Popular author and speaker Francis Chan and his wife, Lisa, encourage couples to develop an eternal perspective on their marriage by discovering how God can use their relationship to impact others for His kingdom. (Part 1 of 2)
Francis Chan: Why do you need so much from him? Why do you need so much from her? You can't blame your unhappiness on another person. It's probably 'cause you don't really enjoy the Lord like you should and you don't love Him with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and so, you're tryin' to find this fulfillment in an earthly relationship.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: A convicting thought and we'll hear more from Francis Chan on this "Focus on the Family" radio program. I'm John Fuller and your host is Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: John, I think today's conversation is gonna be really convicting in a good way. You know, so often we as Christians, we look at the gym, but we don't want to go there and in the spiritual context, I think today is gonna be a workout, 'cause I think our guests are gonna challenge us to think about our temporary life here on this earth, what it's all about, what we need to be thinking about anddoing as we move through our lives. And I am really convicted of how selfish we can get and I'm right there. I enjoy the comforts of the Western World, but today we're gonna be challenged about how that seeps into our marriageand how we need to be more mindful of what God wants for us in this life.
John: And Francis Chan is here, as I indicated. His wife, Lisa is joining us, as well, and they've been very open about confronting some of those challenges that you mentioned Jim, in their lives and they've had a pretty exciting journey and we'll hear more about that. They've been married for more than 20 years and have seven children.
Jim: Let me say it. Francis and Lisa, welcome to "Focus on the Family."
Francis: Thank you. Good—
Lisa Chan: Thank you.
Francis: --to be here.
Jim: Now you guys, you're livin' a fast-paced life and that means a lot of travel and things like that. I can relate to that. Let me just ask you in terms of managing all that, how do you do it?
Francis: Oh, gosh (Laughter) It's amazing. I mean, it really has been, I really believe supernatural where God has protected the family and let us all have a blast doing what we do and so, I don't know. Some days I go, I don't get it, but it works.
Jim: You talk about the importance for us to be disciples first and foremost and in your book, You and Me Forever, when it comes to marriage, you kind of are leaning in that direction to say, marriage is important, but it's not the most important thing. Do we sometimes get that out of whack?
Francis: I think we do (Laughing). I mean, it's weird to say that at Focus on the Family (Laughter), but you know, I think sometimes we can overfocus on the family to our own detriment. You know, when we look at Scripture, it's about this amazing God and this relationship with Him and this mission that He puts us on. And as we get into that and the life He wants for us, it makes everything wonderful, including our marriages.
Jim: Lisa, let me ask you this question. Let's get right to it. We don't have a lot of time. How do the two of you argue? (Laughter)
Lisa: How do we argue? You know, I think we argue pretty well. We're not … we're not yellers, although early on in our marriage, I did throw a shoe once at the closet, 'cause I was so mad and I just wanted it to make a really loud noise. (Laughter)
Jim: I love it, 'cause you're so soft-spoken. (Laughter) You wanted to make a loud noise.
Lisa: Yes, so we did make each other more mad I think in the beginning. After 20 years, now there's times where we get irritated with one another, but there's too much going on. There's too much to be done. We don't have time to fight and argue really.
Jim: What have you learned in the 20 years of your marriage? I mean, what are some of those big nuggets as you think back in the first few years you wish that perhaps an older couple where you're at today—20 years later—would've told you in the first three years of your marriage?
Francis: Yeah, you know, it's funny. You know, the whole purpose in even writing the book is, I was goin', gosh, our marriage is amazing and yet, we didn't work at it that much. We really just focused on the mission of making disciples, having an impact on this earth and as we both pursue that, it's caused us to hug and love as a family, but no one really talked about that back then.
Jim: Was that an evolution though? I mean, again, when you're starting off in marriage, did you have a missional mind-set right from the git-go? Or did the Lord kind of work your heart in that regard and you began to better understand maybe it's about what we do for the Lord together as a couple, not so much about what we do for each other?
Lisa: Yeah, I think for me, I'm much less intentionally minded than my husband. He's very, even from the beginning, one of the things I loved about him was his deep love for the Word of God and his fear of God. And so, I grew up in a very Christian environment and very Christian upbringing and so love my parents for that, but it was different the way Francis viewed Scripture and he so desired to honor God with his life, that he brought that into our marriage.
So, I think I was a little bit more the one just going, hey, marriage is gonna be fun. We're gonna have a family. I'm gonna be, you know, be a stay-at-home mom, was like all I had dreamed about and thought about. I didn't think, wow, there's people that need to be disciple. There's people that need to be invited into our home, to be loved on and cared for. There's the poor that we've got to give to and be generous toward.
