Hope is defined as an optimistic state of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes; a feeling of trust; or confident expectation.
This week I am joined by author Andrea Herzer and Andrea knows all about hope, growing it and maintaining it. Andrea shares her story of managing extreme challenges and finding hope in difficult times, primarily through chronic health issues. Despite her hardships, Andrea has been able to find hope and resilience by relying on her faith, leaning on her support system, and focusing on gratitude.
Listen in as Andrea shares her insights and experiences on how to overcome adversity and find hope in life's toughest moments. She emphasizes the importance of staying positive and focusing on the good things in life, even when things seem bleak. This episode provides an inspiring and uplifting message for listeners who may be going through their own struggles and need some encouragement to keep going.
Connect with Andrea Herzer on her website:
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Hi, I'm Ivelisse Page and thanks for listening to the Believe Big podcast, the show where we take a deep dive into your healing with health experts, integrative practitioners, biblical faith leaders, and cancer thrivers from around the globe. Welcome to today's episode on the Believe Big podcast. My name is Ivelisse Page and it's an honor to be with you today. Hope, why does it matter? Hal Urban is quoted saying,"you can live 30 days without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air, but you can't live for more than a few seconds without hope." Hope is a fundamental human need that is just as essential to our survival as food and water. My guest today understands a true meaning of hope in the confident expectation and trust in God's promises for the future. Andrea Herzer is the author of Incurable Faith, 120 Devotions of Lasting Hope for Lingering Health Issues. Like many of you, Andrea had to learn how to navigate life while undergoing infusions, chemotherapy, more than a hundred surgical procedures and many complications with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Her season with cancer gave her a deep compassion for those who are suffering. Over the last two decades, Andrea wrote Incurable Faith to help others find the pathway of life that overflows with the riches of God's sustaining love, even during pain and suffering. Andrea lives near Austin, Texas with her husband Mark, and has three grown children. Welcome Andrea to the show.Andrea Herzer:
Thank you, Ivelisse. It's really a pleasure to be here with you today.Ivelisse Page:
Aw. Well, we always like to start our podcast with our guest's favorite health tip. What would you say is your favorite?Andrea Herzer:
I have an actual a one size fits all answer for you. Great. It doesn't matter what you're going through or what your health issue is, this is my biggest health tip, and it comes from Proverbs 18:14, which says the human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit, who can bear? And as someone who's faced multiple bouts with cancer, years of debilitating health issues, I can attest that taking care of your spirit does help you to embrace joy and hope and strength no matter what you're facing.Ivelisse Page:
Well that's so applicable to what we're gonna be discussing today. And for those who are listening who need practical tips, we're gonna share a few of those things as well. But before we do, can you briefly share about your cancer story and how hope played a role in your journey?Andrea Herzer:
Sure. Actually, my cancer journey started years before I was diagnosed with cancer, which I think is pretty common with a lot of patients. Maybe they have other health issues as well. And so over 20 years ago, shortly after the birth of our third child, I went from being active in ministry, bible study, moms of preschoolers, my kids' school to barely being able to get out of bed. I was in excruciating pain, and my body felt like it was dying. I could not function, I could not feed my child without holding one arm with the other to use my hand. I couldn't walk upstairs. And there were definitely days where my husband had to take over. He had to stay home from work. So, of course, I went from doctor to doctor, was diagnosed with multiple different, chronic illnesses, including interstitial cystitis and fibromyalgia. But as I searched for solutions and I ordered everything on the medical menu, let me tell you, I tried everything. I went to doctors in different states. I did acupuncture and biofeedback and infusions and spinal cord stimulator, and you name it. But I eventually learned that an unhealthy fixation with my broken body was only breaking me further. I knew that Jesus gives abundant life, but at that time I was not living the abundant life. I had begun to be fearful and anxious, and I was losing hope of having a joyful and purpose-filled life in the midst of debilitating pain. So as I discovered Biblical truth and tips and tools that started putting me back on a path towards wellness, spiritual wellness, joy, helping me to recapture joy. And even on days when I couldn't get out of bed, I started writing down those lessons that I was learning for other people. Because I would meet people in surgery centers or later during my cancer diagnosis in chemotherapy rooms, and they would wanna know, how are you so joyful? How are you getting through all these years? And by that time I'd been in a scooter, I was disabled by a complex regional pain syndrome, which is a rare neurological disease. And by the time I was diagnosed with cancer in the doctor's office when he said, it looks like you probably have lymphoma. My husband started crying and I just said, we know how to do this. We're gonna get through it. We know how to do sickness. I've been sick for a lot of years. Our family is gonna be just fine. And I was really prepared by that time.Ivelisse Page:
