Today Kristen Wetherell, writer, Bible teacher, and the content manager of Unlocking the Bible, joins us for an interview. Her writing has been published on TGC, Crosswalk, For The Church, and iBelieve. Kristen blogs at kristenwetherell.com and tweets at @KLWetherell.
Kristen's first book, Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God's Purpose in Your Suffering, will be released in April 2017. It is now available for pre-order and you can learn more here. Coinciding with its release, Kristen will be a workshop speaker at The Gospel Coalition Conference 2017. Here is the preview description of the session: "About 25 percent of Americans struggle with chronic pain, and women make up a disproportionate part of that group. For many of us, pain and suffering may never subside this side of glory, and we want more than to merely get through it with gritted teeth. We'll learn how God can and is using suffering, as well as how pastors and lay leaders can minister to the quarter of their congregation quietly experiencing it this side of heaven."
Lianna: You have been diagnosed with Lyme disease, and your writing often focuses on the theme of Christian suffering. Would you share more of your story and also how your perspectives on suffering have been shaped?
Kristen: Diagnosis was a long time coming. I started having symptoms after a knee surgery seven years ago, which included migratory pain throughout my body, chronic fatigue, and weakness. After seeing eight doctors in six years, and being told by all that I was "healthy," I finally got diagnosed with Lyme in October 2014 by a Lyme-literate doctor in WI. This experience has certainly shaped my understanding of suffering's prevalence and reality; but my perspective through it has been formed by God's Word.
God’s Word tell us what we need to know about sin and suffering and exalts the Lord and Savior of suffering sinners. Though we do not know the mind of God or the answers to all our “why?” questions, God’s Word tells us why suffering is and what God has done about it. This is incredibly fortifying, producing endurance and hope when we are weary.
Nancy Guthrie’s writings and teaching have been hugely influential, as has A. W. Pink through his book The Sovereignty of God, J. I. Packer through Knowing God, and Pastor Colin Smith in all his preaching and pastoral wisdom.
L: What Bible verse or verses have meant the most to you through this experience?
K: 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 have been crucial for helping me understand how the gospel gives us hope in pain, how to endure hardship with patience, and how to set my mind on what's coming, rather than what's right in front of me. To be reminded that I am a jar of clay is humbling, and to know that Christ's power is at work for His glory is strengthening!
L: What has been your biggest challenge and biggest encouragement from this experience?
K: The biggest challenge has been weakness. I don't like being weak. No one does, when we view weakness through a worldly perspective. Related to weakness is the challenge of submitting my weakness to God's good plan and trusting that He will provide exactly what I need each day: no less and no more. My encouragement is in the biblical reality that when I die to myself, what I want and think I need, more of Christ can live in me! That's awesome!
Lyme disease weakens the immune system, the muscular system, and the nervous system—so I’ve experienced the plague of weakness in many physical arenas. But 2 Corinthians tells me that God’s all-surpassing power is showcased more clearly (both to my own heart and to onlookers) through my weak vessel, what Paul calls “jars of clay.” Lyme disease, with all its effects, has made up the “cracks” in my particular jar of clay; but the hope of gospel, the “treasure,” shines more clearly through cracks. This is true for you and for me. What “cracks,” or weaknesses, has God allotted to you, so that His gospel might shine more evidently through your jar of clay?
L: You are passionate about your role as Ministry Content Manager with Unlocking the Bible. Would you be willing to tell us a little bit about that role and how you came to discover that this work would be a passion for you? For women who sense a calling to vocational ministry, what wisdom would you share about how to prepare?
K: I plan and create content for UTB's digital assets, our website, blog, and social media accounts. Our mission is to put the gospel within peoples' grasp through modern media, and the digital age is a stunning opportunity for this. I've loved managing our team of writers, all of whom create blog articles about applying God's Word to life. I never thought I would be in vocational ministry (I studied music theater in college)...but I always loved walking with people, especially in the Word. Looking back, I'm not surprised that I enjoy this work, but I am surprised at how God led me here! I'm so thankful to Him. He is infinitely wise!
As for wisdom: Do ministry wherever you are. You don't have to wait for vocational ministry to be faithful and serve God and others. If He opens an opportunity for it, praise Him! If not, you are no less a servant for the kingdom.
If ministry can be done wherever God has placed us, then the best way we can prepare is to come before His Word every day with open, empty hands, ready to receive His will and word, and give ourselves to His service and glory. Service isn’t always easy; that’s why it’s called service. So we come to the Lord with the attitude, “Here I am, Lord! Send me!”
In terms of particularly ministry callings, converse with wise counselors, people you trust who saturate themselves in God’s Word. I had faithful friends and mentors who prayed for me, listened well, asked searching questions, and helped me see the particular ways God was leading, through both His Word and circumstances.
For me, losing the theater career was actually a welcome change, though scary (what change isn’t?!). But for those readers who’ve lost something they deeply loved or wanted, a robust clinging to God’s sovereignty is so helpful and comforting. The cross may be foolishness to the world, but to us, it makes sense of all our confusion and magnifies God’s wisdom in acting for our best and His glory—even when it makes no sense to us.