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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

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


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167 – Do You Really Know Who God Is? Part 4

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Do You Really Know Who God Is Part 4 Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungIt’s so easy for us, when we’ve known someone a long time, been around them every day, to take for granted that we know them inside and out. And yet, there are always things we don’t know. In fact, some of what we think we know are just assumptions. We’re inclined to do this not just with people, but with God. So don’t let that happen. Instead, come explore more of God’s complexity with us!

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

Erin: Welcome listeners. We’re excited that you’re joining us here in the deep. Today we’re continuing our series about God. We are loving this series, you guys. We’re talking about knowing God better so we can trust him and we can lean on him.

God gives us life and breath and everything else. That includes the stories we share with others. It’s all about the truth that we have that sets us free from the world, the bondage, the decay, the sin. We have to know that truth, and we have to know God.

God is right on time

Karen: Today’s first attribute is God is right on time. He’s never late. He’s never early, no matter what we think. We like God to work on our timeline. We like to tell God, “Well, Father, this needs to happen by…” all the while, not realizing who we’re saying this to. God knows the exact right timing. I can guarantee you, his timing is seldom our timing.

I just went and spoke up in the Seattle area at a writer’s conference. Well, not only was I speaking, I was doing the keynote speech that opened the conference. The very first thing everybody was going to hear.

Erin: No pressure!

Karen: No pressure. When I agreed to do this months ago, I was like, no big deal. I do keynotes all the time. I’m good with this.

Every stinking time I sat down to write this thing, I’d sit there and I’d stare at the screen. I’d stare at the computer screen, and I’d be like, “I got nothing. Let’s go garden.”

It just kept happening and kept happening. By the week before the conference, I was talking with God and I said, “I’ve really got to get this put down on paper. We got to let this happen, Lord.”

So I came and I sat at my computer. And, yeah. My mantra. “I got nothing. Lord, there’s just nothing there.”

Now people had given me ideas all along the way, and I actually tried to build on some of those ideas and craft a speech based on that. And it just didn’t happen.

So there I am in Seattle, in my hotel the night before I’m supposed to deliver the speech. It was around 7:30 that night, and I was giving the speech at 9:30 the next morning. I was sitting on the couch watching TV because I’d tried earlier and nothing happened.

Then I get kind of this spiritual tap on my shoulder. All I get is this urge inside that it’s like, “Now.”

Okay, I’m good. So I go and I sit at the computer. I close my eyes, and I just start laughing because God revealed to me, unfolded, that all of these things that I had tried to develop into a speech were all laying the groundwork for what he really wanted me to tell everyone.

When I gave this keynote I said, “Okay, I thought I might talk to you about…and so on, but that wasn’t going to work. So then I realized I could talk to you about and so on.”

All of these previous ideas fed into the speech that I gave. I had so much fun talking about the process. The people listening had so much fun hearing it. We were laughing, we were crying, and then I came to the thing that God had told me, “This is the message I want you to give to them.”

It was in Ezekiel chapters two and three, selected sections, where God comes to Ezekiel and says, “I have appointed you a watchman, and this is what I want you to do. Go to Israel, to this rebellious nation and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.'”

I’m just laughing to myself because I’m like, “That’s what I’m doing, Lord. I’m telling them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says,’ and that’s perfect for writers!”

It just worked out so well. I had so many people coming up and telling me how it blessed them. I thought, and actually said to them, “You know, God knew what you needed, and he provided in his time and in his way.”

For one of the first times in my life, I didn’t worry about it. I just said, “When you’re ready, you’ll pour it into me.” And he did. The timing was all up to God.

If I had gotten it too early, if I had started and forced it and tried to make it come out, I would have figured it was all me and my great wisdom and what a terrific speaker I am.

Yet if it had been too late, I’d have been standing there facing these people and just, you know, “Lord!” It would have been a terrible thing. But the timing was up to God, and it was perfect. All he asked of me was to be willing to wait on him and his timing.

God will never be too late. He will never be too early. God is perfectly timed in everything he does for you and in you and through you.

Erin: I love that.

God is our father

Erin: I love that God revealed himself to us in a father relationship. God is obviously relational, and this is the relationship he takes with us. He’s our Father.

