There’s one critical thing you must do before you can share the depths of God with readers: go to the depths yourself. Guest Shadia Hrichi shares how God took her deep into one of the worst memories of her life—and redeemed it. Now she can serve her readers with a depth of wisdom found only in God. It’s no wonder her Bible studies have such a powerful impact, and your books can too! Listen in as she tells her inspiring story.
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.” Find out more about Shadia Hrichi and check out her free resources at her website.
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Erin: Welcome, listeners. We are super excited for part two of our interview with Shadia Hrichi, and it has just been a great conversation. You’re not going to want to miss the rest of this.
Shadia, how do you think the fact that you write Bible studies impacts you in your spiritual journey as a writer?
Shadia: It’s been an interesting journey. The first study I wrote was, as I shared earlier, about the abortion and God’s beautiful healing. I had first written a story about it, and then I turned that into a Bible study. Virtually every one of my Bible studies centers, kinda like what you were saying, Karen, on the character of God. Who he is, meditating on certain aspects, because that’s the most important thing.
But when I finished that study, I thought, you know, that was a deep wound. I wrote it years after, and I kind of thought, “Okay, now we’re gonna go to the teaching part.”
Karen: Right, right.
Shadia: So the next study that God puts on my heart to write is Hagar, the servant of Sarah. Talk about a messy story. But I love that story. She was actually the inspiration for the whole series. Like you said, Karen, you liked the series title Behind the Seen and that play of words. Hagar was the inspiration for that.
In the process of writing that study, well, this study includes a invitation for readers to walk through some difficult experiences from their past. Then through this study, they come out with a recognition that God was there. There’s sort of three things going on in that study where I’m talking about Hagar’s story and how God was there. I share some of my story, how God was there in these difficult times, and then the readers are invited to do the same.
About halfway through, God decides to dig up, I would probably say, one of the most painful memories of my life. Of those memories where you’ve buried it so deep you actually did forget about it. That kind. You know, not that you put it in the back of your mind. It truly is out of your mind. Like you don’t even remember it. I mean, you’ve just buried it.
And God starts digging that up.
I’m like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. This wasn’t on my to do list today.”
Karen: Don’t you understand? I have a set word count, God?
Shadia: Exactly right. Oh my gosh. Yeah. It was just unexpected, you know? So we walked through that, and I share a lot more details in the study and in the videos and stuff. But it was a very painful memory.
I’ll just give you a summary so you have some context. I was married before I got saved, well, up until I got saved, then he left. He was an abusive husband, and at one point he tried to take my life. I might as well just tell it real quick now that I mentioned it.
Erin: Yeah, that’s painful.
Karen: I mean, how do you respond to that? “Oh, really?”
Shadia: So God brings up this very difficult memory. Now it’s just me and God, we’re out walking. I mean, I’m not at my computer. We’re out walking. I’m taking some time alone. I went away for a few days. This was something very traumatic I had to deal with God, nothing to do with the writing until later. Do you want me to tell the quick story?
Shadia: Okay. My husband was attempting to choke me to death. When God brings up this memory, you know, I’m not very happy about it. And God says, “Do you believe I was there?”
I’m like, “Well, um, I know you’re everywhere, and you’re in all time, and so even though I didn’t know you…yeah, I guess you were there.”
It was sort of like a mental acknowledgement.
Shadia: But, you know, God’s after more, as always. So God says, “Why did he stop?”
Obviously he didn’t succeed, right? It was at the very last moment that he stopped. Well, I’ve always believed that he stopped because he got scared. As if he thought, “She’s blacking out. Now I’m gonna get arrested. What do I do with the body?”
I mean, I don’t know what was in his mind, but I said, “Lord, I guess he got scared.”
God said to me, “And who do you think scared him?”
It floored me. I mean, it floored me. I was like, “You were there. You were there.”
I never saw any of that coming. And then walking through that, and then coming back down the mountain, so to speak, and getting back to the writing, I was able to share that story and really give a tangible picture. God sees. Which is what the whole Bible study is about. He sees.
As far as spiritual journey, I start writing the next study, which was Legion, and God brings up something else. I won’t go into it, but you know, I’m like, “Again? Oh my word!”
Then the next study, which just came out—Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law—once again, something else. God doesn’t need my Bible studies.
Shadia: He doesn’t need anything from any of us to accomplish what he wants to accomplish in the world. By his grace, he invites us to participate in his work, and I love that. But ultimately he’s after us individually. One at a time, he wants our hearts. He wants everything.
Every study I write, now I’m getting to notice a pattern. God’s gonna come after something and it’s gonna be hard, but it’s gonna be good. In the end, it’s gonna be good. Because he’s gonna show me who he is again.
Karen: That’s what he does. He shows us who we are. As a fiction writer, I have characters or scenes come up that I’m not expecting. There are some of them that have come up and I’m like, “I don’t wanna write about that.”
Then I have to go into this wrestling match until I finally say, “Oh yeah, that’s right. You’re God, and I’m not, so if you gave me this task to write and I need to go down this path, then I will go down this path.”
When I’ve been willing to do that, when I’ve been willing to be vulnerable, and I think all writers are like that, when we’re willing to share of our own life and heart and journey in whatever we write, that’s what will impact people. That’s what we’ll draw them deeper into that understanding of who God is and who they are in him.
Erin: I love your quote here, too. You said it’s gonna be hard. This is something that writers need to know. I’m not even talking about trying to get published or trying to deal with readers or any of that stuff. Forget that.
