Three Profound, World-Changing Truths {Book Club}

Next week I’ll share the plan for the next four months and our summer reading. And as much as I want to tell you right now what we’ve got on deck, instead of straining ahead, let’s sit with  Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission and authors Robynn Bliss and Sue Eenigenburgas a community one last time.

For me, what makes this book so powerful is that it takes a word we’re familiar with (expectations) but have watered down and they flesh it out. Sue and Robynn have forever deepened my understanding of expectations and how they are not the enemy. It’s good and necessary to have expectations. The problem lies when they are unexamined and in need of adjusting.

In the final chapter, Robynn share three profound, world-changing truths she came to understand as she worked through her experiences and expectations.

  1. God really does love me. He notices me. He sees me.
  2. My pain matters to God. He doesn’t overlook me.
  3. I am not responsible for other people and their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs, or their pain.

They are simple, yet powerful and most importantly, true. What truths has God revealed to you as you read and thought and prayed about this book? If you read the book (and even if you didn’t, but have been following along in our conversations), I am certain you will see the ripple for the rest of your life.

Let’s briefly review the six areas expectations. We have expectations of:

  • Ourselves and roles
  • Our sending organization
  • Our fellowships
  • Our co-workers
  • Our host culture and
  • God

Looking over this list and recalling the book, where have you been experiencing the largest gap? Do you think you need to change your expectation or your reality?

For me, I’d say, what stood out is that when I first read this book I was in a fairly large, well-established organization. This time, I’m in a much smaller one and need to handle (or find) many of the services my former organization provided. Let’s just say my relationship to health care, newsletters and communicating with supporters and taxes have radically changed.

All three have found me lying in bed in the middle of the night over the last year. Stomach in knots, overwhelmed by details that I hadn’t needed to worry about before. Actually, the truth is I needed to consider them, worry was my bonus twist on it.

Which area had the smallest gap between your expectation and reality? Which has helped you understand yourself, others, and God better? Who do you think you could give a copy to or recommend they get the book?

I have loved reading this together and look forward to the talk in the comments. These talk help the roots of these truth go a little deeper in us, don’t they? I appreciate you! Pop open a can of something cool and fizzy or put on the kettle, let’s reflect on how God has been at work. See you in the comments.


P.S. Sue has invited anyone who will be in the U. S. in November to attend this module she’ll be leading on Expectations and Burnout. There are other modules taking place that might be of help as well.

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 


  1. Elizabeth May 12, 2015

    I think the thing that really stood out to me this time through the last chapters was when Robynn said they had no training or theology in suffering. Suffering doesn’t sound fun, and neither does training or classes in suffering. Yet as she says it’s probably pretty important. We had one class on it in our training at MTI, but again, it wasn’t really the focus. And those sessions weren’t very fun either. :/ We had lots in “long term unrelenting stress” which is different. That’s expected when you live cross culturally, and can be mediated by proper breaks and rest. Suffering, that’s much more painful, and much less you can do to prevent it.

    Suffering is what makes Robynn’s writing (she’s at Communicating Across Boundaries regularly) so compassionate and wise. And that part where she says God cares about her pain, that has come up in her blog posts before, too. She talks about how God cares about all of it — big pain in war-torn areas of the world, and big pain in her life. All of it. And that knowledge, that God cares specifically about all pain, is a piece of profound wisdom that she gained through this process of burnout and recovery.

    And she goes on to say that when we believe God’s love for us is tenuous and fragile, we work extra hard to maintain and earn it. We work too hard — and then burnout. If we believe His love is strong, however, we don’t have to work that hard. We can rest and take care of ourselves. I love that something she got out of the burnout was a deeper knowledge of God’s love for her.

    1. Amy Young May 12, 2015

      What stood out to me this time was how many people don’t deep down in their core believe they are loved by God. This has made me sad. To the point that I keep wondering why I don’t and what I can do to help people see themselves the way God does. (Now, I don’t mean to present it like I’ve got it all together and isn’t that grand. I don’t. But I can say, this is one area that hasn’t really been a struggle for me. I’ve consistently felt very loved by God and that’s he’s only mildly interested in what I’m doing because he enjoys me so much. I rarely say this out loud because I’ve definitely received the message that only people with big heads talk this way.).

