Month: November 2023

202 – Why Suffering Matters with Guest Rachel Hauck

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Why Suffering Matters with Guest Rachel Hauck Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungOur journey as writers who believe in God has many ups and downs, mountaintops and canyons. It’s so easy to forget, when the downs come, that they, too, are from God. And that He allows and uses them for His purpose. Join our guest Rachel Hauck as we consider the gift of suffering.

About Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She’s a RITA finalist and winner of Romantic Times Inspirational Novel of the Year, and Career Achievement Award. She writes vivid characters dealing with real life issues. Her book, Once Upon a Prince, was made into an original Hallmark movie. She also loves to encourage new writers and sits on the Executive Board of American Christian Fiction Writers. Visit her website at rachelhauck.com to find out more.

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

Erin: Welcome, listeners. Welcome to the deep with us today. We’re excited that you’re here, and we’re excited that we have a guest today. Yay! I’ll let Karen introduce her. 

Karen: Our guest is Rachel Hauck, and she is just a wonderful person. Not only is she a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal best-selling author, but she is a phenomenal worship leader. She leads worship at the ACFW Conference every year, and boy, she sure knows how to usher us into the presence of the Lord.

For all those reasons, Rachel, we are delighted to have you here. Welcome! 

Rachel: Thank you. It’s good to be here. 

Erin: We love to start our show by asking all of our guests, what does the deep mean to you, Rachel? 

Rachel: The deep. Oh, man. What just comes to mind immediately is deep calls to deep. So it’s just that deeper part of God, wanting to know those deeper things. Going below the surface. Pulling up treasure. 

Karen: Mm hmm. 

Erin: Yeah, I love that God wants to go deep with us. I mean we want to go deep with him, but he wants to go deep with us and reveal deep things about himself to us. Can you guys imagine that? The God of the universe wants to not only know us deeply but reveal deep things about who he is, too. We could probably meditate on that all day, but we’ll move on. 

One of the fun things that we wanted to talk to Rachel about—I mean she’s just been in the business for so long and done so many great things as an author—but one of the things that she had said in an email was, “God’s after my heart. Not my stuff, or not an employee. He wants me.” 

Rachel, I loved that. What I want to know is how did you come to that? I bet that wasn’t an overnight learning experience. 

Rachel: No, not at all. I think it’s just the whole process of coming into the things that he called me to do. Like he called me to be a writer. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was a child, people would say, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I’d say, “I want to be a writer.”

My father would say to me, “Rachel, you’re a writer. Be a writer.” 

I studied journalism at Ohio State. Didn’t want to be a reporter. The Lord, sent me to where I live now. I was in the software world for a while.

Anyway, Christian fiction was big in the early 90s, and I started writing, but it was lots of disappointment, you know? The rejection. We were talking about that before the show. Rejections and things like that were coming up. Meeting people, just waiting for the right doors to open. Writing full time and then being back in the corporate world. Just all of that journey.

All along, the Lord was dealing with things in my heart. I remember when I got my first contract with Thomas Nelson, who at the time was my dream publisher. 

Erin: Wow. 

Rachel: I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, what if I can’t do it? What if I can’t do it?” 

I was driving down the road and the Holy Spirit said to me, “Okay, you just keep saying you can’t and don’t be surprised when you fail.” 

Karen: Right. 

Rachel: So that’s when it began. Getting at those deeper issues, and what comes out of my mouth, and what I believe, and how I processed even writing stories, and just laying on the floor, trying to come up with an idea, weeping before the Lord. I had so many tears in those early days, like, “I don’t know what I’m doing!” and not feeling good enough.

You know how publishing works. Maybe you get promoted, maybe you don’t. 

Karen: Right.

Rachel: And out of the gate, pouring my heart into a story, but ending up not really being on the front of the promotional list. For the reasons that, well you know, business. That’s when the business kicks in.

The Lord was just leading me through that saying, “You’re writing for different reasons than I’ve called you to write, Rachel.”

So it was book after book. Technically after my first couple of books with Thomas Nelson, I should have been gone. I just didn’t have the numbers.

That’s when they came to me and said, “Hey, would you write with country singer Sarah Evans?”

I said, “Sure.” 

