Our guests today have experienced first hand the faithfulness of God–even in difficult times–pastor and author Dr. David Jeremiah and cancer survivor Tracy Layman. Dr. David Jeremiah is the pastor of Shadow Mountain Church and the founder of the popular radio ministry Turning Point. Dr. Jeremiah speaks to us about God’s faithfulness—-even through the difficult seasons of our lives. Tracy Layman is a wife, mother and cancer overcomer who volunteers with Compassion That Compels, an organization dedicated to bringing hope and comfort to women who have been diagnosed with cancer. Tracy Layman shares how she faced the grim news from her doctors about her cancer and how God was faithful to bring people into her life to support her and how she also felt inspired to encourage and support others facing similar battles.
During our Hardest Times, God Is Faithful: Dr. David Jeremiah & Tracy Layman – Jesus Calling Episode #104
Dr. Jeremiah: The faithfulness of God endures forever. That’s what the Scripture says. And it also says “it’s new every morning. Great Is Your faithfulness, as it’s new every morning.”
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Our guests today have experienced first hand the faithfulness of God–even in difficult times–pastor and author Dr. David Jeremiah and cancer survivor Tracy Layman. Dr. David Jeremiah is the pastor of Shadow Mountain Church and the founder of the popular radio ministry Turning Point. Dr. Jeremiah speaks to us about God’s faithfulness—-even through the difficult seasons of our lives.
Challenges Bring a New Opportunity for Faith
Dr. Jeremiah: There’s a wonderful way in the scripture where the faithfulness of God is connected with our desire for faith. Our faith isn’t in our own faith.
It’s in the faithfulness of God. And so every day every time we have an opportunity. Every time we have a challenge, we get a new opportunity to experience God’s faithfulness.
“Every time we have a challenge, we get a new opportunity to experience God’s faithfulness.” Dr. David Jeremiah
Sometimes we forget that in the Bible God is called a “Father.” I know a lot of people who have a hard time believing in the faithfulness of God because they didn’t have a faithful father, and that takes a little more grace and a whole lot more of the Holy Spirit in your life when that happens. But you know, if you ever experience God’s faithfulness one time, you’ll never forget it. And you can build on it. The Bible says we actually go from “faith to faith.” That means we grow our faith–we increase in our faith–as we experience God’s blessing in our life. Faith is something that grows on you because you exercise it. For instance, you may just believe God to get you through a day, and then you find out He’s not only good enough to do that, he can get you through a week. He can get you through a lot of difficulty if you just trust Him.
Drawing Strength from God During Crisis
I grew up in a home where we studied the Bible. We memorized the Scripture–and who knows– sometimes when you’re in a crisis, the Holy Spirit reaches down into your heart and brings back to your mind a truth that you had forgotten that you ever learned.
The long history of what I’ve experienced from God would take more than several interviews like this, but I suppose the major one in my life is the faithfulness of God during two bouts with lymphoma cancer. I was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma cancer and the prognosis, from what I understand now, wasn’t all that great, but God sustained me and took me through it. Finally through a stem cell transplant, I was cured of the disease.
I’ve always heard people talk about how when you go through something, you feel the presence of God. After that experience, I really knew how faithful He was. There was never a day–even though I would get very discouraged and sometimes frightened–that I didn’t know God was there and if I would just stop for a moment, and reflect upon it and read His word, His strength came through to me.
A Standard of Faithfulness
When we are faithful to God, we are saying thank you to Him more than any other way we could for His faithfulness to us. The faithfulness of God is our standard for faithfulness to Him and to others. And so when when God shows His faithfulness to us, it should motivate us to want to be faithful to Him. And I know that’s been true in my life; that I want to honor Him with my life and with whatever gifts He’s given me. And part of the reason for that is He’s been so good to me and to my family.
I’ve been through a lot of different stages of ministry since I have been doing what I do. I think maybe there was a stage which was a declaration stage, or just declare the word and teach the word. And that’s been important. But I feel like right now I’m in a place where I look out at what’s happening in the world today, and I’m more in an encouragement stage. I want to be a blessing and encouragement to people and help them face the challenges that they have each day; to lift up their spirits. Help them to find out how they can get involved with the Lord in a more meaningful way so that they can they can be more effective in their lives and in their ministry. think that’s probably where I’m at where I am right now.
