Chrystal Evans Hurst is a writer, speaker and worship leader and the daughter of respected pastor and teacher Dr. Tony Evans. Chrystal’s upbringing was rich in love and God’s teachings, but even with that foundation, she still experienced uncertainty, fear and pain in her life. She describes how God was always the author of her story, even though the times that were difficult, and how she has been shaped for the better by those experiences. Our second segment features author Edie Sundby– a woman who was given 3 months to live–and how she overcame this death sentence by her faith in God and a determination to start walking to keep living.
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling podcast. Today we speak with writer, speaker and worship leader Chrystal Evans Hurst. Chrystal grew up as the daughter of Dr. Tony Evans and was surrounded by the Word of God her entire life. Although her upbringing was rich in love and God’s teaching, when she ventured out on her own–she experienced missteps, pain, and disappointment–but the truth that God was still a part of her story, no matter the circumstances, kept her ever resilient. She has written about her experiences in a new book called “She’s Still There: Rescuing the Girl in You.”
Finding Peace In Uncertainty: Chrystal Evans Hurst and Edie Sundby – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode 60
Chrystal Hurst: My name is Chrystal Hurst. I am the author of “She’s Still There,” and the co-author of “Kingdom Woman” and I write to encourage women in their spiritual walk. I am a wife and a mom of five.
I am the daughter of Tony and Lois Evans, and my dad is a pastor and has been all of my life. I’ve been in the same church that he founded for 40 years. There are four of us total siblings, and we grew up in a great Christian home. Having had the opportunity to be a part of the development of the spiritual legacy that my family has, has of course impacted me. I definitely think that that has formed a great foundation for who I am today, and what I’m doing today, but a part of my experience and a part of my story, has everything to do with the choices that we each individually get to make about what we take on from our history in our upbringing, what we eschew, and how we learn to embrace the Lord in our own lives as individuals; how we choose to engage with Him in everyday life.
Built in me, was the desire to succeed; straight A student. I did not really work hard to be a people pleaser. I just ended up pleasing people, because I just usually did what people wanted me to do. I just made the grade, and just showed up and did what I needed to do.
I went to school aiming to major in marketing, and I took my first psychology class, that was a part of that degree plan and remembered thinking, “this is for the birds.” There’s all of these philosophies with how people work and how marketing should work. It was overwhelming to me and I went from marketing, a very subjective study to accounting; objective study.
How Did I End Up Here?
If you live life for any length of time, you realize there are a lot of things that are not easy answers for. You spend so much time trying to fit them into a construct. One of the things I have learned to do–I wouldn’t say well but I’ve certainly a lot better at it than I used to be–is what it means to live with loose ends and to be comfortable that everything in life won’t be tied. To learn what it really means to have faith–faith not in something that always fits in a box, because God can’t fit in a box.
…I looked in the mirror and thought, “OK, how did I end up here?”
People assume that I was a preacher’s kid who couldn’t wait to get loose and do my own thing and I really wasn’t like that at all. I was always a good girl and I liked being a good girl. But what I always say is; Adam and Eve in the garden had the best parent ever, but he gave them the best gift ever, which is choice; and that’s the same gift we all have. Sometimes we make good ones and sometimes we don’t. I made choices in college. I was in love, and this was a guy who had been a family friend. I mean, this is not like some random person I ran into in college, it was somebody I’ve probably known since we were 14, and we ended up going to the same college and things happened. So I did end up pregnant at 19, which was one of the first moments where I remember thinking, “whose life am I living?” This does not even mesh in the least with what I anticipated from my life. I didn’t grow up around a lot of teenage pregnancy, not my friends—you know a lot of times it’s societal or its cultural—nope, not my story, not my family situation; everybody’s married. But I looked in the mirror and thought, “OK, how did I end up here?”
There was a huge cognitive dissonance in my life, because of this reality that was totally juxtaposed against my expectation.