So I know, that's just incredible. your response to that. And it says that hope defined as the confident expectation and trust in God's promises for the future. But the reality is when you're facing a serious illness like cancer and you face debilitating inflammation and other aspects that you were dealing with health issues. How did you practically hold on to that hope and what strategies especially did you incorporate when you kept getting bad news after bad news?Andrea Herzer:
Yes. and sometimes, I would have one surgery and five weeks later I'd have an emergency, other surgery. And I've had, I was counting last night, aside from going through two bouts with cancer, and of course I have cancer right now speaking to you, I still have it. I have experienced more than five life saving surgeries. And so I think you can begin to get the mindset of what next, what's gonna happen next? And it's really easy when you have medical trauma. So in the beginning, when I was first diagnosed and I went from being a healthy, vibrant, active wife and mom to bedridden and in pain. I took a lot of comfort and my long established routine of spending time with the Lord by reading the Bible, praying. I wasn't able to get out often to go to Bible studies or church or things like that, but friends would come over, they would pray with me. And at that time, I really did believe that I was gonna be healed. I had no idea what awaited me, that I was gonna become disabled, that I was gonna have stage four aggressive cancer and in a form of cancer that is considered incurable. I had no idea at that time. So when things started getting worse and I had surgery after surgery and complications and side effects, and it just seemed like my whole body was breaking down. The truth is that I ask the questions that most people ask, why? Why me? Couldn't I serve you better, Lord if I were healthy? Why is this happening? And I had to go through a season of true lament. Lament gives voice to our complaints, and it's an act of worship. The process of lament is how we move through the pain of difficult circumstances into hope, restored hope and God's promises. So that season of lament feels dry, and it feels like, where is my faith? I don't feel energized. But you know what? It's biblical. It's biblical to go through lament during hard times. And in my book I even talk about, I have a devotion called Good Medicine, and it's based off Proverbs where it says, A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. And I talk about Jeremiah and Habakkuk and how they had, were confessing fear and hopelessness and sorrow, and they're saying things like, I remember my affliction, my wandering, the bitterness, and the gall. My spirit is downcast within me, but then they both use one word that turns everything around and it's a bridge to hope. And they use the word, yet. So they confess what's going on with them and they tell the Lord and then they say, yet, I will wait patiently yet I will rejoice in God, my savior. And so I think when we try to tell people, you have reasons to rejoice and there is hope and we try and short circuit their process of grief sometimes.Ivelisse Page:
And I just wanna say, yeah, that experiencing that grief is healthy and it's okay.Ivelisse Page:
Yes. And I think that we just don't like to see people suffering and we're trying to say the right words. And, we had Kim Hamer on the show and she mentioned about how to speak to people who are grieving and lamenting. And you always wanna put the silver lining around things, but it's not up to us. It's up to God to show them what their silver lining is. And it's a process and sometimes it's not immediate. I loved what you said, that lament is moving through the pain to hope. And one of the things when I was going through cancer, one of the things that helped me in those moments of lament or suffering was focusing on the capability of God instead of the challenge before me. So in the physical sense, we can say, this is what's happening. This is what the doctors are telling me. This is what my scans are showing. But we also know that we serve a great God that is bigger than all of that, better than any surgeon's, blades or doctor's medicines. And we know that he can go above and beyond what we could ever ask or imagine. And so we hope, And we trust in his capabilities versus our own human tendency. Which leads me to my next question for you is, how can you share with our listeners two or three ways that you personally kept hope alive every day? So you mentioned prayer, what are some other ways that you've done that?Andrea Herzer:
