In the Valley of the Shadow of Death with Guest Sharon Hinck, Part 2

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In the Valley of the Shadow of Death with Guest Sharon Hinck Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungWhat if God took away your ability to write? Guest Sharon Hinck has walked through some deep valleys, and she knows firsthand how insecurities and the enemy’s lies hit hardest in the midst of our darkest times. But she also knows without a doubt that God is there, even through the mystery of unanswered questions, turning the darkness to light. Listen in as she shares how God led her into a profound new understanding of her extraordinary worth.

About Sharon Hinck

Award-winning author Sharon Hinck writes “stories for the hero in all of us,” about ordinary people on extraordinary faith journeys. She has been honored with three Carol awards, and the 2020 and 2021 Christy Award in the Speculative Fiction category. She has experience as a church youth worker, a choreographer and ballet teacher, a church organist, and an adjunct professor for Creative Writing MFA students. One day she’ll figure out what to be when she grows up, but meanwhile she’s pouring her imagination into writing. When she isn’t wrestling with words, Sharon enjoys speaking for conferences, retreats, and church groups.

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

Erin: Welcome, listeners. We are delighted that you’re here with us in the deep, and today we’re continuing our interview with Sharon Hinck.

Oh my gosh, you guys, this was such a great interview, and I’m looking forward to you hearing more. So we’re gonna jump right in!  

Sharon: As someone who has always been a bit of an overachiever in personality, God had to do a lot in me to remind me that just being his is all I need to be. That it isn’t what I accomplish. It’s not how many books I get written. How many words I write that day.

The story of the Dancing Realm series is another miracle of his mercy because I had gotten very, very ill after several books came out with Bethany House and Nav Press. I was just going gangbusters, then I got very sick and was actually mostly bedridden for two years.

I had tons of cognitive loss, which is terrifying when you’re a writer, you can’t find words. 

Erin: Yeah. 

Sharon: And physical weakness. I thought, “That’s it. I can’t write anymore.” 

Years went by. Eventually I was writing devotions because I could do little tidbits. Then God used that. I eventually got a little bit stronger mentally, a little stronger physically. 

I was talking to my agent and he said, “You used to be a dancer. Why don’t you write about a story world that dance is involved?”

I said, “Oh, I don’t know.” 

But I started to play, and it was difficult. It felt choppy, so I was afraid the writing would be choppy. You know, it was sentence by sentence. Writing in little pieces. It didn’t flow, but God enabled me to write that series. 

Then it was terrifying when the first book came out. I thought, “People are gonna say, ‘Oh, we used to like her stuff. What happened to her?'”

I was literally biting my nails, and so to have it well received was so meaningful to me.

Karen: I love how God works that way. And it’s predictable how the enemy works. On the very heels of a miracle from God, the enemy steps in and says, “Well, maybe he helped you do this, but it’ll be crap. Nobody will wanna read it.”

All those insecurities come up, and he’s doing everything he can to steal God’s glory in this miracle that God’s done and to steal our peace in the midst of God’s miracle. If we could just keep our eyes focused on him and ignore those stupid voices inside of us that are speaking condemnation and fear and insecurity. 

You know, we’ve been through a really horrific time here in the last couple of months. Things happened that I ended up feeling really stupid about. Things that I fell for. We were conned twice by moving brokers and there was the potential that we were going to lose $11,000. 

I spent so much time just being angry with myself until my husband said, “These guys are pros at cunning people. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, they’re pros at what they’re doing.”

Finally I came to the end of myself in all of it because I’ve always prided myself on being capable, being able to handle a lot of things. I finally came to the place where I was just telling God, “You take it. I can’t do it, God. You take it.”

We may end up still losing about, I don’t know, $1,500. But that’s incredibly better than $11,000. We’re doing something different, but it’s coming together and we actually will be able to move out of this house and close when we need to without any problems.

So, more and more lately, I’m just like, “Father, just show me what to do. Show me what to do, because I got nothing.” 

Sharon: And give yourself grace. Because I do the same thing. I mentioned earlier, before we started the recording, how I struggle with technology. I get mad at myself and I feel like I’m so dumb. How do I not understand this stuff? 

You would give others grace. You would not condemn a friend who got conned. We need to give ourselves grace and that’s what God taught me as I had time away from writing, when I couldn’t write. Not only did I feel useless, I felt like a burden to the people around me.

Not only was I not producing and I wasn’t accomplishing great things for God’s kingdom, which is what I always want to be doing, but I was actually making people spend time helping me, which was wasting their time, in my opinion.

Karen: I can tell you, that’s got to be the most difficult thing for any of us who are able to do things is asking for help. Like you, I struggled a lot with health issues in the last five or ten years and realizing, or being able to accept the phrase, “Yes, there was a time when I could do that, but I cannot do that now.”

Sharon: Oh, it’s hard. It’s so hard. 

Karen: It’s hard to go to someone when you’re the one who’s usually offering help to people and teaching people and mentoring people, and you’re coming in and saying, “Could you come to my house and help me pack a box?” 