And so, you're right, there was an evolution, especially for me and a lot of that came from my husband's leadership, but also just from the Word of God. If I love God and I pursue God, that's what's gonna make me an excellent wife or an excellent mother, an excellent friend. It's all about pursuing God, knowing God, loving God and that has to be our greatest focus.
Francis: Yeah, I think, you know, while it did evolve, I also think there were some things immediately that happened. I mean, three weeks after being married, I really believed the Lord wanted me to start a church. I mean, this is what they will tell you not to do.
Francis: But you know, I tell my wife, "Honey, I think I'm supposed to start my own church. I had never thought about this. I never talked to you about it." Even if it's just 10 people in our house, in our living room, I just think it's what I'm supposed to do, which means, I don't want to take any money from them. So, is it okay if you work? And it's for the kingdom.
And so, it wasn't like, hey, a year down, you know, into our relationship. Let's focus on each other for a year first, you know, which is what everyone tells you to do. I mean, we jumped right into it, you know, when she says, "Hey, I married you 'cause I believed you would lead me the way that God wanted us to go, so if this is what you think God wants to do, let's go. Let's go for it" and that's how Cornerstone Church started, you know, 22 years ago.
Jim: And you were at that church for how long?
Francis: Sixteen years.
Jim: Sixteen years. My observation in reading your books and just watching you from a distance, is though, that in that context, I mean, the Lord kept growing your heart for missional-oriented activity. I mean, you didn't kind of start at the—
Francis: On, no.
Jim: --at the right place at that point. How did the Lord just continue to unfold that in both of your hearts? And Lisa, I gotta give you credit. I mean, a lot of women are goin', I would've been, "What?" to my husband. How did you work out those kinks, those discussion points? Could I be bold enough to say, were you just rollin' over or did the Lord speak to your heart, too?
Lisa: Well, I think thankfully, by God's grace, I really had a fear from the beginning of standing in God's way of what He wanted to do through my husband, like it scared me to think I would stand before God one day and He would say, "Why did you stand in the way of everything I had for him to accomplish?"
And it was impressed on my heart, that whole thought and it changed the way I would react. There were times when like for me, I look at our life and see one of the pivotal moments was when Francis first went to Africa and this is probably, I don't know, seven years into our marriage or something and just came back wanting to sell our home. I mean, he was wrecked and I hadn't gone and so, when he was saying, "I want to sell our home. I want to give away half our things and move into this small little place," we were lookin' at trailer parks, I mean, I had to be honest with him and say, "It's not in my heart. I don't want to do this, but I will graciously do it, because I'm by your side. I'm with you. I'm gonna do it, but I can't tell you that I'm excited about it."
And I felt bad saying that, 'cause I thought, man, I wished it was in my heart and I could just say right from the beginning I was like, "Yes, that sounds awesome!" (Laughter) You know, let's care for the poor and let's get rid of that cute little hutch or that couch or whatever the stupid things that I was so connected to. And that was a huge turning point of God just ripping away one of those tethers that holds you to the world.
Lisa: And then you realize, I didn't need those things. It doesn't matter. I didn't need that bigger home and it was so, so good for us.
Jim: And we'll dig into that more in a little while, because I think the letting go of material things is a critical component.But I want to have you, Lisa, talk to the wife who doesn't trust her husband, that he's well-connected enough.
Jim: 'Cause as I hear people listening, women particularly saying, "I don't know that my husband has that kind of connection to the Lord, that I could feel comfortable—
Jim: --letting go and maybe that's a cop out; I don't know, but I just want to ask that question on their behalf, the ease in which you said, "Okay, I'm here to support you, Francis and to be by your side." Not every wife can get there that quickly in that situation. What advice would you have for them to say, "Look to the Lord?"
Lisa: Yeah. Well, first I would say, we've gotta be praying for our husbands and I think sometimes we can see that they might be lacking in their walk with God or we can see their faults. But I think God wants us to be for them and not against them and to be life-givers to them. And one of the best ways you can support and give life to your husband is to pray for his walk with the Lord.
Pray for a heart that wants to surrender even more and even to communicate to your husband, "I'm … when I see you following God, I want to follow after you, so don't be afraid that I'm not going to follow." And almost to speak that life into them and that courage, because I think some husbands, it's like this vicious cycle, right? The husbands are so afraid of their wife's reaction and then the wives respond to this fear that he's got and, I don't know, it just becomes this big mess.