Most of us–our intake of Biblical information isn’t in huge chunks. It’s in smaller bites–snack size in some respect. People are busy. When we started putting these devotionals together, we did it primarily for people who were running around trying to catch up with everything in life and they would grab a minute here, or sometimes in the morning, sometimes in their transit to work, and they would read something. We tried to make these devotionals in this book just enough to get you going for one day. Sometimes I think they’re more of a primer than they are anything else. They get you thinking about something, and in this book Ever Faithful, obviously get you thinking about how faithful the God is that you serve.
Lifting Others Up Through Our Walk with God & His Word
Narrator: Dr. Jeremiah goes on to talk about how Jesus Calling has been a source of encouragement for many and how its writer—Sarah Young—demonstrates to others God’s faithfulness in her own life. He also goes on to talk about how important it is to teach children about God’s faithfulness and God’s Word. He has developed a version of the Bible for kids called The Airship Genesis Bible that he hopes will foster an early love for the Bible with kids of all ages.
Dr. Jeremiah: Sarah Young is a–she’s a phenomenal person who’s had an incredible impact on people all over the world. I never seen anything quite like her writing. I oftentimes look at the best-seller list and she’s on there two or three times. Some of us are very blessed if we get on there once–she’s on there every month.
God has taken her writings everywhere and people, I think, resonate with the with the gut level honesty that comes from her words, and her genuineness in expressing her walk with the Lord, and how God has worked in her life. She encourages people because she says “if He’s done that in my life, He can do it in your life.” And people grab hold of that. That is like a lifesaver in the midst of a storm to know; here’s somebody I can look to because God has helped her, and she’s wanting me to know that God.
I just love the opportunity to get with people to lift their spirits from the principles of the Word of God.
Carrying Out the Legacy of God’s Faithfulness
Every day every child has challenges. I don’t care if they come from the most affluent family or they come from a family with almost nothing–children hit bumps. And we’re there as parents to help them negotiate those bumps and remind them that they have a God in heaven who loves them and will help them. We teach them early on to depend on God. I had a mom and dad who did that. They would always remind me that God was there. And even though I wasn’t sure what that all meant at the time, it was a seed that was planted in my heart that grew and flourished in my life. So when you have a mom and dad who love the Lord and trust the Lord–both by your expressions and by your example–you pass that on to your children so that they see that to be true.
“When you have a mom and dad who love the Lord and trust the Lord–both by your expressions and by your example–you pass that on to your children so that they see that to be true.” – Dr. David Jeremiah
What we have done with the Airship Genesis Bible is we’ve taken the unchanging, authoritative Word of God and introduced it to kids through a very exciting means that they’re already acquainted with. When you want to communicate something you have to start with what you want to say, and then you have to find out where the people are to whom you are going to say it. Where kids are today; they’re into animation. They’re into characters–that’s their life.
I walk through malls and I see little kids who are hardly big enough to hold a little phone and they’re in there doing all of the little stuff with the phone. They’re so into this–whether it’s good bad or indifferent–it’s true. What we have done is tried to speak into their life by bringing the Word of God from over here, which is really the solid teaching the Word of God. The Airship Genesis Bible is the Bible. I mean, it’s not not changed, but we’ve use this vehicle of where they are in their life to marry these two things and get them excited. It’s really been fun for me to be a part of this. I’m involved in the little thing we do on the radio each month. And I just recently was given a picture of a bunch of kids in Africa who were given the airship Genesis Bibles and they were opening it, and they were studying it. Just the look on their face was all you needed–you could tell they were engaged.
Statistics tell us that what we remember about the Bible as we get older– much of it was put into our lives when we were younger. I was asked the other day at church if I remembered being in the Bible memory association and I do remember that. I remember the little books and memorizing them and some of the rewards that you would get if you could finish this particular section of verses. Strange but true, those are most of the verses I know by heart that come back to my mind.
