Powered by His Love

Katherine and Jay WolfBy Katherine and Jay Wolf9 Minutes

Editor’s Note: We’ve all been given a lot in life – but what if that lot includes crushed dreams and heartache along with God’s blessings. Can that be the abundant life Jesus promised?

Newlyweds Jay and Katherine moved to LA to pursue their career dreams in law school and entertainment. In their new church, they volunteered to lead the young married group and immersed themselves in learning and sharing biblical truths about marriage. Soon, however, they would face a tremendous test of their vows of commitment to one another in sickness and in health.

Just six months after the birth of their first child, Katherine suffered a catastrophic brainstem stroke. In a 16-hour brain surgery to save her life, doctors removed half of her cerebellum – and offered little hope for the future. Miraculously, Katherine could follow simple commands after the surgery, but her body remained horrifically broken. 

Weeks in ICU, a year in rehab, multiple operations, and heart-wrenching realities plagued the young couple. Too weak to hold up her head, Katherine was unable to swallow and had to be confined to a wheelchair. Even life’s simplest joys – eating, communicating, laughing, playing with her child – were no longer possible. Katherine repeatedly used the letter board to remind herself and everyone else, “I’m still the same on the inside!” Together with her husband, they pressed on through the deep, dark valley.

Sustained by faith, the Wolfs found strength for their challenges. The journey has been difficult, but today their life overflows with joy and purpose. Their trial underscores the message that God’s blessings can come in many different forms. If we trust Him … He will provide the seed of hope for our difficulties. He is good and His love is real.

Be encouraged by this excerpt from their amazing book Suffer Strong

We each have something unique to offer the world. We are called to spend more time tending what God has given us and less time craning our necks at our neighbors. Paul wrote to the Galatians that we are each responsible to do our best with our lives (Galatians 6:4-5).

In our search for calling, the best place to look is right in front of us. As we’ve discussed, limitations don’t have to be losses; they can be the avenues to our flourishing.

This is particularly true if we stay focused and creative within their boundaries, if we care for and cherish what’s inside them. I cry every time I think of this quote Jay wrote at the end of our book Hope Heals:

“One day, the arc of our stories will all make perfect sense. One day, we will trace the lines of our scars and find them to have fallen in the most pleasant of places, to see in them our great inheritance. One day, we won’t need to hope, nor will we need to be healed because we will be face-to-face with the source of both, the source of everything … Jesus.”

Nothing to add there, right?

I suppose if “building your house on the rock instead of on sand” is a fitting enough metaphor for our wedding and marriage, then lot lines must be a great metaphor for our assignments in life.

When God’s people entered the Promised Land, they were each to be given a lot (Numbers 33). Some would be big, and some would be small, and the size would have nothing to do with anything they could control. Yet the lots would be their very own piece of God’s promise for them to live and love and flourish on.

In Psalm 16:6, David sings the praises of his personal property survey: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (NIV).

David is not posting these words next to a picture of an over-the-top mansion with an even more over-the-top car parked in front of it, with an over-the-top diamond-draped supermodel sitting nonchalantly on the hood. No, David’s lot was a bit more rustic for sure, but so much more valuable and a whole heck of a lot more BLESSED.

This psalm likely was written during a time of great trouble for David, as it opens with a straightforward “Keep me safe, my God” (v. 1 NIV). David is acknowledging that through his struggles against his enemies and betrayals by his friends, he had been called into a unique lot by God and for God and with God. The same God who had given him victory over Goliath and an anointing as king had also given him this lot, so he could trust that it was good. Yet David’s lot would eventually also include adultery, murder, shame, rebellious children, incestuous children, rape, more murder, conspiracy, and loss. (And I thought a wheelchair and some garden-variety dysfunction in my own lot was a bummer!)

David probably didn’t see all that coming when he described his lot as a pleasant place, the same word is used later in the psalm to describe the pleasures found only in close proximity to God (v. 11). I can only imagine that when this deeply flawed man after God’s own heart found his lot filled with such great pain, he also found it filled with a deeper experience of those pleasures in God. Embracing the lot we’ve been given is about embracing the God who gives it. Our experience of purpose in life is not based on the size of the gift, but on the size of the Giver.

A decade ago, I wrestled with the deepest despair of my life, wondering why God would have left me on this earth after my stroke. I was broken in body, brain, and spirit, unable to do anything or be anything other than a source of pain for everyone I loved. God had obviously made a mistake. But over time, I was able to hear God’s words in my heart: “You are not a mistake because I don’t make mistakes. There is purpose –
just wait, you’ll see.”

If we have a pulse, we have a purpose. We are not still on earth by accident. We are here today because we’ve been called by God to this unique place and circumstance, to this moment in time and history. We’re here because there’s more life for us to experience and more work for us to do and more love for us to give.

Excerpted from Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything by Katherine and Jay Wolf. © February 2020 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com