Focus on the Family Broadcast

Believing God’s Promises Despite Hard Circumstances

Believing God’s Promises Despite Hard Circumstances

Are you waiting for a miracle from God? In this winsome presentation, author and bible teacher Lisa Harper shares how the Lord redeemed gut-wrenching disappointments in her life. She encourages believers to see “waiting on God” as the bold stance of a prayerful warrior, not an attitude of defeated pessimism.
Original Air Date: February 15, 2024


Lisa Harper: The two biggest miracles I’ve seen with my own eyes that happened in our family were on the other side of waiting. On the other side of waiting a long time.

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John Fuller: Well, I wonder if you’re waiting for a miracle. We have encouragement for you today from author and speaker Lisa Harper. This is Focus on the Family and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Well, John, I am a big fan of Lisa Harper and I know you are too because we both worked with her for so many years when she was the director of Focus on the Family’s outreach to women. She’s an excellent communicator with the ability to teach deep biblical principles. Uh, she’s just completed her doctoral studies at Denver Seminary combined with a very warm and relatable sense of humor. Lisa has never been married. She says Mr. Right never found her because he got lost and wouldn’t ask for directions.

John: (laughs).

Jim: And she’s the proud adoptive mother of a beautiful Haitian girl named Missy. And as we share a portion of Lisa’s testimony today, you’ll hear why that’s a really big deal.

John: And this message was given at a Propel conference for women. Our thanks to our friends at TBN for allowing us to share this with you. Here now Lisa Harper on Focus on the Family and we’re starting just after her opening remarks.

Lisa: Jesus says, “In this world, you will have trouble.” He says, “Take heart, I’ve overcome the world. But in this world, you will have trouble.” And sometimes I think when we have an event like this and you have amazing communicators like this and incredible worship, a lot of us are diluted into thinking, “If only I tried harder. If only I did better, my life would be perfect too.” And y’all, that’s just not the gospel.

The gospel is He is good, but life can be really hard. So as we leave, I really want to talk about what it looks like to live and to love and to lead in a way that honors our Creator Redeemer when nobody’s watching, when nobody’s clapping, when really nobody’s running alongside us. And so I want to tell you a couple of stories. I want to tell you what happened two weeks before I started the process with Missy.

I, um, was in the process of adopting a little girl named Anna Price. And I had been in the process with her the entire pregnancy of her momma. Her momma’s name is Marie. And I just loved Marie as much as I loved her unborn baby girl. Marie’s a hard-core crack addict and a prostitute. And um, by the grace of God, she chose not to abort her baby even though she had no idea who, who the daddy was. It was one of her johns. And then by the grace of God, she met me and decided I was supposed to be Anna Price’s mother.

And I was at every single doctor’s appointment. And I spent Christmas, a couple of years ago in a crack house with Marie because when I was with her, she used less. And because I’m older, I became a mother figure for her. And I mean, I loved that kid. And I told all my friends, “Do not give me baby gifts. Do not throw parties for me.” Some of you who may have been in an adoption process yourself or know people who are in a-an adoption like that, it’s very high-risk adoption. It was a very high-risk pregnancy.

The doctor said it was unlikely that Anna Price would actually live because of the hard-core drug use. But you know, month after month, she kept getting stronger and stronger and stronger but I still said, “Y’all don’t, don’t give me any baby gifts. I really won’t know until about a week before she’s born, um, if I actually get to bring her home to Tennessee.” And five days before I was supposed to go pick her up, the adoption agency called me and they said, “Lisa, it’s unbelievable but every single paper has been signed, even the state where Marie lived they have agreed with the state of Tennessee, the only person who’s legally allowed to bring Anna Price home from the hospital is you.”

They said, “You can go ahead and get everything ready. You can go ahead and buy the crib. She’s coming home with you. Her name is legally Anna Price Harper.” And I got off the phone and I don’t know if you’ve ever carried a dream for a long, long time and it finally comes true and it’s just like, “Ahhh,” like this weight comes off you. And I just kind of collapsed on the couch and began to just bawl crying happy tears, you know? I was just like, “I can’t believe it,” after all these months of kind of holding my breath and all those years of not thinking I was good enough to be a mom, thinking I was too damaged to be a mom. I was like, “Oh my goodness. In less than a week, I’m going to have a baby girl, um, in the-in the upstairs bedroom.”