When you are alone, when you feel alone, when you feel isolated, when you feel ashamed, when you feel guilt, when you feel bad–in that place; that place where it’s a little dark, and you’re a little farther away from everybody else or at least it feels that way–that is a place where you can get to know God in a completely different way, than you can when everything’s right side up. So I searched the scripture during that time in a different way. I cried out to Him in a different way. I begged Him in a different way. He really was the closest Person to me because I felt so far away from everyone else. So, because I experienced a deep love from Him of me during that time, that is, and still continues to be, my deep theological truth that I really want to convey to people in all different circumstances of life–caused by themselves, or caused by other people, or just life–that regardless of where you are, God really, really does– He really, really loves you.
There’s Always A Next Thing
It took me a minute to realize how I was getting through it because people would say, “you know, you seem to bounce back from that teenage pregnancy.” Then I hated my job in my 20’s, “and you seem to bounce back and find out how to do something you loved.” Then I got married, and then I had babies and I thought that that’s what I wanted. And I did. But when I was changing diapers and making chicken for dinner again, I was like you know, whew… “and you seem to bounce back and you know you seem to still remember what it is that you love to do.” Then I gained weight and then lost it, “you seemed to bounce back.” So what I have realized is, there’s a theme in my life of bouncing back. My husband has some challenges; some health challenges. He’s given me permission to say; seven years ago he had a stroke and that set off a string of circumstances in our life. Even from that people go, “it just seems like you’re doing so much and you’re handling it all well,” and so the theme of my life has been bouncing back. What I realized is there are certain things that have always happened. One of those things is that I keep choosing to believe that God has a plan.
My mother used to speak that verse over me when I was a teenager. I remember hearing Jeremiah 29:11, and “okay, mom yep, yep, yep.” But that was seared in my conscience and subconscious. So it kept coming back to me. There’s got to be a plan here somewhere. This is not adding up. There’s got to be a plan. I kept looking for it. Then when I realized that I kept looking for it the same way I would write down, “OK, what am I good at. What has God given me? What does He put in me? My abilities, my strengths, my weaknesses, my skills, my passions, my personality.” I said; “what do I think He wants me to do now?”
I kept searching for the gift of me. The third thing is that I kept looking around me. What are the experiences that I have? The opportunities that I have? Whether they were caused by me, or just good or bad; what is in front of me?
Every time I look for what He says about me that’s true, what He’s put in me that’s a gift, the experiences and opportunities that I have in front of me. There’s always a next thing. There’s always something to do.
Building Foundations With Jesus Calling
Narrator: As Chrystal began to see and live out God’s plan unfolding in her life, even during the uncertain times, she began to want to share her experiences and encourage others that they too could find peace in the uncertainty. She talks about how she draws strength from God’s Word and from her devotional time with Jesus Calling, and how she developed the foundation for writing her own book, “She’s Still There”.
Chrystal: The longer I live and the more I choose to obey God for what I read in His Word the “knower” that He gave me naturally, and that is heightened by the presence of the Holy Spirit in my soul, I know a lot of people read the devotional and may read the verses there, but I take the verses and I open up my Bible and I read that verse in my Bible and many times read verses before and after for a little context, and then I write my own Jesus Calling.
I think it scratches a deep ache that we all feel, that we want the God of the Universe to speak to us.
What is He actually saying to me in my situation in life? I love that it’s simple because it gives room for me to do my own work. I started reading it before I actually went back and read the beginning–the introduction, the instructions–where she says, “this is what I gained from spending a lot of time talking to God, and what I want for you is not just to read this. Yeah, read it, but I want you to do this for yourself. I love that the heart of the author is not just to say “here are my devotionals shared with you,” but “here’s what I did, and here’s what I want you to do too.”
I think it scratches a deep ache that we all feel, that we want the God of the Universe to speak to us. So many people, including myself at certain times, struggle to know if they can speak with God or is He’s really going to reach out to me. It’s Him in words, you know, to a degree.