I’d already had a moment with the Lord where I’d said, “Look, I’ve got nothing. I don’t have kids. I don’t have a career. They could call me today and tell me, ‘Don’t turn in the book you’re writing,’—which was Love Starts with Elle—I could go anywhere. Tony can eat cereal and he can wear wrinkled shorts. I don’t care.”

And so they’d come to me a few months after that and said, “Will you write with Sarah Evans?”

I just knew, and I said, “Yes. Absolutely.”

That was three of the easiest books I ever wrote, as far as just the grace that was on me. Not only did I have to write a book for my publisher, I had to write a book for this country singer. We paired together, of course, for the idea of the series, but I was the one doing the finger work. 

After that was The Wedding Dress, which changed everything. So it was doing what he called me to do and sticking with it, even when it didn’t look like I was being successful in the world’s standards.

Karen: It’s interesting, Erin and I, before we do any of our meetings or we do any of the podcasts, we read from Streams in the Desert the devotional for the day. The verse that we read this morning was Genesis 15:13-14, and it’s so perfect for anyone going into publishing:

“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be mistreated for one hundred years. But afterward, They will come out with great possessions.” 

That’s perfect. Then the devotional goes on to say, “I can be sure that part of God’s promised blessing to me is delay and suffering.” 

Welcome to publishing. 

Rachel: Welcome to publishing. I remember saying that at one ACFW conference when I was in the middle of leading worship. I said, “If you don’t plug into Jesus, this industry will kill you.”

Karen: That’s exactly right. 

Rachel: But you know, I love Genesis 15:1, where God says to Abraham, “I am your exceeding great reward.” 

Really, that’s where it all starts. That the journey of life, no matter what you’re doing—publishing, editing, writing, mixing cement, raising kids at home—is about coming up from the wilderness, leaning on your beloved.

It’s about being conformed into the image of Christ, which is Romans 8. I know the verse because I memorized it, but I can’t pull it out of my secession, and you guys don’t want me to quote the whole thing. But Paul writes that Jesus is the firstborn of the dead. He said that we are conformed that he might be the firstborn of many brothers and sisters.

So we’re conformed to him because he’s the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. How do you conform me to him? 

Karen: By suffering, pain, death, resurrection… 

Rachel: By the life that I lead. Right. By the good, the bad, the valleys, the mountains. 

Karen: It’s in those difficult places that we put our roots deep into who Jesus is because it’s only when we do that that we can withstand the storms. 

We moved to Washington a little over a year ago not knowing much about this community to which we moved. It’s Gold Bar, Washington. Little did I know that half of the year, they call it Blow Bar, because the winds are just channeled by the Cascade Mountains. We’re at the foot of the Cascade Mountains. It’s beautiful, but the wind is just channeled past us. 

I look out in my backyard sometimes, and I just wait for that music. You know that music from the Wizard of Oz where you see the gal on the broom? Yeah. We got our weather station so that we could see how strong the winds are that are blowing through. The only way you survive that is having your roots so deep into the Lord that nothing can rip you out. Nothing can destroy you.

Erin: Yeah, I think that… with the suffering, nobody wants to suffer, okay? We don’t. But suffering gets our attention. I think suffering draws us to what’s really important and it makes us think about, well, was that review really important or, was it more important what God thinks about my effort here?

Or, is selling 200 books really important? Or is that one person whose life may be forever changed, is that what’s important? So it’s awful. Nobody loves it, but yet we can’t learn anything without it. 

Why did God do that? Don’t you wonder, why is that the plan? I don’t know that I have a good answer to that.

Rachel: This past summer, my older brother had his esophagus rupture. We were all on our way to the annual family gathering in Eastern Tennessee. He was airlifted from Tallahassee to Jacksonville for emergency surgery. He almost died. My husband and I were headed up. We had just gone through Jacksonville when he called and said he was taking himself—he’s not married, he’s a bachelor—taking himself to the emergency room.

We ended up turning around and going back down to be with him in Jacksonville. He was under by the time that we were there. He was in the hospital for five weeks, and he was never alone. Family and friends rotated in and out to be with him. But when I was there with him, and my sister came down to be with us as well, I asked that question a lot. What is this suffering? 

