My favourite thing about Christian fiction is the lessons the authour weaves into his or her writing. Whether that a lesson on God’s forgiveness, unburdening ourselves and following Christ, or trusting God when waiting, I admire authours who edify and uplift through their work. The book club was deeply blessed by Tessa Afshar’s Land of Silence, and through the lessons alone we knew that the author was so in tune with God’s heart. So when we saw that Tessa was engaging with our tweets on Twitter we decided to approach her for a Q&A. Being the kind and blessed woman she is, she accepted our request.
1.Do you think God still heals our hearts today? For Elianna, her heart was healed when Christ called her daughter, how our hearts healed today?
I do, absolutely. All of us have wounds, broken places in our hearts that need to be restored. Jesus can do that in numberless ways: through His Word; through the love of friends; through prayer; through the miracles of the Holy Spirit. I love this about our God – that He longs to heal us. He longs to lift up the heavy burdens we carry and give us rest.
- 2.What advice would you give to someone who is in Christ and still waiting on a special unanswered prayer or miracle; what tips would you give in not growing weary or doubtful in the waiting?
Most of us have had those long, aching seasons of unanswered prayer. You may be waiting for the solution to a financial problem. You may be yearning for a marriage partner or a child. You may be desperate for healing in your body or mind. You may have a dream that won’t go away, or yearning for restoration in the life of someone you love. We all wait. The waiting time can be torture. But it can also be holy. I know that in my places of waiting, every time I chose to trust Jesus more than my pain, more than my doubts, something infinitesimal in my soul grew deeper in Christ. Waiting can be the perfect soil for growing more like Jesus. That doesn’t make it an easy process, but it does flood the pain with God’s hope.
- 3. How can we continue to press through to touch the hem when we are surrounded and hounded by opposition and continuous challenges?
I don’t have a pat answer for you, unfortunately. Perhaps the question to ask in such a time is why is Jesus allowing the opposition? If we have prayed up, clung fast, obeyed hard and still the opposition comes, then God has allowed it into our lives for a reason. I know that those seasons of opposition have made me tougher, increased my perseverance, made me into a warrior instead of a winy child. I don’t always press through. But when I do, I learn resilience.
- 4. I’d like to ask her more about the power of forgiveness in the book. It almost seemed like opening her heart and forgiving was a prerequisite for Elianna to be healed. I want to know – is that a deliberate metaphor for us today? Could Elianna have been healed if she hadn’t forgiven?
Healing is such a mystery that I would be loathed to turn it into a formula. Clearly forgiveness has an important place in God’s heart. Does it open the door to deeper healing? In some situations, no doubt, it does. And in some situations unforgiveness can block the healing of God. But I am not presenting a formulaic teaching on healing in the novel. The mercy of God can blow through the hardness of our hearts, like a gentle breeze that can get through the brambles.
5. Like Elianna, how do you move from a place of just knowing the scriptures to it being something that transforms how we think and live?
For me, this happened with prayer. When I first started reading the Scriptures, I did not understand them. As I began speaking to God, asking Him to reveal Himself to me, His Word started to open more deeply to my mind. The power of the Scriptures is not attached to our feelings. There are some passages I read that have nothing to do with my life at the time, and I feel nothing. But I am depositing truth into my soul. Like a bank account, I can make a withdrawal of that deposit when I need it. When I read the Word, I try to remember that I am being exposed to the greatest truth the world has to offer. That truth can scrub off the lies we encounter hour after hour in this life.
- 6. On 342, you describe fear as a “tenacious force…” Why do you think that even for Christians who know Christ, fear continues to have a huge stronghold in certain areas of our/their lives? Is faith the end of fear?
In Romans 8:15 we read: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” In other words, the opposite spirit to the spirit of fear is a spirit of adoption. I believe the more we internalize God’s promise that we are precious daughters and sons, the less fear we will have. I still struggle with fear in certain areas of my life, but now my fear drives me into the arms of my Abba, because I feel safe there.
- 7. How do we not become bitter, resentful or jealous of others who seem to have that which you’ve been praying for?
I think one way to answer that question is to ask Jesus why do we feel these things? Our true selves rejoice with the good. Even the good we ourselves want and cannot have. Only the broken part of us bends away from rejoicing, toward resentment, when faced with blessing in other people’s lives. So we need to figure out how that broken part of us came into being. How were we wounded that another person’s gain feels like a loss to us. Feels like a rejection, or an indictment to our souls? God really wants to heal that wound! What is the real root of these feelings? Is it a childhood situation, a lack of love from a parent? Or is your mind interpreting that situation as a reflection of your worth? Getting to the root of the lies your heart has believed about the situation helps to release you from the bondage of jealousy.
8. How would you encourage someone who is dealing with guilt or the burden of not being forgiven by a loved one?
This is so hard. There are two parts to your question: someone else’s response to my sin, and my own feelings about my sin. Sadly, there is nothing you can do about another person’s decisions. Obviously, you can pray for that, which releases incredible power into the situation. But you can’t change anything. Secondly, you are asking what to do when you struggle with your own unrelenting guilt.
All I know is to bring my burdens to Jesus over and over. To repent from the bottom of my heart. At some point, if the guilt returns, I have to ask myself if I believe Jesus died for my sins on the cross. Did He die for this very sin? Were His hands pierced for this very sin? Was what I did washed by His blood? Do I believe my sin is greater than the power of the cross? If that is the lie I am living, then obviously, I need to repent of that as well as the original sin.
I love this about our God – that He longs to heal us. He longs to lift up the heavy burdens we carry and give us rest.