I get better and better at knowing. As I walk in that, peace comes, because I know that I’m where God wants me to be and when I’m not sure, I’ve learned to experience peace in the waiting, and in the uncertainty, and in talking to God and telling Him where I need him to make up the difference because I don’t know.
Reach For The Next Rung
Even in the “not sure,” I still know that God holds the unknown in his hand. His plans are not thwarted, even when we screw up, because we don’t have every decision made cold turkey, right on time, every time. He, in His providence, can hit a moving target with a crooked stick.
My dad said, when I got pregnant, he said, “you know you’re still going to be able to climb the ladder, you’re just going to have to climb with a backpack.” So in my head, there’s always the next rung. I can’t figure out how I get to the top. Can figure out how I reach for the next rung. And so what I tried to do in “She’s Still There” is to write about the practical reach–what does that mean? How do you do it? How do you keep believing and not let go? How do you resist the urge to fall into mediocrity or accepting that your expectations will never come to pass? How do you keep fighting for your life and honoring the life God has given you? So in a real practical way, I just think, there’s always a reach. I tried to describe in a very practical way what that looks like.
The next thing is I started a blog, because I just missed writing and hearing my own voice. When I was in my late 30’s, I picked up a bunch of weight. The next thing was, “girl lose it–go out for a walk.” You can do that when your husband’s at home and your kids are asleep. You can do something. And so there’s always something in what I felt was so many people because they’re reaching for the tap of the wrong they are the top of the ladder. They forget that there’s a next rung. There’s a next step if I can just refocus myself, and refocus others on the one thing they can do to move forward.
Laying It All Before The Lord
We have a choice, when life turns out differently than what we expected. We can dig our heels in the ground and be angry, or bitter, or de-railed, or we can learn to flow with it a little bit. Life is life. It’s life. None of us, none of us are 100 percent living the life we expected to live. Not one person. And if they say that, then they haven’t lived long enough. Because life is life, but we can learn. It’s kind of what we were saying earlier about living with loose ends. You learn to live with an open hand, and to say “I can choose to dig in, and grab hold and develop calluses, because I have a calloused heart maybe. I can develop bruises because it’s physically painful for me to think about what I wanted that I didn’t get. We can develop dislocations because holding on to what we wanted so tightly dislocates us from Who we’re with, where we are, or what we thought we wanted. When you hold on tight, the only thing that’s damaged long term, is you. So what you have to do is say, “you know what? Here are the things I can control. Here are the things I cannot,” or I should say, “here are the things I think I can control. And here are the things I know I cannot.”
With all of it lay it before the Lord. It takes coming to the cross to a whole other level. Because it changes what you bring to the cross. So many of us; we bring certain things that we’re willing to lay at His feet. But if you live long enough and choose to open your hand, you bring more with you to the foot of the cross, because you’ve learned to trust that He can handle it better than you.
Now, in just a real practical sense, I literally have to talk to myself, is it okay to say that? I literally have to say; I literally have to say–out loud sometimes to myself–“girl let it go. Let it go!” I have to remind myself of what really matters.
God’s Unique Purpose For Your Life
Most of the time where expectations mess us up, is how we react to them. We can have the expectations, or feel a loss for not meeting them, but we react in a way, and how is what messes us up. It’s how we talk to the people we love. It’s how we speak to ourselves and how we look in the mirror, it’s how we speak about our lives. It’s how we choose, or don’t choose, to keep trying It’s how we respond to the shift in expectations that determines what happens next. Chuck Swindoll said, “10 percent in life, what happens in life, is what actually happened to you. The other 90 percent is your attitude about what happens to you. While we may not be able to choose what comes to us in life–a lot of it we can, but a lot of it we cannot–we always get to choose how we react to what happens to us in life.
Inspiration will die on the vine, but something that is deeply planted can move and grow slowly bit by bit over time.
I still get messages from people, and it’s been humbling to hear how the book is impacting them. The main thing that I’m hearing them say is; that they’ve decided not to give up, or to stop living as if they have given up and that I’ve given them hope of that one thing.
