Month: February 2018

063 – Is Joy in All Circumstances Really Possible?

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Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Write from the Deep Podcast Is Joy in All Circumstances Really possible

Too many people, even those who follow Christ, spend their lives without a true sense of joy. Life seems to overflow with struggle and challenges, with negative events and interactions that overwhelm and depress. But friends, you can not only have a sense of joy, you can be filled with it to the point of overflowing.

People long to be happy, but true, soul-deep happiness comes from joy, not the other way around. Happiness is fleeting, based on the circumstances or people around us. What we who follow Christ need to do is let Him fill us with the awareness and the experience of rejoicing, or rejoicefulness. That is there whether you’re in happy circumstances or not. This is why the Bible tells us to rejoice in the Lord always and to count it all joy when people persecute you. Because it’s not about skipping with happiness, it’s about focusing on finding joy in God.

Think about Acts 5, where the Apostles are performing miraculous signs and people are getting healed. The Apostles are preaching that Jesus has been raised from the dead, that he’s the Messiah, and the religious establishment doesn’t like that. After all, they put Him to death. It doesn’t exactly look good if they admit they killed the King who everyone’s been waiting for for hundreds of years! What’s worse, people are flocking to listen to the Apostles, whom the leaders already warned not to preach in Jesus’s name! So what do the religious leaders do? They make the apostles appear before the Sanhedrin—the religious rulers. Of course, the Apostles say they’re not going to stop preaching, that they must obey God. The Sanhedrin are furious and threaten to stone the Apostles, but end up just warning them again, having them flogged, and letting them go.

Which is when it gets really exciting. Because in Acts 5:4, the Apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus.

These guys got flogged. The whips used to flog someone were leather thongs with balls of iron or sharp pieces of sheep’s bone tied to them. The victim is stripped naked and beaten in the most painful way possible, to cause extensive damage not just to the skin, but to the muscles and tendons below. It was an horrific punishment.

And yet they rejoiced.

As Christians who have the Holy Spirit living in us, we can do something powerful with joy—we can experience joy and pain simultaneously. Or joy and sorrow. Or joy and any other type of suffering. Because joy isn’t an emotion, it’s a foundational part of who we are that stems from our knowledge of and trust in God. That’s why we can be joyful in all circumstances, because true joy is about trusting God, not our emotions or circumstances.

I (Karen) experienced that blend of suffering or sorrow and joy. Profound sorrow at losing my dad, at not having him with me and being able to talk with him, to hear his laughter. And yet…the morning after he died, I felt such a deep sense of his utter delight in being with God, and with my mom again. I was sad for me, but rejoicing for him and for what eternity holds for all of us. 

But just because you’re not struggling through some sort of trial right now doesn’t mean your life is automatically filled with joy. Remember, this sense of joy isn’t based on circumstances, good or bad, it’s a foundational trust in God.

So what are the guaranteed steps to be filled with godly joy? You’ll find them in God’s word, in Colossians 1:9-12:

  1. Constant prayer. “So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you.” Live in an attitude of prayer.
  2. Seek to know God’s will in whatever you experience. “We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will…” Seek to know and understand what God wants from you and for you.
  3. Ask God for spiritual wisdom and understanding. “…and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.” If you ask, He will answer.
  4. Ask that you will be strengthened “with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need.”

What happens when you follow these steps? Something amazing! Read on in Colossians:

  1. “Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord…” A life that honors and pleases God. All the time. Now that’s something to rejoice about!
  2. “…your lives will produce every kind of good fruit” What fruit is that? Read Galatians 5:22-23: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” How would your life, and the lives of those around you, be different if you produce this kind of fruit?

You may be wondering what the Bible means when it says joy is a “fruit of the spirit.” It means this joy is a supernatural thing. You develop this joy through the spirit—through asking God to help you, to breathe that fruit into you. When that happens, others can see it. Godly joy points to God and brings Him glory.

Christians aren’t meant to live lives beaten down and crushed. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re not to experience hard times and suffering. We’ve been told those things will come. But we’re not meant to be crushed by them. We’re meant to live with rejoicefulness, focused on and rejoicing in God no matter what. Sometimes that rejoicing comes through clenched teeth or is seasoned with tears, but that’s okay. God knows this isn’t easy. But He’s promised us we don’t have to go through it alone.