Of course he was the one really doing the suffering, but we were there with him. I’m telling you guys, it makes me cry just talking about it. The nearness of God was tangible. One day I was sitting next to my brother and I was just praying. He had tennis on the TV, and we were just being with him in the room.

I started singing, “Hallelujah, hallelujah.” And then, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and boom, he was in the room. 

Erin: Wow. 

Rachel: I just lost it. I remember he was standing at my brother’s feet and he said, “It won’t be long.”

I knew it wasn’t death. I knew it was healing. 

He’d said that to me about my grandmother and she died a week later, but she was a hundred and two, going on a hundred and three. She wanted to go. 

There were several other moments. It just, I almost miss it. I don’t want him to be in hospital, but the nearness of God in that moment… 

I can’t tell you that there’s a formula to touch God in the midst of suffering except just keep going to him, keep going to him, keep going to him.

The beauty was the Lord even set up my brother for this. He just had. 

My brother told me one day, “I think I dreamed this before it happened.”

One day he was riding his bike and he was just kind of singing to the Lord in his garage. This is not a “sing to the Lord” kind of guy. He doesn’t go to church every week. You could have knocked me out of my chair when he was telling me this. 

He said he was singing in the spirit, listening to a jazz song, and the most incredible peace fell over him and his eyes teared up. 

He was tearing up telling me the story and he goes to God, like, “Hey, come on, you know I don’t like this emotional stuff.” 

But the Lord in his kindness prepared him. So I think that, Erin, coming out of your question, I don’t get it, and I remember walking down the hospital hall, weeping, I had to hide behind a post, just weeping, and saying, “God, I don’t understand suffering. But I feel you so near. I almost welcome it.” You know? 

Erin: Yeah. 

Karen: Don and I went through so much in our lives, in our relationship, in just everything, and we came to the place where our mantra, if you will, and I’ve said this before on the podcast, became: God is in control. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. I may not like it, but God is in control. 

It’s that sense of whatever it is, whether it’s suffering or whether it’s great success, whether it’s utter failure—and I’ve been in both places, great success and utter failure—in all of it, it’s knowing that God is present and God is at work. 

His work isn’t to make me a success. His work is to make me a reflection of a loving Lord to a lost and hurting world. That’s the work that He is doing in me. Whatever I write, or publish, or whatever, the podcasts, if they are part of that, that’s because of his purposes and his will. Everything else doesn’t matter. I just need to rest in him and say, “Okay, where do you want to take us today?”

Rachel: One hundred percent. Absolutely. 

Erin: Suffering is very much part of the human experience. In many ways, this was Job’s question to God. “Are you really running the universe right? Because there’s suffering happening.” 

God’s like, “Hey, I’m God.”

You can’t question that even though we might want to. But the suffering, I think, brings in many ways, our compassion and our humanity. It’s something that we have in common with everybody all over the world. But I also think it’s so interesting that at the end of time, when the new heavens and the new earth are here and we are in God’s presence, I mean, no more suffering.

What a contrast that will be. How can we even imagine that? Here, there’s suffering. There, there isn’t. It’s something to just dwell upon and try to look forward to it and try to understand it. And we never will, so there you go. I’ll just stop there.

Rachel: Yeah. I think that is Romans 8:18. Paul writes that we can’t imagine that with this present suffering…what’s coming. 

Erin: Yeah. 

Rachel: We can’t compare it to the glory that will be revealed in us. But if we share in his suffering, we will also share in his glory.

Karen: Right. 

Rachel: I think of the existential question, if God is good, why is there evil? And I really think that’s what this earthly journey is all about: eradicating evil. He allowed it because it’s the opposite of good. You know, he’s so good, he could allow evil to exist. In the end of the age, he’s going to eradicate it.

Whatever your end-time eschatology is, one day it’s going to be gone and forever we’re going to live in the light of his glory. Forever. I can’t even imagine like, what am I going to be doing a thousand years from now? You know, you still have this concept of, “Okay, but when I die…” But no, you will never die again.

Erin: Right. 

Rachel: You just can’t even imagine that. You almost go, “Man, I’m going to get bored living forever.” But you won’t.

Karen: I don’t think so! 

Rachel: I know, right? We won’t. 

Karen: I’ll spend the first millennia just talking to the animals. 

