We had the pleasure of talking with Lauren Chandler about her book Steadfast Love. The interview was recorded and be played below. Feel free to follow along with the provided transcript. Enjoy!
Announcer: Welcome! You’re listening to an exclusive author interview brought to you by christianaudio.com.
Victoria Morgan: Hello and welcome to the conversation! I’m Victoria Morgan interviewing for Christian Audio and joining me today by phone is a highly sought after author, particularly when it comes to the topic of suffering. She knows her topic well because she has endured an emotionally draining and heart-wrenching experience. Many of us could use the special encouragement she offers in her new book and audiobook Steadfast Love. That is … wisdom from someone who’s actually been there.
Steadfast Love is described by her readers as being, “Painfully honest.” “Raw … and yet soothing to the soul.” “Comforting and yet challenging.” Our listeners at Christian Audio have been very anxious to hear all about it.
Lauren is the wife of Matt Chandler. Perhaps you’ve heard of him; He’s the head pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas. Lauren is passionate about serving the Lord through writing, music and leading worship, not only at her home church, but also for groups across the country. She is President of Acts 29, which is a global church-planting network. In addition, Lauren, you are also the mother of three lively children.
So, welcome Lauren and thank you for sharing so openly about your journey, which would certainly try all of us. We are grateful to have you with us today.
Lauren Chandler: I’m grateful to be here, Vicky. Thank you.
Victoria Morgan: So let’s start with two of your endorsers, Beth Moore and Nancy Leigh DeMoss. They describe what you’ve been through as a tsunami – not just a storm. Tsunamis broadside their victims and engulf them these violent waves. So tell us what happened, what broadsided you?
Lauren Chandler: On Thanksgiving Day, 2009, I was preparing dishes to take over to my mother’s home for Thanksgiving lunch and I heard just a commotion in the living room. And I knew my husband and three kids were in there. And my kids were young – six, four and just six months. And so, my curiosity was piqued, so I walked in and waited to hear for my husband, Matt, to say, “Hey, it’s okay. I’ve got it.” And there was just nothing but my six-year-old’s voice saying, “Daddy?” And I could hear a clattering of the fireplace tools and my husband was on the ground, having a grand mal seizure. And I rushed over there and called paramedics and they were able to take him to the local hospital, ran some tests, and they discovered a golf-ball sized tumor in his right frontal lobe. And the ER doctor who had been so stoic before kind of knelt down to Matt’s level and said, “You really need to contact a neurosurgeon as soon as possible. This doesn’t look good.”
And so, a few days later, we saw a neurosurgeon and he said, “You know what? I’ve made room in my schedule for the end of this week to do a craniotomy because this is something that needs to be removed immediately.” And so, that one came as a shock, especially to Matt. He thought he was going in to hear, “You know, this is something we’re just going to watch. We’ll keep an eye on it.” And then to hear, “I’m going to pretty much open up your skull and take part of your brain and a tumor out of your brain,” was pretty earth shattering. And so, he went in on Friday for an eight-hour craniotomy. Praise God, he survived it. We didn’t know. He’s a preacher. He takes these ideas and communicates them verbally with expression and warmth and winsomeness. And we didn’t know how would he come out of this, would he come out of it, would he be the same man? We had no idea. He had no idea.
The surgeon was hoping for the best. And so, endured an eight-hour craniotomy and came out. And his personality was intact, but he started to decline and just his personality, he wasn’t himself. He felt like himself, but to others, he lost some expression. His voice was very monotone, so very unlike him. And about a week after his surgery, we received the diagnosis. The pathology report came back that he indeed had Grade III Oligodendroglioma, so a malignant brain tumor … primary brain tumor. And so, this, of course, was devastating news. I asked the surgeon, “What’s his prognosis like? What’s his life expectancy? What is life going to look like for him, for us?” And he said, “Most survive two to three years.” And so, such a kick in the gut.
