Given my broken and dysfunctional childhood – my father abandoned us when I was 5 and my mother died of cancer when I was 9 – hosting a nationally syndicated Christian radio show on the family wasn’t something I saw coming.
In retrospect, I believe God has used my uneven past to relate to the many challenges facing families today. I recently sat down to think of some of the many lessons I’ve learned about life and faith from the thousand-plus guests I’ve interviewed. Here are 11 of them:
Life can be like a desert – but a relationship with Jesus provides shade when the heat of the world becomes unbearable.
Ray Vander Laan is a biblical scholar who gives tours of the lands of the Old and New Testaments. I’ve walked over a hundred miles in the sweltering sun with him there, and he often points out the broom trees sprinkled about the mostly barren terrain.
These natural structures provide relief from the oppressive heat, much like our faith offers us solace from the slings and arrows of the world.
People may not care about God – but God cares about them.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair shared a touching story with me about the day his father suffered a debilitating stroke. Tony was only 10 at the time, and the event rocked him both emotionally and spiritually.
The headmaster of the school he was attending pulled him out of class to tell him the bad news, and suggested they kneel and pray. The youngster explained his father was an atheist, but the principal reminded him God cares for all people regardless of whether they believe in Him. That moment seeded Blair’s early faith.
We’re earthly people but we should be heavenly minded.
John Burke is the author of a wonderful book, “Imagine Heaven.”
Filled with awe-inspiring stories, he drives home the point that heaven is a real place and that we’d be wise to not get so bogged down in the temporal when the eternal will come so quickly.
Marriage isn’t just about making us happy – it’s about making us holy.
Gary Thomas talks about how holiness – the pursuit of living more like Christ – is the true doorway to happiness.
So often in marriage, we’re pursuing our own personal agendas instead of seeking God’s will and way.
Sex outside of marriage is a cheap imitation of how beautiful sex inside marriage can be.
Dr. Tim Keller presents this countercultural, unpopular but very biblical point of view.
Tim says that without a committed covenantal relationship, the other person can walk away at any time. Without commitment, you can’t really be vulnerable, because you’re always worried about the relationship blowing up.
In life, God doesn’t necessarily spare us from disaster – He spares us from the dread of disaster.
Kara Tippetts, mother of four children between the ages of 5-13, was dying of cancer when she came on our program.
Speaking with her daughter Ella, she said, “I cannot promise you that I am not gonna die. I cannot promise you that cancer is not gonna return to my body. But I can look at this and say, if we live near to God and we know that the nearness of Him is our good and our only good, then He will spare us the dread of disaster.”
Raising a child will always lead to emancipating them when they’re a teen.
Dr. Kenneth Wilgus specializes in helping parents let go of their kids. We were struggling a bit in this area and his insight was a game-changer.
He says as soon as your kids hit the teens, you have to start by backing away from micromanaging and give latitude and freedoms incrementally. Stop reminding them about every assignment. Failure can be a great teacher.
When it comes to raising kids, formulas fail – relationships win.
Scarlet Pepin was devastated when her teenage daughter, Lindsay, announced she was pregnant. They were church-going people. Lindsay had even taken a purity pledge. What happened?
Both acknowledged they hadn’t invested in the relationship between them. As Christian apologist Josh McDowell often says, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.”
If you rely less on yourself and more on God, your basket will be overflowing with blessings.
Lisa’s son, Tyler, who is now a doctor, was born with cerebral palsy. She tells the story of taking him to an Easter egg roll and being worried that the other kids would run him over. The kids did run right past him – so fast, in fact, the eggs in their basket popped out, and Tyler was there to pick them up, leaving him with more than everyone else.
Lisa said the Lord spoke to her: "You give this little boy to me and his basket will be full of blessings – so many they won't fit.”
Racism is caused by one primary thing – sin.
Retired NFL tight end Benjamin Watson says the root of ongoing racial tension is spiritual in nature.
“You need to honestly go before God and then get a real inventory of your heart. Is your heart hard? Has it been hardened by politics? Has it been hardened by your family history?”
Our job is not to solve every problem – but to bring clarity to the problems and bring peace to the chaos.
For the last one, I return to Bible teacher Ray Vander Laan.
“Jesus' death transforms who I am so that I now become someone who brings shalom to the chaos in the world around me,” he told me.
Don’t try to carry the weight of the whole world on your shoulders.
I’m so grateful for these helpful insights. Practical wisdom in this life is available to us if we humble ourselves and reach out to the wealth and insight of those around us.