Today’s post is an interview with author, Esther Smith. Esther is a counselor at Life Counseling Center Ministries in Marriottsville, MD. She has an MA in Professional Counseling, a Certificate in Biblical Counseling through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, and is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the state of Maryland. She is the author of Chronic illness: Walking by Faith (P&R Publishing, 2020). Her next book, coauthored with Eliza Huie, explores the topic of biblical self-care and is scheduled to be released in 2021 with New Growth Press. Esther lives near Baltimore with her husband, Ian. She enjoys reading, writing about counseling, cooking new recipes, and spending time with family and friends. You can follow Esther on her blog Life in Slow Motion.
What inspired this devotional?
This devotional was inspired by my personal experience living with chronic illness. It’s safe to say that I may never have started writing if I had not needed it as an outlet to process my health struggles over the years. What began as a personal journal turned into blogging as a hobby which then turned into a way of ministering to others through writing. Many of the ideas I journaled about in my first years of living with illness found their way into this devotional.
I wrote this devotional for people who live with chronic illness. One in four people live with a chronic illness, so if you don’t have one yourself, you know someone who does! I also hope that family members, ministry leaders, and caretakers will listen in to better understand how to care for people who live with chronic illness (and hopefully gain from it personally as well!)
What is the layout of the devotional? How is it set up?
This is a 31-day devotional that is divided into four sections. The first section, Draw Near to God, addresses relationship with God. The next section, Care for Yourself, addresses your relationship with your body and how Scripture speaks to caring for our physical selves. The third section, Give to Other, addresses relationship with others and what service in the context of chronic illness often looks like. The final section, Don’t Give Up, is an encouragement to persevere and not lose hope.
I will also mention that this devotional is part of a series of 31 day devotionals written by biblical counselors and Bible teachers on relevant topics such as grief, anger, marriage conflict, and forgiveness. You should definitely check out some of the other topics!
What is the take-away you hope readers get from this book?
Just one? That’s a bit tough. I would have to say the number one take-away is the reminder that for reasons beyond our understanding, God has not given us the full picture. There are things going on within our lives with illness (and other types of struggle) that we can’t see right now. Illness can be incredibly painful. It often leads to devastating losses. It can’t be wrapped up into a pretty bow of understanding. When you live with that much pain every day, you need constant reminders that God is at work. He really does love us and he really is working for our good. This devotional is a reminder to walk by faith when we can’t see what God is up to.
What is one surprising thing you learned while writing it?
Apparently, it is possible to drink too much coffee. Something about writing draws me to make just one more pot and drink just one more cup after cup until I am done writing. In all seriousness, writing is hard. It always takes longer to write a book than you think it will. You drink surprising amounts of coffee and eat surprising amounts of snacks and make surprising amounts of edits on repeat until it is done.
What kind of feedback or response have you gotten from it so far?
People have been so appreciative and kind and given me great feedback. Here’s what I have heard most often. First, people tell me the book has helped them feel less alone and also helped people in their lives understand them better. Second, people tell me the devotional has encouraged them through the inevitable rough spells of living with chronic illness. I couldn’t be happier to hear that people have been helped in these ways!
What’s your next project?
I’m so glad you asked! For my next project, I’m teaming up with Eliza Huie to write a book about biblical self-care. This book is for anyone who struggles with exhaustion, burnout, ministry fatigue, overwork, or a general lack of balance in life. We want to help people consider what it looks like to care for all parts of themselves – their bodies, souls, emotions, and relationships. This is so important because how we care for ourselves determines our ability to care for others. The book will offer people 52-weeks of biblical self-care strategies to work through over the course of a year. It is scheduled to be released sometime around August of 2021, and we can’t wait to share more about it in the coming months!