel: Well, in 2017 I got together with some friends in Birmingham. There were nine widows in Birmingham, and a friend was like, “I want to take them and get a massage, and then we’re going to do a nice dinner, and then we want y’all to come share,” a friend of mine, Paige Knudsen.” I was like, “Oh, we would love to come over and do this.”
On that drive home I looked at Paige, and was like, “We could do this. Somebody needs to be doing what we just did for widows, because young widows don’t have anybody to look to.” So after losing two husbands, I was like, “I kind of feel like I know what I’m doing. I’ve lived enough life; I’ve made enough mistakes. I want to help them not make mistakes financially and relationally, and with in-laws, and with their kids.”
I’ve made enough mistakes that I was ready to help somebody else to not make those same mistakes. So we threw together in six weeks a retreat. I raised money; I raised $250 for each widow coming. We had twenty widows sign up. That was the beginning of Never Alone Widows.
Out of that, our prayer team and the widows that served with us and women connected to the ministry we wrote this little spiral-bound devotional, called His Name: Our Hope in Grief. We all took a name of God that you related to specifically in your story. When they’ve gone through a valley, they’ve seen the crop, and they’ve seen Who He wants to be in the valley. Because if you don’t have Who He is right, you won’t be able to get who you are right.
Ann: And you have a podcast.
Rachel: Yes, we do have a podcast. It’s called There’s More. We just listen to stories, very similar to y’all. God has done amazing things. We’ve helped around 3,000 widows, and then we’re hosting a conference for 400 widows this year in 2023. Then we do three other retreats, and curriculum called How to Widow Well, which is a 20-video series targeted for a widow. It’s different.
Rachel: It’s different to lose a child than it is to lose a husband, to lose a grandmother. And widows really kind of want to be with other widows who get it, that “I don’t want to have to use words,” those type of friends. God is just—
Ann: I remember hearing Chuck Swindoll years ago say, “If we trust God, He will never allow our pain to be in vain.”
Ann: That’s what you’ve done. You’ve done that. We ended yesterday with the tragic death of your husband who was a fighter pilot.
Ann: You were 31. How old was he when he passed away?
Rachel: It was seven days before his 40th birthday. He was 39.
Ann: So then did you ever think, “I will never get married again?” Were you afraid?
Rachel: I would love to tell you, “No,” but I was like, “Oh, yes. I will definitely get married again, because I’m not raising these kids by myself.”
Rachel: I didn’t think that immediately, obviously, but—
Ann: You need help.
Rachel: —I loved marriage. I’m like a professional married person. I love marriage, love it so much.
Rachel: I love big, and I love hard, and I knew I wanted to give that away, and I wanted companionship. Honestly, this time I will say I wanted a ministry partner. I knew God was doing something in my life—I shared my story for the first time a year after Blair died. It’s still so crazy to me; the altar was just full that night. It was just like, “Wait, what is happening?” I don’t ever not want to do this. I just feel the pleasure of God when I share, and when I really invite people into a different life.
That’s what I was inviting those friends into. I was like, “This is serious.” I shared Blair’s surrender story, and I was just like, “There’s no more playing. Look what happened. Life is short.” That message, I always tell people, I’m like the wreck on the side of the road that you have to look at,” so that’s why I get there. The reason people stay is because they’re like, “Oh, she’s happy. She’s full of joy. She still loves God, and He’s still good to her. He’s not evil and mean,” because He’s not.
Ann: How did she get there?
Rachel: Rod and I got introduced by a mutual friend.
Dave: Wait, wait, wait. People don’t know who Rod is.
Rachel: We have to introduce Rod. He’s here.
Dave: He’s the slacker over in the corner here.
Ann: I know. It’s so fun that Rod’s here.
Dave: So, Rod Brown is here. He’s always been here, been sitting here listening to this whole thing. But our listeners didn’t know that this is your third husband, and it’s been ten years. Rod, welcome.
Rod: Thank you. Great to be here.
Dave: You have to tell us the story. How did this happen?
Ann: How did you guys meet? What was going on?
Rachel: Oh, this is good. This is good.
Ann: Rod, you share.
Rachel: You start.
Ann: Yes, let’s hear your—
Rod: A mutual friend. I was at a lake house one weekend with a lot of single people. One of the women that was there—we just kind of bonded over smoothies, just talking. The next time I saw her she was like, “Hey, I have this woman I really would like you to meet. I was like, “Great! Introduce us.”
Ann: And how old were you at the time?
