Jani: Hello, everyone! Welcome to He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund and her pastor-husband, Ray Ortlund.
Ray: Hi, honey! I’m glad to be with you.
Jani: Thank you so much for joining us.
Ray: Oh, it’s a privilege.
Jani: We’re really grateful you’re here.
Question: “Are my Fears Amid this Major Family Decision from the Lord?”
Jani: We have an “Ask Jani” question that I thought would be helpful for Ray to enter into with me. Ray, would you give us the question please?
Ray: Right, but this is Ask Jani not Ask Ray. So I think it’s a very weighty, significant question. I’m thankful for this. It’s a vulnerable question. It’s a personal question. It’s a common question. A lot of young couples wrestle with this.
Ray: So one of our listeners, her husband, has is it looks like he’s receiving a significant job opportunity in another city. It’s far enough away from their home that this is not a convenient drive to come back and see friends and so forth, they would have to fly. And the listener says,
“My husband wants to go and I’m afraid to go. These differing opinions have caused friction in our marriage. So I’m curious if there’s any wisdom, Jani, in this area that you might have. Am I being disobedient because of my fears? Or are my fears God’s way of telling us this is not where we should go? Because my husband doesn’t share the same heart with me.”
Ray: So here’s a couple. They both love the Lord. They want to live for Christ. Their hearts’ prayer is “Your kingdom come, Your will be done,” right? But the husband and wife don’t see eye to eye on a major life decision.
Jani: So you’re going to throw that theological question to me? That’s why I asked you to be here. How about if I start with my own thinking and then I’m going to ask you to chime in, honey, because you know the Bible so well and our listeners need to hear that.
Jani: I really understand this wife’s dilemma. When our first three children were ages—let’s see, Eric was 3, Krista was 2, and Dane was almost 1—you came to me, Ray, and you told me that you felt God was asking you to pursue doctoral work overseas.
Ray: I know. One of my harebrained ideas.
Jani: Well, I panicked. Talk about fearful. I was really fearful. I didn’t want to move overseas with three little ones. How would we pay for it? What would I do without family in the same country? We were thinking about doing it in a country that didn’t speak English. So I was scared about that.
Ray: That sounded like fun to me and that sounded scary to you.
Jani: Worse than scary. Go a level below. I was terrorized by that. Fortunately, Ray, you did not pressure me. I’m so grateful for that. You know, I balked. You probably remember, I cried. I prayed. I got mad at you. And you did not pressure me. You prayed. You said, “Okay, honey” and for two years, you prayed. We circled back around when Eric was five and I was ready. And we moved to Scotland of all places. Why did it take me two years to be willing?
Ray: We had a blast. It was really a wonderful experience.
Jani: It was a wonderful experience.
Ray: But sweetheart, in your defense, I have to say I really did not grasp the magnitude of what I was asking of you. All the extra layers of work and thought and attention and burden and complication that I was obliviously thrusting upon you by my crazy idea. So I don’t blame you at all for hesitating, sort of gulping and saying you know, “Could we talk about this for a while?” Yeah, it was really very understandable and thank you for eventually saying, “Let’s go!”
Does God lead by instilling fear in my heart?
Jani: Well, you know, Ray, it was the Lord because my initial response was very much like this listener’s response, and like most wifely responses when their husband comes in, says, “Hey, let’s move.” I was afraid. I was afraid of all that it would mean for me, for the children, for our marriage, for our finances, for our future. I had so many fears well up. And this listener’s question is very interesting. She is wondering, are those fears legitimate? Are they from the Lord? Should she listen to them? And should they be the guiding factor in whether her husband accepts this position or not? Or are they not from the Lord? And that’s what I think I’d like to funnel down to in this podcast. I must say, I have never had God lead me into decision by instilling a fear in my heart.
Ray: That’s interesting. I’ve never thought of it that way.
Jani: So, I don’t see that as the way of the Spirit, Ray. I don’t know about you. Usually, my fears are the “what ifs?” and the “why nots?” — oh my, this could happen, that could happen. What do I do about that? Is he thinking about this? I don’t know how many of you remember how many fears I’ve had in the past, I’ve been a woman who has struggled much with fear. That’s why,
Ray: Well, you’ve been married to me, honey. Of course.
Jani: But that was why I wrote my first book, Fearlessly Feminine. Because I believe God is calling us as women to step out of our fears toward Christ, offering them to him.
Ray: That’s good.
365 Fear Nots
Jani: Maybe you remember that night your mom was here. Your dear mom. She loved me so well. I was crying to her about a fear. It was a hard fear. It was a job change. And there was some very difficult things going on. Some evil things, if I may say that. I was very afraid of and I cried for a while and she listened to me and was very sympathetic. But after a while, she saw my fears were not taking me anywhere. They were just funneling down into more tears, more fears. They weren’t resolving anything. And she looked me in the eye and she said, “Jani, stop it. Stop fearing.” And so I caught my breath and I looked in her eyes and she said, “Did you know, Jani? I’ve never counted them but I’ve been told there are over 365 ‘fear nots’ in the Bible.” She said, “Jani, that’s enough for one for every day of the year. So let’s trust God when he tells us “fear not.”