      AND to your point that we need more training/understanding/preparation/continuing steeping in suffering, I agree. And i also agree that long term stress is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not quite the same as suffering. I know I’ve shared before, but my friend Tanya is one of my go-to people on suffering and theological issues. She’s got M.E. and has had series on suffering — for any who are interested, here’s the series

      1. Elizabeth May 12, 2015

        I love that you’ve always known you are loved! It’s something many of us have really struggled with to some degree or other, so I would never call it bad that you’ve not struggled with it. Receiving God’s love is like, the most important thing 😉

        And thanks for the Tanya Marlow link. I went and liked her on FB and will be checking her out.

        1. Amy Young May 13, 2015

          Elizabeth, I promise not to come back and link everything I’m reading 🙂 … but I just read this article. Not overly deep, but it’s a good one to dip a toe in and start a discussion. Reminded me some suffering is due to sin (I sometimes forget that!) … anyhoo, here it is:

  2. Jillian Rogers May 12, 2015

    Thank you Velvet Ashes team for encouraging us to read such an awesome book! I wish, oh how I wish, I had read it as soon as I repatriated last summer after a difficult term wrought with lots of confusion and pain. I highlighted almost the whole book and will be pouring over its jewels for quite some time. I feel the best summary on the last chapters is this: Of course, we know that God loves the lost, the ones to whom He has sent us. But, as workers, we need to know deep down in our marrow that He also equally loves us as the sent-out ones! Again, thanks for such a tremendous resource…

    1. Amy Young May 12, 2015

      Jillian, I’m so thankful this was beneficial to/for you! It’s been instrumental in my own personal understanding of expectations and how important it is to tune into them. And I love that summary too!

  3. Ellie May 12, 2015

    I have thought that we didn’t have a lot (enough?) preparation for spiritual warfare stuff at Bible college. I found her referencing the man throwing stones at the train window near the start of the book and some of the references near the end (like “the realm of the ridiculous” to describe when there’s like a perfect storm of things going wrong to indicate a kind of spiritual attack moment) quite helpful.

    I feel like it’s hard to quantify these things and I read an article the other day which says how people in the bible blamed God, not Satan and I’ve been doing a lot of that too(!) but I do think that in ways we don’t understand sometimes things (recently the morning my husband was to preach a sermon we thought quite strong and necessary the key broke in the lock of the front door and another day I was speaking at a prayer meeting our son came down with a horrendous rash all over) do seem to mount up in a curious way. Sometimes there are just too many “coincidences” as the former Archbishop of Canterbury has said that prayer seems to create “coincidences” it feels like the opposite might be true somehow too?

    Anyway, I’m getting a little waffly now but I think the label “the realm of the ridiculous” is helpful for me and the idea of rebuking Satan and reminding “him that you belong to and are loved by the Most High God. He has no place in your lives or in your circumstances.” is an interesting challenge.. I don’t know if it is Satan that has control of our circumstances and so I’m likely to blame God, more thinking for me to do in there..

    Also: “South Asia has aged me. I’m 39 years old in a 49 year old soul. Living overseas for 14 years has changed my perspective on life, on the poor, on the disproportionate distribution of wealth , on the environment and politics, on tribulations and heaven and death.” I feel like that too. That I’ve aged more than my physical years here, and it was a succinct way of expressing something I would find hard to explain to somebody back home.

    We are in developed Europe and I would say that it’s not the living somewhere that changes you, but the trying to engage theologically and practically.. if we live an “Expat” lifestyle we can avoid some of the hardship of having to think these things through, but if we truly choose to try to be present and wrestle with them, I think it ages us.

    I kind of wish it didn’t but I also guess that I like this CS Lewis quote loads and it encourages me.. “Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false. Now there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going to live for ever.”

    1. Amy Young May 12, 2015

      Ellie, what a rich comment! Robynn’s take on “the realm of the ridiculous” is also one I’ll keep with me from this book, counterbalanced by the unending, always and forever love of God. The older I get, the more I realize I don’t understand the influences of our choices (free will) versus what Satan can and can’t do. I believe God is real and more powerful than Satan. I believe Satan is real, though sometimes I wonder if we are too quick to point to things being Satan’s fault instead of seeking to discern what IS Satan and what’s due to other inputs. Elizabeth’s husband wrote an interesting piece on this over at A Life Overseas. I’m glad to be a community like this that wants to talk about these things 🙂

      1. Ellie May 13, 2015

        Amy, that’s the article I read!! 🙂 I was in a hurry and didn’t have time to search for it to link to it! I found it really helpful and interesting and thought-provoking. Not least in the “blaming God” biblical precedent. Like I say: that’s possibly my default position (which perhaps he’s suggesting is good? And wrestling with God on things I think can bring us much closer to seeing Him.) But as someone who I would say is not usually in the “blame Satan” camp and nor are the people we work with I find myself here thinking that the “realm of the ridiculous” quote is sometimes applicable to a storm of circumstances and wondering how we get somewhere in the middle on understanding a bit how this spiritual warfare thing works without going overboard.