I love that we all seem to have this built in. We have this longing to connect, please, and get in touch with our earthly father or heavenly Father or both. I mean, God planted this specifically for him in there, but you can see it in our world too.

I was watching some design show contest or something, and the winner had not been receiving very much support from her family, specifically from her father. She ends up winning and she says, “I can’t tell you how great it was to get that approval from my father,” who was so excited and cried when she won.

It was just this beautiful moment, and it reminded me of how important that relationship is. The thing is, we don’t have to win God’s approval. We don’t have to do anything to get it. God already loves us. He values us. He approves of us.

He made us. He takes care of us. He carries us. I think of it as that he has ownership of us, too. I have kids, I would go out of my way to help them with whatever they need. You know, that’s God, he teaches us what’s right. He disciplines us, and his love for us is like a father’s.

I was reading just the other day in The Message a section from Jeremiah in chapter 31. Listen to how this is paraphrased in The Message. “Oh, Ephraim is my dear, dear son. My child in whom I take pleasure. Every time I mentioned his name, my heart bursts with longing for him. Everything in me cries out for him, softly and tenderly I wait for him.”

This is God’s feelings about us, his children. As writers, I want to encourage us to rest in God’s love. In his Father-ness. In his approval. In his willingness to take care of us.

We can entrust ourselves to him, and we don’t have to take on the publishing industry by ourselves or really at all. We don’t. We just have to go where God tells us. Do what our Father tells us. Rest in him and let him fight our battles.

God is self-sufficient

Karen: The next attribute is that God is self-sufficient. You know, I never really thought about this until I started doing some research. Scripture tells us in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” (NLT)

Think about it. God has no needs. He can’t improve. He’s already perfection in every single way. He is perfect. He created everything. He owns everything. Like Erin just said, he has ownership of us.

He has access to everything. God’s stores never run dry. God will never go to the shelves and find they aren’t overflowing with everything he has.  His grace, his love, his mercy, every treasure, every cattle on every hill, nothing will run out with God.

He is self-sufficient. We cannot add anything to who he is. He doesn’t need us, but he asks us to partake with him in ministry. To take part in him by writing his truth for a dark and lost world.

He does it not because he needs us to do those things. He does it because he loves us. He loves us so much that he wants to share us and the message through us with other people. And he loves them so much that he wants to share his truth in the way that only we can do it as writers and in telling our stories and the truths that we’ve learned about God.

God has no needs. He is self-sufficient and that tells us two very important things. Anything he asks us to do isn’t for him, for his needs, but for ours. If he has come and said to you, “I want you to write for me,” it’s what he knows is best for you. It’s what he knows you need. Whether it’s something you will encounter on that journey, whether it’s something that will happen through your books, God knows.

He asks us to do things for our own good, not for his good, but for our own good. And that’s again, because he loves us so much.

The second thing it tells us is that we can trust him to supply all our needs in every area of life. If it seems like you’re going down this path, and you’re doing all these things, and something’s just not happening or you need this or you need that, “God, I need more reviews. I need this. I need that,” just stop.

Stop in the midst of feeling as though what you have isn’t enough and look to the God who is more than enough. He will never run low on wisdom, on grace, on love. Anything that exists, God has in abundance, and he has told us that he will share that with us. But again, like I talked about at the very beginning, in the perfect time. He has you, your career, your family, everything in his hands, and he will supply every need.

Erin: Amen.

God is our forgiver

Erin: The next thing I want to mention is that God is our forgiver. He’s the one who forgives. I was reading Psalm 103 verses two and three, and it says, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity…”

That got me thinking that we need to remember who we are at the core. We are actually sinners at the core. We’re forgiven sinners, but we’re sinners nevertheless.

This is the human condition, right? We like to make our own decisions and be our own god and decide what’s best for us. This is what’s been happening since Adam and Eve.

The deal is that we sinned against God in all of this. Now, yes, sometimes we’ll sin by doing or not doing something to someone else. That’s true. I’m not trying to minimize that. That’s hurtful and wrong to someone else.

But ultimately it is against God that we’ve sinned because he told us not to do that. He told us how to live. But the deal is that even while we were sinners, Christ died for us, and God forgives us.

