March 23, 2009
When God Breaks Your Heart, Part 1 w/Ed & Judy Underwood
There is perhaps no greater challenge to our faith than personal suffering. If you’re a pastor it hurts even more. The challenge comes in the form of chronic leukemia to the person we’re going to meet in the next few minutes on Haven Today.
I’m Charles Morris and welcome to Haven Today where we tell the great story that’s all about Jesus. This is a program called “When God Breaks Your Heart” and in the next few minutes I want you to meet the pastor and the pastor’s wife of the famous Church of the Open Door in Greater Los Angeles. Though Ed Underwood prayed for and believed in God’s healing the days slipped by and his pain became unbearable. Ed’s heart was broken by a simple realization. The God who could do anything was not helping him. Yet a revelation from God’s word changed his heart and life forever. Stay with us for the next few minutes of what I believe will be a very important time together. Shannon Wexelberg, who’s also been on our program joins us now in opening this program with her song “Faithful God”.
Song: Faithful God
Performed by: Shannon Wexelberg
Welcome to Haven Today and we have 2 special people with me in studio today. I want to welcome a pastor and a pastor’s wife Ed and Judy Underwood from Church of the Open Door, a rather famous church in Greater Los Angeles. Welcome to Haven Today guys.
EU: It’s great to be here.
JU: Thank you very much.
Cm: Hey, I have been wanting to have you guys on for a long time and I guess Ed it finally took 7 years after your story that I know about and you writing a book for me to actually read fully your story but then it also took 7 years probably for you to sort out what the Lord had taken you through. And Judy, you went through it too. So, why don’t I just say to our listeners, you’ve got a book out called “When God Breaks Your Heart: Choosing hope in the midst of shattering circumstances”. You thought God broke your heart too, didn’t you?
EU: Yeah, I didn’t think he did, he did. He did break my heart.
CM: Strong words.
EU: Strong words in fact when we first titled the book we had some people who objected. They said, “I don’t think God really does break hearts.” I think in the way that he broke mine he does to take us to deeper levels. I think that’s part of his way of taking us places that he can’t take us any other way. But for me it was very surprising. I had heard stories. Judy and I were “Jesus Movement” kids.
CM: Two of those huh?
EU: Yeah, we’re two of those old rockers, and –
CM: Next thing you’re going to tell me, you grew up in California too?
EU: I grew up in Bakersfield, CA, the epicenter of all things cool.
CM: Ah, OK
JU: He’s from Bakersfield.
EU: Yeah, we both came out of non-Christian homes and the Gospel was so powerful in our lives and our relationship with Christ has defined our life for all of these decades. And I will hear people say, “Oh, I lost my faith.” And I remember thinking –probably arrogantly, but honestly – “That’ll never happen to me.” But it did, it did. When this leukemia took me down and this is a vicious, vicious leukemia that I have when it manifests, I couldn’t understand how God would let this happen. In fact the night that he broke my heart Judy said, “Let’s pray honey,” because that’s what we had been doing for all these months that I’d suffered with this and I looked at her and I said with cold, cold logic, I said, “I’m not praying anymore.” And her response was, you know, “You can’t do that honey. Jesus is our life.” And I looked at her and I said, “I’m a father and I’m a grandfather. Look at me honey,” and I was hideous. I said, “Look at me. I would not let this happen to my child so don’t tell me that God’s my Father.” And that was the evening that is the, I guess that’s the real drama that the book is wrapped around.
Cm: And that broke Judy’s heart to hear you say that too
EU: Oh, yeah.
CM: Judy you were there. Your grandkids were over at the time.
CM: I remember this part of the story. And what were you thinking when you heard your husband the pastor, Dallas Theological Seminary graduate, what were you thinking when you heard him say that?
JU: Well, it was heartbreaking for me to hear him say that. Trying to put myself back into that time and place, we were exhausted. We were at the end of any strength we had. We were trying to still hold it all together, trying to be there for our kids and our grandkids.
CM: and your grandkids!
JU: and our grandkids.