”Statistics tell us that what we remember about the Bible as we get older– much of it was put into our lives when we were younger.” Dr. David Jeremiah
Some of them are hard verses, but I would just think about that and remember I learned those verses when I was this high. What we can do to bring the truth of God into the hearts of children, when their lives haven’t yet been so contaminated with what goes on in our world; those will be the lasting truths that guide those children through life. It’s kind of like the North Star for them. They may get off the track, but they will never forget.
Narrator: To find out more about Dr. Jeremiah’s devotional, Ever Faithful, or the children’s bible Airship Genesis, please visit DavidJeremiah.org.
Narrator: We’ll be right back with our next guest after this brief message about a free offer from Jesus Calling.
July Family Prayer Calendar
Download this FREE Jesus Calling Daily Prayer Calendar which works with your Jesus Calling devotional. Each day begins with a guided reflection followed by space for prayers of thanksgiving and special requests.
Tracy Layman & Compassion That Compels
Narrator: Our next guest is a wife, mother and cancer overcomer who volunteers with Compassion That Compels, an organization dedicated to bringing hope and comfort to women who have been diagnosed with cancer. Tracy Layman shares how she faced the grim news from her doctors about her cancer and how God was faithful to bring people into her life to support her and how she also felt inspired to encourage and support others facing similar battles.
Tracy Layman: My name is Tracy Layman. I’m a wife, a mother and an overcomer. I call myself an overcomer because I’ve survived cancer. I was born and raised in Surrey County, Tennessee. It’s a beautiful area to live. It’s probably best known as Dolly Parton’s hometown. It’s a tourist destination with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as our backyard. It’s an absolutely beautiful place to live and raise a family.
I’m married to a wonderful man. His name is Steve and we’ve been married for 27 years. He’s my rock, my best friend; he’s an amazing human being. We have one son. His name is Reese and he’s the light of our lives and he’s a junior in college.
I found the Lord very early in my life. I may have been five or six, but I remember my brother and I were outside playing, and my dad and mom were outside working in the yard and there were some people from Shady Grove Baptist Church, which was just a small community church. They were in our neighborhood inviting people to come to church. So my mother decided that Sunday that we were going to go. From that day forward, we never missed a church service. Sunday night, Sunday morning, Wednesday night– we were always there.
The Words No One Expects To Hear: “You Have Cancer”
In 2015, our son had just graduated high school. And he was heading to college in the fall. So my husband were entering a new season our lives where we were about to become empty nesters. One morning I was getting ready for work, and I went to the bathroom and there was blood. I was obviously alarmed, but I dismissed it as hemorrhoids, bought some over-the-counter medication, and went on with my day.
As the weeks went on my symptoms didn’t improve. They got much, much worse–so bad that I really was very uncomfortable sitting. I would have to sit on one hip. So, I remember I called my doctor and told her that I had the worst case of hemorrhoids in the history of the world and that I needed to see her.
So I went in and saw her, and she said “yes, you do have hemorrhoids, but you’re close to 50.” I was forty-seven at the time. She said “you need to go ahead and have a colonoscopy.” I remember calling my husband complaining about the fact that I was going to have to have a colonoscopy to have my hemorrhoids fixed.
So on September 28, 2015 I had a colonoscopy and the doctor walked in and closed the door and told me that he had found a tumor. And I remember looking at him and asking him if he thought it was cancer. And he said yes.
I held it together until he left the room, and then I looked at Steve and I said “well, that wasn’t the news I was expecting to hear.” And honestly we drove home in complete silence. The only words really that were uttered were “I can’t believe this is happening,” and “this is unreal.” And honestly what I’ve found is people that are diagnosed with cancer, nobody ever expects it’s going to happen to them. I mean, we all know someone who’s been diagnosed or is battling, but nobody ever expects to hear those words.
“We all know someone who’s been diagnosed or is battling [cancer], but nobody ever expects to hear those words.” – Tracy Layman
So the first person that I knew I had to tell was our son Reese. He was five weeks into his freshman year in college. So we drove up to East Tennessee State University the next day and sat him down. Told him that I had cancer, took him to dinner, and took him back to his dorm and left. Honestly, that was the absolute hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.