And actually, this is a news that I had to carry mainly alone. There was one other person that was told this news and he was a comfort to me. But our neurosurgeon had asked us to keep the news from Matt until he was a little bit stronger and could shoulder the news a little bit better. And because I wanted to respect Matt, I wanted him to be the first one to know besides the two of us. I kept that knowledge to myself for about a week. And it was really hard because Matt was always the one that I would go to and say, “Hey, what do I do here? Do I tell your parents? Do I not? Do I tell my parents? Do I not?” And just having to really lean into the Lord and ask for wisdom from Him instead of going to Matt, and I think the Lord honored that. There was fruit and I’m glad I was able to tell Matt and him know.
He received the news better than he received the news of the surgery. He seemed a little unfazed and I think it was the Lord just bolstering him and sustaining him in that moment. I think he was at this point of, “You know, I’m going to face this head-on and with the Lord on our side, my faith is in Him and what He will do. Whether He will extend this life or not, I’m going to trust Him.” And so, he went through eighteen months of chemo and six weeks, at the beginning of that six weeks of radiation, and it was hard. It was hard to see this man that was always so strong, such … the rock. I’m usually the weak one. I’m usually the one that was tired and needed his help when I was pregnant. And so, to see him be frail and not be able to go to his son’s baseball practices, to go by myself with the other kids because he’s stuck on a couch and sick from the chemo, it was hard.
And it was all these scenarios that I played in my mind, “Is this the rest of my life? Will he just never get better? And then he passes away and is this the rest of my life?” So, having that question of not knowing, will God pull through in the way that I want Him to? I know He’s going to pull through some way. But will He do it in the way that I would prefer that He would keep my husband here? And so, for eighteen months we would go for an MRI for Matt to get a check-up. And every MRI, I thought, “Okay, is the other shoe going to drop?” Every time we go and he has to get into that MRI machine, once again laying down, “Lord, I know that You know what’s best for our life. And although I prefer that You keep Matt here, I know You know what’s best. But I’m also going to ask that You keep him here. I’m also going to ask that he is healed. He continues to be healed. I want to trust that nothing is too hard for You, God.” That was the storm when I was made acutely aware of God’s steadfast love and sustaining grace.
Victoria Morgan: Wow. That’s quite a story. It must have been very hard for you to keep that secret from Matt and just go through this knowing that you are one flesh and that you’re really not supposed to be apart; you’re not supposed to keep things from each other. But God obviously had His plan. This must have been what Nancy and Beth meant when they said, “They personally watched you as God was wringing worship from your heart during terrifying circumstances.”
Now, you’re a musician, a songwriter, a servant, a ministry leader and God certainly gave you those abilities and generally worship flows easily and effortlessly through you. But this time, God was wringing worship out of you. The word “wringing” brings to mind this squeezing and choking and twisting … to painfully force something out. What was that like for you and how did you endure it?
Lauren Chandler: Well, it’s been a grace of God that He prepared me in advance for that season, where there were these other seasons of Him wringing this worship out of me. I went through some miscarriages. Our son had a seizure. And then even just the sufferings of life … of a relationship that ended or just different struggles in my life, different seasons of struggle. It doesn’t always necessarily look like the tsunami for God to wring worship out of our hearts. But I think we can think, oh, worship to God is always happy and shiny, and we have to sing these songs and put it together. But there is a deep worship, where God lovingly wrings things out of us, where it’s that sacrifice of praise to say, “Lord, though You slay me, yet I will praise You. Though You take from me, yet I will sing Your praise.” This idea that, “Nothing on earth will ever satisfy, no relationship on earth, no person on earth, no thing on earth will comfort me. Only You are my satisfaction, my life, my comfort, the truth.”
And so, that wringing and twisting, it is painful and praise God it’s not the only kind of worship that we can give. It’s not the only kind, but it’s a sweet kind. I think it’s an encouragement to us for those who are in a season of struggle, of distress, where things aren’t happy and it hurts. And the Psalmist talks about our tears being our food in those moments, it’s a comfort to know that even in those seasons, that’s worship. And to cry out to Him, to literally cry to Him.