I was just undone. And so I called my momma, I called two or three of my best friends and I just, I could hardly speak I was so excited. And about 30 minutes after I got that phone call, there was a knock at the door, and it was the UPS man and he handed me this big box. And I saw on the return address, so it was from a friend of mine in Atlanta and I sat down on the couch and cut it open and then just went, “Oh my goodness,” because there was a miniature, from zero to six months, mink coat in that, in the box. Um, my friend’s husband has done extremely well.

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: And she wrote me a note and she said, “I know you told us not to bring you gifts or send you anything for the baby because it’s been so precarious,” but she said, “I saw this this week and I just thought that’s for Anna Price.” And she said, “Lisa, I just couldn’t resist. And I thought the white will represent the fact that she’s innocent, that that generational sin and bondage will end with you being her momma.”

And I held that little coat and I just started crying again because I thought, “Nobody’s ever sent me a mink coat.”

Audience: (laughs).

Lisa: And um, and then about 30 minutes after that, the phone rang again. I saw on caller ID it was the adoption agency. And I thought, “Oh, they’ve forgotten something. I need to scan something and email it to them.” And-and I said, “Hey,” and as soon as I heard my agent’s voice, I knew that was not the case because her voice was just, um, just so heavy.

And she said, “Lisa, I don’t even know how to tell you this.” But she said, “The bottom has fallen out,” and I don’t have, um, the legal freedom to tell y’all what happened. But I lost that baby. And um, and basically lost that little momma that I had just grown to love almost like a daughter. And it didn’t end pretty. The-the bottom fell out of that story. There is no pretty bow like on that video.

And I sat back down on the couch, and I thought, “God, I-I can’t do this. I have waited too long. My heart is too broken. You have picked the wrong girl for a story like this.” And I don’t know how long I sat there crying and they weren’t happy tears anymore before my phone rang again and I saw it was my momma. And I thought, “Oh good night. I don’t even know how to tell my mom that I’m not going to bring Anna Price home.”

But as soon as I picked up the phone, my momma started talking before I started talking. And she said, “Baby, I-I so hate to ruin your celebration today but,” she said, “remember a couple of days ago when I told you about that ongoing bladder infection I had?” And I said, “Yeah, momma, I remember.” I was afraid she’d be able to tell I’d been crying. And she said, “Well, we just got the test results back. The doctor just called me and it’s actually not a bladder infection at all. I have cancer and it’s stage four. It’s metastasized into four major organs.” And she said, “Honey, um, it’s just not good.” And she said, “I need you to pray for me.”

And so I didn’t even tell her about Anna Price at that point. I just started praying for my momma. We’re both crying. We got off the phone I thought, “I’ll call her later when I’m stronger and she’s stronger and I’ll tell her that, um, she’s not going to have a granddaughter.” Um, we have three grandsons in our family, but no granddaughters. And then about 30 minutes after that, my phone rang again, and it was my daddy.

My parents divorced when I was five and uh, I love my daddy. He’s a very, very gruff man. He was very abusive when I was younger, but he tendered in his old age, really loved Jesus who’s kinda like a miniature John Wayne. And um, and I thought, “Oh good night. I don’t-I don’t know how to tell this to my dad.” I hadn’t called him yet and told him that Anna Price was coming home. And so I thought, “He’ll be able to tell because I don’t know if I can talk.” But again, he started talking even though my dad was kind of a monosyllabic man, he started talking before I did. And he said, “Baby, um, the cancer is back.”

My dad successfully, we thought, had battled colon cancer for a couple of years and he said, “I just came back from the surgeon’s office,” and he said, “Honey, I need you to pray for me because he told me that it is now, um, in both lungs and the surgeon just gave me two months to live.” And he said, “It’s going to be okay. I don’t want you to worry about it but, uh, just want to tell you so you could pray.” And I honestly don’t remember the end of that phone call. I don’t remember if I prayed for my dad or not. I just remember putting the phone down and going, “God, I can’t. I can’t do this. This is too hard.”

