COURTNEY DOCTOR | CONTRIBUTOR
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” is a question I regularly ask my own soul. Sometimes I know the answer. Sometimes I don’t. But, ultimately, my hope does not lie in knowing the answer to the question “Why?” My hope lies in knowing the answer to the question “To whom do I cry?”
Christina Fox, in her new book, A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament, offers true hope to those crying out. She doesn’t just stand at a distance and point us to the One to whom our hearts can cry out—she takes our hand and leads us to him. Using the Psalms of Lament, she weaves deep theological truths with real-life personal experiences in a way that offers hope and healing. She leads us through true lamenting to the throne of grace.
“One of the greatest lessons we can learn from the Psalms is the importance of expressing our feelings to God. We learn not only of its importance but also the fact that we are free to do so and that God wants us to. Christianity is the only religion that proclaims a God of love who cares about His people. We worship a God who wants us to come to Him with all our cares. This is an extraordinary and marvelous truth. Soak that in for a moment: the God of the universe, the all-eternal, always existent One, who spoke the world into existence, who makes the clouds a footstool for His feet, desires that we come into His presence” (p. 95).
As I read A Heart Set Free I was reminded that my emotions—the way I feel about and react to all that life throws at me—are a gift from God, part of how he has created me, and part of how I bear his image. But I need help in knowing what to do with my emotions and wisdom on how to steward them. Like every part of me, they need to be sanctified and submitted to God and his Word. I want my joy to be godly joy and I want my deep despair to drive me to the Lord. Christina, with the skill of a good counselor, the compassion of someone who has “been there,” and the wisdom of a woman who fears the Lord, has given us a book that provides that help.
I had the opportunity to ask Christina more about her new book, why she wrote it, and what she hopes will come from it.
Courtney: Tell us about how you came to write A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament:
Christina: The Psalms have always spoken to me during dark times in my life. They were a lifeline in my adolescence and the early years of motherhood. I once heard a sermon where the pastor talked about following the structure of the psalmist’s laments in our own prayer life. The idea fascinated me. I researched other books and commentaries on the subject and found that the laments did indeed have a common structure. I learned that the laments show us how to pour out our feelings to God. I explored the idea in an article and then wrote a book proposal on it.
Courtney: What do you hope God will do with the book?
Christina: I think that we all struggle with what to do with our emotions. They can be so hard, so heavy, and so immobilizing, that we often just want to find a way to get rid of them. We might ignore them, cover them up, hide from them, and even distract ourselves from them. But in reality, they are still there. In the dead of night, they gnaw away at us. We feel an ache in the pit of our stomach. But the laments show us we don’t have to hide or run from painful emotions.
They show us to enter into our emotions. To face them and voice them to our Father in Heaven. I hope that this book will help readers learn the way of lament and in so doing, I hope that they find renewed trust and hope in Christ.
“This world is a sinful, broken place. Things are not as they should be. Loved ones die, people hurt and reject us, and temptations surround us on every side. We need to be honest about the horrors and sorrows of this world. We need to cry out to God for help. We need to come to the One who is sovereign over all things and lay our cares at His feet” (p. 77)
Courtney: Tell us a little bit about your childhood. Did you write as a child?
Christina: Yes. I loved writing! I wrote poems and stories. I also wrote about all the things that hurt, things that confused me, and things that worried me. I even started a little newspaper for my Christian school in high school. You might find this strange, but I loved writing research papers in college and graduate school.
Courtney: Can you tell us about the process God took you on that encouraged you to write?
Christina: I started blogging shortly after my oldest son was born to share with distant family and friends what was happening in our lives. Periodically I would write about some of the struggles and challenges I had in motherhood, my battle with depression, and the lessons God was teaching me spiritually. People responded to that and encouraged me to write more. God then provided opportunities for me to write to larger audiences outside of my blog and even contribute chapters to books.
Courtney: What are some of your fears in writing? How do you overcome them?
Christina: My main fear is getting it wrong. I fear writing something that is theologically inaccurate. Because of this, I pray constantly about my writing, that God would use it for his glory. Practically speaking, I also ask my editors to help me spot things I may have missed or if I’m unsure of something, I will run it by an elder or pastor in my church. Sometimes though, even if what I have written is theologically true, there are always going to be people who disagree and they will tell me so. That’s when I trust it all to the Lord to use it however he wills.
Courtney: What compels you to write?
Christina: I don’t know what I think about something until I write it down. Writing helps me process my thoughts. So even if I didn’t write articles or blog posts, I would still write for myself.
Courtney: How would you enCourage others to write?
Christina: Writers have a tendency to talk more about writing than actually doing it. I believe that the more we write, the more we grow in our craft. We need to stop saying we will write and sit down and actually do it. The best place to start is right where you are. Write in the circles God has already placed you. If you have a blog, then blog. If your church has a blog or newsletter, write for it. If there are other websites or publications you want to write for, send them something. You might get a rejection but that’s okay. I can’t count the number of pieces I’ve had rejected! You just keep doing it. God will use your words in the place and context where you will bring him the most glory.
Here is what others are saying about A Heart Set Free:
“Christina shows us from God’s Word the importance of trusting Jesus with our emotions, even when we are weeping. With theological integrity and practical suggestions she tenderly teaches us the language of lament and how our lamentations can take us to the gospel.” -Susan Hunt, author of Spiritual Mothering
“The undertow of our emotions can quickly sweep us away. A Heart Set Free anchors our hearts in the truth and invites us to cry out boldly to our Savior.” -Karen Hodge, Coordinator of Women’s Ministries for the PCA.
“When facing a trial, nowhere is the Christian called to “fake it til you make it.” In A Heart Set Free, Christina Fox invites us to vulnerability, transparency and trust – particularly when life is hard. She does so by walking us through the often avoided Psalms of lament, those dark and blustery passages whose presence in the Bible unsettle us. Christina offers practical, empathetic help for those whose emotions have taken them captive in a time of upheaval, tracing a biblical pattern for lamenting to God with honesty, trust and worship. No need to hide our sorrows and fears. Our Father leans close to hear the cries of his children.” -Jen Wilkin, author of Women of the Word.
A Heart Set Free will be available April 20. Click here to learn more.
More about Christina: Christina received her undergraduate degree from Covenant College and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including True Woman, Desiring God, and The Gospel Coalition. She is the content editor for enCourage and serves on the advisory board at Covenant College. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook.