168 – Sharing the Depths of God with Guest Shadia Hrichi, Part 1

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Sharing the Depths of God with Guest Shadia Hrichi Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungThere are few things that are both hard AND fun, but guest Shadia Hrichi says that perfectly describes writing. From unexpected beginnings to realizing God was asking her to dig deeper and share her own struggles and pain, Shadia tells how God has led and challenged her to plumb the depths of his nature so she can bring his truth to others.

About Shadia Hrichi

Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. She holds a master’s in biblical and theological studies and a master’s in criminal justice. Her Bible studies include TAMAR, HAGAR, LEGION, and WORTHY OF LOVE, endorsed by Francine Rivers, Liz Curtis-Higgs, Chris Tiegreen, Bible Study Magazine, and others. Shadia enjoys speaking at retreats and events, and loves to visit the ocean each week for “a date with Jesus.”

Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast!

Erin: Welcome, listeners. We’re so glad that you’re here with us in the deep today. We have a guest. Yay!

Karen: Yay! We’re delighted to be speaking with Shadia Hrichi. She’s a passionate Bible teacher who has a heart for seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. She’s written several Bible studies, including Hagar, Legion, and Tamar from her Behind the Seen series.

I love that: Behind the Seen. She often speaks at churches, conferences, and other events. She received an MA in biblical and theological studies from the Western Seminary, as well as an MA in criminal justice from the State University of New York.

My husband has a criminal justice major. He says you can take over the payments. You can have it.

Shadia resides in Northern California, and she loves to visit the ocean each week for a date with Jesus. Shadia, welcome. We’re so glad to have you here.

Shadia: It’s just delightful to be here. Thank you for having me.

Erin: We are excited, and we want to ask you what we love to ask everybody. What does the deep mean to you?

Shadia: Oh, such a cool question. It’s interesting. Two things come to my mind. The first thing that comes to my mind is that when I think of the deep, I think of, in the physical world, the ocean. I love the ocean and being able to spend time with the Lord there. It’s my happy place.

I try to go every single week. Right now, I live on the west coast. I love to have my date with the Lord at the ocean. It’s my happy place.

But in this spiritual realm, the other part that comes to my mind is just who God is and how he reveals himself in his Word and how, just like the ocean, we can study and we can learn and we can meditate and we can ponder who he is, and talk with him and walk with him, but we’ll never get to the depths of him. I love that. God is a vast ocean, infinitely beautiful. And I love just exploring who he is.

Karen: I like that comparison a lot because when you look at the ocean, you see so much on the surface. I was up in the Seattle area last week. My brother and his family live there. My sister-in-law and I went to the Mukilteo Beach, which is a very different beach from the beaches down in Oregon and California. It’s rocky. It’s not sandy, it’s rocky.

As we were walking along, there were these things bobbing out there. I looked and they were seals that were peeking up like “Kilroy” used to do. Just peeking up. The seagulls would get quite irritated as they were floating and bobbing along. So they’d jump up, and they’d come down, and they’d hit the seal on the head. And the seal would go down, and he’d stay down. And you’re thinking, “Well, is he coming back up?”

Then he’d pop back up over here, and the other one would pop up next to him. They were just teasing and playing with these seagulls who were most irritated. I thought to myself, “We have no clue what goes on beneath the surface.”

We look and we see things and we’re entertained by it, but who knows what’s going on down deep, down underneath. The ocean is like that. There’s so much happening beneath the surface. Just the surface is awe inspiring enough. But when you think about what’s underneath and what’s in the deepness, it’s powerful.

Shadia: Yeah. And scientists are continuously discovering new things and always thinking like, “Oh, we didn’t think there was more, but wait, there’s more.”

Erin: I love that, you know, way down deep, you’re not going to get the same kind of surface action of the waves and the crashing. It seems like there’s a peace down there. A sense of calm and quiet. And it’s a deep quiet.

A neat thing to think about, too, is in the Psalm, I think it’s, “Your justice is like the great deep,” in Psalm 36. I think about how that’s so mysterious and perfect and unknown. One of these days we’ll get to heaven and maybe we’ll understand more about how all of this works, but until then we’ll have to ponder the ocean.

Shadia: Yes.

Erin: Well, let’s talk a little bit about the fact that you write Bible studies. That’s cool. I’m not sure that we’ve had a guest where that was one of the primary things that they did. Why do you write Bible studies? What has attracted you to that?

Shadia: In one sense I would say I’ve always been a student at heart. I love to learn. I’m kind of a nerd. I mean, I don’t know how else to say it, you know? I love just learning about things.

I didn’t grow up in the church. I didn’t grow up ever opening the Bible. I didn’t know a single Bible verse when I got saved at the age of thirty. I wasn’t raised to believe in God. I came to the Lord with kind of a blank slate.

Erin: Wow.

Shadia: So, from the beginning, I just wanted to devour him and know who he was. When he opened my eyes to who he was, I mean, it rocked my world, and I’ll never get enough of him.

Then studying the Bible, I mean, obviously when you first get saved, you are just reading, you’re devouring who he is and learning so much. In time, after quite a number of years of some healing work that God did in my heart, I began writing little articles, little blogs.

Somebody was like, “Oh, you should start a blog.”

And I’m like, “What’s that? How do you do that?”

I mean, I didn’t have an aim. I just write. That’s kind of my outlet, I guess. So that goes on, and I began to be asked to speak. Primarily in the beginning of the ministry that God gave was speaking for pregnancy centers.

As a teenager, I’d had an abortion. God healed me of that and did a miraculous, beautiful, beautiful healing in my heart. I shared that story and that kind of caught on. I would be asked to share it at churches and things like that. So this writing/speaking thing began.

After a number of years, I went to visit my pastor at church because I was at a career crossroads. I was looking at a new potential new job. I was also doing just some side work, just project management type stuff. I kind of have an administrative brain. Then this writing, speaking thing, which I knew even then was like, you know, you can’t make a career out of this, at least not right away, if even ever.

But I knew I was called to it. I mean, I felt compelled, I would say. I didn’t recognize a call at that point. But anyway, I go in and see my pastor, and I was actually asking a very specific question. I said, “I’m doing this little bit of writing, speaking over here. I’m doing project management. I’ve got this potential job offer, which is gonna be, like, a big sixty hour week.”

This is Silicon valley, where I live. It wasn’t a tech job, but it was going to be a time consuming job. So I basically went to him and it was kind of just like my hands handing him the platter. I was like, “I need something to come off my plate, and I’m not sure what that should be.”

He listens and so forth, and then he spends some time praying silently, and then he looks up and he says, “Have you thought about going to seminary?”

I was like, “Um, I’m sorry. I’m not sure if you heard me right, but I’m trying to get something off the plate!”

But there was something about it. It felt like it was exactly what I did not know I wanted to do. If that makes sense.

Karen: It does.

Shadia: Okay, I’m glad. It was almost like somebody saying it out loud made me think, “I can do that?”

I applied the following semester and got accepted and so forth. The seminary years were probably the hardest but most rewarding years that I’ve ever spent. Incredibly hard work. I believe through that season that God made it very clear that I would continue with this writing and speaking.

Because of my nature and how God created me, I teach. So that’s all I’ve ever written. I mean, the first thing I wrote apart from those little articles I mentioned was a short story about the healing God did in my heart for the abortion. But even that later became a Bible study.

I think it’s because I absolutely love studying God’s Word. It is no work on my part to study God’s Word. Writing is hard work. But I write Bible studies because I love studying God’s Word. It’s a way for me to engage with the Lord, and then he allows that to minister to others.

Karen: What kind of things about the Word? I mean, obviously the Word speaks to us all in different ways and speaks the same truths to us in ways that we understand them in our own ability to do so. But what was it in the Scripture, as you were going through studying it, and as you were going through seminary, what captured you that you actually wanted to write a Bible study about it?

Shadia: Oh, that’s a great question. A couple of things. One is learning how every single verse in Scripture is tied to every single verse in Scripture.

Karen: Yeah.

Shadia: And how you can open the Bible anywhere, and read some context, read a few paragraphs, and a little bit farther, and you will begin, once you know more of Scripture, you will see how it points: “Oh, this connects to this, and this connects to this,” and all of it points to how glorious God is, and to this overarching redemptive story for mankind because of his love. I mean, everything in Scripture points to that. Everything in Scripture points to Christ.

You read everything in seminary, but obviously you can’t focus on everything. You have to choose. “Okay, I’m gonna do a class on Hebrews.” If there’s a story or a letter or something that I had not spent tremendous amount of time on, when I do spend some time on it, it’s like, I almost feel like an archeologist.

Karen: Yes!

Shadia: “Oh my gosh, what am I gonna find? What am I gonna find?” You know? Everything just connects to each other and just displays how beautiful God is. So that’s one key thing. I think the other part is all of the stories.

If you had asked me, even before I wrote my very first study or anything, even if I was skilled at writing, I would not necessarily say, “Oh, I’m gonna be a writer.”

I didn’t know that. But if you had said to me, “You know what? One day you’re gonna be a writer,” I would naturally think of stories, novels. Which is not what I do. I’m not a storyteller. But as I’ve studied God’s Word and read the stories, I have fallen in love with the stories. It turns out I can be a storyteller.

