Holding On To Hope
Many look at Nancy Guthrie and question how a woman can walk through what she has walked through and still be standing-let alone smiling in the face of sorrow. One would assume that a mother who has buried two children in three years would be crushed by the experience, struggling to function-not writing and speaking about how she found God in such dark places.
But to Nancy the answer lies in the story Jesus told of the wise builder and foolish builder. The two builders chose their respective lots: the wise man chose to build on a rock, a solid foundation; the foolish man chose to build on the beach, on sand. Both of these builders, she says, heard the word of God. But only one put the words he'd heard into practice. Only one worked the words into his life. And when the storms came-like they eventually will for all of us-only the one who had built his house upon the rock survived the crush of the storm.
In like fashion, it is a strong foundation, a life built on the truth of scripture, which has kept Nancy from being swept away by the storm of sorrow that has blown into her life during the last three years.
Calm Before the Storm
Nancy's upbringing was typical of a young girl in the Midwest. She grew up in an active Christian family, her life revolving around church and her Christian friends. Throughout her teenage years, she participated in Youth For Christ and eventually attended a small Christian college, John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Ark., to study communication and Bible. "For most of my life, since I came to Christ as a child, I've always been on a quest to know God and to conform my life to what God would have for me. But for too much of my life I thought that it was mostly about doing things for God rather than being on a quest to be in meaningful relationship with God."
Fresh out of college, Nancy got a public relations job with a Christian publishing house, Word Publishing in Waco, Texas. It was the beginning of her professional development, and also the beginning of an even more important stage in her life. In working closely with the best Christian authors and speakers of the day, Nancy had the opportunity to learn from what she read and worked on and saw and experienced. "I was able to observe how God uses people to communicate his truth effectively," she says, "and I learned not only from what they wrote but from their lives."
Word Publishing was also where, in 1985, Nancy met her husband David who came to work for the print music division. A year later they were married, and four years later, in 1990, Nancy gave birth to a son, Matt.
In order to be the kind of mother she wanted to be, as well as continue doing the meaningful work that she loved, Nancy started a media relations company from her home. But within a few years, she found herself dry and empty from trying to do it all. She was spending much of her energy working with books about God's Word, but very little time actually reading God's Word. When a health crisis got her attention, she knew instinctively that getting physically healthy wasn't going to take care of everything.
Laying a Foundation
"When we moved to Nashville in 1993, I felt desperate not just for physical wholeness, but also for a deeper kind of spiritual reality in my life. I didn't want to continue depending on a second hand spiritual walk. I didn't want to continue fearing that someone would ask me what God was doing in my life right now. I wanted to pray, but the truth was, it had been so long since I had really prayed, I didn't know where to start."
Nancy found a new start when she made a commitment to consistent, in depth study of the Bible by joining Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) in early 1994. "By studying the Word through BSF I was constantly challenged and convicted, and it brought about real change," Nancy says. "It changed my priorities and perspective about what was important, how I used my time, and everything else about my life. It implanted in me a deep desire to please God and an understanding about who God is and how He works."
But it did more than that. It built a solid foundation for her life so that when the storm came, she stood firm. From that foundation, she has created a personal mission statement that serves as a measuring stick for all that would demand her time and attention:
"To vigorously pursue a relationship with God, and walk with him faithfully and joyfully so that I draw others to him-especially my husband and son. And to glorify God in the way I use the gifts, talents and opportunities he gives me to extend the ministry of great communicators of God's word."
For Nancy, that mission works itself out as she provides media relations services to the Christian Booksellers Association and for the ministry of Anne Graham Lotz as well as doing special projects for a host of Christian publishers. But equally important is being in the carpool line in time to pick up her 11-year-old son Matt, going to lunch or walking in the park with friends, and the ordinary aspects of being a wife, mother and professional with clothes to wash, a science project to help with and e-mails to answer.
It was when her second baby, Hope, was diagnosed with a terminal genetic disease that her foundation was first shaken. The death of her third child, a son named Gabe, could have crushed her foundation. But her faith has remained solid through the quaking of grief and loss.
Stronger After the Storm
Nancy's current guiding verse is 1 Corinthians 5:9, "So we make it our goal to please him..." Ultimately, she says, "I'm endeavoring to be a good steward with everything God has given me, with the communication gifts, the understanding of His Word, the relationships, and the suffering he's allowed into my life. That is why I wrote Holding On to Hope. I wrote it out of a sense of stewardship to use all that God has given me. I want to help other people who are hurting discover God in a way they've never known him before-even in the midst of their suffering. I believe God has allowed this pain into my life for a purpose, for many purposes, perhaps."
The tragedies of her life have shaped and challenged her, but she's stronger because of her suffering. "When suffering happens, God gets our attention. In times of comfort, ease and success, we just float along. But when we're hurting, God has our attention. When that time came in my life, I said, 'Okay, God, give me everything. Teach me everything you want to teach me. Just don't let this pain be wasted in my life.'"
"To tell you the truth, I feel so enriched by the experiences I've walked through. I don't feel damaged by them, but I am altered by them," she says. "Suffering has given me more of a capacity to love and serve God, more of a desire to minister out of my pain, more of a love for life."