Kathie Lee Gifford Recount’s How Jesus Carried Her Through Pain and Heartache in a Powerful Video
By Diana Tyler, Contributing Writer
“As a 12-year-old girl, I walked into a movie theater to see a movie called The Restless Ones. It was the first movie that the Billy Graham organization had put out, and I remember when the movie was over, there was sort of an altar call: ‘Would anybody like to come forward and give their life to Jesus?’”
So, begins Emmy Award winner Kathie Lee Gifford’s “I Am Second” film. The nine-minute video, divided into three acts, chronicles the highs and lows of her lifetime spent under the spotlight, and shares her powerful message of hope, healing, and joy in the midst of sorrow.
The actress, singer, and TODAY co-anchor speaks candidly in the film about her “mountaintop” moments, such as the aforementioned impromptu altar call when she accepted Christ, as well as her “desert” seasons, such as when she was unjustly accused of running sweatshops in El Salvador and when her husband Frank Gifford passed away.
“I’ve been in the desert as many times as I’ve been on the mountaintop,” she says, “but I’ve learned my deepest lessons from the deserts, for sure.”
After Kathie Lee came to Christ as a child, she was enrolled in a school in which she was very unhappy because “they were forming cookie-cutter kids that looked alike, sounded alike, thought alike.” She says this was the antithesis of what God has called us to. “[He] wants us to sing our own song, write our own story, put on our own show.”
From a very early age, Kathie Lee has been putting on shows. A born entertainer, she once wrote to Walt Disney when she was six years old, comparing herself to Annette Funicello and Hayley Mills. “I think I came out of the womb with a pratfall,” she says with a laugh.
But, she learned that the entertainment industry is rarely as delightful and sunny as a Disney movie. She recalled being rejected for a role in Charlie’s Angels because she wasn’t pretty enough. It was her inherent optimism and unflagging sense of humor that led her to respond to the casting agent with, “When you’re castin’ a cartoon, let me know!”
“Spotlights are tough because some people die under them,” she says. “I came to life under them.”
The source of her joy amid hardships, including hardships infinitely more difficult than an agent’s rejection, is God. She says that going forward and accepting Christ after the Billy Graham film was “the greatest decision in my entire life.”
It was God, she says, who helped her “stay in the fight” to be an advocate for children (she’s heavily involved with the Association to Benefit Children) and gave her the courage to remain in her marriage after her husband was unfaithful.
“I was able to stay in my marriage and have God heal it,” she says. “As a result, I’ve heard from hundreds of thousands of people since then who got courage from that, courage to forgive their husbands or their wives, courage to keep their families together.”
With both her parents and husband in heaven, and her two children far away, Kathie Lee says that her biggest struggle at this stage in her life is loneliness.
“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 in hopelessness. I’ve been there. That’s a town I’ve been to, hopelessness.”
Perhaps the most inspiring part of the video is at the end of the third act, which is titled “Non-Negotiable.” She tells the story of how actor Paul Newman once took her hand in both of his, kissed it, then, looking up at her with “those unbelievable blue eyes,” said “Kathie, I’m 80 something years old, and I still have a pulse.”
Kathie Lee went to bed that night and told herself, “You know what? Every single day, if I wake up and I have a pulse, I have a purpose.” She resolved then and there to live purposefully every moment of every day, no matter her circumstances.
“Life does beat you down,” she says. “Loss beats you down. Hardship takes its toll. Sickness destroys your body.” She goes on to quote Jesus’ encouraging words in John 16:11(NIV): “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Her joy, she says, is non-negotiable. “I tell you that’s the beginning of bliss in life. You understand where your joy comes from, and then you protect it with everything in you.”
Contrary to what the world may say, she believes God is not the enemy of joy, but the creator of it.
“You want to fly?” she asks. “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.”
Kathie Lee has learned that the only way to have lasting joy, victory, and true fulfillment in this life is to make ourselves second to Jesus Christ. In the words of the apostle John, He must become greater, and we must become less.
Have you made yourself second to Jesus Christ?
“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 14:11 (NIV)
Diana Anderson-Tyler is the author of multiple novels and faith-based fitness books. She is also co-owner of CrossFit 925 in San Antonio. Diana can be found on Twitter here.