And y’all, I heard like two words from the Lord. He said, “Stand. Lisa, stand. And lean. I’ve got you. I’ve got this. Let me carry you.” It was two weeks before I got the phone call about Missy. I named Anna Price after a woman in Luke’s gospel. If you have your Bible, we’re gonna look at this story pretty quickly. I named that little girl I loved so much Anna Price because I love Anna’s story in Luke 2. She’s one of my favorite women in scripture.

Her story is in Luke 2 and we’re gonna begin here at verse 36. And I’m reading from the ESV, it may read just a hair different than your translation. “And there was a prophetess Anna, the daughter is of-of Phanuel,” by the way the name Anna means favor, “she was the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Aser,” or the tribe of happy. “She was advanced in years having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin.” That means she was about 13 when she got married. “Then as a widow until she was 84.” So if you’ve done the math, most New Testament theologians think she was approximately a hundred and three years old. She’s been a widow for over eight decades.

And y’all, she goes to church every single day. And the word there worshiping in the original language in the Greek means serving. So she went to church, and she just poured everything she had into God’s purposes and God’s people. Eighty plus years she waits for her dream to come true. Her dream was I will see the salvation of God’s people. I’ll see Jesus. Eighty years she persisted, she waited. You know, waiting and perseverance are not very popular terms in post post modern culture. I feel like they’re kind of like, uh, hot dog vendor at a vegan festival, you know, nobody’s real excited about perseverance and waiting.

And yet God talks about that all the time in the analogy of scripture from cover to cover and I’m a total cover to cover Bible girl. From cover to cover, God talks about the benefit of waiting. I brought just a few of the verses beginning with “I waited patiently for the Lord and He turned to me and He heard my cry for help. I waited for the Lord and He heard me.” The next one is Isaiah 30:18, “Therefore, the Lord waits to be gracious to you and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you for the g-Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” Do you know in the Hebrew what the word blessed means? Is happy.

It means you’re actually your joy and your ability to wait are-are mutually connected. Those are congruent. Your ability to stand and wait and your capacity for joy, to be happy, those are actually congruent. Those are related. Isaiah 40, you know this one. Most of cross-stitched it if we grew up Bapticostal. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” Chris quotes this all the time.

The next one is in Lamentations, “God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.” It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.

John: Well, you’re listening to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and we’re hearing from Lisa Harper today. And if you’re enjoying her approach to the scriptures, let me recommend you get her devotional book. It’s called Life. And we have that here. We’ll send that to you for a gift of any amount to the ministry today and, uh, we’ll also include a free audio download of Lisa’s entire presentation. So donate today and request those resources at or call for details 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459. Let’s return now to more from Lisa Harper.

Lisa: Y’all this book says, “Wait.” This book says, “The posture of perseverance,” that’s not passivity. It’s absolutely not passivity, that is the door to a miracle.

Audience: Whoo.

Lisa: If you will stand and go, “No matter what’s going on in my life, You are good and You are sovereign and You are merciful and no good thing will You withhold from him whose walk is righteous or her who often stumbles. You are good. You’re going to do it, Lord. I believe you’re gonna do it. I may be old and wobbly, but you’re gonna do it because you’re a good God.” What are you standing for? What are you waiting for? What miracle is on the other side of your perseverance? Y’all there’s huge miracles that happen.

I love the story of Anna because if you back up, you read in the middle of-of Luke 2 about this teenage couple named Joseph and Mary. And they bring this baby boy named Jesus, Emanuel, God with us, Wonderful Counselor. According to the book of Moses, they bring him to temple in Jerusalem when he’s eight days old because that’s what the law of Moses said they had to do. It said, “The first male who opens the womb,” in other words, the first-born son in every family, “you bring him to temple. And you present him before the Lord to be consecrated to the Lord, you present him before the Lord as an eight-day old infant.”

So you stop and think about Anna. She’s a hundred and three. And she’s in the, in the girls bathroom and she hears her best friend Simeon who’s also old as dirt and he’s-

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: … in the temple. She hears him begin to sing because Dr. Luke says, “Simeon, this man had also prayed the same thing Anna had prayed, ‘Lord, don’t take me home until I see you. I don’t care about anything else, Yahweh, just let me see Jesus. Let me see Jesus.’”