He’s taught me how to share these stories in a way that shows us just how rich, how—here it is again, the word deep—how deep these stories are. How every single person in the Bible, even if it seems like a secondary character, which are the ones I tend to be drawn to, when you spend time and really dig into their stories, oh, my word, the redemption is there every single time.

Karen: I’d be curious to know, when I saw that the title of one of your Bible studies is Legion, what drew you to that? What did you learn in the study for that? And what did God give you to share with others about that?

Shadia: I think it’s interesting that you chose that particular one because sometimes people ask me, “Do you have a favorite of the studies that you have written?” I love them all for different reasons, for different things that God has taught me, but Legion is actually my personal favorite.

Legion is a story about the man who was possessed by a legion, or an army, of demons. It’s in the Gospels, Mark chapter five if you wanna read it. This man from a human perspective seems beyond, beyond, beyond hope. If there was a poster child of, “There is no hope for this person,” that would be this man.

I love the fact that you brought that particular study up because it is not actually my most popular. I’ve heard from people who have done it, saying, “You know, I was hesitant to do this. I thought it was dark and scary and so forth, but it’s the most beautiful story of rescue.”

And I’m like, “Yes, yes! That is exactly what it is.” It is the most beautiful rescue story I’ve ever read in Scripture.

I’ve always been drawn to this story. I think it’s a glorious picture of God’s heart for the one person who has nothing to offer. I share some parallels with the thief on the cross who has nothing to offer. He had nothing to offer, even in the future. It’s over for him, and Christ still saves him. It’s just a beautiful story.

But in addition to that, another side reason that I was compelled to write the Legion study is because I see a tendency in some teaching out there where we tend to put a lot of emphasis on Satan’s activities. But when we spend a lot of time focusing on that, if we’re not careful, we can diminish in our mind, our understanding of God’s power. In other words, Satan gets higher and higher up in this image of power.

Karen: Satan has a better PR team.

Shadia: Oh my goodness, what a way to say it. Yes.

Karen: In media, in books, in everything, they portray the power and the “un-defeat-ability,” which is not a word, but I just made it up. The fact that evil never dies, that’s in so many horror flicks and horror books.

I did research for a young adult line of fiction that dealt with supernatural elements, and when I read the books that were out there, they were terrifying. They were grotesque, and evil never dies. That’s what Satan, his PR group, is telling everyone. You look at the horrific things that happen to people because of Satan in the media, and yet we miss the fact that he can’t touch us.

Shadia: Amen.

Karen: He can’t get past the God who is protecting us.

Shadia: Absolutely. That’s one of the other reasons I really wanted to write that study is to spend some real time engaging readers with a renewed understanding of God’s sovereignty. God’s power. Because Satan is a spiritual being, we forget he’s still a creature.

Karen: Right.

Shadia: God is the Creator. He’s in a category all by himself. He’s not hand to hand, fist to fist with Satan. No, not at all. God is in a category all by himself.

It is so important that we get our minds rightly attuned to who God is. Then we’ll have the proper perspective of who Satan is. So that’s one of the things I spend quite a bit of time on in this study. So readers come away with this renewed joy and freedom and excitement for being reminded that God is sovereign. We often say those words, but do we really have them embedded in our hearts?

Karen: No. And we don’t truly understand them. We don’t study things like sovereignty.

Erin and I have been doing a series of podcasts looking at the characteristics of God. Who God is at the core and at the heart, things we don’t realize about him. And he is sovereign. But what does that mean? What does sovereign entail?

It’s so easy to say it and then just let it go by instead of digging in. I think that’s why we need to be so careful when we’re writing the books we’re writing. We know that we have a message that God has given us to communicate, but we have to make sure, like it says an Ezekiel, that we take his Word into ourselves first. That we absorb his Word and understand it for ourselves.

Then we can go to the page, and then we can go to whatever it is, Bible studies, fiction, whatever, and we can pour out what we finally understand because we’ve taken it in for ourselves.

But too many people have a tendency to think, “I don’t have time. I can’t do an in-depth study in this, I’m just not a Bible study person,” or those kinds of things. So they get stuff down on paper without making sure that it’s embedded in themselves first, and that’s a mistake.

Shadia: Yeah. Because when the trials come, that weakness will be exposed.

Karen: Wow. What a great conversation this has been so far. And, guys, you get to listen to the rest of it in our next podcast, which will be part 2, with guest Shadia Hrichi. So, be sure you join us!

@ShadiaHrichi shares how God has led and challenged her to plumb the depths of his nature so she can bring his truth to others. Listen in and be inspired by her story! #amwriting #ChristianWriter Click To Tweet
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How do you go about taking God’s Word into your heart?

Book by Shadia Hrichi mentioned in the podcast

Legion Rediscovering the God Who Rescues Me by Shadia Hrichi

Legion: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues Me by Shadia Hrichi (affiliate link)

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