CM: Grandparents are supposed to be lively and energetic
JU: Right. It was frightening to me to tell you the truth because I had always, Eddie and I had started dating as Christians and had, our relationship with God had grown together –
CM: You’d tasted grace together in those early days, hadn’t you?
JU: Yes we had, we had. And our relationship with God was so much central to our relationship with each other and I didn’t know for sure how to be in a relationship with him without a vital relationship with God being part of that dynamic. And so that was frightening to me as well even though at the time I was just kind of numb I think. It was um, I don’t know if you remember the expression of the triangle with the 2 people and the bottom and God at the top and the closer you get to God the closer you get to each other? Somebody had shared that with us back when we were in our early 20s and that had defined our life, you know that was why we had a good marriage because of God in the mix completely so for him to say, “I don’t think I’m his child. He doesn’t care for me.”
CM: That was worse than having him die on you wasn’t it?
JU: Pretty much, yeah.
CM: Because in essence he was dead spiritually.
JU: Yeah, yeah, he was…yeah.
CM: You wondered, “Do I even know this person?”
JU: And I knew, I mean there was a part of me that knew, I guess maybe it was hope against hope, I knew he would come around eventually but I had no guarantees of that.
CM: Yeah, yeah.
JU: I mean he has been down before but I had never seen him like this. And he had never been that ill before either.
CM: These long struggles that we have gone through and Ed you went through it and Judy you were drug through with your husband Ed at the same time. Obviously, we’re having this interview so it gets better.
EU: Yeah, I did live.
CM: You did live but well, lived and also –
JU: Lived to tell about it.
Cm: But also you know you know Jesus today.
EU: Well, yeah.
CM: do you think Jesus was trying to draw you closer in a way that even though you knew him you hadn’t really known him?
EU: There’s no doubt. This has helped me as, we’re not getting out of this world without pain. It’s a sin stained world and I remember Judy’s response to that night. She said, “I am going to pray that God will bring you back to him and me.” And that was her prayer.
CM: To both of you.
EU: Yeah, because she had made it clear, “If you’re not near to God I don’t know how near you are to me. That’s where I am. I’m standing here.” So that night I really do believe that in the fog of pain and medication and all of that the Holy Spirit was working deep within my soul in a way that he’d never worked before and that, how else do you explain, it had been years since I’d taught John. I’d taught John years before in a different church. I hadn’t even thought about it but the next morning – I had thrown my Bible into the corner –
JU: Scared the dog half to death.
EU: Scared the dog half to death, that dog took off, you know, “Whoa!” So the next morning Judy went off to work and I went over there and got my Bible and very grudgingly, very grudgingly –
CM: It wasn’t one of those, “it fell open to the Gospel of John”?
EU: No it was that I knew I was being pulled to John 11. I knew that. I knew I was being pulled to John 11 and I read it and I read it in a different way. I had always read that as a story about Lazarus. This time I read it as a story about Mary and Martha and how Jesus showed up.
CM: Ed, I told you this before, when we lost our son to a drug overdose, 2 years after he died I spent a whole summer in the Gospel of John but what kept drawing me over and over in to John was John 11 and there Christ Jesus faces death in the face and stares it down but he also brings those sisters through this process
EU: Oh, and that’s –
CM: what he led you to in this world as well!
EU: Oh yes. You know what I noticed was that both the sisters had the exact same protest. “If you had been here my brother would not have died.” And they couldn’t be different temperamentally. And I remember when I read that I said, “That’s my life! That’s what I’m saying to him. ‘Where are you?’ I’m the one who has been dedicated to you. I’m pastoring this church. The church needs me. This makes zero sense. You want to give this to somebody, go down to South Central, go give it to somebody who is not living for you! I have things to do!” It did not make sense and when I read that I thought, “Wow, there is something here for me. There is something here for me.”
Cm: Isn’t that incredible how our pride shines through? Even when we’re in ministry. Even when we’re doing the “right things”
EU: Oh sure. “Even when”.
CM: we’re saying, “Lord how can you do without me?” You know.
EU: Oh yeah.
