This post was first posted on Lesley’s wonderful site, Life in the Spacious Place – check it out!
“Today I’m delighted to introduce you to a new book: Treasure In Dark Places by Liz Carter.
As you know, from time to time I like to share about books that I think you will find helpful and encouraging, but I have to say this is one of the books I have been most excited to tell you about. It is a collection of poems and stories written during lockdown, and the writing is truly beautiful.
The poems are powerful, and the stories are reimagined versions of Bible stories, which bring the often-familiar stories to life in a fresh way.
Liz is honest about the fact that life often hurts, that it can be dark and messy, and that lament is an appropriate and necessary response, but she also points us to hope in Jesus in the midst of our struggles and reminds us that there are glimpses of light – treasures – to be found, even in the darkest places.
I hope you’ll watch the video below for a sample of the opening poem from the book, and then read on for an interview with Liz, where she shares more about the book as well as part of her own story and her experience of finding treasure in dark places.
Could you tell us a little of your story?
I’m a writer from Shropshire in the UK, married to Tim who is a church leader, with two young adult children. I write mostly out of experience of pain, having lived with a rare chronic lung disease since infancy. It’s been a long road scattered with disappointments as I so often fall ill, with frequent hospital admissions and sometimes pain that leaves me curled up, falling into pieces and begging God to take it away. I found that I was unable to sustain paid work out of the home, with constant infections meaning I often become housebound and unable to move very far from my bed or the sofa. I discovered my joy in writing, and have far too many ideas to pin down into books, but now have two published – Catching Contentmentand Treasure in Dark Places, which was just published this weekend.
What led you to write this book?
In March I received a letter from the government asking me to go into shielding, as I’d been identified as someone at risk of serious illness if I contracted Covid-19. This meant isolating myself within my own home, unable to touch or hug my family for almost five months.
At first I was working on a book I’d been writing for a while, but I increasingly found the words were not coming, as my mental health began to take a hit I’d not expected.
At the same time a couple of people suggested collecting some of the stories and poetry I’d written previously into a book, and as I began to work on this more poetry began to come; honest, raw poetry expressing the pain of lockdown, shielding and living with chronic illness, and then the stories came too – stories of encounters with Jesus, re-imagined and written with the edges of hope I was only just grasping hold of. I found that writing these pieces released me into the joy I needed for a time that felt joyless.
How have you found hope in Jesus in the midst of difficult times – in lockdown and otherwise?
It’s in the most difficult times I have learned to look towards Jesus, and reach for his supernatural peace. But it’s not always easy. There are times I sit in pain, and the darkness seems too thick around me, the burden too heavy, God too far away. I have learned so much from studying the writings of Scripture, especially the Psalms, where the writers pour out their agonies and sadness with stark honesty and no apology for what they are living through – and yet always turn to God within their pits of despair.
Two years ago, my first book, Catching Contentment: How to be Holy Satisfied was published, and this explored how contentment is something the world spins a false story around. We are told contentment only comes when our lives look good, rosy, instragram-worthy. I found that we often heard a version of that in Christian teaching too – that we will be content in our Christian walk when we are whole, healed, all sorted out by Jesus. But Scripture does not endorse this falsehood. Paul always wrote of persecution, hardship, even martyrdom; the Psalmists wrote of pain, fear and sorrow.
I found such great resonance in these writings and began to realise that it’s not about waiting to be sorted out but about finding Jesus there within the waiting. And knowing that Jesus went through the very worst of suffering, and so understands our pain, is a great balm when we are brought low.
It’s the hope that shines through these scriptures and through the great triumph of the cross and resurrection that carries me through the worst of days and the hardest nights, knowing that in God’s glorious purpose there is dazzling light ahead, there is healing, there is justice – and that sometimes the marks of this kingdom break through into our painful present, and lift our hearts.
Your book is called Treasure in Dark Places. Why this title, and how have you found this?
There’s a wonderful little verse in Isaiah that says this:
I will give you the treasures of darkness
and riches hidden in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
I’ve always found these words so enticing and alluring, drawing me towards a God who showers us with unexpected and inexpressible joy even when times are tough. I’ve sometimes been in the very deepest of pain, breathless and screaming with agony, when I have suddenly glimpsed the edges of a joy I cannot contain. It’s not so much that God takes the pain away but that he dwells in it with me in profound mystery. I think that it is weaved together with the future hope and present reality of who Jesus is and what he has done, and the gift of the Spirit as comforter and helper, bringing God near even when we are far.
In the book I wanted to represent some of the fragments of this hope, while retaining a realness that will speak to those who struggle in any way at all, whether through this time of Covid or more generally in life. So I wrote poems of praise and hope, songs of creation and redemption, but also songs of pain and lament, which we so often sideline as Christians in favour of the more popular songs of triumph. I wrote re-tellings of biblical accounts that attempt to bring the reader right into the midst of the story or the encounter with Jesus, and pray that these words bless, comfort and fire with longing, joy and anticipation.
I’m grateful to Liz for access to an advance digital copy of her book. As always, I only share books here that I genuinely think will be beneficial to my readers, and Amazon links are no affiliate links but simply included for your convenience.“