Sharon: Yeah! And again, it’s in those places where we see our need. My pastor recently, in a sermon, talked about the story, the parable, where the man goes to his neighbor and is pounding on the door in the middle of the night, “Oh, I don’t have enough food. I have a guest. Could you lend me something?”

He said the hero of the story is that man going and confessing his need and asking for help.

Karen: Yes. 

Sharon: That was a new insight for me. I thought, “Oh! Hey, finally, I could be the hero of the story because I’m needy. I’m needy. I can say that!”

I used to worry that I was Miss Needy-Pants all the time. 

Karen: Now you’re just Miss Needy-Hero. 

Sharon: That’s right! It can be very courageous to admit need. I see that with all the friends that I have seen suffer in these past years. With loss of loved ones, with depression, with anxiety. When they’re honest about those places of pain and need and share that, it helps others who are hurting. I love that verse, I do my bad paraphrase of it: that he comforts us with his comfort so that we can comfort others with the same comfort with which we were comforted.

It is so true. And then we can be there for each other. We aren’t the heroes of our own story. We just point to the hero, which is Jesus. 

Karen: Absolutely! Preach it, Sister!  

Erin: Sharon, you had said that God taught you that just being his was enough. What do you think was one of the final straws that helped you realize that? That really pulled that together for you?

Sharon: Well, I have to confess it’s a daily battle. 

Karen: Yeah. 

Sharon: It has not been resolved. That issue is not fully resolved. But, getting to that point of, “I may never be able to write again. I may never be able to read again…” I still struggle to read for pleasure, which is a huge loss. I’ve been a voracious reader since I was four years old.

My critique partners would send me chapters and I could edit and critique because it used a different part of my brain. 

Karen: Exactly. 

Sharon: But I couldn’t read for pleasure. That’s still a struggle for me, although I’ve started to be able to do audiobooks. But all these things that defined me—I thought all these things defined me—having them taken away really gave me a chance to rest in God and know he loves me, whether I do another thing or not. 

I spoke last year. In the spring I did a keynote through zoom for a writer’s conference. I started out by saying, “This is gonna sound very radical: it’s okay to not write.”

Karen: Yeah. 

Sharon: Because we get so caught up in, “Oh, I have to do this.” And we compare to other people and what they’re accomplishing. Having God strip me down to being useless to him and then realizing he still loved me…he doesn’t love me based on me doing stuff for him. I mean, intellectually, I knew that, but I absorbed it in a deeper way through those years of illness. 

Karen: Intellectually, we know that for others. And we teach that to others. 

Sharon: Yes, exactly. 

Karen: But for us, that’s just a bitter pill to swallow. But one of the things that Erin and I teach at writer’s conferences, both when we teach together and we teach separate, is this isn’t about writing. This task that God has given us isn’t about writing. It’s about obedience. And it’s about honoring God in what we’re doing. 

If our book never gets published, you still have been obedient. That’s what matters. 

And if you have been published and suddenly you can’t write anymore, are you being obedient in the midst of that experience? God isn’t taking away your dream. God is refining you and giving you a new, deeper, more profound dream of just being his. 

Sharon: To be more closely connected to him is a gift that doesn’t compare. I mean, no writing contract, no award, no anything compares to getting to know him more intimately. And we have that blessing sometimes in the deep, and sometimes in the dark places, and the valley. 

Erin: What I love is that in this situation with the Dream of Kings book, your obedience to not write led to a beautiful time with your mom. It led to lots of other grief, of course, but then it did turn around and lead to writing again. To another book.

It doesn’t always work that way. But sometimes it does, and in this case it did. That’s gonna be really exciting to have that book. You listeners out there, this book will be available on pre-order when this podcast comes out. It’s Dream of Kings, and I’m looking forward to reading that. 

Karen: Me too. 

Erin: I actually read your Dancing Realms series as well. 

Sharon: I’m always so surprised when someone other than my mom or my husband have read my books! Thank you, Erin. 

Erin: What I wanted to say, too, about it is that I thought the premise was really neat. That whole idea of dance being so important in that world. I mean, that was just a really cool idea that hadn’t come up that I had seen before. I thought it was a fascinating premise. 

I also liked the fact that, you know, sometimes I think when people write a series, people will love the first book. Then with the next few books that come along, people are like, “Well, good, we wanna finish the story.” But the first book seems to be the real hit, the best book.

With you, of course the books were good, but I actually liked the last book best. I mean, I thought that was where things really like… well, I don’t want to spoil it for readers. It was just a really good final book of a series.

Sharon: Oh, thank you!  

Erin: It gets my recommendation. 

Sharon: Cool. Along with what Karen said about the enemy loving to whisper lies to us, I actually had a dream around the time the third book came out where I was talking to someone and they said, “Yeah, the first two were okay. But that third book has no plot.” 

I woke up sweating and just totally convinced, “Oh no, the book is out there now and it has no plot!” 

Karen: I don’t know why we’re so quick to believe the enemy lies. I just…

Erin: Says the person who’s now got all these bills that she has to pay, because she got taken in. I mean, it’s because that’s who we. 