Cm: It’s just all there isn’t it? And let me just tell anybody who just joined us that if you’ve just joined Haven Today we’ve got Ed Underwood, the pastor of the Church of the Open Door. Yes that is J. Vernon McGee’s old church.
EU: He’s still preaching in heaven!
JU: And on the radio
CM: He’s preaching on earth on the radio but he’s
EU: Oh yeah, he’s preaching on earth on the radio but he’s preaching. It’s like he comes from there.
CM: And his wife Judy is with us. We’re talking about when God breaks your heart. And the cancer that almost took your life is what we’re talking about –
EU: Right, right.
CM: We’re talking about John 11 and this amazing passage in this, what I view is the best Gospel of all 4.
EU: Oh, me too. I love it.
CM: What was it the Lord taught you that you can share with other people? I mean, yeah we’ve got a lot of people that turned the radio up when they heard the word “cancer” because they’ve got it or they think they may have it right now. We’ve also got a lot of people that are hurting because of this economic time that we’re in right now and there is no surety that this thing is going to be over in a year like all the other recessions we’ve had in the last 40 or 50 years or 60 years in America. What are you pulling out of here that you can share with me and share with others today Ed?
EU: Yeah. I think I love the way you put it because the book is written not simply for people who’ve had cancer although I think it would help them.
EU: it’s for people who would honestly say, “God,” and I’m sure you felt like that when you lost your son. Your heart was broken. It doesn’t do any good to smile and say, “God’s sovereign.” We know that that’s true. What I would –
CM: People would blindly go on with platitudes
EU: Yeah, platitudes, they don’t work. They only impress the people watching us but they do not impress God. God wants us to come to a real place with him. Just a couple of things that I would say for people who have a broken heart for whatever reason that I got out of John 11. One is that Jesus showed up on his own time. He was in Paria (?), he let 4 days go by. He did it on purpose.
EU: Intentionally. The reason that they are incredulous is that now that Lazarus is dead he shows up. “Now that he’s dead you show up!” And then there are these 2 scenes of Jesus walking down the road and first meeting these sisters coming to them and the way they respond to him but especially Mary. When Mary responds in tears you can tell that it moves Jesus and moves his heart. So one insight was that though Jesus isn’t fixing this, and it’s important for everybody to understand I still have this disease. I have not been healed. I have been, he has very graciously allowed me to live and serve. And though I have this disease – I wish he would heal me – but I have this picture of Jesus not standing looking at me and saying, “Ed, come on! Buck up! Show people what a strong Christian you are!” I have this picture of Jesus Christ with his arm around me and Judy crying with us.
JU: Wiping away our tears.
EU: Wiping away our tears but more than that, Jesus wept and he’s weeping with us
JU: with us
EU: because he, though he has finally solved the sin problem until we are with him sin is still beating us up and it breaks his heart. So the first insight is that Jesus’ heart is broken with me.
CM: And we saw his heart break over Lazarus. Jesus wept.
EU: He wept. He hated watching Mary and Martha. And then when he went to the graveside it says, you know, that he shuttered within him or whatever but boy the Greek text brings that out. That is the scream –
EU: the scream of anger
CM: Intense, yes, yes.
EU: of a she-bear when someone’s attacking her cubs. And this is the Son of God who knew that he was going to the cross, who knew that he was going to conquer sin screaming out in anger against our pain. It was just an entirely different way of looking at it. It wasn’t just me performing for him to prove that I was a good Christian. It was his heart broken, him screaming against the pain and him saying, “I am right here with you.” That’s a whole different way of looking at it.
CM: Wow. It is almost anticlimactic when Jesus finally calls Lazarus forth from the grave isn’t it?
EU: Yeah, you got to think about Lazarus. He’s like, “What? I was doing OK!”
Cm: Judy, we’ve heard from the pastor, we’ve heard from your husband. You teach the Bible yourself and my wife teaches the Bible as well at our church, because you are married to Ed you would have been living through John 11 at the very same time.
JU: You know as far as, yeah, I told you earlier I teach a Sunday School class called “His Alone” and it’s for the women in our church who come to church by themselves for whatever reason. Some of them are spiritually single. Some of them are married but just to non-Christians. Some of them are divorced, some widowed, some never been married. And I’d never understood why God led me to start that class because I’d been happily married for almost 40 years. I was never single.