The thing that I look at when we talk about suffering and the thing that it constantly brings me back to, especially in light of being a writer and how we feel as though things just aren’t happening the way we thought they would, and how this journey isn’t what we thought it would be, or it’s so much better than we thought it would be, is how when something happens, some hiccup in the road, we let ourselves go to that place of, “I lost my faith in God.”

Or, “This happened and I started doubting God’s goodness.” Or, “If God was loving, then why?”

I look at Isaiah 45:5-6. It says: “I am the Lord.” Listen to that. “I am the Lord and there is no other. Apart from me, there is no other. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting, men may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord and there is no other.” 

God is God, and who are we that he takes notice of us? Yet we have the gall to say things like, “I lost my faith because…”

Then you didn’t have those deep roots in your faith. You weren’t submitted to the fact that God is God and you are created to honor him and glorify him. No matter what. Even if you’re walking across the water and then you start to sink. You are there, whether you drown or whether you survive, and he lifts you up out of the waves, you belong to God, and he is the one who is in control. Not you. 

Erin: All of those things—when we get sidetracked—it’s just a distraction. It’s a distraction to what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re supposed to be pointing to God’s glory. As writers, that’s our job. We’ve talked about suffering and we’ve talked about a future glory, but at the same time, that’s why what we do now matters. That’s why every word we write matters. It’s important to be telling people what’s going on here and what’s to come. We have such an important job. 

Rachel: I was talking with a friend this morning about Dante’s Inferno of all things. She was a hospice nurse, and so she’d been there with people about to die. She’d seen some who knew they were being carried away by angels and some who were dying in agony, literally being carted off to hell. She said that Dante’s Inferno really brought hell into a reality with her.

I was saying that the hard part about Dante’s Inferno is he didn’t give the answer. You don’t want to go here, so where am I going? Here’s how you get to heaven, you know? But that’s not the rest of Dante’s Inferno.

I think if we show flawed characters and people who are really struggling with life, and in that somehow there’s the revelation of Jesus, that’s how I approach writing a story. Everyone’s going to be messed up and just as flawed as anybody else, but somewhere along the way, they encounter the one who has the answers.

Erin: Yeah. 

Karen: We need to show the reality that when some people encounter the one who has the answers, they don’t like the answers and they walk away. Away from the only answer, away from the love, and it needs to break our hearts the way that it breaks Jesus’ heart. 

We need to be sure that we are authentic in what we’re writing about the struggles of the Christian life. This is not an easy gig. I mean, let alone as a Christian being called to write and to publishing, it’s like double damnation. You find these things that we need to communicate, the truth of it and the truth of him, to a world that’s lost in darkness. 

Wow, this has been a great conversation, Rachel. I’m just so delighted with all that we’ve talked about. And listeners, get excited because there’s more coming next time.

Guest @RachelHauck encourages us to see suffering as a gift from God. #ChristianWriter #amwriting Share on X
We want to hear from you!

What do you think about the human struggle with suffering?

Special offer from our previous podcast guest shadia Hrichi

Enter for a chance to win a free copy of Shadia Hrichi’s latest Bible study Rahab! One copy will be given away each week during the month of November!

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Special thanks to our November sponsor of the month Christy Bass Adams. She’s the author of a devotional titled Learning As I Go: Big Lessons from Little People, and a middle grades novel, The Adventures of Cricket and Kyle: Imagination Checkers. She’s also a speaker and leads women’s conferences and Bible studies, and she’s a monthly contributor to Inspire-a-fire and a newspaper columnist for Greene Publishing.

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!

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201 – When a Crisis Upends Your World with Guest Shadia Hrichi

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When a Crisis Upends Your World with Guest Shadia Hrichi Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungWe’ve all faced times of trial, but what do you do when MORE crises happen while you’re already in the middle of a crisis? Guest Shadia Hrichi shares how God used crisis upon crisis to strengthen her faith and her writing.

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 her latest release, Rahab: Rediscovering the God Who Saves Me, as well as TAMARHAGARLEGION,  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.”

Enter for a chance to win a free copy of Shadia Hrichi’s latest Bible study Rahab! One copy will be given away each week during the month of November!

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. We’re doubly delighted because we have a guest, and I’m going to let Karen introduce her.