A Husband’s Response to His Wife’s Fears
Ray: You know, honey, in your defense, let me say this. The Bible does say in 2 Timothy 1,
“God has not given us a spirit of fear.”2 Timothy 1:7
Ray: But when I hear you push back on an idea that I have and you have a concern, you have a question, there’s a blank that needs to be filled in, you are alarmed, even, at some level, I have learned through the years to respect that. To pay attention to that and to realize, “Something about this big decision, I really don’t see. Jani is seeing something here. Jani is asking a question that deserves an answer. Jani has a concern that deserves to be addressed.” And so I appreciate you when you push back on my crazy ideas. You’re serving me.
And I have learned from 1 Peter 3,
“Husbands live with your wives in an understanding way.”1 Peter 3:7
Ray: In other words, when my wife sees something in a way very differently from my perspective, her perspective is not a problem. Her perspective is a gift from above. You have taught me, coached me, helped me so many times, honey, by the questions, concerns and even fears that you’ve had along the way. So in defense of good, healthy husband-wife conversations, I would just toss that out there.
Jani: All right, and encourage the husband to truly listen to his wife. To have her ask him, “Please hear me in this.”
“What if he has a ‘Crazy’ Idea?”
Ray: What do you think of that? What do you think of what I’m saying?
Jani: Well, it’s the adjective “crazy” idea. You have had some crazy ideas. But you’ve also come to me at times, darling, and said, “Jani I think this could be of the Lord.” And when you say that, I pay attention. You know, if you’re wanting to buy 2000 acres of hunting property out in Wyoming for $5 million, that’s one thing.
Ray: But honey, that’s not crazy. That’s just obvious!
Jani: We’ll sell our grandkids and you know.
Ray: I wouldn’t go that far.
Jani: Okay, but a crazy idea I get. But there have been times when I had to come to realize that your doctorate was not a crazy idea. I hadn’t realized I married a man with a brilliant mind, and it was a gift from the Lord that you wanted to steward well. And I could facilitate that or I could hinder it.
Jani: So I want to speak to this wife, and all of us wives, and say, “Yes, we have fears.” If our husband’s ideas are crazy or dangerous, then our fears may be legitimate cautions. If our husbands are indicating to us, “Darling, I believe the Lord might be speaking to me in this way. Will you pray about it with me? Will you think it through with me and tell me what what you think?” Then we need to ask the Lord, I think: “Father, give me an open heart. This sounds really scary to me. I don’t want to move far away from family. I don’t want to sell my home. I love this home. We’ve just settled in. I don’t want to leave my church. But my answer is always, ‘Yes, Lord, to you.”
Ray: That’s good.
your Fears God’s Word
Jani: I might add one more thing, Ray. And this is about fears, not so much as submitting to your husband, but just my own personal fears. There have been times when I meditate on my fears rather than meditating on the Word of God.
Ray: How interesting.
Jani: You know, anybody who knows how to worry, knows how to meditate. So why not meditate on a verse of scripture? So what I have done, I even did this in Scotland one time, Ray, when we were there and I was overcome with various fears. I wrote out my fears on pieces of paper, different ones. And I took them out to our little garage back there and I put them on fire and offered them up in a safe place as a sacrifice to the Lord. And I said, “Lord, I want you to take these fears. I don’t want to be a woman ruled by fears.” Read 1 Peter 3:6 there about not being overcome.
“…as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”1 Peter 3:6
Ray: That’s amazing. It’s almost a tongue twister.
Jani: Yes and Sarah had a lot to fear. But we can be her daughter’s. God is calling us out of fear into fearless femininity.
Ray: And you know, sweetheart, the fact of it is God got us through that, that amazing and indeed, delightful adventure that we had there in Scotland for those four years and a whole lot more since. We have faced unsettling, uncertain situations many times and what you wisely did giving that to God, he has been faithful.
Jani: Oh, hasn’t he?
Ray: Yeah. I’m so thankful for our life now.
Jani: Yes. As we look back on our 50th year of marriage, yes.
Jani: So let me encourage this listener, along with all our listeners, that when your heart feels overcome by fears, you talk to the Lord, first of all, bring him those fears. Ask him for a verse to speak into them. Is this you guiding me, Lord? Is this fear your guidance? Or am I not thinking properly about you? And then go to a verse like Isaiah 41:10. Read about what God will do as you fear not. Meditate on a verse like that. And then talk to your husband as well. And give him your fears and say, “You know, this is what I’m scared about. What do you think? I don’t want to be the one holding us back in this.”
Ray: Yep, and that verse says, Isaiah 41:10, it’s a classic, go-to verse. Where would we be without this verse? God says,
fear not, for I am with you;Isaiah 41:10
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Ray: And that righteous right hand means his unerring, infallible, always accurate, steady, wise, strong right hand.
Jani: Oh, I love that. Oh, he’s just holding us up.
Jani: Well, let me close this way with one final insight that’s helped me with my fears as an older woman. I would have this wife ask herself, “In the future when my little boy is married, how would I counsel my daughter-in-law in this situation? What would I encourage her to do?”
Jani: And then live it out today with your husband so that you can tell her this is how the Lord helped us. Ray and I pray that these few words would be used by the Lord to restore your soul as you have listened today.