Why do I bring all this up? It’s not to make us feel bad. It’s to help us live in the understanding of who we are and where we would be without God. It’s to help us live in meekness and in gratitude.

It’s to encourage us in this profound truth of forgiveness that was offered to us, and that we can offer that to our readers. These are the kinds of truths that we write about. This is the kind of hope that we want to offer, but we need to live in it. The more deeply that we live in it, the more deeply we can write about it.

But how can we do that if we don’t meditate? If we don’t take the time to put it in our minds and our hearts? God is our forgiver.

That should lead us to forgive others, too. We’ve said this before—people are not perfect. This industry is not perfect. Chances are very good that someone somewhere along the way is going to hurt you, and you will need to practice forgiveness. If we use our heavenly Father’s example of forgiveness, that will help us to offer forgiveness to others.

God Is Funny

Karen: The next attribute is something that I’ve known for a long time, but it never really connected in my brain. One attribute of God that I especially appreciate is that God is funny. He seriously is. He has a sense of humor and a sense of irony that I absolutely admire.

All you have to do is look at creation. Look at critters like the platypus. If God had no imagination and no sense of humor, he would not have created this thing.

Look at the dinosaurs, the way that they show they were created. Here’s this enormous tyrannosaurus rex and these short little arms. God must’ve had a really good laugh when he was creating the world and all the animals and all the different things that he did.

But you know what? I’ve been researching, Isaiah 43. I take a verse and I write it down. Then I study that verse and look at all the commentaries on it.

I came across, just a couple days ago, Isaiah 43:9. This is what Isaiah says is the message of God. That God says to everyone, all of the nations that he’s speaking to let everyone gather and all you who follow idols or other gods, witness before everyone, how they foretold something and how they told you the progression of a promise would happen, that this would happen. And then this would happen. And then this. But the thing is they can’t do that because none of their idols, none of their false gods, can either foretell the future or look back and say, “Back here, I told you this would happen. And then this, and then this,” because they don’t know the future. They don’t know what’s coming. Only our God can do that.

I found it absolutely hysterical that God was saying, “Yeah, you guys who believe these false gods and these ideas come and tell us. Witness to how they told you this would happen and then this, and then this.” They’re all just kind of standing there looking like they’ve been sucking on lemons all day long, because they can’t do it.

Then listen to this in Proverbs 4:7. This just cracks me up. It says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom…”

It made me laugh when I read that. I ought to make a new bumper sticker “Got wisdom?” and put it on my car. I love it so much.

Then in 1 Samuel 5:1-5, the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant and they placed it in the temple of their god Dagon. Later when they came to take a look at it, they found their idle fallen face down in front of the ark.

Well, they picked up their god and brushed it off and set it there again. The next day, guess where their idol was? Face down on the ground with its hands and its head broken off. God wasn’t having it. He was making it very clear to them that he wasn’t having it. I bet you anything he was laughing when he took that idol and smashed it onto the ground.

What this teaches me is that I have to be careful not to take myself too seriously. God created us, and he created our need for laughter. And he created our sense of humor.

We need to be able to laugh at ourselves. We need to be able to laugh with others. We need to be able to see the humorous things all around us, because we need that kind of relief in the course of these very difficult days that we’re facing.

Our God has led the way for us. He has a sense of humor. He has a sense of irony, and we need to have the same as we follow him.

God is the great physician

Erin: The next attribute is that God is the Great Physician. God made us. He formed us in the womb, and he knows every intricacy of how our bodies work. Our bodies are marvelous, intricate machines. It’s so amazing.

Now, modern medicine is great. But there are still so many unknowns. I have fibromyalgia. That’s a problem with my brain processing pain, but no one knows how that happens, or why that happens.

I’ve got this new medication that my doctor put me on for fybro. I was reading about this medication and they’re like, “Well, it does this, but we don’t know why that works.”

I’m just like, “That’s scary.”

I have chronic insomnia, too. I can’t sleep. Why? That’s unknown. That’s just straight up unknown.

But God knows. God sees, and God does heal us. I mentioned Psalm 103:2-3 earlier, but I didn’t read all of verse three. It says, “Who forgives all your inequity, who heals all your diseases.”