Karen: It’s Shadia Hrichi! We’ve had her here a couple of times before and we’re having her back because we love her. And we love the way that she brings the Bible to life for us and helps us to apply it in every step of what we’re doing for God as we’re on this journey to write and share his truth.

She holds a Master’s in Biblical and Theological Studies as well as a Master’s in Criminal Justice. She is an amazing teacher and the author of a number of Bible studies and has just released her newest on Rahab. Shadia, welcome. We’re so glad to have you here. 

Shadia: Oh, this is fantastic. Thank you so much for having me back.

I appreciate all that you do to invest in writers. Your ministry is beautiful. Thanks for having me. 

Erin: Thank you. Well, as we love to begin, what does the deep mean to you, Shadia? 

Shadia: When I think of the deep and my walk with God, I’m reminded, of what Paul says: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and I want to know God more.”

I think that’s what we all want as Christians. We all want to know God more. It’s just like any relationship. You do that by going deep, by spending that time together and intentionally investing in that relationship. I just want to know him more.

Erin: I love that the focus on intention there is the key. We might want things, but if we don’t do anything about them, they’re just desires, not goals. 

Shadia: Yes. 

Erin: But if we have the intention and the goal of doing that, of spending that time, then it can happen. So I love that word. 

Shadia: And it’s God’s desire too. We’re right in alignment. It’s his will. 

Erin: That’s right. And he does draw us. I think that’s something we can be praying for when we’re praying about having a deeper relationship with him, that he would call, that he would draw us, and that we would meet him with that intentionality as well. So I like that.

Well, we’re excited about the release of your new Bible study. I got to tell you guys, go look at her Bible studies. These are great. I have thoroughly enjoyed even just looking through them. But digging into them and doing them—doing is a cool experience. We’ve got to definitely say that is a life-changing type of a Bible study experience when you’re going deep.

Rahab: Rediscovering the God Who Saves Me is the newest one, and so I’m excited about that because it’s about Rahab. That’s interesting. But as you were writing this study, how did it impact your own faith walk? Especially how that regarded your situation with your mom’s health? 

Shadia: Yeah. It’s interesting because with this particular Bible study, faith and salvation together are the primary themes of the entire Bible study. Those are the center cores of Rahab’s story and this particular Bible study. Looking back, I realized I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when God allowed me to experience not one, but two really difficult events that challenged my faith.

One of them we talked about last time with me having to suddenly have to move. That happened about halfway through writing this Bible study, and that was very, very difficult. But who knew I was going to be in store for something far worse? It happened just a couple of weeks away from my book deadline.

Whenever you’re on a book deadline, anybody who’s experienced that knows that’s pretty stressful. Everything is basically on hold until you finish this book. You’re not cleaning the house. Your friends have to bring you food.

So here I was at the end. I had just a couple of weeks left for finishing the book. I had about two days left that I was writing for the end of the study. I’m under all this pressure, and I get a phone call from my brother. Now I live in California, my family’s originally from New York, so my brother, my mom, and so forth are living in New York. I get a call from my brother saying that mom is in the hospital.

Now at that point, I had already made three trips to New York just in that past year because her health had been slowly failing, but she kept bouncing back. The last time I saw her, she was getting stronger. She was back home and things seemed to be going fine.

But my brother calls me and by the time he called me and said that she was in the hospital, I mean, hours later, she’s already on life support. I almost didn’t even comprehend the words. It happened so fast.

Just hours later, I’m on a flight back to New York. All my friends and Bible study group and prayer team are praying alongside with me for two things. I wanted to get back in time to say goodbye, and more importantly, to share the gospel one last time.

I think I’ve shared on this program before, I wasn’t raised in a Christian family, I’m the only Christian in the family. Twenty-five years of witnessing, and I’m still the only Christian in the family. I’ve been witnessing to my mom for years, and there was a time many years before that she had prayed with me to receive Christ, but I never really saw much fruit. She was kind of on her own, and one of those people that…I mean, I can’t put this on my shoulders, but I sometimes feel that if I had just been there, she would have went to church with me.

Karen: Right, right. 

Shadia: You get it. I honestly just never knew where she stood with the Lord. When the plane landed, a friend picked me up, and we drove straight to the hospital. I went right up to her room.

