Kathie Lee Gifford: ‘God Is the Creator of Joy’
By Movieguide® Staff
Former LIVE! television host, actress and author Kathie Lee Gifford knew that she wanted to perform for a living from the moment she entered this world. But Gifford said that once she gave herself to God, purpose took on more profound meaning and allowed her to brave some very low moments.
“All I ever wanted to be my entire life was to be an actress and a singer. I think I came out of the womb with a pratfall,” Gifford said in an interview with I Am Second in 2018. “I was already me then. I was already made. I just had a lifetime ahead to discover how to express it.”
Movieguide® awarded Gifford the Visionary Award at the 2020 Movieguide® Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry.
Gifford recalled how her passion for entertainment and her love for Jesus became inseparable.
“My dad had three different jobs, my mom sold eggs door to door, so it’s not as if I grew up with privilege, but I was privileged to have parents like I had,” Gifford remembered. “Years later as a 12-year-old girl I walked into a movie theater to see a movie called THE RESTLESS ONES. That was the first movie that the Billy Graham organization had put out, and I remember when the movie was over, there was a sort of an altar call, ‘Would anybody like to come forward and give their life to Jesus?’ I couldn’t get up fast enough.”
Although her brother discouraged her from going down and giving her life to Jesus, Gifford insisted and remembered it as the “greatest decision I ever made in my entire life.”
However, her faith in God did not make her career in entertainment easy. In many ways, it made it more difficult.
“I’ve been working in the entertainment field since I was 10 years old,” Gifford explained. “To be a young woman in that business is brutal because of the rejection, and it’s nonstop. Spotlights are tough because some people die under them. I came to life under them.”
Another turning point in how she saw herself as a child of God and an entertainer came while at school.
“I remember I went to a school once where I was very very unhappy because I felt like I was trying to be cookie-cutter. They were trying to make all of us look alike sound alike,” Gifford said. “I think that’s the exact opposite of what God wants us to do. God wants us to sing our own song, write our own story, put on our own show. That’s the joy of living. I may admire another person but I don’t want to be that person and miss out on being me. That’s the adventure of a lifetime.”
However, Gifford’s hardships as a young star did not stop with her identity. Gifford maintains that with God’s help, she has learned from the lowest points in her life.
“I’ve been in the desert, as many times as I’ve been on a mountaintop. But I’ve learned my deepest lessons from the deserts, for sure,” Gifford confessed.
One low point that Gifford said God eventually redeemed was her perspective on her marriages.
“I was married for a short time when I was quite young. It was a huge mistake and tremendously unhappy time in my life,” Gifford said. “I thought I’d never, ever find joy in a marriage.”
She continued: “While I was in New York, I met a man named Frank Gifford after a four-year friendship we fell in love. And from that 29-year-old marriage, I got the two greatest gifts I’ve ever known in my whole life my son Cody, and my daughter Cassidy. God took something horrible in my life and wove it into something beyond belief beautiful.”
Another hardship Gifford experienced while in the limelight were false accusations. But Gifford noted how God still turned those difficulties for His ultimate good.
“Other times, I was accused of ugly things that were not true, that I ran sweatshops for God’s sake. All I’ve ever done in my entire life has been an advocate for children. It was a very dark period for me,” Gifford said. “But you know what happened from that? God put me to work. So what God did was He said, ‘OK Kathy, it’s unjust what you’ve been accused of, but once you get your eyes off you for a minute, look at the unjust conditions around the world, maybe you didn’t cause it, but people are doing that to other human beings, and you need to care about it.'”
Gifford continued: “We got laws changed because I stayed in the fight with God’s help, and He gave me everything I needed to fight that fight.”
Gifford remarried, and she said God again worked through brokenness to produce joy.
“My husband was unfaithful to me during a brief time in our marriage. It was devastating to me, but I was able to stay in my marriage and have God heal it, and as a result, I’ve heard from hundreds of 1000s of people since then, who got the courage from that,” Gifford said.
“On a beautiful Sunday morning, I found my husband passed on to heaven. And from that moment on I had the peace that passes all understanding. He saw Jesus, and Jesus took his breath away,” Gifford continued. “My son then came and helped me try to revive him. He had the same peace.”
While Gifford mourned her husband’s death, she rested in her faith in God, which allowed her to rejoice that her husband was with Jesus.
“We’ve all had our sad moments of missing him. But you don’t find somebody under those circumstances and find yourself rejoicing,” Gifford explained. “Even as you’re holding your dead loved one. I was rejoicing. My tears are tears of joy. And I couldn’t bear to think about, ‘oh I lost woe was me I’m a widow.’ No, I’m so grateful that Frank is exactly where he’s supposed to be.”
Gifford, 67, said that her toughest battle now is loneliness.
“My biggest struggle at this point of my life is loneliness,” Gifford reflected. “I’ve lost my parents, my husband is gone now and my children live far away from me. I still live in the same big house where we made a gazillion million memories. And there are times when I am overwhelmed by loneliness. But I’ve discovered that if I just keep thinking about what I’ve lost, I don’t pay any attention to what I still have. I don’t want to live my life and hopelessness, I’ve been there.”
Gifford said that she relies on the joy and purpose that only faith in God could give someone.
“Every single day, if I wake up and I have a pulse, I have a purpose,” Gifford said. “Life does beat you down, loss beats you down, hardship takes its toll, illness destroys your body. But Jesus said it’s not gonna be easy. He said, in this world, you will have trouble. But rejoice. Take heart. I have overcome the world. And because I have, I will empower you to overcome your world. My joy is non-negotiable,” Gifford said.
“I want to be purposeful, every day of my life, every moment of it. God is not the enemy of joy. He is the creator of joy. We got a lot to rejoice about. You want to fly? You want to soar? You want to dream big dreams and see them come true? You need to partner with the right person. Only Jesus. Only Jesus,” Gifford concluded.