But I remember one time speaking with a woman who, the husband wanted to move and do this drastic thing and she was so afraid. And she said, "Am I gonna have to do it?" And I said, "You know, at the end of the day, yes. If your husband says, 'We are going to move to this place,' I really believe based on my understanding of Scripture, that it's your place to say, 'Okay, honey.'"
But I said, "First, why don't you give him the benefit of your insight, your prayers, your thoughts, your heart, because he needs that." And I said, "You can see things differently than he does, so walk it through with him in a gracious way, not in a 'I'm against you; I'm afraid of you; this is the worst decision ever,' but 'Honey, here's some things I think we need to think about. This is how much this costs and this is what's gonna happen when we can't find, you know, this school,' or I don't know, whatever it is that you're concerned about. Pray about it. Present it to your husband and then trust God. Because you know what? Sometimes you're not always gonna think your husband is making the most fabulous decision--
Lisa: --and that's when you trust God—
Lisa: --and not your husband.
Jim: Well, and that's the point. Francis, let's talk to the men in that situation, 'cause a lot of men, they may not look to their wives in the right Biblical way to seek that kind of advice in a loving way, can be rather dictatorial or demanding. Speak to the husband's role in following the Lord first, but then bringing your helpmate, your wife along with you in that journey.
Francis: That may be the single greatest way that I've grown over the years in our marriage, is appreciating Lisa's comments, thoughts, feelings and realizing that, gosh, the Lord really did bring her to complete me. I mean, I like to take control. I like to just own it, you know. I can do it. I don't need anyone. I like that attitude and a buddy of mine was doing things. He goes, "Hey, do you play basketball?" I go, "Yeah." And he said, "You don't like to pass, do you?" (Laughter) "Oh, you're like"—
Jim: One of those guys.
Francis: --I'm like, "How did you know that? How did you know that?" He goes, "I just see in your personality, you don't trust, you know." You know, and so, it's something the Lord had to teach me, like man, this is about a body and you can't say I don't need you, but there's a completing and I have to think, "Gosh, I've just grown to adore about Lisa, it's like, gosh, I would be so incomplete if I didn't get her thoughts and her feelings and in the early days, I didn't value it like I do today. And one of my regrets is that I didn't just really champion her voice. I mean, even now when we speak together, I go, gosh, why didn't we do this more in the past? She says such profound things and has these thoughts that I didn't have and so, it has definitely grown.
Jim: Well, in fact, in your book you talk about when you look at your wife, when you look at Lisa, you have to remember that you're looking at the image of God--
Jim: --the Holy Spirit in your mate. A lot of couples struggle with that, because they don't like certain habits that, that human beings is displaying that certainly could not be God's habits, 'cause they annoy me to the Nth degree.
Jim: Speak to that element of how you look at Lisa and what you see when you look into your wife's heart.
Francis: Yeah, you know, one of the things I tell men is, you know, when I see something in her life that maybe I think is lacking, I look to myself and I go, "Wait, God's called me to lead her and to love her and to purify her, so I can't blame her for really anything. I'm the leader here, you know? Like and I take that calling seriously and so, I think sometimes we don't look at our wives in that way, like I want to help her, because there's times in life where you do make difficult decisions.
If you're always thinking, oh, this might be difficult for her, that might be difficult for this child or that, you know, God has called you to be the leader and that does sometimes mean making difficult decisions that may be painful, but you really have prayed it through and gone, "No, this is best for the family and best for the kingdom and so, Honey, I know maybe you don't even understand it right now, but I want to assure you that I'm thinkin' about you. I'm thinkin' about the family and I'm thinking about the kingdom and as I prayed, here we go."
And that's a tough thing for a man to do, because when you do love your wife and you do love your kids, you hate the thought that any decision you make might cause them pain initially. And so, I would just say to the men, to really pray things through and man up; step up.
John: Well, Jim, you said it would be a convicting conversation and it really is and you can find more from Lisa and Francis Chan in their book, You and Me Forever. We've got that at our website and we'll send that to you when you support the work of Focus on the Family with a generous gift today. Ask about it when you call 800-A-FAMILY or select that book as our thank-you gift to you when you donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Francis and Lisa, let me ask you this. We talked about making marriage into an idol and over-expecting. Where is that healthy balance? So often we're talking about, be selfless, try to fulfill your spouse's expectations and then on the other hand, we talk about the fact that no human being is gonna fill those expectations. And we kinda speak out of both sides of our mouth in that regard, in general. Where is that balance where we have the right expectation of each other, a godly expectation, that I'm not looking to you and Lisa, I'm thinking of a lot of wives who get into their relationship with their husbands and emotionally, they're anticipating he's gonna be able to provide them more than what perhaps he can. Talk about that kind of tension. Now she's in despair. I thought you would be everything to me and you're not. What's happening in that dynamic?