My husband was a rock. He went into crisis mode. He is by nature–he’s a fixer and he wanted to just make sure everything was fixed. So he immediately went into the research, and making sure that I had the best doctors, and making sure that I was taken care of, and made sure that I had everything I needed.
After I was diagnosed, I had to have a CT scan and that CT scan showed that I had a couple of spots on my liver. And then I had to have a PET scan which is a little more advanced scan that will lead to cancer and that scan showed that the two spots on my liver were actually cancer. So I remember my phone rang from UTI hospital and I got the news that there were a couple of places on my liver. And I remember looking at my husband and I said “let’s go to the bookstore because I want to get a devotional book.” And I went to Books-A-Million and grabbed a Jesus Calling devotional and went home and opened up that devotional. And for me, from that moment on that’s how I started my day. I had been missing out on that morning time with God–that prayer time with God. And that’s what brought me the most comfort.
Jesus Calling has gotten me through some of the hardest days of my life. When I’ve been worried, the fear, and when I’ve had doubt and honestly days when I just felt sorry for myself. I could open this book and God would speak to me through those pages.
“Jesus Calling has gotten me through some of the hardest days of my life.” Tracy Layman
A Grim Diagnosis
I met with my oncologist to go over and discuss my treatment plan, and he informed me that my cancer was stage 4; that it had spread to my liver, and also had a lymph node involved. He explained my treatment plan–which was two different kinds of chemo–and I was going to have 33 radiation treatments.
He asked me, “Do you have any questions?” And I looked at him and I said “well, I have the question I think everyone in my position has. Am I going to die?” And he looked at me, and he looked at my husband, and he looked back at me, and he said “your cancer’s metastasized. It’s spread to your liver. You’ve got a 15 percent chance to live three to five years.”
“You’ve got a 15 percent chance to live three to five years.” – Tracy Layman quoting her physician
I remember when my oncologist told me that I had a 15 percent chance to live three to five years, I remember holding it together until I got out to the car, and I lost it at that point. And I just thought: I’m not going to get to grow old with the man that I love. I’m not going to get to see my son graduate college. I’m not going to get to watch my son and get married. I’m never going to get to hold my grandchildren.
It was a tough, tough time.
Divine Visitors During a Time of Need
So, on October the 19th I started chemo and radiation and you know, it was tough. You know, everybody knows the side effects of chemo the nausea and of course, with radiation, I had pelvic floor radiation and that’s a brutal treatment. Radiation lasted six weeks, and I had chemo every three weeks and I had a total of six chemo treatments.
I was at the Cancer Institute, and it was my second chemo treatment, and my chemo treatments lasted six hours. And I’m sitting in my chair and in walks this angel who goes by the earthly name Kristianna Stewart with Compassion That Compels. And she had some executives from Altar’d States with her. They were there delivering Compassion bags and Altar’d State had sponsored my bag. She walked up to me and my husband and she said “we’d like to know if you would like to receive a bag, “and of course I said yes.
So they handed me the bag, and the bag is so well done. It had a blanket, soft mints, tea, a mug, two journals, a pen, a Chick-fil-a card, and a Jesus Calling devotional. So, they presented my bag and she prayed with me and my husband. It was just absolutely beautiful. It was the most beautiful prayer I’ve ever heard in my life. And honestly, I just felt the Holy Spirit came down and wrap His arms around me.
From that experience all the way home my husband and I just kept talking about it all the way home. But it was God’s love in action and compassion from complete strangers. So I told my husband, I said, “I need to reach out to her again and and thank her again for this beautiful gift.” And so he looked her up on Facebook and Compassion That Compels comes up on Facebook. And from that, our conversation started and we became friends.
I had several other friends that had been diagnosed with cancer. And I wanted to send them a bag because I wanted them to experience what I experienced. So I sent several of my friends a bag and from there when they received their bags they also wanted to get involved with the ministry because it’s such a beautiful ministry. We actually now have a Compassion community here in our area, and we deliver bags to other overcomers–women battling cancer as well.
I’ll never forget. We delivered a bag to a lady who had been diagnosed with melanoma. She said “girls, I am so thankful for you guys,” she said. “I need you girls. I need to talk to somebody who’s going through what I’m going through.” And so, you know, it’s so much more than a bag. You know, it’s hope and emotional support.