Karen: No, no, I’m saying, I don’t know why we believe them. I recognize that I’m right there with them!  

Erin: It’s just dumb on our part. But we do. We just do. I mean, maybe it’s just so that we know that we really still need God.

Sharon: Yeah. 

Karen: I don’t think it’s dumb, actually. I think that it’s human. 

Erin: Good point. 

Karen: I think that the voice of the enemy is seductive and impactful, and God speaks in that small, still whisper. We have to listen so hard to hear God’s voice over the cacophony of the enemy’s lies being thrown at us.

If I’ve seen nothing else over these last several weeks, I’ve seen how the enemy just brings it from all directions and in all manner of doing it. I sit there and I think to myself that the enemy is so obvious in his battle against us. Of course, ABC happened because God was doing a great work. So the enemy came in to distract and do everything to keep me from looking at God and resting in God. 

Once I finally realized, “Okay, this is another attack,” I went back to that place that I was before and just saying, “God, I got nothing. You have to handle this because I cannot do this.”

There’s so much peace in recognizing it. 

Sharon: Yeah. Another thing that I’ve been realizing is, through my character’s journey in Dream of Kings, she’s always trying to find a purpose that would make all the losses worthwhile. And she’s not finding that. And to come to the realization that God may not explain himself to us. And that’s okay. He is good. He is working out a purpose. 

Karen: He’s God. It’s not like he owes us anything. Let alone an explanation. 

Sharon: That’s right. I feel like sometimes we’re secret agents and we operate on a need-to-know basis. And God doesn’t think we need to know everything he’s doing behind the scenes. But we can trust he’s doing way beyond what we can imagine behind the scenes. 

That’s what my character Jolan found throughout Dream of Kings. Things that she couldn’t even imagine that The Provider, as she called him, was doing in that world.

Karen: Right. 

Sharon: But yeah, it’s easier when you can see a direct purpose. “Oh, my car died. There was an accident a mile down the road that I would’ve been in, but my car died. God used that to protect me. Yay. A bad thing happened. I see the good purpose. Yay.” 

But a lot of times we aren’t given that and we have to walk by faith. Faith that God is love, and faith that he has a purpose, and faith that he is with us in it, and he is transforming the pain into something beautiful. 

Karen: Exactly. 

Erin: Yeah. I think the deal is that we don’t have the wisdom to understand. Or the judgment to understand what would be worthwhile anyway. We want to know, but we are just going to compare it to our own human thinking of what is worthwhile. So God’s just like, “Don’t even go there.”

It’s like trying to explain to my golden retriever why she can’t have a bunch of water right before she goes to sleep at night. She’s just not gonna get it. 

I guess that’s where we are human and God is God. If we could understand what made something worthwhile, we would be God and we’re not. 

Karen: And God is telling us, “Don’t worry about understanding. Be it peace. Understanding isn’t the be all and the end all. Peace. Be at peace. My peace I give to you. Not peace like the world gives, but my peace I give to you.” 

Erin: Yes. 

Sharon: Amen. Oh, I love talking with you guys. I feel like I’m in church. 

Erin: We’re coming to the end of our time, so I was going to ask you if you have any final words of wisdom or encouragement you wanted to leave with our listeners. 

Sharon: Well, I know that most of your listeners are writers and they want to be writing from the heart, writing for God. I would say just what you said earlier. It’s about following his lead. Sometimes it’s okay to not write. Sometimes he calls us to write. Sometimes he calls us to write an unexpected thing, or sometimes the theme of a story changes. 

It’s fun when we can see how he uses life circumstances in our stories, but sometimes we won’t see it. All of your listeners who are writers, get ready for that wonderful day when we’re all in heaven and someone comes up and says, “I was struggling with X, Y, and Z, and I read this novel you wrote, and that character went through a journey like I did, and God used that.”

Isn’t that gonna be a fun party? When we find out that he’s actually working through these humble stories that we’ve struggled so hard to write?  

Karen: Right. It’s gonna be wonderful. Well, Sharon, we’re out time. It’s been delightful to talk with you. It really has. I told you that you didn’t need to be afraid. You did a great job.

Sharon: You guys are so awesome. 

Karen: We’re so delighted with what you’ve shared with us and with our listeners. Friends, let’s just continue to pray for each other. To lift each other up in this time of darkness and struggle, and work to remember that what we need to do is leave it to God and rest in him because that’s what will carry us through.

Erin: Amen. 

Sharon: Amen.

What if God suddenly took away your ability to write? Guest @SharonHinck shares her story. #am writing #Christianwriter Click To Tweet
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

What would you do if you suddenly found you couldn’t write anymore?

BOOK BY SHARON HINCK MENTIONED IN THE PODCAST

Dream of Kings by Sharon Hinck

Dream of Kings by Sharon Hinck

Windward Shore (Dancing Realms, Book 3) by Sharon Hinck

Windward Shore Dancing Realms Book 3 cover by Sharon Hinck

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