CM: Or can’t remember when you were single.
JU: Or can’t remember when I was single, yeah! But I remember during the dark days of this going on and you know, it wasn’t, we didn’t know if he was going to make it and there was a part of me that was thinking, “Oh my goodness. Did I start this class as a preparation for my own heart to be alone?” because that was a possibility. But these women in my class were such a blessing – and all of the women of the church, not just this class –
CM: So they gathered around you.
JU: Yeah, they prayed for us. They did as much as I would let them do. That’s a whole other story how you want to try to be strong and not be the needy person but in being someone who facilitates the study of God’s word it was important that my life be authentic before them and these were women coming in whose hearts were broken, their hearts were broken. And for many of them life was not making sense to them. And so we kind of waded through God’s word together and encouraged each other to be real and honest with them, so –
CM: Wow, that class will never be the same again, I’m sure. Well, Ed and Judy I want to have you back on the program again tomorrow, “When God Breaks Your Heart: Choosing hope in the midst of faith shattering circumstances”. Ed we’re low on time but we need to be high on prayer. Would you lead us in prayer for some hurting people that are listening right now?
EU: I will, I will. Let’s pray.
Father we ask for you to reach into a place that we cannot reach. Only your word, only your Spirit only your comfort. We ask you to reach into the broken hearts of those that are listening. There are those who have a prodigal for a child that’s breaking their heart. There are those that have lost a child. There are those that have lost their home, who might lose their job or wondering if they’re going to be the teacher that’s let go, and there are those who just got the diagnosis. There are those who are lying in hospital beds and there are those who are standing next to them who are asking, “If you had been here this wouldn’t have happened!” I pray Father that this would be a broadcast, that this would be a time, that this would be a moment that they would honestly open their lives up to you and just say what Mary and Martha said, “Lord if you had been here this wouldn’t have happened. I don’t understand. Help me. Be close to me. I want to picture you, Jesus as crying, screaming out against this. It helps me but I just need you. I need you. I really need you. Lord Jesus please bring your comfort into my heart I pray, in Jesus name, amen.
CM: Thank you for leading us in prayer. Ed and Judy Underwood from Church of the Open Door in Greater Los Angeles here on a Haven Today called “When God Breaks Your Heart”. Well, I’d like you to have a copy. If you need to find some hope in the midst of faith shattering circumstances or someone you know needs hope in the midst of a faith shattering circumstance in their life right now you need to get a copy of this book, “When God Breaks Your Heart”. We’d love to send you one as a thank you for your gift to this Jesus-centered ministry. You can get it just by going online, you can read more about the book there. We’ll also send you a CD of our 2 days together with Ed and Judy Underwood. Just go to h.a.v.e.n.t.o.d.a.y, haventoday.org or you can give us a call if you’d like. Here’s our toll free number in North America, 1-800-654-2836, that’s 1-800-654-2386. Please let us know the station you’re listening to when you get in touch. And maybe you know someone who’s undergoing a difficult time right now and this program today would be a special blessing to them. Just go to our website, haventoday.org. Look for the “Listen” button. Near there you’ll see where you can type in your friend’s email address plus a little personal note to them and it’ll be on its way right away. When you get in touch remember the name of the book is “When God Breaks Your Heart” by Ed Underwood. The forward by the way, is by Joni Eareckson Tada. If you would like to write to us let me give you our mailing address. We’re:
Riverside, CA 92513
In Canada we’re:
Vancouver, BC V6B4C9
I’m Charles Morris and thanks for being with me. Would you come back again tomorrow when again we’re going to tell the great story? We’ll do it together. It’s all about Jesus here on Haven Today.
When God Breaks Your Heart
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There is perhaps no greater challenge to one's faith than personal suffering. For pastor Ed Underwood this challenge came in the form of chronic leukemia. ...
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A special series of hymns and contemporary praise music. From the dramatic to the sublime, you'll enjoy classical musicians as they weave together a masterpiece fit for the concert hall. ...
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