I’m doing something a little bit different for #HearItUseIt today. I didn’t technically hear this message in church this week, but I’ve been reading this brand-new book, Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts, over the last couple of weeks, and I am really excited to introduce it to you today.
Written by co-authors Dena Dyer and Tina Samples, Wounded Women digs into the stories of more than a dozen Biblical women, from Dinah, Ruth and Hagar to Jephthah’s daughter and the widow of Zarephath, fleshing out each story with vivid detail and raw emotion and bringing each of these women to life in a new and refreshing way.
Tina and Dena bravely open up about the challenges they’ve faced in their own lives as well, sharing stories of their own wounds and allowing us very personal insights into how God has healed and redeemed them. This is difficult subject matter, but these two writers gracefully and lovingly navigate these deep waters with compassion, honesty and empathy.
I’ve had the privilege of interviewing Dena and Tina, and I’m delighted to offer you a little glimpse behind the scenes of Wounded Women of the Bible here today as they talk about the process of writing the book and some of the insights they gleaned along the way.
1. You cover quite a few Biblical women in this book — Abigail, Dinah, Ruth, Hagar, Jochebed, Mary, Martha and a whole host of others. Whose story do you most relate to and why?
Tina: There’s a little of me in every story, but I relate to the Two Women in Solomon’s Court the most. A few years ago I went through a difficult transition due to some decisions my husband made. The end result was having many women whom I thought were my friends turn their backs on me. When we experience a blindsided wound, it often feels more severe than a wound we knew was coming. I had a difficult time understanding how they could so easily walk away. One woman was the closest friend I’d ever had while serving in a church. When something like that happens, the wound feels as if you’ve lost a friend physically — that they have died. I had to grieve, but God is never far away and He soothes our wounded souls and lifts us up from our puddle of pain. He helps us heal and walk again.
2. Dena, I was particularly moved by your story in Chapter Three, when you asked, “Where are you, God?” as you stood face-to-face with a young, suffering Burmese refugee. What was that moment like when you heard God answer, “I’m in you”? How was that revelation impacted your faith journey?
Dena: That moment was simply life-changing. Working with refugees — some of the most vulnerable, forgotten and mistreated people on the planet — can feel like trying to put out a fire with a spray bottle. I often felt hopeless and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of need, especially when I learned about the many people suffering from not only war and genocide, but also human trafficking and other unspeakable violations. God saying, “I’m in you,” was profound. He reminded me that He hadn’t left the building (or our world); He dwelt in every single believer. It’s up to us — to ME — to show (and not just talk about) His grace, mercy and love to suffering people. As for my faith journey, that moment was a turning point. I was forever ruined for the ordinary. And I couldn’t use excuses like “I’m only one person” anymore. Yes, I’m one person — but God, the Creator of the universe, dwells inside me, with all His grave-busting, paradigm-altering power.
3. In Chapter Four, Ruth’s story, you observe, “What looks detrimental to us, God in His mercy can make beneficial.” While that is a powerful revelation, sometimes we are apt to forget that fact when we are in the midst of pain and suffering. Can you talk about a time in your life when that held true — when God turned detriment into something positive? How did you recognize that truth in the midst of your suffering? (or did time pass before you were able to see the positive outcome?)
Tina: Tom Pals, a pastor, friend and counselor, taught me that though we have the head knowledge that God is over all things and can take care of our struggles and wounds, we often don’t apply that knowledge to our own lives, especially in the midst of our suffering. If we can put it in our hearts and believe it, then when faced with difficult situations our lives can become more settled.
I found that revelation during a transition of leaving a church we pastored for ten years and starting a church plant. In my mind, it looked detrimental. We often say, “This is bad, this is really bad.” The moment we allow our minds to go there is the moment we invite fear, anxiety, depression and more into our situation. I had to constantly say, “This is not a mess. This is not a mess.” We often cannot see God in motion during a crisis, but He’s working in all things. Sometimes God reveals it later on. We all have situations where we can look back and say, “If that hadn’t happened then God wouldn’t have been able to do this.”
Our true strength comes from allowing God to settle us in the midst of the storms, believing wholeheartedly that God can do anything He wants. He can take a situation that looks incredibly horrible and do amazing work throughout it. We may not be able to see God working, but by faith, we believe He is. And when God reveals His purposes, we won’t be too surprised because we knew all along: it wasn’t a mess.
4. I imagine that writing this book was, in some ways, very difficult and painful as old wounds resurfaced and you walked with other women through their painful stories. What did you learn about yourself and your relationship with God as you revisited these past experiences and walked with other women through theirs?
Dena: It was very painful. One afternoon, I literally laid on the floor in a fetal position, sobbing, and told God I didn’t know if I could finish writing the book. I commented to one friend that the process of bringing this work to its audience was my “elephant birth” — a long gestation period with a painful delivery! However, by revisiting my past and reading other women’s stories, my own faith was encouraged and strengthened. I saw with fresh eyes how God can transform our wounded places into ministry spaces. Like many other things in my life, I wouldn’t trade the intense (sometimes excruciating) experience for anything, because God has already used the book to minister to me. And the look in women’s eyes as they tell me about something in the book that spoke to them is incredibly gratifying and humbling.
5. If you had to leave your readers with one take-away from this book, what would that be? What is your prayer for your readers?
Tina: God is never far away. Run toward the light — not the darkness — because even the darkness to Him is as bright as the day.
Dena: Fall upon God’s mercy, even when you can’t see or feel Him, and don’t be afraid to do the difficult things He requires, because He will give you the strength to face anything He calls you to do. I pray that at the end of the book, readers will begin to understand that joy is on other side of pain, and that God has a loving, perfect plan for them.
On a personal note , I (this is Michelle again) met Dena last year at the Laity Lodge writer’s retreat, and she is as authentic and beautiful (and funny!) in person as she is on the page — and she is one heck of a Prayer Warrior! In honor of our friendship, I am thrilled and honored to offer a copy of Wounded Women of the Bible to one reader here. Leave a comment on this post, and I’ll randomly choose one name and announce the winner of the book here on Friday.
But seriously people, if you don’t win the copy here, please do buy a copy of Wounded Women of the Bible for yourself. You will not regret it, that I guarantee!
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