She’s in ICU, my brother’s there, my stepfather’s there, my aunt, my mom’s sister. Mom is sedated, completely sedated. There are fifteen wires and tubes and all those things. Quite honestly, looking back, I was probably just in shock.

I’ve heard people say that even if somebody’s sedated or in a coma or anything like that, their hearing still works. 

Karen: You can talk to them. Right. 

Shadia: Yeah. So I held on to that. I went up to her bed, and I held her hand. I thought to myself—obviously praying this whole entire time—I thought, “God, she’s heard the gospel. I don’t need to go through the Romans road. I mean, she knows it.” 

So all I just kept saying was, “Run to Jesus. Run to Jesus.”

I would read things like Psalm 23, the Shepherd Psalm, and I played the song “Amazing Grace,” just little things like that. Even though my family was in the room with me, and they’re not believers. They’ve always been very gracious and sensitive to my faith, and I appreciate that. So there was no one standing in the way of any of that.

I remember saying to my mom, “Squeeze my hand if you can hear me.”

She never did. At one moment, she did open her eyes once and she turned and I felt like she was looking at me, but then she closed them again and I’m like, “Oh God, did she, is she there? Does she hear me?”

You don’t know. It’s so hard. And by the next morning she was gone. 

Karen: Oh, gosh. 

Shadia: Yeah. She passed.

God had answered one of my prayers. I got there in time to say goodbye. In the dark days that followed, God was still with me. God’s light was still there.

What happened afterwards, though, is the most interesting part of what happened. I’m in New York, and I had to stay helping my brother, my stepfather, and everyone with the burial plans, the paperwork. All the logistical things that had to be arranged.

She passed on Tuesday, and by Friday, I had scheduled a flight to return home on Saturday morning. There was nothing left that needed to be done. My brother who owns a restaurant, was kind of already back in work mode. You know, life still goes on. We’re still grieving and so forth, but there are still responsibilities.

Karen: Right. 

Shadia: I booked my flight for Saturday morning, but Friday, I had no peace. I just kept sensing this thought, like I had to stay one more day. I’m like, “Is that you God? Or is this my imagination?”

You know, you’re under all this stress to begin with. But by Friday night, I think it was around 11 o’clock, I can’t sleep. I’m feeling like I’m supposed to stay another day, and I’m questioning it because I’m like, “What for? There’s nothing left to do. I’ve got to get back home. I’ve got work to do.”

Of course, I’m asking God for clarity. “God, can you make it clear? Is this you?”

But I didn’t get that sense. Finally, since this feeling wouldn’t go away, I decided, “All right, well, if this is God, I need to do this, and if it’s not, what am I going to lose?”

Here I am, 11 o’clock at night, getting on my iPad, cancelling the flight, cancelling the drive to the airport. Then, of course, the airline didn’t have a flight on Sunday, so I had to book for another airline, and so on. All the things.

So I change everything, and now I’m going to fly out Sunday. So Saturday morning comes, and I’m throwing my hands up. “Okay, here I am.”

My brother’s back at work. My stepfather has some things to do, and I’m just home at my parents’ house, and I had nothing really to do. I’d already scoured Mom’s room for journals, photos, anything personal, anything special that might minister to me or my family. Mementos or whatever.

I thought, “Well, I haven’t done that in her art studio.” She was an artist, so she had an art studio. I thought, “Let me go in there and poke around.”

In the back of the studio, I found an old bookshelf. I was looking for journals, though she wasn’t a journaler. She wasn’t a writer, but I had given her a journal once like twenty years ago.

Lo and behold, I recognized it. Although at the moment, I couldn’t even remember if it was the one I gave her twenty years ago. But I recognized that it had no title. It wasn’t a book. So I pulled it out and then I recognized it immediately. It had this yellow sunflower on top and it was a journal I had given to her twenty years before.

Erin: Wow. 

Shadia: In that journal were just three entries. In one of the entries, she wrote a prayer telling God how much she thanked him for me, that I had shared the Lord with her and witnessed to her. Then she wrote a prayer of salvation, giving her life to Christ. Dedicating her life to Christ.

I’m reading these words like, “Is this really what I’m reading?”