That’s our God. Sometimes he heals us quickly. You might have a headache or a cold or some other virus and it goes away. Or sometimes there’s a miraculous healing. I’ve known people that this has happened to. The cancer just disappears. That’s great. It’s a miracle.

Sometimes he heals slowly. I had mono in college, and it took weeks to recover from. Sometimes our healing isn’t realized until heaven. Maybe he brings us home through the illness or disease.

Sometimes we struggle with chronic issues until heaven. Like I said, I have this fibromyalgia, I still have chronic fatigue episodes and insomnia. But while we live, he gives us grace to cope, and in our weakness, he’s shown strong. He gets the glory.

Someday we’ll have a new and glorious body with no pain and no weariness and no problems. But for now, we trust. We just trust.

I know there are a lot of writers out there suffering from medical issues. You can check out some of our previous episodes because we’ve talked to a lot of writers who do struggle with this. They have great words of wisdom and great encouragement.

But remember that your chronic issues or your sudden issues are no surprise to God. He will walk with you through it. He will. He will never leave you. He knows every molecule in your body. He knows every hurt and every worry, and he, as your Great Physician will take care of you.

Karen: Isn’t it good to know that this God who we’ve heard about all our lives, this God who we’ve decided to trust for our salvation, that there’s so much about him that we still can learn?

We humans have a habit of taking people for granted. Of loving people, but we see them all the time, and so we don’t think much about who they really are and what really moves them, and how special they are.

We sometimes do that with God. We take him for granted. But we can remedy that. We can sit down and look in Scripture. We can talk to God and learn from him about who he is and his many attributes. As you listen to this podcast, and as you think about it later, ask God to show you what facet of his personality, what characteristic, what attribute he wants you to think about and ponder on today. And then do it, because I’ll tell you, there’s nobody who’s more worth your time.

Erin: Amen.

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How do you think we would know if we were taking God for granted?


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166 – Find Happiness in Chaos with Guest Tricia Goyer

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Find Happiness in Chaos with Guest Tricia Goyer Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungChaos is a given in life today, especially if you’re a writer. Finding time to write in the midst of all that’s going on can seem impossible. Which can be depressing and frustrating. Which can steal our ability to enjoy the task God has given us to share His stories. Guest Tricia Goyer is here to help you not only cope with chaos, but find happiness in the midst of it!

About Tricia Goyer

Tricia Goyer is a speaker, podcast host, and USA Today bestselling author of over 80 books. Tricia writes in numerous genres including fiction, parenting, marriage, and books for children and teens. She’s a wife, homeschooling mom of ten, and she loves to mentor writers through WriteThatBook.Club. Tricia lives near Little Rock, AR.

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. We’re excited because we have a guest, and I’m super excited about the topic. I’m going to let Karen introduce our guest.

Karen: Our guest is the amazing Tricia Goyer. I mean, there are some people who use amazing for everything, but when you use that word for Tricia, it’s true. She’s been married to her husband, John, for 28 years and they have—are you sitting down?—ten children officially, plus two more bonus daughters, who totally count as their kids.

She has started Hope Pregnancy center in Kalispell, Montana, led a teen moms support group since 2002, and God has opened the doors for her to publish 70 plus books and 500 plus articles. We call her—she’s a part of the same brainstorming group that I’m a part of that meets once a year—and we call her the Energizer bunny. She just does not stop.

She’s also had the privilege to speak all over the United States and internationally. On top of all that, she homeschools their kids. She’s been homeschooling for 25 years and still has another 10 years to go. That just boggles my mind. And she’s such a joyful, happy person, even on top of all of that.

I love this quote from her website: “I dared to say to God, ‘If you can do anything with my life, please do.’ I’m amazed what God’s done. I know where I was headed: to destruction and a life of pain and shame. Yet God has turned everything around for his good.”

That’s what we’re here to talk about today. How God turns everything around for his good and for our good. So, Tricia thank you. Thank you for being with us and welcome!

Tricia: Thank you, Erin and Karen. It’s so great to be here. I love connecting with you, and I think you guys are awesome, too.

Erin: Well, thank you. We are delighted for you to be here. Our first question, as usual, is what does the deep mean to you?

