By Andrea Logan White
Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
I began to write Perfectly Unfinished while thrown into a season of suffering unlike any I had ever faced. David and I had unexpectedly lost two very precious loved ones within just a few months of the release of God’s Not Dead. Only four months before its release, David’s mother died suddenly. Then our beloved Pure Flix partner and mentor Russell Wolfe, producer of God’s Not Dead, succumbed to ALS at age fifty, just two months after the movie’s release. We had been so sure that God was going to heal him on earth, yet he took him to heaven instead. Heartrending. These sudden losses at a time when we were celebrating God’s surprise gift of such success stirred the still lingering grief over two others who had been taken in their prime just a few years before. David’s dad had died tragically seven years earlier, meaning that neither of his sweet parents who had served the Lord as Mennonite pastors ever got to witness the success of their son’s movie. And David’s cousin, only nineteen years old and very close to us, died tragically in his sleep a mere four years ago.
On top of the deep grief both David and I experienced, I’ve been suffering the past few years with relentless physical ailments and have been diagnosed with several frightening, vague, and elusive illnesses: fibromyalgia, acute migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, a genetic disease called porphyria, Lyme disease, and a condition called POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), in which the resting heart rate is very high and blood pressure extremely low, causing one to faint. Housebound for three months with this condition when I started writing my book, I had fears of dying and leaving my precious children motherless. And though I’ve spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on mainstream medicine, chiropractors, herbalists, and endless other medical options, I’ve had adverse reactions to more treatments and medications than I can count.
In light of these overwhelming symptoms, I’ve been striving to find a healthy balance of rest, nutrition, physical care, stress care, therapies, medications, tests and more tests, research, and of first and foremost, the Word of God and prayer, only to have to confess I haven’t been able to find anything close to the healthy balance of such things. This has left me deeply discouraged.
In the year of writing my book, at times I’ve been too ill to drive, been unable to walk, lost vision in one eye temporarily, and even been completely bedridden at times. So I turned to some well-loved sermons from preachers of the gospel, but came up disappointed in my lack of faith. The apostle Paul writes, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV). But truth be told, when I literally could not walk, I was filled with panic, not faith.
Honesty and transparency start to get a little scary at this point, and I’m all too aware that this next confession is going to earn me some less than affirming mail from some, but the reality is that more than once, as I sat in the emergency room, Scripture did not comfort me at all. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” but that wasn’t true of me, even though I wanted it to be. I didn’t have a sense of confidence or assurance at all. I had doubts of God’s love. I had heart-racing fear—and lots of it.
I often sat there completely alone (David was at home with the kids), and I did not have joy in the midst of suffering. I wanted to know why I was suffering so badly. I saw no signs of heavenly mercy.
Well, except for one thing. I met people there. People who were also in pain or fear or despair. I’m the kind of person who tends to strike up conversations. For instance, there was an older gentleman who just needed to have someone listen to his laundry list of medical issues. Making him laugh and finding a few things in common about our experiences relaxed him as he waited. And there was a young mom with her little boy in the ER one day. Her wide eyes and shaking voice told me her fear was powerful. Her little boy lay limp on her shoulder, hair plastered with sweat to his forehead. We talked about kids and how hard it is to watch them suffer. How frightened we get. We both felt less alone. And then there was a teenage girl in an office all by herself. I guessed why she was there alone and stepped in to be the calming adult for a few minutes while she waited to see a doctor.
I may be exposing myself as a little dense here, but it took me a few times (not that I recommend making the ER a habitual destination) before I caught on to the fact that I was seeing heavenly mercy at work in those conversations, but it didn’t look like the kind of mercy for which I’d been pleading. Our God is most unpredictable.
At least one of our children has been ill every single week for over seven months. Between them and me, we’ve been in and out of emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and blood-drawing labs more times than I want to count. I’ve prayed the verse “by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5), yet have found myself disappointed that illness, rather than healing, seems to dominate our home. I’ve prayed, spoken the Word of God, repented, rebuked, and had others pray for us—yet the onslaught of illnesses continues.
I know full well that countless people are dealing with far worse, and they would gladly accept my little list of woes in exchange for their own devastating circumstances. Terminal illness. A marriage falling apart. A son or daughter maimed in combat. A loved one arrested. An injury suffered. Victimization by some violent act. The list goes on and on. The last thing any of us need is a “who’s got it worse” comparison, for there is always someone who does have it worse!
So here’s the challenge I’ve been facing. While working on my book, these struggles have seemed all-consuming to me. In recent months, faced with one painful circumstance after another, I’ve been genuinely surprised (and downright discouraged) to discover how often I feel just as lost, just as anxious, just as insecure, just as unqualified, and just as frustrated as I did at 2:00 a.m. one morning as I watched my son Everson’s temperature climb—hands shaking, heart pounding. But I kept hiding it all under the veneer of the “successful” Christian life, whatever that means. I admit it: I’ve been profoundly disappointed in my spiritual responses and lack of knowing or comfort from God in my travails of life.