Rod: I think I was 43, 44.
Rod: It took a while for this to happen, so the next time I see this person, six months later, “Hey, I have this person I really want you to meet.” “Alright, why don’t you introduce us?” I think it took a while, I think almost a year for it to finally happen.
Ann: And you had never been married.
Rod: I’d never been married. She introduced us via email, and then we connected, and then she said to me, “Did she tell you anything about me?” I was like, “No.” She’s like, “Well, I’d like for you to watch this video before we talk.”
Rachel: This is not typical.
Rod: Yes, this is not normal. I never really was asked to watch a video before going out with somebody. So I was like, “Wow, what’s this video going to be about?” It was a video that her church in Columbus did, really talking about her life, what you guys just heard of her losing two husbands and going through all that. So I watched it. She said, “What’d you think?” I was like, “That was a lot. That’s a lot.”
Dave: Did you tear up like you just did when you watched it the first time?
Rod: Oh yes. Oh yes, for sure. It was powerful, tough to see and to hear someone go through that so young, and then have two children the second time.
Ann: Pass the Kleenex box over here. I need a tissue.
Rod: So Rachel would say I was pretty weird, but I would say I was just trying to protect her, and I just said, “Hey, I really don’t want to do email a lot or talk a lot on the phone. I’d love to meet at some point,” because over the years in dating and in the different things you can get pretty attached, and you really don’t know the person. And then you meet them and you realize, “Wow, we’ve kind of bonded somewhat and we really don’t enjoy each other that much in person.”
Rachel: Really what you’re saying is that you didn’t enjoy them.
Rod: Yes. Yes.
Rod: It could be one-sided; it could have been two-sided. It could have been both. So we got together one day, beautiful fall day in Atlanta. I lived at the time right near Piedmont Park, which is one of the largest parks in Atlanta, in the Midtown area. We met to go for a walk, and that walk lasted for about seven hours.
Rod: We walked and we talked.
Dave: You got some steps in that day.
Rachel: I did. I totally wore the wrong shoes, too.
Dave: You really just kept talking for seven hours.
Rod: Yes. We stopped for coffee, stopped for lunch.
Rachel: Stopped for brunch.
Rod: I think we might have gone back for coffee again.
Dave: Was there immediate connection?
Rachel: Oh, yes. Yes.
Rachel: He was so fascinating. Rod is the most interesting man in the world.
Ann: No! My husband is.
Rachel: I know, I know. He’d been to 63 countries. He had traveled the world. He just worked for Chick-Fil-A for nine years. I was like, “What have you not done?” This was so fascinating. He wanted a ministry partner. He wanted to be married, he wanted to be a dad. I was like, “If this is an interview, you’re in.”
Rachel: And then I dreamed about him that night. I do not dream. I’m not a dreamer, but that night I dreamed the very thing widows really miss, companionship, and then that comfort of pillow talk, just having that person just to be up in the crux of their arm.
Ann: Your friend.
Rachel: Yes, your friend, your buddy. Having somebody know where you are all the time is probably one of the number one things that widows miss. I dreamed that night that I was in the crux of his arm, just having pillow talk. It was so real, y’all. It was like it was truly happening, and I was mortified. I was like, “Oh, my goodness. I’ve come home and I’ve let this person in my bed.” It was just real, and the Lord was just showing me, “This is your reality.” Of course, praise the Lord, I did not tell Rod. He would have gone running.
Dave: I was going to ask. You didn’t tell him.
Rod: No, she did not tell me. It wouldn’t have been a wise thing to do, so I’m glad—
Dave: Yes. You kept that to yourself.
Rod: —that the Holy Spirit and her friends were like, “Hey, hold back. Hold back. Hold back.” So yes, we would get together in Atlanta some. She had several things that she probably didn’t have to come to, but it was convenient, things she wanted to come to, and then she bought something at what’s called “Scott’s Antique Market,” which is this big market in Atlanta. She needed it to make it to her in Huntsville, and I basically said, “Hey, I want to bring that, whether it’s ready or not. I want to come see you.”
I think that was the night when I visited her that we talked more, kissed for the first time, talked more about being in relationship, where she challenged me of, “Hey, I have two kids. I know we’re early, but is this a route that you can see yourself going?”
Rachel: Yes. I said, “Don’t kiss me, unless you want to be a dad.”
Ann: Yes, that’s good.
Rod: And then before I could answer, she kissed me, so I didn’t know what that meant.