Lisa: Well, I think some it is just the recognition that when you put two selfish sinful people together, you're going to find moments of disappointment. And I think we have to be careful not to let it become so overwhelming to us, but more just recognizing this is a part of being sinful people and part of our selfishness coming out and part of God's refinement in our life and in our spouse's life.
And the single thing that you can do to overcome that, the only thing really is for you to get alone with God and strengthen yourself in the Lord, because what else, who else can you go to that says, "I will give you every spiritual blessing; it's yours. You can come up to this banquet table and partake of everything I have. I have peace; I have joy. I have comfort; I have love. I am faithful; I'm steadfast." We can't say all those things about a person, because we are not like God. He is perfectly faithful and good.
And so, our first source has to be Him and I remember a time, it was probably even pretty later in our marriage, like 15 years into our marriage, I had one of those pivotal moments with the Lord, where He showed me just how much I relied on Francis and went to him first for advice, for counsel, maybe even under the guise of, I'm just being a good submissive wife, rather than wait a minute. I have forsaken God, that my Creator, the One I'm supposed to go to first to say, "God, what do You want to put into my heart?"
You know, I would go to Francis. Should I teach this Bible study? Should I do this? And he'd say, "Well, I don't know. What does the Lord say?" And I'd be like, wow, there's kind of laziness that happens in my life where I want to just, oh, can you just give me the quick answer. You tell me what to do, rather than spend that time and that effort in my walk with the Lord, my relationship with God. And so, that's where everything always has to come back to.
So, when you see something off in your relationship with one another, go first to the Lord and strengthen yourself there. Then you can come back and have a reasonable, right, prayerful expectation of the other person.
Francis: you know, it's going to the Lord first. Psalm 23 talks about how, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." And when I counsel couples, I just see them wanting so much from the other person, like unrealistic expectations, but you read about David and his relationship with the Lord. He says, it's like my cup is overflowing, like I'm not in need here. It's not like I have this empty cup. I've been so filled up by the Lord, I'm like overflowing, splashing onto you.
And that's the way we view marriage. It's like, I should have so much from my relationship with God that I'm not waking up every morning going, "Honey, my cup's empty." It's like, no, I'm splashing over. Kids, come over here; get some of this water before we waste it. And so, that it's more of that mind-set of, gosh, if I'm really this needy or if this marriage is so bad, I have to question my own enjoyment of Jesus and is He truly my Shepard?
Am I overflowing with this, even in the presence of my enemies? Am I so at peace, even walking through the valley of [the] shadow of death? Do I really just fear nothing? And if I'm that type of man and overflowing because I'm just so elated that I know the Creator of the world, like He adores me as His son; this is insane. I am so in love with Him, like I should be overflowing. It's like, whatever Lisa does, like come over here. Let me splash on you, because I'm just overflowing with how much I love Him and I don't think we talk about that. We get into, okay, what don't you like about him? Why is he bugging you? Why is she annoying you?
And it's like, no, let's get to the root of this. Why do you need so much from him? Why do you need so much from her? You can't blame your unhappiness on another person. It's probably 'cause you don't really enjoy the Lord like you should and you don't love Him with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and so, you're tryin' to find this fulfillment in an earthly relationship.
Jim: I mean, that is deep stuff when we think about it. I mean, we do mask a lot of our pain with excuses.
Jim: And you're saying, the bottom line is your relationship with the Lord may not be as strong as it needs to be if you're suffering. That makes perfect sense, perfect sense.
John: Yeah, there are plenty of folks though that do pursue God with a passion and they're not at that point that you're talkin' about, Francis. They're feelin' dry and David went through dry times, too, we know, but what can they do? They're doing everything they know to pursue God and to let Him be first in all, including their marriages, but there's not fruit right now for that.
Francis: It's so hard.
John: Are they missing something?
Francis: Well, it's so hard to make a blanket statement, right? I mean, that's why discipleship's so huge. For me to just make a statement on a radio, you know, "Here's why you're this way," it's like, I don't know. You know, I'd have to spend time with a person, you know, goin', gosh, what is it? Are you … are you tryin to, you know, earn some sort of favor from the Lord? 'Cause some people it's like this, just a bunch of rules, you know, versus this amazing relationship. Do you not understand His love and His grace in your life? You know, or are you in some sort of hidden sin and therefore your bones are wasting away, you know, like David did at one point in his life, you know, in Psalm 32. There are so many factors.
