Saturday, 17 October 2015

God uses us through our circumstances by Claire Musters

I recently read a book that really challenged me in various different ways. One of the things that particularly got me thinking was when the author challenged the phrase so many of us use ‘God has used me despite my circumstances’. She said that this simply isn’t true, and yet it has become an accepted explanation in Christian circles. The truth is He uses us through our circumstances. That’s the mystery of difficulties and suffering – while I don’t understand much about it, and certainly have a lot of questions for God about why my mum has had to suffer so much, I can’t deny that God’s ways are higher and too lofty for us to understand.

As I pondered the fact that He uses all the things we go through, it made me think about my writing. What does that mean for those of us who write? I have felt God prompt me to write about my own difficulties in the past and am persevering even though it feels raw and too hard at times because I can sense Him working through it.

If God works through all our circumstances, should we be being more transparently about our lives in our writing? As a non-fiction writer I can understand how that can work. There have been times when I’ve weaved in my own examples of what God has done even in the midst of pain, or my own mistakes, into books, Bible study notes or articles. And many of my regular articles reflect the subjects that I’m dealing with in my own life at the time.

The problem with being more open about our personal lives in our writing is that, at times, it feels like it makes us too vulnerable – and too open to misinterpretation and criticism (should those things be considerations or not?). I know there is that fine line between sharing too much and protecting ourselves by being too closed. I ask my husband to read everything I write before it is published in order to make sure he is happy I’m not going too far one way or the other.

But what about fiction writers? How do you reflect yourself and what God has done through you and in you through your life’s ups and downs within your writing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below, to learn more about how you reflect your life and faith in your writing.

Claire is a freelance writer and editor, mum to two gorgeous young children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Claire’s desire is to help others draw closer to God through her writing, which focuses on marriage, parenting, worship, discipleship, issues facing women today etc. Her books include Taking your Spiritual Pulse, CWR’s Insight Guide: Managing Conflict and BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes a regular column for Christian Today. To find out more about her, please visit and @CMusters on Twitter.


  1. Thanks for this blog, Claire. Sometime we are not even honest with ourselves about what is going on inside us, never mind with friends and certainly never mind our readers! I think that we need to be authentic. We do have access to all the help we need through Jesus and yet that does not give us immunity from the same issues in living day to day as most other people find themselves in. As a writer, whether fiction or non, I want to strike the balance between saying "life sucks sometimes" and "but we have Jesus."

  2. This is an important distinction, Claire. We desire to be open, honest and authentic in our work yet we must always bear in mind how others may perceive and receive our words or potentially be hurt or offended by them. It's good to exercise discretion and sensitivity as well as strive to be as real as we can be.
    I've shared some deeply personal stuff on my blog but not about anyone still living who could be adversely affected by what I've written. Knowing when and what to reveal and what to conceal is essential in sharing sometimes.
    Most of all I try not to dwell on the painful/negative aspects but to use them as a way of pointing others to Jesus and His transforming work in us.

  3. Spot on, Claire. I felt right from the start that God was telling me to 'comfort others with the comfort I had received.' That meant spilling the beans on my husband's affairs throughout the 15 years of our marriage; the circumstances of our divorce; my middle daughter's 13 year heroin addiction; and ultimately her death - 5 years after she'd kicked the habit, when someone slipped a single morphine tablet into her drink at a BBQ. I told each story warts and all. But because I wanted to protect my loved ones - who are no longer with us anymore - I wrote under a pen name: Meg Scott. Those early books were responsible for some people coming to faith, and for others renewing their trust in God. But - as you say - they were non-fiction. Using my experience of life, I now write fiction on similar 'moral' and 'emotional' topics in a similar style to Jodi Picoult. Again, I write under a pen name, my maiden name, Mel Menzies. My hope is that these books will reach a wider readership and thus broaden the borders of God's kingdom, especially as the proceeds are for Tearfund's refugee crisis fund.

  4. However, being 'open' or 'honest' doesn't necessarily mean telling it all, everywhere. Though I have become aware that many, many people are talking about how they are not honest with others, or with themselves, we do I suspect need to think carefully about what 'open and honest' means. Honesty was kind of assumed in my birth family - I am not saying that to be proud only because it was, and quite shocking as a small child at school to discover how much lying and pretence was around. Personally, I'd prefer to call what we need to do is to be authentic, not to make out we are what we are not, to live with integrity and thoughtfully and be very aware of others. (Of course, that's not a picture of me as I live, it is a statement of the ideal of 'living by the spirit'.) In my fiction, I'm not writing about 'me' but, (and some may not like this) I am trying to write things as they are - for example, that being a 'feisty female' may be wonderful as theory, but often not ,for anyone, for the self or for the family, in practice! Jenny, my protagonist, finds out about the kindness and selflessness of her then-boyfriend, based on his faith, but also that fundamentalist churches sometimes cover up bad stuff like domestic violence. And later that she is no good at all at being superwoman wife, mother, and research scientist. She's not 'me' but she is an honest picture. Anyhow, that's my take: honesty is very important, but think and use circumstances carefully and prayerfully. We all use our circumstances differently, and that is okay, since we are all different.

  5. Great post Claire. I think being honest is important if we do talk about ourselves but that doesn't mean we share everything. For me it means that what I do share, when appropriate, is true to myself, to God and to what actually happened. It is not telling everyone everything that has ever happened to me.

    I have found that when preaching or writing if I share honestly about my troubles, and how I came through them, that others are helped. I have cried in front of my computer when I read a comment that someone has found my writing really helpful in them overcoming a similar problem. I feel so honoured that God has chosen to work through my circumstances to speak to others. It gives meaning to me my difficulties if God uses them to help others. It is like what I have been through is not in vain.

    Thanks for this post. Bless you.

  6. Thank you all for your comments - sorry for not getting back to you at the weekend, but I've been unwell (so this has been a timely post for me too, as I actually wrote it a while ago!) I totally agree that it is all about authenticity - and integrity, and knowing when it is appropriate to share or not. I appreciate you being honest about when you have shared a lot through your writing. Knowing that we can help people through walking closely to God and responding to his call when he asks us to reveal things in our writing is such a privilege - and a responsibility.