When I hear people saying, “you know what, I’ve got to call that person and make amends,” Oh, I’m overjoyed. When I hear them say that they never thought that they could go back to school, but in the next couple of months they’re going to call and get some applications done, or log on and start working on their financial aid. Oh, that makes my heart sing. Inspiration will die on the vine, but something that is deeply planted can move and grow slowly bit by bit over time.
So that’s what I’m hearing. The takeaway is; you believe that you are valuable, that your life as a one of a kind beautifully unique event, and then what is the action step that you will take to honor the life that God has uniquely given to you?
Narrator: To find out more about Chyrstal Evans Hurst’s new book “She’s Still There: Rescuing the Girl in You” visit ChrystalEvansHurst.com.
We’ll be back with more of the Jesus Calling podcast after this brief message from Audible.
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Edie Sundby: A Choice To Get Moving
Narrator: Our next guest has an incredible story of survival. Diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Edie Sundby was given three months to live. Fear and worry about her family were her first reactions, but a strong desire to live and move prevailed. While enduring over 79 rounds of chemo, plus radical liver and lung surgeries, she decided to walk 1600 miles along the California Mission Trail and during that time she got closer to God, and learned to trust Him for her life.
Edie: My name is Edie Littlefield Sundby. When I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and given less than 1 percent chance of survival, I had two choices. I could go home and I could prepare to die, or I could get moving. I decided to embark on a once in a lifetime faith journey, and became the first person in history to walk the sixteen hundred mile El Camino Real Mission Trail.
I grew up on a cotton farm in Oklahoma. My folks were probably the most authentically real Christians that I have had the pleasure of knowing in my entire life. They walked their faith, they lived their faith, they breathed their faith. They were their faith. So in times of drought, when things were not going well, they never seemed to mind. Daddy would work a little harder and mother would use a little less. We would always get by and they always put their faith in the Lord. They knew there would be times of plenty, and there would be times of struggle, because that’s just how life is.
It was wonderful growing up on a farm.
I would get on our Daddy’s old plow horse, Old Nelly, and all of us would ride around, and scare the chickens, and the cows, and we would pretend to be cowboys. So, I grew up wild and free in the prairie wind dreaming of being a ballerina one day, and then the next daydreaming of being a cowboy.
What You Can Do By The Grace Of God
I was raised with a wholesome feeling that anything is possible. In fact where there’s a will, God will provide a way, especially if the will is of honest, and honorable intent and you’re passionate.
My mother was a person of enormous faith and was a beacon of light to me, and I knew because she instilled in all of us; that whatever we wanted to do, with the grace of God, we could do it.
At a very early age I wanted to see the world and I would dream about seeing the world. When I was 15, I, through the Rotary Club, became an exchange student to go to Australia. So I spent my sophomore my junior year in high school in Australia. I didn’t have the money for the ticket to get out there, but the community backed us up.
I knew I wanted to go to college. The way to make money for college, I discovered, was by selling Bibles door to door–the Southwestern Company out of Nashville, Tennessee–and that probably was the most empowering experience of my life.
I learned that you had to be as enthusiastic at the last door at the end of the day as you were at the first, because that last door deserves that same kind of attention, or respect as the first person you talk to.
Success Beginnings And A Promising Career
I grew up dreaming up big things and then I went to the University of Oklahoma. I paid my way, I also worked as a janitor. I worked in the Philosophy Department on a philosophy journal as a proofreader. I did all of these things to pay for my college education. My senior year in college, I had an opportunity to interview with IBM, and they were looking for people like me who were enthusiastic, self-motivated people who enjoyed sales. I always enjoyed sales because it’s a meritocracy. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what sex you are. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin. It doesn’t matter anything about you–as long as you can connect with people and you can understand what people need, and what people want, and you can present a solution to what they need and what they want.