John: It could be some medical thing going on.
Francis: It could be.
John: Some circumstances are crushing this.
Francis: So much, yeah, I'd hate to just throw something out there. Hey, everyone. Here's your problem. You know, it's each individual really has to search the Word of God and go, okay, where am I missing it? Am I not rejoicing in the Lord always? Am I, you know, disobeying the, "Don't be anxious about anything?" You know, and being Spirit filled and thanking God for everything.
Lisa: Yeah and I think it's unrealistic to expect that you're gonna go through, you know, for us 22 years of life and marriage and not experience, you know, hardship and some suffering and you know, some difficult, hard times, like I've been thinking of when we moved to Northern California and just thinking about the spiritual darkness and how much more we had to battle and pray and fight our way through that. So, I think there's times of even though you're filled up in the Lord and you know the Word of God, there's times of just fighting and pressing in and knowing, this is a hard season and I'm gonna keep going.
There's some level of just, I'm gonna keep being faithful because I know God is true. I know God is good and we have to speak this truth to ourselves constantly, because we live in a world of lies, right? I mean, the world is just an evil place and God's Word is just this breath of life to us. So, when you're struggling to hold on, you know, we fight the good fight. We run the race. We have to have endurance and keep throwing off that sin that entangles us and I'm sorry, it makes me emotional, but there's times to fight. That's I guess what I want to say.
Francis: Yeah and I think we're a little emotional, 'cause it's kind of a crazy time right now, a lot goin' on and you know, sometimes people think that, oh, it's Francis and Lisa, you know, like--
Jim: Everything's okay.
Francis: --yeah, yeah, yeah, so they don't they ever struggle? Or it's never difficult for them, but it's exactly what Lisa said. No, there are times that are just horrific. I mean, we're in a war and there are times when you go, you know what? Honey, God's been faithful. Let's just take another step, another step. We're gonna get through this. It's a season. Let's get through it. He never promised that everything's gonna be easy and every decision where we're gonna make just makes us happy all the time. I mean, we're in a battle and even right now, to be here and to be in the midst of this, it's like, okay. I mean, I like you guys, but I don't want to be here. (Laughter) There's things I gotta deal with.
Jim: Gotta do some stuff.
Francis: No, but we're going, no, this is right for the kingdom. This is part of the battle. Let's just go. Let's go; let's do it and take that next step and so, I'm sorry if I've ever, you know, to anyone who's listening, made it sound like, oh, you know, all these great stories. 'Cause when I speak, I want to tell about, oh, this great thing that happened. This great thing that happened, but in between all those times, sometimes I don't talk about all the failures and how difficult a season was and how, oh, man, I've just gotta grab my wife and say, "Honey, we can do this, you know. God's been faithful. Let's make it through." You know, people can put us on a pedestal and go, oh, it's Lisa Chan. She probably never struggles with this.
Jim: No, I so appreciate what you're saying, because I think they see the roof-top experiences and you do talk about that in testimony form or whatever. You're giving praises to the Lord, but there's the normal everyday glue that goes on that is a grind and that's what you're saying—that battle, that spiritual battle.
Francis Chan and Lisa Chan, talking today about their book, You and Me Forever. I've just asked a handful of questions. I've got so many more, so let's keep rollin' and continue the discussion, come back next time. I want to hear more about your 20th anniversary story and what happened and what revelation you found in that and so much more, so let's do that. Can you stick with us?
John: Well, I hope you can be with us then and Francis and Lisa talk at much greater length in their book, You and Me Forever about how God can use your marriage to make an impact in the world. And so, tune in tomorrow and in the meantime, get the CD or the download. Get the app that you can use to listen on the go to these radio conversations, all of this available at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
And I mentioned this earlier, but when you join our support team to help Focus on the Family's outreach to marriages through programs like this one, we'll send a copy of their book, You and Me Forever as a thank-you gift, our way of affirming your generous support.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, thanking you for joining us and inviting you back tomorrow for more from Francis and Lisa Chan, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.
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Francis ChanView Bio
Lisa ChanView Bio
Lisa Chan is a musician, a public speaker and the co-founder (along with her husband, Francis) of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, Calif. Lisa and Francis are co-authors of the book You and Me Forever. The Chans have seven children and reside in northern California. Learn more about Lisa at www.truebeautyfilms.com.