1 Peter 1:6-8 tells us: “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love Him even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”

As you think about these words, what does this glorious, inexpressible joy look like for you?

For Karen, living in a spirit of joyfulness means making the decision to be present in the moment. To be open to the blessings that God has in every moment, to acknowledge them, appreciate them, and thank God for them. It’s choosing in the difficult times to focus not on the difficulty or the struggle or whatever negative emotions are nibbling away at the edges of my spirit, but to look instead for the God-sent blessing contained in that struggle. And these blessings aren’t emotions, they’re acknowledging that God is present, that God is at work, and that this is a path God has set me on and I can trust Him in it.

For Erin, it’s entirely different. For me, it leads to a feeling. This deep joy. It’s a profound peace, and profound satisfaction, and profound…delight in my relationship with God, in who He is, in the spiritual water that flows through my veins. Some of you know that I struggle with chronic insomnia. Last night I slept from 10:45 to 1:45, and then I was up, too exhausted to pray, but too awake to sleep. By the time 7:00 am rolled around, and I had to get up for my day, I was more tired and in pain from fibro than when I went to bed. But even after a night like that, which happens far too often, I choose to get up every morning because there’s a deep peace there, a deep joy in knowing that my day will be spent with God, with doing this task He gave me. That fills me with a desire to keep going, to keep drinking from God’s living water.


Remember, though, that this foundational joy doesn’t just happen. It’s a process. You will grow in it as you learn to know God better and better. When we determine to know Him, we become a clearer reflection of Him in every aspect of our lives. Our relationships, our work, our self-esteem…everything we say and do…will come from a place of peace, grace, love, and justice. And we bring His love and goodness to a dark and hurting world. So let’s choose to, as that Colossians passage says, be “filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.” And what an amazing, joyful inheritance that is of peace and joy, of an eternity secured with Him.

062 – Don’t Be Derailed by Doubt

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Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young on the Write from the Deep Podcast Discuss DoubtWriters, do you struggle with doubt?

Let us show you how to stop doubt in its tracks so it never derails you again!

We did a podcast several weeks ago called “Did God Really Ask You to Write?” That was episode #58, and I encourage you to go back a listen to it. We focused on knowing who God really is and how that helps us to hear and trust Him and not doubt Him.

But doubt comes at us in a lot of different ways, and all of them can affect our writing lives. The kinds of doubt we’re talking about today are circumstances that make us doubt and doubt that makes us struggle with decision. In a future podcast we’ll talk about another damaging type of doubt: self doubt. Self-doubt is so debilitating, we’re going to give it it’s own podcast. So watch for that soon. But in this podcast, which you can think of as “Doubt, part 2,” we’ll address the first two kinds of doubt.

Here’s the thing. We’re human and we’re called to step out into something supernatural. This writing task with God isn’t accomplished through our human efforts. It requires God’s power, not ours. Yes, we write words, but it’s God who infuses them with true impact and power.

Anything supernatural is by definition uncontrollable by us. It’s unfamiliar territory. It’s scary. We’re not alone in this struggle with doubt. Look at what Peter experienced in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 14:

Jesus has just done a miracle—he’s fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Then he tells his disciples to get in the boat and go to the other side of the lake while he dismisses the crowd. So they head off. Then Jesus goes up on a mountain to pray.

It’s not till the 4th watch of the night (between 3 and 6 am) that Jesus is ready to join the disciples. They’re still in the middle of the lake when he comes to them, walking on the water. When the disciples see Him, they’re terrified. They think it’s a ghost because normal people don’t walk on water.

Jesus says, “Take courage, don’t be afraid, it’s me.”

Peter says, “Lord, if it’s really you, command me to come to you.” The translations can be a little misleading here. Most of the commentaries* I read said the meaning of “If it’s you” has more of the essence of “Since it’s you,” so this isn’t really the doubting part.

Jesus says, “Come,” and Peter does. He steps out of the boat and smack dab into something supernatural. Let’s give Peter some credit for taking that step. He’s walking on the water.

It’s all fine until Peter sees the wind kicking up the waves, and he gets scared. That’s when the doubt comes. He looks at the circumstances around him and he doubts. And starts to sink.

The story has a happy ending because Peter calls out to Jesus to save him and Jesus does. But He rebukes Peter for doubting.

As writers, we do this kind of doubting too. That’s the first kind of doubt we want to talk about today.

