At some point we all struggle with letting with the worst aspects of our life dominate our personality and our day-to-day interactions with others.
It could be an unwelcomed medical diagnosis.
It could be a financial mountain that is too steep to climb.
It could be family relationships which seem too broken to ever be mended.
The old adage is that time heals all wounds. That’s true in some cases, but in others people have a tendency to travel unabated from crisis to crisis, letting their woes and worries define who they are.
God, however, didn’t intend people for people to be steeped in their own misery – no matter how painful it may be. That is the message Deanna Favre and Shane Stanford want to get out with the new book they have co-authored, The Cure for the Chronic Life: Overcoming the Hopelessness That Holds You Back.
If Favre’s name rings a bell, it should. She is the wife of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player from 1995-97, now in his 20th season. Deanna struggled with overcoming a breast cancer diagnosis in 2005 as well as working through Brett’s addiction to painkillers in the early stages of his career with the Green Bay Packers.
Stanford is the pastor of Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church near Pensacola, Fla., one the denomination’s largest congregations with more than 5,000 members. He has been challenged with hemophilia throughout his life and is also HIV-positive.
Deanna Favre recalled Brett’s addiction and how it made her realize that chronic problems develop in many, often unexpected, ways.
“One of the patterns we learned about with Brett is how you can fall into this chronic life,” Favre said in a telephone interview with Everyday Christian. “Whatever the problems may be, whether it’s an addiction or an unhealthy relationship, you start shutting down and you end up being defined by those problems.”
Deanna had problems of her own as well. She was diagnosed with breast cancer days after her brother died.
“When you are diagnosed you really do feel alone,” she recalled. “You want to sit in a corner and feel sorry for yourself. While I was dealing with these issues, a friend of mine from our Bible study came over and I unloaded on her about how I was feeling.
“She told me she didn’t know what was happening in my body and that it would be tough, but that Christ was in there too. That is where my strength came from and why prayer is so important.”
The theme of growing into a greater sense of purpose through faith – and then to do something to act on that realization — is a consistent theme in The Cure for the Chronic Life.
Favre created the Favre 4 Hope Foundation, which in part provides assistance to women struggling to cover the costs associated with their breast cancer treatments.
“Breast cancer happens to anyone, there’s no age limit,” she said. “It can be at 18, 30, 60 years old. It really hit me in the waiting room hearing other women asking if they would have the insurance coverage to get a shot for their treatment the next day.
“I thought, ‘How blessed am I that I have great insurance and a husband who makes a great living for us?’ It was the right thing to do. I know not everyone can do what we did, but can find your something and be passionate about it.”
Her faith and life in the public eye has also helped her deflect the criticism and critique of Brett’s on and off the field ups and downs. While she attends Vikings home games along with other players’ wives, oftentimes when the team is on the road she’ll watch on TV like the rest of the country. She said she has learned to tune out critical analysis of Brett’s play or actions by announcers and analysts recognizing they too have professional responsibilities.
But as much as she may enjoy watching her husband play, she said she’ll avoid watching ESPN or paying much attention to the sports media. The last three years Brett has publicly gone back and forth about retiring from football since leaving Green Bay three years ago. After a year with the New York Jets and a loss in the NFC Championship last year quarterbacking the Vikings, he returned to Minnesota at the end of training camp for one more run at the Super Bowl.
“I will get text messages from friends asking if he is really retiring or did this or that and I’m not even sure what they’re talking about,” she said. “I don’t sit around watching the coverage.”
Stanford’s struggles have been quite different that Favre’s but no less poignant.
Having contracted AIDS at 16, Stanford has built a career in the midst of discrimination and doubt because of his disease. His “something” has been to share advice and his own struggles from the pulpit and in writing to help Christians understand that however unfair life may seem that God is and should be a driving force.
In the book, Stanford shares a story about going to a gas station to fill up his car after having left the hospital where a close friend of his had just died. He saw two scenes side by side which bothered him. One was a mother with a daughter in tow buying beer and cigarettes and hustling her along angrily. At the same time he saw a van with a husband berating his wife for not managing their children in the backseat better while they were complaining about the snacks which had been bought for them.
How fair was it that he just experienced the death of a dear friend who would loved a chance to keep on living to see two people at vastly different stations in life take what they did have in the way of a family and take it for granted?
“I drove away feeling hurt, but as I thought about it, had I never made a mistake and can’t I have broken places in my life?” he said. “Everyone does. God transforms and draws people close to Him through their struggles. Who are we to look on other people critically when we don’t see the plank in our own eye? (Matthew 7:3-5) … That is part of what the chronic life is about, is not getting engulfed in these struggles.
“Let your inspiration play out and let God lead.”
For an excerpt from the book, click here.