Sheila Walsh spoke this year at the Colour Sisterhood conference at Hillsong, Sydney and I have been keen to sit in a room with her again. Since that isn't possible, reading one of her books was a treat! I found I could hear Sheila's beautiful, hearty Scottish voice throughout the book which added to the joy of reading it. She writes in the same style as she speaks - not as addressing a conference of thousands of women but as though she is speaking to you as an individual, a friend, with a unique, personal story and a unique, personal journey. Yet there are common threads to all of our stories and this is what Sheila addresses in her book, The Storm Inside.
I never read a book without first doing a quick skim and this time was no exception. The page I landed on was page 133 and I knew I was in good company...
“Let me ask: Do you want to enjoy a quiet confidence in God? If so, then you must resist the ridiculous nonsense that the mass media spoon-feeds you and me every day.
You do not have to be a size 8 to be happy.
You do not need the latest styles to have value.
Your children do not have to make straight As for you to be a good parent.
In Romans 5, Paul stated the simple truth that before we even knew about the love of God, Christ died for us. He did so, not because we had earned it, but because He loves us.
We are made right with God, not because we follow a list of “Twenty Things to Do to Be a Godly Woman,” but because of the shed blood of Christ.
What did I love about The Storm Inside? For the very same reason that I loved hearing her at Colour. Sheila stretches the listener. Her writing is based on the word of God and not just on a superficial, “let’s find a verse that fits what I’m trying to say here” kind of way but with depth of insight and integrity. To help the reader understand the passage she reveals what the context of that point in history can teach us and what may be lost in translation, for example the word covenant meant a lot more to the original hearers to what it does to us. There are many hidden gems in the bible that add meaning, offer delight and “wow” moments and Sheila teases these out. Her work highlights the depth that understanding language brings to a passage. She ties pieces of the bible together to take you on a journey of greater understanding. She makes you want to know more.
I love that Sheila urges the reader to be intentional and active in their faith because it is then we are stronger. “I urge you, my dear sister, to build up an armory of the Word of God deep inside your spirit. Tuck prayers into every piece of laundry. Anoint every doorpost in your home, praying that any who enter would feel the peace and presence of Christ."
Sheila walks the reader through a list of personal storms that they may have either pressing down on them at that time, or may be buried away in the recesses of the mind. She urges her readers to be aware of spiritual warfare and the need to be intentional in defending ourselves against attack, to not listen to the lies that can be on rotation in our head.
Sheila believes there are ten feelings that can become overwhelming burdens that weigh down our hearts. Heartache. Disappointment. Fear. Bitterness. Unforgiveness. Anger. Regret. Abandonment. Shame. Insecurity. If our hearts are weighed down we are not free to live the way God hopes we will live.
With the start of each new chapter introduced I found myself thinking, "Oh I don't struggle with that” but within a few paragraphs was saying, "Hmmm maybe just a little … maybe I need to go there for a moment and consider it and be intentional about changing.” By the final chapters I was prepared to be challenged!
Like a true friend, Sheila isn't afraid to point out truth and she does so carefully. The over riding messages is that Jesus can calm our storm. There is sure hope! Sheila believes that storms can be a good thing. They can help refine us, make us stronger and help us to grow. Being intentional about working through inner storms then is a good thing. The book also sheds light on storms that we might not have faced but that our friends have. It is good to hear the inner voice of other women and to place ourselves in their shoes.
A helpful addition to each chapter is the way they conclude with “Standing Through Your Storm” where Sheila offers a summary, some points for reflection and sometimes a prayer. Following the chapter where insecurity, negative self image and damaging self talk are discussed, she writes, “The next time insecurity comes knocking, run to His Word.”
This book works because of Sheila’s honesty. She either draws on personal experience, or the experience of others, the lessons they have learnt and then she points to the truth found in Scripture. Like a true friend she admits that she doesn’t have all the answers, “I am still learning” page 133 but she draws on the wisdom of others to help navigate the challenges of being a woman.
Finishing The Storm Inside was satisfying knowing that it was worth the time, worth the effort and will be worth being intentional about changing. The book helps develop that inner peace that comes from knowing and having confidence in him alone.
As those who call Jesus our Saviour we are in a unique position to be able to trade the chaos of how we feel for the truth of who we are.
"Never will I leave you;
Never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?” Hebrews 13.5-6
The Storm Inside by Sheila Walsh can be purchased from the lovely people at Koorong. Support Australian stores :)
There is also a DVD and study guide to accompany the book. I am looking forward to watching it as a refresher sometime over Summer. The study guide would be a great one to work through with some trusted Christian girlfriends. You can find it here & then you too can hear Sheila's voice!