The Power of Sisterhood and Community
I had the wonderful opportunity to go back to the Cancer Institute in 2006. I had just finished my treatment and I got to go back with Compassion That Compels and Altr’d States and deliver bags. And it was such an amazing experience to get to be on the other side of the bag, you know. We delivered 40 bags that day. I’ve also delivered five or six bags here in my own community. I’ve also sponsored bags to other women battling cancers in other states. So that’s been a wonderful experience. I also sponsored a bag for a lady in Louisiana and she and I once again connected through social media and became friends.It’s absolutely sisterhood. It’s a community. It’s a woman just like you. That’s battled cancer. It’s a community of prayer warriors. I’ve made friends for life there otherwise I would have never known.
I would encourage anyone to go to their website to check out CompassionThatCompel.org. And if God lays it on your heart, donate to this wonderful ministry because it’s changing lives. I could have had chemo any day of the week, but God had me sitting in that chair that day. He was at work, and He had a plan, and my life’s forever been changed.
“[God] was at work, and He had a plan, and my life’s forever been changed.” – Tracy Layman
Treatment, Prayer and Healing
After 33 radiation treatments and four of six chemo treatments, I had a scan to see if the if the chemo was working and the cancer was gone. The report said “no evidence of disease. Complete response.” And that is music to the ears of a cancer patient. My husband asked my oncologist if he was expecting that outcome and he said, “No. Only 5 percent of people with her advanced stage cancer ever see remission. So no, this is not the norm.” I remember looking at him and saying “you have no idea how many people have been praying for me.”
I’ll never forget when I was having radiation, and you have it five days a week, so you get to know your radiation therapist really well. And one of my radiation therapists was walking me back that day to have my treatment and he looked over at me and he said “you know, you’re on our prayer list at church.” I said “Really?” And he said “yes.” And I said “well, I have people praying for me all over the world.”
I’m a walking miracle and I feel like God and prayer saved my life. And I still have scans every three months to make sure my cancer hasn’t returned. So you might say this is where my fear and faith collide. And I’ll tell you, I’m a lot closer to God then I was 2 1/2 years ago. I don’t know how anybody goes through a life-threatening illness without God.
My advice to everybody is listen to your body. If something seems off, go to the doctor, don’t ignore symptoms. Have a colonoscopy at 50 or sooner if you’re experiencing problems. Early detection is the key to survival. And if the cancer is caught early, your chances of survival are great. There are so many advances with treatment now. Don’t be afraid. And even if you’re like me and your cancer isn’t caught early, and the odds aren’t in your favor, there are still good outcomes. There’s no place like hope. Hope and a positive attitude are key. There’s no place like hope, and with hope and God, the odds don’t matter.
“There’s no place like hope, and with hope and God, the odds don’t matter.” – Tracy Layman
Narrator: To find out more about how you can sponsor a Compassion That Compels bag for a cancer overcomer, please visit CompassionThatCompels.org.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling podcast, we speak with noted psychologist and speaker Dr. Henry Cloud–co-author of the New York Times bestseller “Boundaries” which was recently released in a new expanded edition.
Dr. Henry Cloud: The Bible is the one that was saying all along what all the codependent literature and addiction literature was saying. But Christians, the only side of the Bible they heard was the love side. You’ve got to be loving, forgiving, patient and all this kind stuff. But the having boundaries in your love was not really being communicated. So we just went to the scriptures.
Our featured passage from today comes from the February 5th entry of the Jesus Calling audiobook:
Audiobook: Seek My Face, and you will find not only My Presence but also My Peace. To receive My Peace, you must change your grasping, controlling stance to one of openness and trust. The only thing you can grasp without damaging your soul is My hand. Ask My Spirit within you to order your day and control your thoughts, for the mind controlled by the Spirit is Life and Peace.
You can have as much of Me and My Peace as you want, through thousands of correct choices each day. The most persistent choice you face is whether to trust Me or to worry. You will never run out of things to worry about, but you can choose to trust Me no matter what. I am an ever-present help in trouble. Trust Me, though the earth give way and the mountains fall in the heart of the sea.