Victoria Morgan: Now, just going in this direction. I’m going a little off topic here, but your song, “Though You Slay Me” actually captured my attention. And some of the lyrics are:
I come, God I come, I return to the Lord
The One who’s broken, the One who’s torn me apart
You struck me down to bind me up You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering
Though You slay me, Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me, Still I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me, Still I will worship
Sing a song to the One who’s all I need
Well, Wow … we can get a lot from that. And your readers are obviously well-acquainted with that testing. There’s one reader that put it, “There are other times when God seems so far and we feel we have nothing left to offer. We are tired, we are thirsty, imprisoned in our own chains through our own devices, caught in the waves of a tumultuous sea. This is when God shows His steadfast love.” Got any comments about that one?
Lauren Chandler: Yes. Yes. That song I co-wrote with an artist named Shane Bernard and he so graciously let me record that song and write the second verse of that song. And when he played it for me the first time, it was before I wrote the book and it felt like I could’ve written that part, like he ripped the page out of my journal just especially in that season with Matt through the brain tumor, of God … not even ripping but just kind of that the surgeon’s knife to cut very precisely to cut in a way to heal. It’s loving for God to show me that my false anchors aren’t enough to sustain me in the storm and in distress. So, for Him to kind of rip my hands off of those and sometimes that takes loss or it takes suffering to open my eyes, to show me that what I’m putting my trust in will fail me. But if I would put my trust in Him, always forever that He will prove faithful and He’s the only one that can.
And so, it’s a beautiful but hard thing. I mean, it sounds very harsh. I mean that’s not a song for the faint of heart. A lot of those words are Job’s words and Job mourned the loss of what he had. He ripped his clothes, but he also worshiped in the ripping of his clothes. And he said, “God gives and God takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” That he recognizes that anything that he was given was not his to own. I mean it was the Lord graciously giving it. And He’s gracious to show us that the gifts He gives us are gifts, but they will never sustain us. They will never give us life. They are meant for us to look at, to be grateful for and to turn our praise back up to the One who gave it to us.
Victoria Morgan: Well, I loved what you said about the surgeon’s knife. And I wish I could talk about it, but I want to go a different direction because it has more to do with your book Steadfast Love. And you brought up two very eye-opening points. They’re more like warnings. I mean, there are many types of prisons and there are many types of chains. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re in a prison because we’re ensnared by our own devices. And then you go on to say that these chains and these prisons are really what we think are anchors. We think they’re holding us in safe harbor. And so, even those of us that are not going through a storm are probably deceiving ourselves, correct?
Lauren Chandler: Right. And I’ve gone through that season, the season of chains, where there was just maybe a hurt or maybe just an addiction and not necessarily, it could be an addiction to a substance or an addiction to a relationship, basically just an idolatry, where there was something that I just had a grip on that I thought, “I cannot go on if this isn’t in my life or if this doesn’t come true.” Maybe it’s a dream. Maybe it’s a desire that you want fulfilled. Instead of it being a desire, you start to curl your fingers around it and say, “This is a need.” And it becomes this chain of rebellion on our hearts. And Psalm 107 talks about these chains of rebellion. It’s rebellious because what we’ve said is, “God, I know that You’re the giver of live, that You are the Creator. But I am forsaking You and I’m choosing the creature. I’m choosing this over You.” And that is rebellion.
And so, a lot of us can go through this distress and can feel the twisting of our hearts. And when God bows our hearts down, sometimes what He does is He lets us feel the weight of our chains and the dark of the prison. Sometimes He lets us feel the depth of our rebellion, not because He’s cruel, but because He wants to show us, “This is the fruit of what you are going after. The fruit of what you’re going after is death and destruction. But if you would forsake those chains, if you would lift those chains up to Me to break, if you would look to Me instead of to that relationship, that desire, those idols, that substance, whatever that could be, if you would look to Me, I will bring life. I am what you need. I am Creator. I will be enough for you.”