Ann: But Rod, was there any part of you that thought, “I haven’t been married before. She’s gone through a lot. She has two kids.” Were you a little scared, or were you like, “No, this is a great challenge.”
Rod: That’s a good question. I think that I probably had both of that in me. I had “This is a great challenge and I really want to do this.” At the same time, I am a little scared. So, I think all those were together. I think in the very beginning of a relationship is you start thinking about those when somebody is in another state. All of the sudden more details start coming, and it starts becoming a little overwhelming. “One of us needs to leave friends. One of us has to sell a house, or both of us have to. On my account, I would definitely need to,” because mine was small.
All these things start flooding, and it definitely increased over the months. Then we got married in June, and I was just feeling some things, feeling some things, feeling some things and I had no idea what it was. I think in years past I would have gone, “Oh, that’s the Holy Spirit telling me slow down, or back up, or whatever. But I’m like, “No, I’m married.”
I think we were at an event in October of that year—I’ve been on the board of a ministry called Lighthouse Family Retreat, an amazing ministry that helps families that have a child with cancer just have a week at the beach, and we serve them. It’s amazing. I couldn’t wait to do that with my family. All of a sudden, that week I’m just almost becoming like paralyzed in some sense, and called a friend and just told him what I was experiencing.
He’s like, “You have anxiety, and you probably have depression. It’s probably that.” So unfortunately, I have to tell Rachel that day, “Something’s wrong with me,” and here she is, husband number three, but this one has something else that’s really different. So that started that journey for probably two and a half years of just working through that, counseling for both of us, counseling for me.
I tell you, really the big part for me was even though being in ministry forever, and probably getting dribs and drabs of it over the years, and maybe even being really solid in it at some point, but not at this point. But it was really coming back to how God loves me. I’m completely loved, completely forgiven, 100 percent, He can’t like me any more tomorrow than He does today. It was really grabbing on to that identity in Christ that freed me from all of that.
Ann: That’s not an easy walk through, is it?
Rod: No, it’s not.
Dave: Do you think the marriage was something that brought that to the surface for you?
Rachel: Oh, 100 percent.
Rod: Yes, I definitely think that it’s something that I had experienced in small doses over the years, but I did not know what it was. Being single, you could manage that a little bit. I think with all of it coming together, you talk about the big things in your life, your spiritual life, finances, your home, your family life, career and all that—things change. Same place of employment, but what I did really changed a lot.
We moved about 20 miles north from this little place I had to a large home, neighborhood. All of a sudden, I have two children. There’s no warmup; all of a sudden you come back from a honeymoon, there’s two kids there, and you’re a dad.
Dave: Yes. And they’re young.
Ann: And they’re busy.
Rod: Yes, right. And I’m a husband for the first time. Rachel is strong and beautiful and wonderful and has the past of what she had to bring in, those things. So there are all these things that you look at, and you’re like, “No wonder you were overwhelmed.”
Dave: Rachel, how did you respond when—
Rachel: Not well. I will tell you.
Dave: —the spouse going through something that their spouse is going—that’s often really hard.
Rachel: I always say, “If you skip one of the phases of grief, you will eventually find it. I skipped anger. I was mad. I was like, “God, You‘ve let me bury two husbands and You’ve seen me through that, and then You let me marry a man who’s sick.” I will say for any wife who’s listening that’s going through this with their own husband: depression and anxiety feels like water in your hands. There’s nothing to grab. It’s not like you can just go, “Oh, your pancreas is failing. Let’s just give you a shot.”
It’s so multi-faceted an approach. Does this medicine, and this counselor, and this psychiatrist and this friend, are they going to all say the right things to make you better?” It felt pretty hopeless. I’m going to be really honest. It felt like, “Is this what I’ve signed up for?” I was just mad, frankly, because I was like, “Could you have not taken care of this before we got married? Could you have gone through this season?” But that wasn’t the plan.
I will tell you, for someone who doesn’t struggle with depression, and I’ve woken up every morning of my life just happy to hear the birds singing, there is judgment for people. There is a judgment and a pride. When that has not been your story—and this is embarrassing to say—but you’re like, “Well, I’ve been through a lot, and I didn’t have that problem.” I would never have articulated that. Hear me. But there was a level of judgment in my heart that the Lord was like, “We’re done with this.”
Ann: Probably something like, “That’s nothing compared to what I’ve been through.” Even the comparison.
Rachel: Well, it was almost like “You got kind of everything you wanted today. How could this create such unrest in your heart? Did you know this was coming?” That’s the thing with depression. A lot of times there’s no trigger. You can look back and go, “Oh, there was a root there and there was a root there.”