Tricia: Well, the deep means really going deep into God’s love. As someone who grew up not understanding God’s love, I didn’t have a biological dad around, my stepdad was very distant, it has taken me a long time to understand, to truly understand the love of God. Now that I totally understand this love, I feel like I can just climb up in his lap and be in his embrace.

That is the deep to me, just realizing that his love will never leave me and that he is always with me.

Erin: I like that.

Karen: We’re here to talk to Tricia today about having a happy heart. She’s just recently had a book release called Heart Happy: Staying Centered in God’s Love Through Chaotic Circumstances. But I started reading it, and I’m pretty sure that Erin started reading it, and it’s pretty remarkable.

It’s funny, when you think of happy people, you look at them and you think they’ve never known a difficult day in their lives. But that’s just not true. Tricia, why might writers struggle to be happy in the Lord?

Tricia: Well, I think sometimes we just don’t understand what happy is. I think sometimes we think happy is that everything has to be going right in our world, and happy is that we have a great day, and I’ve lost ten pounds, and my jeans fit better. All of those things is what we tie our happiness to.

But actually happy and blessed are words that can be both used in the same Scripture verses. So, you know, those verses that say, “Blessed is the one who… fill in the blank,” it could be also translated happy. And that isn’t blessed, like, blessed that I have a new SUV. It is going back to God’s Word saying: walking the right path. So that word blessed and happy is translated from the word essure, which means walking on the right path.

When we are in God’s will, when we are walking on his path, that is where we find our happiness and blessed. And we all know God’s path. Isn’t perfect and we don’t have everyday sunshine and birds singing out the window. But if we know we have God, we can lean on him. We can depend on him. We can seek him for our strength. That is where we get that inner happiness that only comes with communion with God.

Erin: There’s a lot in the Bible about joy. Tell me what you see as the difference between being joyful and being happy.

Tricia: That is such a good question. I think joy is that outward expression of, you know, we have the self-control, we have the faithfulness, and the joy is the outward expression of what God is doing in our lives.

I see happy more as a deep-rooted thing in our soul. When we are happy in the Lord, it’s more like a contentment, a settling in our heart with God’s heart. Joy, we can be joyful and rejoice, and it’s having joy in that outward expression. But happy is more the inward expression and the inward state of being connected with God.

Erin: That’s super interesting. I like that distinction. I’m thinking, too, for writers, like both of those, being joyful and happiness, I think that writers can struggle with them. It’s a very difficult journey, or can be. Why do you think it’s important for writers to be happy? I mean, what happens if we’re not happy?

Tricia: Yeah, that’s such a good question. I think going back to what does it mean to be happy and what happens when we’re not happy? There are times when we are going to feel unsettled. There are times when we’re going to have a whole list of chaos in our life. There’s going to be all the external things, but it goes back to the happiness in the Lord. Where I got this term from, the term heart happy, was from George Mueller.

George Mueller was someone who lived 150 years ago and he cared for orphans. He also journaled everything that was going on in his life. He had lists and lists of prayer requests, and he always took his needs before God, that God would provide for him. Even though he was caring for thousands of orphans at a time, he never requested money. He knew that the Lord would provide.

George Mueller says that before he would get up in his day, before he did anything else, he would read Scripture, he would pray, and he would get his heart happy in the Lord. It just made me realize, like that’s been a routine in my life for many, many years. I mean, for decades, no matter what’s going on.

We’ve added kids biologically. We’ve added kids through adoption in our home. There’s been a lot of trauma. There’s been a lot of chaos, and every day I jump out of bed because I need Jesus so much. I need to be in God’s Word. I read Scripture and then ask God, “What do you have for me?” There might be a lot going on in my life, but I have to center my heart in the Lord.

If we are struggling, which all of us do, with not feeling happy, we need to go back to where the source is from. We need to go back to God. We need to go back to his Word. And it’s not like the circumstances always change. But my heart changes in the middle of the circumstances, where I can step back and say, “You are in control. You know what’s going on. You love me completely. You have a good plan for my life. You have a good plan for these circumstances.”

Then I can go on with my day better able to handle trying to meet a writing deadline, trying to deal with kids from trauma, trying to homeschool my children, whatever it is. The happiness must come from that time with the Lord first, and that makes all the difference in our day.