        I totally agree with Jonathan Trotter about “does your theology of spiritual warfare make you afraid? … if so you might need to recalibrate, remember His victory” and in fact I wrote this blog post a while back.

        But I also feel like there’s so much “unexplained” and I wonder where I should go to think about that when I don’t want to go into an extreme position on demons.

        I read “The Grace outpouring” a while back and found it interesting that they, though sceptical about it, started praying Jesus’s spirit/blood into the walls of their retreat centre and it really seemed to help with something spiritual in the atmosphere. I have to say that one of the passing references we had at Bible college was about if living in a house that was “spiritually unclean” with others worshipping spirits how to try to keep a small corner of it “spiritually clean” for yourself otherwise it became terribly draining.

        I have experienced a spiritual attack with winged creatures manifesting once in SE Asia, but here (Spain) I often feel the need to pray over the walls of the house for protection as certain kind of waves of anxiety or something and bad thoughts come at certain times or in certain places. Like I say, I don’t understand it and I’m wary of ascribing too much power where it’s not due, but I feel like I’m feeling my way along intuitively in the dark on some of these subjects and wish I felt I had a bit more of a useful body of knowledge.

        1. Ellie May 13, 2015

          and this post I wrote a while back also summarises the experience and questions I have a bit..

          Not trying to take over the thread here with my wonderings..! Perhaps we could have some posts on S Warfare?? Feels a bit scary/dangerous? But maybe this is a safe place.. Like you say, glad to be part of a community that wants to talk about these things?

        2. Amy Young May 13, 2015

          Ha ha on being in a hurry … notice I was too and I didn’t go look it up :)!

          And I need to go and read the two posts you linked to — please feel free to link as much as you want! This is a discussion after all :). I will go read them, but without the context of them and just reading these comments, you’ve reminded me of a few more thoughts and helped tease them out of my brain.

          1. Yes, I think we should do a week/series on spiritual warfare. Have you heard of Mary DeMuth? She wrote her book (Beautiful Battle) about sp warfare after experiencing it on the field — and esp with one of her kiddos. I’m wondering if that wouldn’t be an important book to read as a community. Thoughts? Have you heard of it?

          2. I’ve also thought that Sp warfare is going to look different around the world. Your comment about Spain vs SE Asia reminded me of this. I know in some parts of the world, dreams are one of the main ways local people believe the spirit world communicates and some of my friends have experienced tremendous struggles with nightmares in those places. This would be just one example. What are some you (any “you” who is reading) have experienced? Or this brings to mind?

          3. I have only a few times experienced, like you, a physical manifestation in my own home concerning sp warfare. One night I woke up screaming with the sense a snake (in a non-snake area) was climbing up the lamp next to my bed and coming towards me. I knew it wasn’t a snake but an evil spirit. This was way out side of anything I had experienced. I told my team about it the next day and got them to pray for me. The second night, I woke up in my living room screaming — again, due very much to sp warfare. I had people back home pray and then teammates come and pray over my room and me. That snake/spirit left. Praise God. These kind of experiences have pushed me to think and wrestle and want to take it more seriously and less “see demons everyone” but see evil spirits where they are and pray against them.

          Sorry if I’m babbling :)!

          1. Ellie May 14, 2015

            Amy thanks for your thoughts. (And your comments on the blogs :)) It’s really good to hear others’ experiences.

            I think the book looks brilliant, yes, let’s read it for a book club, please!!

  4. Monica F May 15, 2015

    Any chance Sue could come to the Pacific Northwest!?

    Over the years I have taken on way more responsibility that I’ve needed to.  I’ve made myself responsible for other people’s emotional needs that ran parallel to an expectation that “I forsake all for the call.”  This is something I still need to hand over to Jesus everyday.  I need to remind myself that HE will put people and projects into my life that deserve my attention when the time is right; that I don’t have to be responsible for everything and everyone around me.

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