Doubting God’s provision because of circumstances

 It’s never a good idea to base your trust in God on circumstances, or allow yourself to doubt based on circumstances. “The word ‘doubt’ [in the gospel story, from Greek distazō] suggests the idea of trying to go in two different directions at once or of serving two different masters simultaneously.”* When we doubt based on circumstances we’re allowing circumstances to be our master, not God.

Here’s another example. What if something wonderful happens—a huge prayer request is answered? You celebrate and say how wonderful God is. Then, the next day, or even later that same day, something else happens that seems like it’s going to override your wonderful answer to prayer. Was God good one moment, and then not the next? If you believe what Scripture tells us about Him, you know that’s impossible.

James 1:3-8 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

If you find yourself looking at circumstances, stop.


  • Stay focused on God.
  • Trust in His character and promises.
  • Obey His commands.
  • Pray. Battle this kind of doubt by praying for the faith to trust, regardless of circumstances.
Doubting if you’re hearing God, Or doubting which way He’s leading in a decision

Another type of doubt that comes into play for writers happens at decision-making time. Let’s face it, the writing journey is filled with decisions.

Maybe you’re trying to decide between 2 publishers, or whether to go indie, or whether to hire Editor A or B? There are a lot of questions. And they matter.

Principles to Help You Discern God’s Leading

  1. Don’t make decisions based on fear, or motivated by fear. If you’re making a decision to do or not do something because you’re afraid, that’s not a decision based on God’s leading. We’re to fear the Lord only. And by fearing the Lord, we gain wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And the knowledge of the Holy one is understanding.” You’ve got to get the perspective right—fear God—in order to make good decisions.
  2. Seek truth speakers or an advisory board. There is wisdom in good counselors!
  3. Consider character first, logistics second. We often want to look at logistics first, and we’re concerned about whether something is hard or complicated to do. God is concerned about building our character. About whether we’re willing to trust. Not whether something will be logistically easy.
  4. If what you’re hearing is condemning, it’s a lie. It’s not God’s leading. But if it’s convicting, it will lead to restoration through truth, and you don’t have to doubt.
  5. If it goes against Scripture, it’s not God’s leading. Don’t do it.
  6. Don’t make decisions based on comfort. We’re to be living sacrifices. That doesn’t mean we’re ALWAYS supposed to do what’s hard, but it means that you can’t let what’s comfortable or uncomfortable cause you to doubt which way God is leading.
  7. Are your doubts really a lack of trust that you’re hearing God, or is it lack of trust because you can’t see how it’ll happen, or you can’t see how it makes sense? Maybe you’re not sensing God’s leading because all He wants from you first is a willingness to obey even if you can’t see the next step yet. Maybe it’s not about whether God’s leading you. Maybe it’s about where your heart is right now, and whether you’re ready to be compliant, no matter what.
  8. Just because it’s something you want, doesn’t mean God doesn’t want it for you. We sometimes feel like if it’s something we really want, we’re simply hearing what we want to hear. Remember, God is FOR US. But like we talked about in episode 58, you have to know God so you know HIS voice, and can distinguish it from your own.

There are so many ways doubt can undermine us in our desire and work to follow God. So many ways the enemy can use doubt to chip away at our foundation of trust in a God who has every aspect of our lives and work in His hands. So our hope is that, the next time doubt sneaks in, you can use these tips and tools to stop it in its tracks. That you can use the truth of who God is and who you are in Him to tell doubt to shut up and leave you alone.

Yes, doubt is an effective weapon against us, especially against writers. But our God, and His truths, are far more effective if we’ll just embrace them and rest in them. May you find peace in His presence, and may doubt never again gain admittance into your heart and spirit. But when it does, because as we said before, we’re human, use God’s truths to give it what-for and send it running back into the darkness!

Blomberg, C. (1992). The New American Commentary: Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 235). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Hagner, D. A. (1998). Word Biblical Commentary: Matthew 14–28 (Vol. 33B, p. 424). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.


We Want to hear from you!

What principles help you discern God’s leading?
What circumstances have made you doubt? How did you overcome those doubts?


Why is doubt so hard to ignore? #amwriting
Learn how to stop doubt in its tracks so it never derails you again! #amwriting


Links to conferences we mentioned

Write to Impact Lives, February 9-10, 2018
Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 23-27, 2018