Karen: I think that’s an excellent point. Too many of us tie happiness to our circumstances. And, “How can I be happy when this is happening? And this is happening? And I’m suffering this, and I’ve just had a loss, and I’m sick all the time and blah, blah, blah. How am I supposed to be happy in the face of this?”

And that’s because we’re looking at it through human, finite eyes, rather than going back to Scripture and understanding that circumstances don’t have anything to do with it. I love what C.S. Lewis said once, and I can never remember the exact quote, but it’s along the lines of, “I don’t pray to change God’s mind. I pray to gain God’s heart.”

You have to recognize that, in many ways, happiness has very little to do with us specifically. It has very little to do with what’s going on in our lives. It completely has to do with whether we are content in God, as you have said.

Erin: Yeah. The other thing that I noticed too, Tricia, when you were talking about that, we have to go back to, “God loves me. God knows what he’s doing.” You know, you were preaching to yourself. Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. You were preaching to yourself from God’s Word so that your faith can grow, so that the Holy Spirit can work on you.

Because I was thinking, “What are the steps to being happy? What about the person who’s really struggling?” But you exactly gave us the formula, so to speak. Going to God, looking at his Word and preaching to yourself, and understanding and knowing those promises.

Guys, for you out there who just, you know, today is a rough day, and you’re struggling with this, go back to just the one thing you know for sure about God and preach it to yourself because the Holy Spirit will work through that.

Karen: Amen.

Tricia: Yeah. I have a good example of that from when we were doing trauma therapy with my little guy who we adopted. He was almost three years old, and we had no relationship because we got him when he was almost three. He’d been moved around in foster care, and he was destructive.

My whole life of having him was just, “Don’t do that. Stop doing that. Put that down. Why won’t you do this?” I mean, trying to get him to obey me.

So we go to trauma therapy, and I’m thinking it was going to, like, teach me how to discipline him. Instead, she says, “This is what I want you to do. I want you to get some special toys and spend five minutes a day with Casey, and your complete focus is on him. I want you to see what he’s doing, state what he’s doing, repeat what he says, and to praise him.”

So I would say, “Okay, Casey, you are lining up your cars. You are handing Mommy a car. Good job, Casey, for sharing your car with Mommy.”

Then he would say, “Mommy car. Mommy car. You gave mommy a car.” And that relationship was built. It wasn’t about getting him to obey. It wasn’t about the obedience. The relationship was built as I was connecting with him. I was seeing him. I was repeating him. He came to trust me, and I came to appreciate him.

I realized one day that as I’m going to God’s Word, that’s what I’m doing. I am seeing what God’s doing. “In your Word, God, you say that you are faithful. You say you can pull us out from the miry pit. I see your faithfulness, God. I praise you for your faithfulness.”

Just like I was building that relationship with Casey, I can do that with God every day of my life when I see what he’s doing, when I repeat what he says, and when I praise him. That has just become something that I’ve done in my life, and it came from trauma therapy with a little three-year-old guy.

Erin: That is very cool. I think that’s such a good description of how we can build a relationship with God. I think that’s amazing. So how is Casey doing these days?

Tricia: He is doing awesome. He’s eleven now, and he is such a mama’s boy. I’ll be sitting on the couch and he’ll just climb up and wrap his big arms and legs around me and just have a hug with me. We love reading together. Every night, I go up to his room and we’re actually reading through the Little House on the Prairie series. He just thinks it’s cool that Mom is there reading to him. I get to pick the books for reading.

We have a wonderful relationship now, but it doesn’t come from me saying, “You’re not doing this right, and you’re not doing that right,” which I think sometimes we do with God. Like, “How come you’re not doing this? And how come you’re not doing that right? Things were supposed to turn out differently. I was supposed to have ten books published by now, and this isn’t working right.”

Or whatever it is, we’re pointing out what God’s doing wrong. Instead, we just need to commune with him and build that relationship with.

Erin: I wonder if sometimes we’re worried that God is pointing out things we’re doing wrong, too. And he’s not. He’s looking at us. He’s doing the same thing, going “Wow, Erin, you’re looking at me. Good job, Erin.”