I rose up through those sales ranks of IBM and I had an opportunity to be a vice president of Pacific Telesis in San Francisco, where I had an organization of five hundred people reporting to me and my organization. I was an area vice president of marketing. So all of those wonderful career things happened just one step at a time.
I met my husband at IBM. His folks were very, very strong Christians, very devout Lutherans who lived their faith, just like my folks who were devout Baptists lived their faith. So we had instantly a lot in common, and we didn’t know each other that long before we got married. We have now been married 42 years.
When Life Throws You Curveballs, Keep Moving
We are never prepared for illness. We’re never prepared for catastrophe. It never happens at a convenient time. I, like so many people, I was finished with my child raising years and my children were on their way to college. It was their first year at college and I was looking forward to getting back into the work world in a big way. I was looking forward to having them complete their education, get their first jobs, get married have their children, the script to the normal life, if there is such thing as a normal life. Of course things come at you, and curveballs hit. The curveball that hit me was stage 4 cancer. It was in eight different organs, and I was given three months to live. My life virtually turned immediately upside down and backwards.
I knew I would do what it would take to be alive, because if you want to stand up to cancer, you have to have something to hold on to. I grabbed a hold of what I could.
I knew that I had to keep moving. For example, I fought hard for five and a half years. It kept coming back, because that’s what cancer does. I was missing 60 percent of my liver and I lost 10 inches of my colon, a couple inches of my stomach. The cancer came back again–it came back in my lungs. I lost my right lung. But through all of this, I kept moving and I wanted to live so badly that the chemotherapy–I had 79 treatments of chemotherapy–I would even put rocks in my pockets at weigh-in to get higher doses of chemotherapy, because chemotherapy was the only chance that I had at surviving cancer. That’s how much I wanted to live.
I kept walking. I kept doing things within my control. The disease was not within my control, but there were certain things I could do. Walking was one of the things I could do. Less than six months after I lost my right lung to cancer, I felt–because I’d fought for five and a half years through all the chemo through the radical surgeries, through death really, many times in emergency rooms, many times in intensive care units–when I lost my right lung, and we got it, after five and a half years, I was so grateful to be alive. I was so thankful to be alive and I’d walked all during this five-and-a-half years, and I wanted to just heal and I had learned that walking is healing. So I yearned to walk the old California Mission Trail.
Walking The California Mission Trail
I needed to heal physically. I needed to heal emotionally, and I needed to heal spiritually. The old mission trail in California starts in San Diego and it ends north of San Francisco, 800 miles. I started this walk of thanksgiving, of gratitude to the 21 old missions that line this old mission trail. At each of these missions, I would stop, I would light a prayer candle, I would say a prayer. The Franciscan missionary or parish priest would say a prayer with me, a healing prayer. I walked with family. I walked with friends. I walked alone. But I always walked with God. It took me less than two months. It took me 55 days to walk 800 miles. I walked on average 15 miles a day with one lung and when I got to the end, there in Sonoma, I did not want to stop walking.
When the cancer came back again two years later in 2015, I knew I needed to finish my mission walk. So I went down to Loredo, and with the help of cowboys: 20 vaqueros, Mexican cowboys, and about 30 or 40 pack mules, and saddle mules, made my way through the Sierras in the Sonoran Desert of Mexico following this old mission trail, another 800 miles in two months to the border.
Sixteen hundred miles sounds like a long ways; it is a long ways, but it’s really from mission to mission. There were 18 of these old Jesuit and Franciscan missions in Mexico, and there’s 21 in California. So there were 39 missions. That was my destination was to get to a mission. It wasn’t 1600 miles, it was thirty-nine missions and the love that I received in each of these and the sense of adventure to get to the next mission. It was the sense of excitement of 200 years ago; of walking. Of getting to a place of food, and water, and shelter, and prayer, and blessings and that’s how they opened their arms to me.