Victoria Morgan: Yes. Yes. Well, on that note, let’s talk about Psalm 107 which you mentioned in your book and audiobook, Steadfast Love. It’s a true scriptural anchor for you. It’s a vital part of your book. Psalm 107 talks about these poor people – thirsty, exhausted, wandering aimlessly. They’re scared, dejected, bewildered, utterly spent. And you talk about this Psalm being so paramount in your healing process. You want to go into that just a little bit?
Lauren Chandler: Oh, yes. The Lord has been so gracious to turn my attention to Psalm 107 and to highlight His steadfast love in the pain. When I read that Psalm, there are parts of it where you see the people in distress and you can see that even in their distress, God is with them and He shows His steadfast love to them in different ways. So, you think of the wilderness, the desert and I immediately thought of the Israelites coming out of Egypt that God was freeing them, that He took them through the wilderness because He was accomplishing something. But He didn’t just sent them off on their own, but He went with them. He had promised to them, is that He would be with them, even in the desert that He didn’t just leave them in the desert that He eventually does lead them out. And so, He shows his steadfast love in leading them out and leading them to the Promise Land. And in the Psalm, it says He leads them to a city to dwell in and we know, as Christians, we will eventually have the city of God that when Christ returns and the new heavens and the new earth come with Him that He’s always getting us back to this dwelling of God with man.
Victoria Morgan: And that brings me to my next question. We’re all looking for that safe harbor. I’m sure that the people in Psalm 107 were looking for that safe harbor. And we want to be able to make sure that we’re in a safe harbor when we go there, not another prison, not another idol, as you say.
And you say in your book, Steadfast Love that in order for harbors to be efficient they must have two characteristics: depth and protection. So, tell us how we know we’re reaching a safe harbor.
Lauren Chandler: The safe harbor ultimately is Jesus that He is our safe harbor. When I was going through Matt’s diagnosis and prognosis and thinking, “Okay, here I am in the storm and it says that He will bring me to my desired haven, well what is my desired haven? Well, if it’s that Matt is healthy and that he never has cancer again, I mean that’s a good desire. I’m going to ask for that. But unless the Lord comes soon, he will die. I will die. There will still be suffering.” And so, that is a very fragile haven. But to know Jesus as my desired haven … that He has the depth and He is my protection. So God can take our doubts. God can take our questions. Even how Job questioned the Lord and it says that, “In all these things Job did not sin.” But God does address Job and He does address his questions. But he doesn’t deny his questions. But God is deep enough. He is strong enough to take those questions and to give us answers.
And so, I think a lot of times, we feel like we’ve got to just kind of stiffen our upper lip and get through it, but in Christ we have this depth, where God is deep enough to sustain our questions and sometimes, to let them kind of hang there for us to have to trust in Jesus’ work — to see that God loves us and we know we can see the Father’s love through the Son, that He sent His Son, that Jesus put Himself up on the cross. And it wasn’t the nails that held Him there but it was His steadfast love. His perfect life covers us. If we would believe that His life and death and resurrection happened, are for us, that it is our only way to God, then we have this protection from the enemy and even from our conscience that even when our hearts condemn us, God is greater is greater than our hearts because it is Christ’s righteousness and not ours that we’re banking on.
Victoria Morgan: Well thank you, Lauren, for that wonderful, candid, raw, honest, terrific advice for those of us that are going through the unthinkable. We thank you so much for that.
Lauren, we want to know how to find you online, read your blog, get some encouragement, even listen to your music, which I fi nd to be very helpful.
Lauren Chandler: Yes … laurenchandler.com and also, I’m on Instagram @laurenchandler, Twitter @laurenchandler, and then I have my music on iTunes.
Victoria Morgan: That’s terrific. Well, we just thank you again for sharing your perspective on suffering that God has allowed you to discover. We thank you for your book and audiobook, Steadfast Love and we so do look forward to your next audiobook.
Lauren Chandler: Thank you, Vicki.
Victoria Morgan: You can find out more about Lauren Chandler’s audiobook, Steadfast Love at christianaudio.com. And, if you’d like a free audiobook sent to you each month, we invite you to join our mailing list. I’m Victoria Morgan. Thanks for listening!