Karen: One of the things that we wanted to talk about was how shame interferes with happiness. I think shame and false guilt, both do that. When we think that we’re hearing God criticize us and that that’s all that we’re getting from God as input, that’s not input from the Lord. God doesn’t work with us that way. He works the way that you did with your little boy. He draws us in love and he tells us how much he loves us and why he loves us.

So how do things like shame and false guilt interfere with that heart happiness?

Tricia: I talk about this in the book because for many years, even after I accepted Christ, I felt shame because I chose to have an abortion at age fifteen. I listened to the wrong voices. I was trying to escape what I thought was a problem, and I made a very bad decision.

For years, even after I became a Christian, it was like, “God loves me, except for this. God forgives me. Except for this. I can forgive myself, except for this.”

It was really going through a post-abortion Bible study that I realized, like, if I’m saying God can’t forgive me for this or his love doesn’t go this far, then none of it counts. I either have to accept all of it or none of it.

So I started really walking out in that love. But it has been even over time, I’m very much a people pleaser. I want to make everyone happy. I want to turn in the book right on time and have it be perfect. I mean, all those things go back to that, trying to please other people and trying to please God.

And it really came after I ended up adopting all these kids. I had to ask for extensions on a couple of books deadlines. My house is messy all the time. I remember one day in the laundry room, just crying. Like, “I can’t do this. It’s too much.”

It was like God was saying, “Finally. You’ve finally gotten to the place where you need me.”

Because I think I was working so hard to try to please him and make him happy. I felt that the gentlest whisper, “I love you just as much. I love you just as much if you miss your deadline,” which I try not to miss my deadlines.

“I love you just as much as if there’s a pile of laundry,” which currently there’s laundry in my laundry room.

I just had to get to that place, and that’s why the deep to me is God’s love and realizing we don’t have to perform to get to God’s love. We will never be perfect. I try really hard to be perfect. And God’s like, “Will you stop? Will you stop? I love you just as you are.”

Erin: I think that’s interesting because sometimes we as writers feel like our writing is our performance. Like that’s where we’re gaining our value or our worth. It’s not. It’s just not.

Karen: And that’s dangerous because then that leads you to look to other measuring sticks. To sales and to how much marketing money you get, and “That person’s on the bestseller list and I’m not. Why aren’t I on the bestseller list? That person started writing five years after I did, and they’ve sold a ga-jillion books and I’ve sold thirty-two.”

We fall into comparison and we fall into looking at the wrong measuring sticks for our worth. Then we start asking ourselves, “Did God really call me to write?”

We start getting into this downward spiral that absolutely delights the enemy. He’s so happy when he can sidetrack us and take us down into that dark hole of depression and shame and false guilt. It’s dangerous, and we just need to treat it like a rattlesnake and stay as far away from that as we can.

Tricia: Yeah. And I think it’s so important. I love what you were saying, Karen, about comparing with others, because once we start writing, I mean, there’s Amazon ratings and bestsellers lists, and all those things.

I have a sweet friend who I took to her very first conference. I introduced her around. I introduced her to my agent. She signed with my agent, and her book hit the bestsellers list and stayed there for a very, very, very long time. I’m like, what? I don’t understand. I think I had like thirteen or fourteen books at the time, and her one book had sold way more than mine.

I just felt God saying, “I have a plan for you. It’s a different plan than my plan for her. Would you have written all these other books if you just had one that really hit it big?”

I’d be like, “Uh, no.” I’d be sitting back going, “Great! I don’t need to write about that subject…”

And he’s like, “I have a plan for you. I need you to write this, and I need you to write that.” And the sales are enough to keep going.

We always try to compare and God’s like, “Look at me. Lift your eyes.”

That’s why my morning time is so important. It just turns my eyes to God instead of all those other things and all those other thoughts that are swirling around in our minds.

Karen: I read a challenge on Facebook, of all places, where it said: First thing in the morning, reach for the Bible, not the screen. It was urging people: Don’t get on your phone. Don’t get on your tablet. Don’t get on anything like that. Get into Scripture and reach for that first, and then go to the screen if you need to.

Tricia: Absolutely.

Erin: What I like also about your book is the subtitle. I think it’s great: Staying Centered in God’s Love through Chaotic Circumstances. I’m pretty sure that from what we’ve heard from you today, you’ve lived through chaotic circumstances. What do you think is the biggest challenge for writers in trying to stay centered on God’s love when they’re in chaotic circumstances? What do you think is the biggest challenge there and how can they overcome that?