Most theologians think he’s in his eighties based on some other documents. So he’s an old man, she’s an old woman. I don’t know if they dated, it would be so cool if they did.

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: But when he sees this teenage couple walk in to temple and Joseph is wearing a backpack from The Gap and there’s pigeons squawking in the backpack because they didn’t have enough money for doves to sacrifice. They had to get the scratch and dent version of sacrifice because they were poor.

And they come walking in the temple and he’s got pigeons in his backpack and Mary is carrying an eight-day old baby boy and the second Simeon sees that baby, he goes, “Ahhh, it’s Jesus. It’s Jesus. He is the savior of all mankind.” He begins to sing a song he’s written himself, he’s never sung it before. He begins to sing in temple and Anna’s in the bathroom and she hears the song and because he’s old his voice is thin and it’s wobbly and she thinks, “Oh, he’s broken another hip.”

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: And she charges into the temple so that she can help her friend. And the second she starts running toward him down the aisle, she sees that baby. And Anna a hundred and three years old, we’re told, and coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting. Waiting for the redemption of Israel. He’s here. He’s here. He’s here.

Y’all, holding up a sword and a shield and standing. That’s not the posture of passivity. That’s actually the posture of power to say, “He will do it. Lord, I’ll walk where you tell me to walk and until you tell me to move, I’m gonna stand here with my front to the rest of the world and I’m gonna say, ‘My God is a great God.’”

Audience: Amen.

Lisa: The two biggest miracles I’ve seen with my own eyes that happened in our family were on the other side of waiting. On the other side of waiting a long time.

The first you know about. It’s my baby girl Missy. She was actually my third adoption attempt. I can’t imagine life without her. The second miracle happened two weeks after I committed to adopt Missy. Two weeks later, my mom had major surgery. And she went in, uh, she had a five-hour surgery, and the surgeons came out and they said, “We think we’ve gotten all the cancer. We believe as a result of the surgery, your mom has a really good shot at-at living past this.”

And then three days later when she was still in the hospital and her health was declining, the surgeons met with my sister and I again and they said, “We actually can’t explain why her health is declining. But if something doesn’t turn around, her numbers are getting lower and lower and lower and even though we think we got the cancer, we also think y’all need to prepare for your momma’s death.” And uh, my sister and I were keeping vigil at her bedside. They had intubated her. She wasn’t speaking much. She was mostly out of it.

But four days after the surgery, she opened her eyes and she kind of whispered, “I need to see your father.” My sister looked at me because our dad, our stepfather dad angel, had died a year before. And we thought she was just groggy from the meds and she thought daddy was still alive. And so my sister is not as gabby as I am and she thinks I’m closer to momma so she was like, “It’s on you. You gotta tell her.”

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: And so I leaned down and I said, “Momma, I-I am so sorry but um, daddy died last year.” I said, “Remember daddy-daddy died in the hospital this time last year?” And she said, “Not that daddy.”

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: She said, “I want to see your father. I want to see Everett.” You know, my mom and my dad divorced when I was five years old, and it was as ugly a divorce as I’ve ever been witness to. Uh, a lot of abuse, um, extreme anger, huge animosity. I think they had spoken maybe two sentences in 40 years. My mother and my father, uh, pretty much hated each other.

And so I-I wasn’t sure how to respond. I said, “O-okay, momma.” And I called dad, this is the daddy who had colon cancer that metastasized to lung cancer. And I said, “Daddy, you know, we’re in the hospital with momma and she’s asking for you.” And he said, “All right. I’ll be there in an hour.” My daddy comes swaggering down that hospital corridor and I told you he’s like a mini, a mini John Wayne. He’s just little five seven, hundred and sixty pounds soaking wet. I got momma’s genes.

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: Um, she’s actually little too, but anyway.

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: Um, he comes swaggering down the hallway and he’s-he’s a quiet man, kind of a taciturn man. And he came up to my sister and I, he had called us when he got there so we were outside momma’s hospital room. And he said, “I love you girls. Your mom and I need some privacy. Y’all stay out here, I’ll be back in a minute.”

And he goes in, and I turn to my sister and I said, “What if he puts a pillow over her?”