I don’t know how this season of trial is going to end, or if it will end. Will it end in deliverance? Healing? Or more suffering? When I get to the end of this period, will I hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” reverberating over the loudspeaker? (That seems highly unlikely, given how I’ve been struggling. How could I deserve the words “well done”?) Or will I come up terribly short? (I feel like I already have!)
Will I be cut from the part I am playing in God’s story? (Isn’t that what I deserve?) Fired? Blacklisted? Surely there are far more qualified people to write a message—spiritual grown-ups—rather than the uncertain child I feel myself to be these days.
It’s not that I hadn’t expected more trials and difficulties. I get it that those are always a part of life on this earth. But I did not expect my responses to result in the same old struggles.
As I see it, feeling as confused and defeated as I have been, I had a choice to make about my book. Either I would choose not to write it, or I would push through it anyway and see where God took me. I’ve pushed through storm after storm ever since I’ve been saved. How do I stay close to God through such things? Where has this series of storms been coming from? Where will it lead?
I only know that quitting would ensure my defeat. Pushing through at least holds some possibility of my discovering the truth God wants me to know. So the book I’ve actually written is quite different from the one I’d planned to write. Because I’ve decided that rather than write from what I’ve already learned, I will write instead from what I’m struggling to discover. Rather than writing from victory, I’m writing from the battlefield, exposing where I’m defenseless.
Why? Because pretending I’m living in victory when I’m not will just lead me deeper into defeat. Life is hard, and I despise the veneer of faith-talk portraying that life is all good when much of it is quite bad. I can’t stand frauds, so sometimes I’m so real that I walk away from conversations, thinking, Hmm, why did I just share that? I’ve been told by some that I am way too transparent. But I believe, humbly, that not pretending and being honest are gifts God has given me to help others. We truly heal from each other’s stories. We can connect with each other when we confess our unanswered questions and weaknesses.
We are defenseless against our enemy if we are living a lie.
There is much I do not know, but of this I am sure: I cannot win this battle alone. I’ve done it alone—did it for years, in fact—to disastrous results.
I’m not going back to alone!
I’m going forward with Jesus.
And I will tell you why. Because at the risk of sounding like an old hymn, I once was lost. Wholly, desperately, devastatingly lost. I’d lived my life my way with no personal connection whatsoever to the God of the universe—the God who made me. And when finally, at the end of myself, I cried out in desperation, “God, if you’re really there, show yourself to me”—he did. Dramatically. Personally. On the spot.
And then he began to change me.
I take comfort in this: I know I’m not the only one on this battlefield. There are legions of us who are Christians, who love God, who follow Jesus, yet who, when brutally honest with ourselves, limp along and falter with our wounds and with the shortcomings and limits of our faith. But we try to hide it. We smile and say we are fine when we are anything but.
Simply put, even though I understand the principle that God is the finisher of my faith, I’m not as “finished” as I believe I “should be” by now.
So I decided to see what God has to say about being finished.
And since not knowing how the scene finally ends tends to cause us the most angst, I’m looking at the ultimate final scene. Jesus, hanging on the cross in the midst of an agonizing and torturous death, spoke three final words before he breathed his last: It is finished. Jesus finished his work. Speaking words so critically important that he chose to declare them as his final words from the cross.
We may not yet have a clear understanding of what “it is finished” means for us and our struggle. I don’t yet. But we do know that Jesus declared it to be so. So let’s agree that we will struggle together to discover the power these words can have in our lives today.
Adapted from Perfectly Unfinished: Finding Beauty in the Midst of Brokenness by Andrea Logan White. Click here to learn more about this title.
Andrea Logan White appeared to be living the “American dream” or what many would call a “perfect life.” However, underneath the happy veneer of the model, actress, and producer, was a subtle, caustic voice leading to emptiness and self-destruction. She was being crushed under the weight of her own drive for “perfection.” Andrea’s remarkable (and often tabloid-worthy) journey that took her from hanging out in the Playboy mansion to finding God at a stop light on Hollywood Boulevard is a page-turner, but it is not the whole story.
Even discovering Jesus, finding an amazing husband, having beautiful children, and embarking on an exciting career didn’t hold the “happily ever after” Hollywood ending Andrea had envisioned. No matter how successful, how spiritual, how loved, she was still enslaved by a lie the Enemy uses against many of us: she felt she needed to be “perfect” to be accepted by herself, by others, and by God.
Andrea shares her struggle with life-threatening eating disorders and self-defeating thought patterns, and she reveals the beautiful discovery that God’s love meets us not in our perfection, but in the most unfinished places of our life. In Perfectly Unfinished, Andrea exposes the powerful truth that continues to change her life: God loves us just as we are, just where we are; for it is in the midst of our brokenness and imperfections that Jesus is at work completing us so that we may share fully in his holiness.
Andrea Logan White is a wife, mother, actress, and co-owner of Pure Flix Entertainment. Andrea starred in Sony Pictures’ Mom’s Night Out, and she produces films, develops scripts, pursues her acting career, speaks at conferences and churches, and shares encouragement on her blog. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, David A.R. White, and their three children.