Especially because of the fact that she was not a writer. She wasn’t a journal type person, but I’ve got boxes of journals, you know what I mean? But that wasn’t her thing. So for her to write this down, this is significant. She wrote this prayer of salvation and thanked God for me telling her about him. 

I thought in that moment that even though mom had struggled all those years to hold on to her faith—because we’d had conversations now and then—I’d just never, I mean, I was looking for that clear sign, that evidence. I was struggling myself, not seeing that evidence and God reminded me of 2nd Timothy 2:13, which says that even if we are faithless, God remains faithful. He cannot deny who he is.

It seemed that he honored Mom’s prayer because it was a sincere prayer. I’m the one who had to rest in that truth, trusting in who God is and thanking him for displaying that for me by ensuring I would delay that trip in order to find that journal rather than spending the next six months in despair until the next time I was back there.

Here’s one more tiny piece of this story. When I got back home here in California, the next morning, my mind’s still a little bit blown, and I was struggling again. Like, “Is she really in heaven? Is she really with God? Is it true?”

That’s when the Spirit spoke clearly—that clarity I wanted on Friday, and I didn’t get it. I got it on Monday morning, back in California. He spoke very clearly, giving me that reminder of me finding that journal, delaying the trip. He said to me, “Is it in God’s nature to give you false hope?” 

Erin: Wow. 

Karen: Amen. 

Shadia: Yeah. Then, of course, when I finally started getting back to finishing the end of the Bible study, it’s nothing like what I would’ve written before this happened. So, yeah, I’m just praying that story encourages many others..kind of like Rahab. She saved her family. She went back for her family. She could have jumped out the window with the spies and saved herself. 

Karen: Yeah. 

Shadia: She could have been rescued that night, but she stayed back and risked her life to save her family. I feel like God allowed me to see that connection. 

Erin: Yeah. 

Shadia: That’s what he did. He allowed my faith to really be challenged in a beautiful way and again displayed the beauty of who he is, which is ultimately what we want. That’s what I want. I want to know him more. 

Karen: Right. 

Shadia: He revealed himself more clearly.

Karen: Yeah, that’s amazing. 

Erin: That’s what he does. That’s who he is. That’s the goal—that God reveals who he is in his word and through us. 

Shadia: He wants to be known. 

Karen: Right. 

Erin: And trusted—us understanding by faith that we can trust who he is and who he’s revealed himself to be, which is why I like so much that you write Bible studies. Because that’s one of the ways that we understand who God is and how he reveals himself to us. He left us the Bible to reveal himself to us. 

Shadia: Absolutely. 

Erin: We don’t dig in the way we need to. I saw this quote on some of your promotional material for the Bible study for Rahab. You’d said, “In today’s fast-paced, instant-results, frenzied way of life, many Christians have come to lean on a Bible verse or even a word as spiritual nourishment.”

I thought, “Yeah!” You tell us, though, why is that a problem? 

Shadia: Yeah, it certainly is the culture we’re in now. “Just a Bible verse a day and keep the devil away” kind of thing. The problem with it is that except perhaps the book of Proverbs, the Bible wasn’t written to be understood in verses.

A lot of the Bible is narrative, or in the New Testament, there are stories. Everything is written in within context. Then even broader of that, all of the Bible is written and connects to the rest of the Bible. There’s one redemptive story throughout the entire Bible. Then each element of the Bible, whether it’s a book or even if you just take a chapter, it all has to be understood within context.

That’s how you get to know God more. That’s how you see what this bigger picture is. Where is he coming from? What is he trying to teach us?

We can’t survive spiritually on breadcrumbs. God’s given us bread. God’s given us food. God’s given us a feast. 

We can’t easily take it all in at once, but he’s also provided nerds like me who love to do that extra digging and then provide guidance on how you can dig in, on how you can know God more. He has revealed himself in his word. It’s very important to study the Bible with those bigger pictures in mind and looking at everything and how it relates to the Bible as a whole. 

Erin: Yeah. I think of so many people out there who have a question about God, or an anger toward God, or a disbelief, they’ll pull out one little thing, but there’s a whole backstory behind all this. 

You know, somebody once said to me, “Are you saying that people who follow the Jewish faith tradition, but don’t follow Christ, they’re not Christians then? What’s going to happen to them? Jesus was a Jew.” 