Tricia: When we think of chaos, we think of the whirlwind, and we think of the tornado. We think of all these things swirling around us. I think the biggest challenge is to think that we can let those things overwhelm us and that it’s an excuse for not doing what God called us to do.

I think with me, God, put these book ideas in my life. I’ve had book contracts and it could have been easy for me to say, “I’m dealing with kids in trauma right now. I cannot do do this.”

But instead I said, “You know what? There’s trauma going on. We are working on the trauma. But for the next hour, I’m going to work on the message God gave me for other people.”

Sometimes those messages have included things like what I wrote my book called Calming Angry Kids, which talks about how to help kids who are angry and in trauma. I worked on books that deal with those sorts of things. But sometimes I’m working on novels, and I’m just pouring my emotions into the characters. Because God gave me a message and he gave me the ability to write this.

We can just step back and say, “There’s too much going on. I can’t do this.” But I’ve seen God’s face the most over and over again when I say, “Okay, I only have an hour today, and I really am tired right now, but I really feel that this is something you’ve called me to write.”

I still sit in the chair, put my fingers on the keyboard, and I still work on it. It’s amazing. I’ve had books I wrote in the middle of the biggest, biggest chaos. When we had a teen that was really acting out, I was writing the novel called The Elder Sister about Miriam.

I was in the middle of it. I was digging into the Bible and writing about Miriam and Moses and Aaron and learning about their culture and all those things. There’d be sometimes screaming in the other room, with this teen, as I’m sitting there working on this book.

After I went back and read it, I’m like, “How did this even happen?”

It was probably my least edited book. It just was God. It was God’s hand on it, because he knew I was trying to be faithful in the midst of the chaos. That is such a meaningful book to me, because I know what was going on around it. Then to hear about the grumbling and all the things with the Israelites. I mean, those emotions are there inside the book because they were there inside my home.

There’s no coincidence that that was going on and I’m trying to write this story. I was crying as I was writing and pouring into this character of Miriam because some of the things she faced were similar to the chaos happening in my life.

So I think instead of saying, “I can’t do it. I don’t have time. I’m just going to put this writing thing to the side,” realize that through it, whatever is going on, it can channel into your work, too, and God has a purpose for it.

Karen: I love that. I love how he takes each of us and he shows what he wants us to do, and we just have to be obedient. Sometimes that’s people like you, Tricia, who are able to keep going, even with the screaming in the next room. But if you’re the kind of person that needs to just kind of turtle in and stay away from everything for a little while, God’s okay with that because he works with us as we are.

He created us. He knows exactly what we need and what we’re able to do. I love that that book is special to you because you know that in your weakness, he was shown strong. You have testimony out there all over the bookshelves of how God has been faithful to you and how God has been faithful to you being faithful. I really love that.

Erin: We’re coming to the end of our time. Do you have some final words of wisdom you want to share with our listeners?

Tricia: Yeah. I would just say that I think all of us are going to have some level of chaos in our lives. I doubt there’s any people out there who say, “Oh, my life is perfectly happy, and there’s nothing going on.”

We’re all going to have some type of chaos. I think definitely leaning into God and then reaching out to others for support. Karen mentioned our group earlier. I would just pour out my prayer requests to them.

So, just have other people around you. I think it gets dangerous when we become isolated and when we don’t share our needs, and we don’t share our requests. Ask other people to pray for you during those times.

I know some of the prayers that the group wrote back to me were exactly what I needed in that moment and the encouragement to keep going. Whatever your chaotic circumstances are, just know that God’s there for you and other people can be there for you. But you just have to open your heart to both.

Karen: I think that sums this time up very well, so let’s just say amen!

Erin: Amen.

Facing Chaos? Guest @TriciaGoyer helps you find happiness in the midst of it! #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet

Are there aspects of your writing journey that make you struggle with being happy?

Book by tricia Goyer mentioned in the podcast

Heart Happy by Tricia Goyer

Heart Happy: Staying Centered in God’s Love During Chaotic Circumstances by Tricia Goyer


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


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