Have you ever wished you could sit down in a casual coffee shop with one of our authors and speakers and chat? We are so thankful for the amazing women of God we have the privilege of working with regularly. And while we can’t all gather in our favorite downtown coffee shop, we want to give you the opportunity to know them a little more personally.
Every so often we’re sharing a fresh “coffee chat” with a member of the Lifeway Women family to give you the opportunity to get to know her a little better.
This month, get to know Vaneetha Risner!
Tell us about your writing process. Any favorite pens, locales, teas to drink, and music to listen to?
I speak into a computer using voice recognition software in my home office while I drink water in complete silence. That’s a typical day and is what I’m doing as I write these words. With a start like this, I’m sure you are beyond excited to read about me!
But if I do write with a pen, I love the uni-ball® Jetstream™ 1.0 mm ballpoint pens, which I have in multiple colors. My husband occasionally brings me a Starbucks® London Fog latte with oat milk, and I sneak dark chocolate Dove® squares for writing inspiration!
What is one of your favorite travel destinations? Is there somewhere you haven’t been that is on your wish list?
My husband and I went on an unforgettable trip to Paris for our honeymoon. My favorite part was just sitting in little sidewalk cafés, watching people, drinking coffee, and eating warm chocolate croissants. Joel pushed my wheelchair for miles around the city as we experienced Paris firsthand together.
You have a new Bible study with Lifeway called Desperate for Hope. Tell us a little about it.
In this study, I invite readers into my journey of suffering. Much of my healing has come through reading the Bible—the narratives, the psalms, and the New Testament letters. Stories have played a big part for me as I have seen the goodness of God as He interacts with people who are just like me—people with doubts and questions, fears and failures, loss and longings. It’s all in the pages of Scripture, and it’s there to help us see God’s goodness in our suffering. As part of this study, I share portions of my personal journal, my questions, and my concerns, and I invite readers to look at their own stories and questions. We will hold all of these up to Scripture and ask God to reveal Himself to us.
I’m well acquainted with suffering, both before coming to Christ and as a Christian. My story includes: Having polio as an infant and living in and out of the hospital for years. Being bullied in grade school. Enduring four miscarriages. Losing an infant son due to a doctor’s mistake. Losing my marriage after my husband’s affair. Single parenting angry adolescents. Being diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, which involves escalating weakness and pain, likely culminating in quadriplegia. Through all those things, I struggled. I wondered where God was. I had questions but didn’t know where to go with them.
When I was in one of the darkest valleys, a speaker dared to voice her own struggles, admitting she sometimes wondered: I know that God is good, but is He good to me? Her honesty helped me lay everything before God—my doubts, my questions, and my inconsistent faith. I discovered that wrestling with God and daring to ask Him questions was the key to a deeper, more resilient faith and trust in God. That’s what I’m praying this Bible study will help others do!
As you worked on Desperate for Hope, what were some new things you learned along the way?
Preparing to write this study felt daunting since I’ve written a lot about the topic of suffering. Before I outlined the sessions, I spent hours processing and trying to encapsulate thoughts and ideas I’d learned over decades. As I did that, I realized that much of what the Lord had shown me fit beautifully into a simple framework that became the backbone of the study. Now I use that framework whenever I talk to people about how to process their own suffering.
As I was writing about how people can know and experience the love of God in their lives, I became more aware of God’s presence in my own life, which is often synonymous with His love. Much of that awareness came from paying attention to signs of His love—the revelation of something new in Scripture, a phone call from a friend when I needed it, an answer to a simple prayer.
In writing this study, I noticed a tenderness in Jesus that I hadn’t focused on before. Diving into narratives where Jesus met women exactly where they were, I realized He doesn’t offer a one-size-fits-all approach to pain but knows exactly what we need. As I combed through boxes of journals, I noticed decades of God’s faithfulness amidst my questions and doubts. I saw that even when I was agonizing about something, writing pages about how desperate and alone I felt, God used that process to draw me closer to Him.
Vaneetha Risner writes and speaks about finding hope in suffering. Desperate for Hope: Questions We Ask God in Suffering, Loss, and Longing as well as her memoir, Walking Through Fire, encourage readers to turn to Christ in their pain. Vaneetha and her husband, Joel, live in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she blogs at vaneetha.com. She is a regular contributor to Desiring God and has been featured on Family Life Today, Joni & Friends, and Christianity Today.