Ann: As a mom, did you feel a protectiveness?
Rachel: Oh, my. The dog and pony show that I was doing to not make them look at Rod and the hard things he was going through. I was like, “Look away, kids. Nothing to see here. He’s an amazing dad. He’s awesome.” I was wanting them to just not see, because I know how kids are. They’re going to think, “I did this to Dad.”
Rachel: Like he’s in the bed and he can’t function or whatever, and he was never—it really wasn’t that bad, but at the end of the day it was more like you felt like you were having a heart attack every day more than “I’m in the bed all the time.”
Rachel: It wasn’t that. It was just he lived with this level of an elephant on his chest, which made you more tired and not wanting to do life.
Ann: I bet you felt incredible shame and guilt.
Rod: Oh, yes.
Rod: Oh, tremendous. All of that. Which like she said, there’s probably this judgment that you feel, and then you’re already heaping your other stuff on top of yourself as well. I was speaking with somebody a few months ago whose child dealt with depression, and he said kind of like Rach did, “I grew up every day, I couldn’t wait for the day. I’d wake up, ready to go. I couldn’t understand when anybody’d have depression I’d say, “Go exercise. Go outside. Go this. Go that.”
Rachel: “Go get some sun.”
Rod: And then he said, “One time I had been put on this medication for a little bit.” I can’t remember what he said the issue was, but it put him in a state of depression. He said, “I really thank God all the time for that, because it really changed my view of my daughter’s deal, and anybody that ever tells me they have this, I have a whole another view, because there is no quick solution—to go to the gym and work out—endorphins or whatever. I’ve now learned that that is not possible because I experienced it myself.”
Rachel: I will say for the listener who is the wife like me: when you’re one with your husband, I had unforgiveness towards Rod’s body, and because we were one, we were one, we were married, I was impeding his healing with my unforgiveness, because I was literally holding his body hostage, like, “Do better. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” which is what I’d done my whole life.
I really learned to be honest, the power of communion. I remember I just sat down with the Lord, and I was just crying out. I can’t remember. His mom was supposed to come over, and I was just like, “I don’t want to see anybody with the name of ‘Brown.’” I was done. I was like “Blehhhhh.” The Lord—it was so great. I was like, “I just need to be in Your presence.”
I was just going back to what I knew. “I’m going back to Your presence,” and He sat me down. He was like, “I’m going to teach you communion today.” I just got schooled. I can’t really tell you all the things that the Lord said to me that day, but as I broke the bread, I realized that it was like the Lord was just breaking off unforgiveness from my heart.
Ann: What do you mean? Take us back to that room by yourself.
Dave: Here’s what I want to say.
Dave: I want to save that.
Dave: For tomorrow.
Dave: Because I really want you to explain that to us, because what I’ve heard so far is we have this third marriage, and we have an angry woman and a depressed man. I think a lot of couples get there. My question is, “Okay, how did you get out?” and you’re not going to be able to tell us that in one minute, but you can take a day to tell us. So let’s push pause and say let’s hear the rest of the story tomorrow.
Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Rachel Faulkner-Brown and Rob Brown on FamilyLife Today.
It can feel so exasperating when life seems to keep kicking you down, right when you think you’ll be able to get back up. Rachel’s story has certainly shown us a living, breathing example of that. In the midst of things in my life that have felt relentless in their kicking, I’ve been a chronic pain patient for almost 14 years with a herniated disc in my back. I have often wondered, “Where is God? Where is He, and what is He doing?”
Well maybe you’re like Rachel and me. Can you relate to that? Have you ever wondered “Where is God and what is He doing?” I’ve genuinely appreciated this conversation today, because it helps me to feel like I’m not the only one who struggles with this stuff.
Rachel has written a book called His Name: Our Hope in Grief, and we want to send you a copy of that book as our thanks when you partner financially with us today and help more families hear more conversations like the one you just heard today, that are helpful to people like you and to me. So you can partner online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or by calling 800-358-6329. That can be a one-time gift, or it can be a recurring monthly gift.
Again the number is 800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.” And you can feel free to drop us a letter via snail mail. Our address is FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, Florida 32832.
Coming up tomorrow we’re going to hear more of Rachel’s story about how when she finally surrendered everything over to God, it made it possible to forgive and extend kindness and love. That’s coming up tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife®, a Cru® Ministry.
Helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs?
Copyright © 2023 FamilyLife®. All rights reserved.