Our 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.
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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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Click To Tweet
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