Katherine and her husband Jay Wolf are out to disrupt the myth that joy can only be found in a pain-free life. And they know this because they are living it.
At age twenty-six Katherine worked as model and was living in a beach house with her husband and their new baby.
But in April 2008 everything changed. Katherine suffered a brain stroke caused by arteriovenous malformation and lost fine motor coordination, had double vision, deafness and facial paralysis. This is unimaginably scary, but Katherine and Jay say their Faith in God is the reason their circumstances have not devastated and cripple them.
How does the couple achieve a joy-full life despite their traumatic, devastating and life altering circumstances?
Let’s be honest, after a debilitating stroke or brain injury, most marriages are not intact. Many marriages fail to survive unusual traumas but Katherine and Ray are still together after a sixteen-hour brain surgery, forty days in the ICU, a year in neuro rehab, and eleven operations to their 2015 miracle second baby they fondly call “John Bomb.”
They credit their successful relationship to Hope.
“Hope is not a sentimental accessory to life, fragile as a butterfly wing. It is real power. It is strong enough to raise the dead. But it’s also tender enough to heal the most fragile places: our souls.
Hope may be the most important word in the human language. It is the experience that keeps us persevering through an unsafe world to an unknown future. And yet we often hinge our whole life on a definition of hope that is more about what we really want to happen in our life, the positive outcomes we know are just out of our reach.
For us, realising that hope is not about a yearning for positive outcomes but about yearning for a relationship with the source of hope, Jesus changed everything. The outcomes matter less than the process and that paradigm shift changes everything. Either I’m going to crumble under my unmet expectations or I’m going to change how I view it all. If we know we can’t change the outcome, or even automatically wish or even pray away our circumstances, we can be encouraged knowing we can choose the story we tell ourselves,”
Katherine continues to say “Couples have to find a way to process pain, trauma and challenges together, knowing that each person’s process will be different in timing and expression, yet knowing it’s worth the wait to seek healing together. Telling and re-telling to each other the story of God in the midst of our pain, the true story of our hurts and the true story of our hope, invites us to remember it together as a couple.” She says that they learned the importance of seeking a trusted advisors for help, even as a married couple. We’re big proponents of seeking outside wisdom and counsel, from a therapist to a pastor to a wise confidant. And certainly, the prayer on our lips often regarding our marriage is that God would give us a soft and compassionate heart toward each other, and He has.”
Katherine on Suffering:
“Suffering of some kind or another is an inevitability in human life but when we go through pain, we often feel like our experience is the worst thing that’s ever happened to anyone! We feel like the victim. The book of Job reveals this mysterious and overwhelming communion found with God when He allows us to experience hardship. And though we would never choose it, we get to choose to steward it well. And that act changes the story, not just for ourselves, but for anyone who witnesses what we do with our pain.
Will it break us or make us into something new? Will our hearts be hardened in bitterness or softened in compassion?
We feel broken and unable to embrace the life that is right in front of us because we are fixated on the life we don’t have. Yet so much of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus was about sorrow and suffering that it seems strange that people who claim to follow him will follow him anywhere but to their own crosses.
I learned that God’s goodness is not attached to my earthly circumstances, and God being good was not based on anything going on in the physical world. The cross put everything in perspective.”
Jay, her husband adds that “Suffering well begins with not being so scared of the hard stories and really wrestling with the sad and bittersweet nature of life and not being afraid to talk about that and again find God in the midst of it,” Jay said. “We don’t need to be afraid of suffering because as believers, we can be confident that struggles will give us depth and richness to our experiences with God and with one another.”
Beauty in Katherine’s Words
The stroke left Katherine confined to a wheelchair for a long time but she says that “we all have invisible wheelchairs inside us. Those limitations and wounds can be the beginning of something new, and quite powerfully be the beginning of a flourishing we could have never experienced without them.”
“Life defines us. Suffering redefines us. And hope refines us.”
Katherine and Jay did not lose their joy, and they credit that to their faith in God. In their second book, “Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything,” the two take turns explaining how they overcame the toughest moment they’ve faced in their lives.