It’s gonna be hard. You’ve got to go into those deep places with God and if it’s easy, something isn’t right.
It’s game changing when we do that, when we face that hard place and come out on the other side with some sort of “elixir.” In The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler talks about bringing back the elixir as one of the stages of the “hero’s journey.” You go on this journey and you come back with this thing that can help somebody. It’s this elixir that is from God that you’ve done this journey to get.
That picture is us facing that hard place. We always want the characters to go into the hard place and not us. But we have to do that. I love that you’re willing to do that, Shadia, and how it comes out in those Bible studies as you’re writing.
Shadia: Yeah. It is the hardest part, but if we’re gonna write for God, that’s a whole different category of writing.
Shadia: If we’re inviting him in then guess what? He gets to set the agenda.
Karen: I think it was David in 2 Samuel 24, who said, ” I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord, my God, that cost me nothing.” We need to remember that.
Shadia: What a beautiful parallel.
Karen: We cannot as writers, try to offer something to God, through our writing and through the message that he’s given us, that doesn’t cost anything. You have to know going into it: this is gonna cost you everything, but it’s worth it.
Shadia: Yeah, that’s a beautiful parallel, Karen. Wow.
Erin: So it does seem like you’re attracted to these messy stories. Why do you think that is and how do you pick the next thing you’re going to do?
Shadia: Well, I would say I pick these stories because they give me hope. You know, I was a mess. I am a mess. A redeemed mess and being transformed as God does his work, like each of us. But, until we get to the other side there’s always gonna be work to do.
I have a lot of pain and mistakes and bad choices in my past. I broke every commandment, not just in my mind but in life, before I was fifteen years old. So the stories in the Bible of people who felt unworthy or unseen or unknown—
Karen: Or irredeemable—
Shadia: Exactly. I mean, redemption is like, that’s who God is. I love that. But yeah, those stories give me hope because I can relate to them. I can relate to the broken people. I can relate to those who were just kind of cast aside or felt cast aside. They give me hope because when God steps into their story, something amazing always happens.
Shadia: Just as he steps into ours, you know? So that’s one of the reasons. The other reason I think I like the messy stories is kind of what I was sharing earlier. I feel like an archeologist. I don’t hear sermons often on Legion or Tamar or Hagar. So I wanna know, like, what am I missing? What do I not know? What am I going to learn about God?
I feel like it’s fresh. Like it’s fresh ground that no one’s come to. I mean, there’s commentaries and stuff, and of course I do all that study, but initially my time is just me and the Word. It’s fun. In short, the second reason is that I think it’s fun, because they’re not often explored.
Erin: What I love is that writing is gonna be hard and it’s gonna be fun. It’s a great adventure. While it’s going to be difficult, we can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s also fun and an adventure.
Karen and I were talking about how one of God’s qualities is a sense of humor. It’s going to still be fun in places and hard in places like every good story.
Shadia: Yes, exactly. And I do get to tell some funny stories in the studies as well that God brings up. I’m like, “Oh, this is gonna be good. This will be fun!”
Erin: Which is great. Well, we’re coming to the end of our time. Do you have some final words of wisdom or encouragement that you want to leave our listeners with?
Shadia: Don’t be afraid of the deep. Be brave.
God’s on your side. If he is calling you to spend more time with him, even if it’s five minutes, wherever you’re at, whatever he’s calling you to, he’s already for you. He’s already with you. Yield to that. Give him that space. You won’t regret it. Have you ever been in God’s Word and regretted it?
Now, of course, if you jumped into Leviticus without maybe some commentaries, you might have regretted it, but…
Karen: Even into Song of Solomon, I mean, I’m sorry…
Shadia: Oh yeah. Actually, though, there is a passage in chapter two of Song of Solomon. It’s something I love, kind of a picture of Christ coming back for us. But yes, there are other parts where it’s very clearly also referring to marriage and sexual love and all that, but it’s there for a reason as well, right? All Scripture is breathed out by God for teaching and reproof and so forth.
So I would say don’t be afraid of the deep. And guess what? Just like the ocean, you don’t go diving into the middle of the ocean. You start on the shore. Put your toes in, take a walk. Enjoy the little ripples, watch the seals. But just go. And each day, let him take you a little deeper.
You will not be disappointed in the beauty and the creativity and the beautiful way the Word displays who God is. If you need a guide, that’s what studies are for. That’s what commentaries are for. That’s what podcasts are for. That’s what we need community for. That’s what churches are for. We’re not in it alone.
But give God time alone also. Just you and him in his Word. I just can’t emphasize that enough. You will not be disappointed.
Karen: That’s excellent counsel. We hear that all of our lives as believers, whenever that adventure starts for us. And I think it’s one of the easiest things to forget and one of the easiest things to not do. It shouldn’t be. We should be as excited about immersing ourselves in his Word as we are about developing characters, or writing our nonfiction books, or winning awards, or getting a good review.
Friends, be grounded in the Word so that whatever happens, you won’t have to be afraid of the deep. You will find that joy and that happiness and that guidance that Shadia has been talking about.
Thank you, Shadia! You’ve been a blessing.
Shadia: This has been wonderful. It’s such a joy chatting with you. Thank you for having me.
Need some help getting started with Bible study? Check out Shadia’s FREE resources!@ShadiaHrichi shares how God took her deep into the worst memory of her life—and redeemed it!—so she can serve her readers with wisdom and insight found only in God. #ChristianWriter Click To Tweet
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