I’m just like, “What? There’s a whole story in there. A whole redemptive story about how God woos his people.”

Shadia: Yes. 

Karen: The interesting thing is, as writers, none of us write books with the intent that our readers will come and pull one sentence, one paragraph out and put that up on their wall and use that without context. I mean, they could pull something that somebody bad says, and say, “I’m so inspired by this.”

You’re like, “Ah, you have to read that in context of the story in order to understand.”

That’s the same thing with the scriptures. 

Shadia: Yes. I think this is why so many Christians are feeling empty, longing for deeper intimacy with God, because they’re only looking at the examples out there, like this verse a day, a word a day. There’s nothing wrong with those things, just like you shared, Karen. I mean, I have a Bible verse on my wall.

Karen: Sure. 

Shadia: But I know the context of the story and it has such richer application to me because I’m aware of the bigger story. 

Karen: Because you’ve gone deeper.

Erin: These little Bible snippets, they’re like Twitter. It’s all soundbites. Soundbite faith is not deep. It’s not going deep with God, so obviously Bible study is going to help us with that. And reading the Bible through in its entirety. That’s a great practice for us to be doing every year or every two years or every six months or whatever it is.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t meditate on a Bible verse or even a word. Those things can still be good. If you’re thinking about how God is almighty, well what does that mean? Invariably, if you have more context of the Bible, what you’re coming up with for what “almighty” means are things that we’ve seen in the Bible and also in our lives. There’s that richer context there. I love that. 

Shadia: Yeah. 

Erin: This has been a great conversation again. Of course! But we’re already coming to the end of our time. Are there some final words of wisdom that you would want to leave us with, either from your own life or from what you’ve learned with studying Rahab or whatever?

Shadia: One of the things that I could share about the story of Rahab is how it just applies to us. I’m always saying that the Rahab story is our story because the entire Bible is a picture of God’s passionate pursuit of his adulterous bride. 

Karen: Right. 

Shadia: That’s us. One of the prostitutes. But from Genesis all the way to Revelation, God is working out his plan of salvation to bring his bride home. Rahab, who’s this prostitute who’s rescued ends up in the lineage of Christ. She ends up marrying a prince of Judah. Her story reminds us that no matter what we’ve done, God is willing to embrace us if we turn to him and be saved.

Her story is our story because we are the prostitute. We become the bride of Christ. It is such a perfect place to begin a exploration into who God is. Her story is amazing, and we didn’t even talk about this whole aspect of where it appears in the Bible and the fact that they’re on the edge of the Promised Land, all that stuff. Powerful story and a beautiful story and a greatly, greatly theologically significant story in the Bible. 

Erin: Cool. And we recommend it, by the way!

Karen: We all need to delve deeper. Yes, we all need to delve deeper into Rahab and to understand all of that, where it fits in God’s story and in his relationship with us.

But more than anything else, I just want to say thanks for sharing what God did for you and the way that he blessed you beyond anything you could imagine. That’s the sign of a loving father. We can rest in him. We can take him at his word when he says that if we come to him and lay our burdens on him, we can then rest.

We can rest in him. We don’t have to worry. We don’t have to be anxious for anything. And boy, howdy, if Christians don’t know how to worry, they don’t know how to do anything. They are worriers from the ground up, and we should not be. We should be resting in the God who loves us beyond our imagining.

Thank you, Shadia, and may God be with each of us every step of the day.

Shadia: Thank you. 

Karen: Amen. 

Erin: Amen.

Guest @ShadiaHrichi shares how God used crisis upon crisis to strengthen her faith and her writing. #amwriting #christianwriter Share on X
Shadia Hrichi’s Latest Bible Study

Rahab: Rediscovering the God Who Saves Me by Shadia Hrichi

Rahab Rediscovering the God Who Saves Me by Shadia Hrichi

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Special thanks to our November sponsor of the month Christy Bass Adams. She’s the author of a devotional titled Learning As I Go: Big Lessons from Little People, and a middle grades novel, The Adventures of Cricket and Kyle: Imagination Checkers. She’s also a speaker and leads women’s conferences and Bible studies, and she’s a monthly contributor to Inspire-a-fire and a newspaper columnist for Greene Publishing.

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