Well, let me give you an example. And I talk about this in the book, I have a devotion called Resting on My Foundation. And so it was one day when I was bedridden, like many people who live with chronic pain, I have a soft fiber filled mattress topper. So as I was just sinking down into the comfort of that mattress topper, it dawned on me that I'm resting completely on it and it's my foundation and that we need to do the same thing with the Lord. And my pain was just unrelenting. So as I went sinking into that comforting cushion, it reminded me to sink my thoughts into the comfort of worship because God brings healing contentment to my soul when I meditate on his character, instead of the characteristics of my illness. So when I lie there in bed, I say, Lord, you are good. You are sovereign. You are loving. You are my friend. You are my comforter. You are with me in this trial. So I begin speaking truth rather than be moaning my state of pain or the circumstances of not being able to get out of bed. So that's one way. But another it's instrumental in my life is praise and keeping praise in my home through music. And I believe in the power of praise so strongly, and especially for those who are isolated by illness. Illness is so isolating, especially when we are unable to get out because our immune systems are taxed because of cancer treatments or the type of illnesses that we're dealing with. Hearing the voices of other believers leading my thoughts into praise is soothing, and it's comforting. And I believe in the power of praise so much that I've included a worship song in every single devotion. So that's 120 worship songs, and I hope that readers will perhaps discover a new favorite musical artist. I have everybody in there from CC Winans to Maverick City Music, and I even have a song with Dolly Parton. So there's something for everyone.Ivelisse Page:
Music, it is definitely therapy and I know that when there is a spirit of heaviness in my home, I turn on my Spotify playlist. We even have a Believe Big playlist as well on Spotify, and I just remember those moments where I was in pain after surgery and the only thing that I could do would be to pray and listen and it would just fill those spaces and fill it with hope and encouragement and there is a spiritual warfare going on in our lives. Just like there's angels, there's an enemy, and if he can't make us fail, he'll try and discourage us. And so it's important that we crowd out that noise of the enemy and he can't stand God's word and music. And so that's why I agree with you that is so powerful in overcoming those times of discouragement.Andrea Herzer:
The joy of the Lord is our strength. And so one of the ways we enter into his joy is through praising him and it strengthens our spirits. Yeah. So it's a necessary part of my battle with health issues.Ivelisse Page:
Yes. And you mentioned it earlier on, but what role does community play in fostering and sustaining hope?Andrea Herzer:
It plays a really big role in my life. Not only just the fellowship of other believers and joining with them in prayer and being challenged by them, but it's also true that when we start to feel discouraged or when our thoughts aren't lining up with God's word, it's so important to have a friend that can recognize that and come alongside you and speak truth to you. Cuz there are times during anybody's fight with health issues that. Perhaps we don't have the energy to go to church or read the Bible or, we're just lying there and feeling helpless at times. Especially you mentioned before, after a surgery. It's really hard to take things in when you're feeling that way. But if you have a friend that can come alongside you and just pray over you, sit by your bedside. It makes all the difference. And I actually talk about that a lot in the book because there were seasons where after I was not able to be as active and after I was in volunteering for everything, people just disappeared from my life. And I think that's a really common thing for people who have chronic illness.Ivelisse Page:
Why do you think that is?Andrea Herzer:
I had someone tell me and this was hurtful at the time, and, but she certainly did not mean it to be hurtful. She was trying to just explain why she said, We don't see you volunteering up at school anymore. And it's the sad truth of out of sight, out of mind. Now of course that hurt like an arrow. That was a difficult thing to hear. But I think people get busy just like we're busy in our fight to wellness. They're busy in their wellness, they're busy being able to fill their schedules with activities and maybe we're on their minds, but they think to themselves, oh, I need to go by and visit her, but I just, I need to work it in. Or maybe they think that it's bothersome and that we already have support and they don't wanna disturb us. Cuz I had people say that too. I've had people say, well, I'll wait till you get better and then we'll get together. So I have had a lovely, wonderful, I call'em the Prayer Warriors, a group of ladies that I do life with, and they have prayed for me every step of the way. They even, and I talk about this in the book, we had a Say a Prayer, Cut My Hair party right before I did chemo and I think rejoicing with them and finding laughter in our friendship together has been really life giving.Ivelisse Page:
Yes. I think you're absolutely right. I don't think it's intentional. I just think that people's lives are busy and their activities and they may assume that someone else is filling in those gaps for you. I know I saw that after my father passed away when I was little, from cancer. Leading up to the funeral, and even up to a week or two later, we had a tremendous support, and then after that it just, it just dwindled away and I saw how my mom struggled at time, and thankfully she did have some close friends that stepped into the gap to help her. But, I think it gives us more compassion. I think that because you've experienced what you have and myself with my childhood, I think that it gives us compassion for people who are hurting and trying to find solutions. And I think that's why this podcast is so important to share because people need to know that there are simple ways that we as a community can come together and let people know that they're not alone. And so I agree with you. That's an important aspect that we need to try and find ways to be more as a community and help those right next door to us.Andrea Herzer:
That's right, and always be looking for someone. When I go to my doctor's appointments, I'm always looking for the person that I can connect with and talk to, and minister to. I call it finding, I talk about this in the book too, finding fellow travelers and even in the airport when I'm in a wheelchair going to the gate, they line you up with other people, with wheelchairs. And so we just have a little party together. We end up talking to each other, connecting with one another. I've had the opportunity to pray with people and that also happens when I go to the cancer center that I go to over in Houston. It opens doors and gives you opportunity to connect with other people who feel isolated.Ivelisse Page:
Yes. How can we, as followers of Jesus do better at sharing the message of God's hope with others in a way that is relevant and meaningful to their lives?Andrea Herzer:
I think we need to listen. We need to lean in and not be afraid to get our hands dirty. We need to also recognize that sometimes the thing that's gonna lift your burden the most is by sharing burdens with someone else, sharing their burden, coming alongside them, finding out what their needs are. And especially in this day and age, people are just in their lane. They're busy, they maybe they're overwhelmed and they don't really wanna reach out to somebody who seems needy. We use the term a lot, red flag. Oh, I have a red flag about that person, they seem really needy. Well, it's good to set boundaries. You don't want someone to take over your entire life to a point where you're unable to do the things that God's called you to do or minister to your own family. But we don't need to be afraid to come alongside someone who's hurting or who has had a lifetime of hurt where they just, where you can see it on them and maybe they're struggling with depression or experiencing, temporary being unhoused or some people struggle with addiction or things like that. And I think Jesus would've ministered to them. Jesus would've gotten to know them and wanted to speak healing and truth into their lives. And the only way we do that is by not ignoring people, getting to know them.Ivelisse Page:
I agree. What advice would you give to someone who's listening right now and struggling to maintain hope?Andrea Herzer:
Well, I would say, that the Lord calls you his beloved. He's never going to leave you or forsake you. Your health, your depression, your anxiety, all those things are not the barometer of God's love or favor in your life. And sometimes I have to remember that nothing can take away my role in the body of Christ, nothing can take away my position as a beloved child of God. And there are times, especially for those who are going through, health issues where, for instance, when I was bald and in a scooter and I'd gained a lot of weight from the steroids that were keeping me alive. I'll be honest, I felt less than lovely. I did not feel beautiful. People treat you a little bit differently when they can see the visible signs of illness. But then I had to remember that those who look to the Lord are radiant and their faces are never covered with shame. Shame is a huge hope stealer. So when you start to walk into the truth of who you are in Christ, no matter what, no pain, no illness can take away God's love for you. Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. And when you begin to truly believe that in the depths of your soul, you'll find your hope. And you'll find your strength.Ivelisse Page:
Thank you. For those who are listening and need an added measure of hope, strongly encourage you to get Andrea's book. It would be the infusion that you need each day, 120 days worth of incurable faith, lasting hope while you're going through such a difficult situation. We are gonna put the link in the bottom of our notes, but I just wanted to share with everyone one of the ones that I loved, in the book and it's called Growing Pains. And it says, and I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. It's Philippians 1:6. And you wrote three of my family members had severe life altering health issues while I was undergoing treatment for cancer. I temporarily suspended treatments so I could have the strength to support my loved ones, and God held me together even as I fell apart during the heartbreaking devastation of this season. He used the health challenges that broke all our hearts to create new spaces within them. Our empty spaces ached for healing of body, mind, and spirit. But these spaces also held room for the promise of future restoration and deliverance. It turns out that our hearts were too small to receive all that Jesus had to give us. They had to become broken to make space for more faith, more love, and more compassion. We learned that the Lord never allows destruction only to leave us in devastation. So if you feel broken apart, destroyed, or in pieces, then just wait. God is doing a mighty work in you. Growing pains are evidence that you are enlarging your capacity to receive the abundance of Christ. Andrea, that is just so beautiful and so perfect to end today's podcast. Thank you so much for giving of your time today and for infusing all of us with His hope.Andrea Herzer:
It's been a joy to be here with you. Thank you so much, Ivelisse.Ivelisse Page:
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