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: Like, I mean I didn’t know.

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: He didn’t come out for about thirty minutes. And-and I really was concerned. We didn’t know what was happening. And he came out about thirty minutes later and he said, “I love you girls. Your momma’s gonna be okay. And I’ll be back here tomorrow.” And he just walked away. And my sister and I were like-

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: And we walk into mom’s hospital room and, y’all, she’s sitting up in bed. There’s color in her cheeks and this is as close to verbatim as I remember it what my mother said. She said, “Your father prayed for me. He anointed me with oil and I’m going to be fine.” And I was just like-

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: I mean I thought they’ve given her that medicinal pot because I-I mean-

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: I-I-I just can’t even believe this.

Audience: (laughs)

Lisa: And y’all, that was April of 2012, um, until my father died January, uh, February 13th, 2013, and until my daddy died, every single day he and my momma talked on the phone and she saw him, they saw each other two or three times a week. It wasn’t romantic.

They just, they knew each other at their worst when they were kids and God redeemed their story. And I-I-I was just amazed by it. That year for Christmas, went home to Orlando and momma said, “I’ve invited your dad to be here.” And we have this big family Christmas where all my aunts and my first cousins and my uncle come in and we were at my Aunt Darlene’s house that year and I thought, “You know, momma, has kind of romanticized this and-and she and daddy are-are friends now but I thought our family is not gonna accept daddy because he was, he was mean and really abusive when I was younger.” And you know, they’re protecting their sister.

And-and so I was nervous. And daddy comes walking in, I’ll never forget it, y’all. It was a few weeks before, uh, he ended up being bedridden with hospice, he comes walking in. He’s still got a little bit of John Wayne swagger. But when he opened the door at my Aunt Darlene’s, every single one of my aunts, my uncle, and all of my first cousins ran and greeted him like a heroic soldier returning from the war. I mean, they just all of them lined up to hug my daddy. And I thought that-that’s it. That is it, I’ve waited 40 years. I had stopped praying that my momma and my daddy would-would ever reconcile or forgive each other, and I saw it.

You know, she’s the very last person with my father before he died. She was holding his hand, reading the Bible to my daddy. Y’all, redemption happens. Some of us just have to learn to wait, to stand, to stand in the promises. He is good. And He does good. And ultimately, everything will work out for our good and His glory.

John: What an inspirational message about the power of perseverance from author and speaker Lisa Harper today on Focus on the Family. And our thanks to our friends at TBN for allowing us to share that today.

Jim: Wow. I just love Lisa’s point that waiting is not a passive thing. A Christian who is waiting in the Lord can take on the persona of a warrior who is standing in faith. Standing with the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God and with the shield of faith which will protect them from the fiery arrows that Satan will throw at them. That’s a powerful picture. And as Lisa shared, that kind of waiting can end in miraculous answers to prayer. And if you’re struggling through a season of waiting right now, please give us a call. Our friendly staff would be happy to listen to your story and pray with you. And if your situation warrants it, you can request a callback from one of our caring Christian counselors. That’s a free service that we provide thanks to our donors.

So please, allow us the honor of coming alongside you in that way. And if things are going well for you right now, can I ask you to consider, uh, donating to the efforts of Focus on the Family on behalf of those who are hurting? Join us as we bring hope to those who need it. We receive over 2,000 requests per month for consultations with our counselors. That’s a lot of people who need help. And this is your opportunity to serve them through Focus on the Family. And when you make a donation of any amount, we’d like to say thank you by sending you a devotional book written by Lisa Harper simply called Life.

It’s an exploration of redemptive moments in scripture that prove God’s grace is more than sufficient for both the massive as well as the minuscule things of life. When you get the book from us, we’ll include a free audio download of Lisa’s entire presentation.

John: That’s right. So get your copy of the book Life by Lisa Harper and that download when you call 800-A-FAMILY. That’s 800-232-6459 or you can donate online and request those at Next time, wise advice on living a meaningful life from Dr. Gary Chapman.


Dr. Gary Chapman: I’ll tell you one of the most sobering questions I ever ask myself and I ask it several times along the journey about my kids. What if my children turn out to be like me?

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