Grace In, Cancer Out
You know, walking is healing. As I walked this 1600 miles, I healed in different ways. My body healed; my body healed from losing my lung. There were mountains to climb and some days I felt like I would pass out. I couldn’t get enough breath into my lung, my remaining lung. But I found that if I just kept on walking, that my lung capacity–my available lung capacity–would expand it, would grow, which is how we heal. I found that toenails would turn black and fall off, but they would heal. Blisters would heal and aches and pains would all heal. I felt the same way emotionally.
God told Job, “pour out thy overflowings.” Those overflowings, those emotional overflowings for me; it was fear. It was terror. It was despair. It was all of those things that happen to us in life when we have no control.
When we pour out those overflowings of emotions, that allows grace to flow in. And as I walked, my prayer became, “grace in, cancer out,” with each breath, there was “Grace in,” and each out breath “cancer out.” A thousand steps became a thousand prayers.
The prayer I’ve always had is, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. Lord Jesus have mercy on me,” and that’s always instantly given me peace. “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me;” to trust in that mercy, and to have faith in it, and to hold on to it, and to hear it and to hear Jesus calling and to follow Jesus.
What Sarah has done with Jesus Calling is opened our hearts to Jesus “calling,” and you know, wherever our heart is our feet will follow. So, in walking a pilgrimage of the old Mission trail, I found that as my heart was following joy, gratitude, thanksgiving, God; it was following Jesus. That’s where my heart was and my feet followed, and that’s why I did not want to stop walking.
God Is Whispering “All Is Well”
Narrator: Edie’s walk to healing was a true testament of faith, courage and the power of hope. Edie wrote about her journey in her book “The Mission Walker.”
Edie: There was a time to reflect on the story, and that’s basically what the book was, it was reflection; not just on the walk, the 1600 mile walk, it was a reflection on dealing with that universal experience of confronting mortality.
I end the book with the three words; “All is well.” God, I believe, is whispering to us, “all is well.” Whenever we’re going through the struggles, when we’re going through the suffering, when we’re going through the difficulties of life, God is whispering, “all is well, all is well.”
I’d like to share one of my favorite passages if I could.
Paul reminded us of many things, and you know, Paul suffered horrendously, horrendously in prison and the difficulties he encountered were just profound. But he never gave up faith; he never gave up. He never wavered.
What is written in 2 Timothy 1:7 has stayed with me and the verse is: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear. But of power and love.”
So whatever we fear–be it cancer, be it financial devastation, be it family estrangement, whatever that is–to confront the situation with love, and understanding, and compassion, as God sees us, because suffering is only temporary. Suffering, as Romans says, suffering leads to courage, courage leads to hope, and hope never ever disappoints. Hope. Never, ever give up hope.
Narrator: To find out more about Edie Sundby and her book “The Mission Walker,” please visit themissionwalker.com.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling podcast, we visit with Andrea Logan White, who is an actress, speaker, and writer of a new book called “ Perfecting Unfinished: Finding Beauty In The Midst of Brokenness” Andrea shares how about her life and the challenges of being a Christian in Hollywood:
Andrea Logan White: You see these A-list actors. You see these beautiful blond girls with plastic surgery and on the outside they’re perfect, and so I’m like, “oh, this is what Hollywood is.” It’s perfection, and everybody’s beautiful, and perfect, and running around that they have this perfect life, and I kind of fell into that lifestyle.
I had a good two years of really scary events that led me to hit rock bottom with drugs and men and partying and all that. Thankfully, God did not take my life, but I was close to it. I have had a journey of a little bit of craziness, a lot of sin, a lot of brokenness, and a lot of emptiness that led me to finding God.
Narrator: Our featured passage from today comes from the May 26th entry of the Jesus Calling audiobook:
In a world of unrelenting changes, I am the One who never changes. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Find in Me the stability for which you have yearned.
I created a beautifully ordered world: one that reflected My perfection. Now, however, the world is under the bondage of sin and evil. Every person on the planet faces gaping jaws of uncertainty. The only antidote to this poisonous threat is drawing closer to Me. In My Presence you can face uncertainty with perfect Peace.
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.