Sheila's Interview about A Woman's Heart for God

Tell us a bit about the experiences that shaped the insights in the book.

Sheila Cragg: For thirteen years now the Lord has been teaching me about His sovereignty and His plans for my life that I would never have chosen. Between serious illnesses, my husband becoming suddenly blind, and other family struggles, nothing has seemed to go right. I have begged God to answer prayers and deliver us from our difficulties. Yet God hasn’t answered my way or in my timing. Instead, He has been teaching me to watch for Him working in our trials, in the unchanging circumstances. He has revealed His Sovereign plans and called me to serve Him in ways that I had never imagined doing.

There are two Bible passages that stand out to me and have helped me realize: “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (
Prov. 16:9 NLT).

I feel like Job did when he wrote, “He [God] is singular and sovereign. Who can argue with him? He does what he wants, when he wants to. He’ll complete in detail what he’s decided about me, and whatever else he determines to do. Is it any wonder that I dread meeting him? Whenever I think about it, I get scared all over again. God makes my heart sink” (Job 23: 13-15 MSG)!

Instead of asking, “what is your book about,” I’m going to ask the question that’s behind that question. And that unspoken question is, “how are readers going to benefit from reading your book?”

Sheila Cragg: Many Christians have a misconception about how God works in our lives. We expect Him to answer our prayers based on what we believe He should do for us. When our problems continue without answers or change, or one hardship comes upon another, we question God and wonder why He doesn’t intervene and supply our needs. It’s our expectations of what God should do that defeat us, and it’s at this point many feel abandoned and turn away from God.

I have come to realize, “How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice?” (Rom. 11:33-34 NLT)?

My prayer is that readers will benefit from reading my book by surrendering their plans to God and discovering His purpose for their lives, which is a daily exercise of being open to His guidance. I pray they discover how to trust the Lord to hang onto them when they cannot hold on any longer. I pray they surrender to God’s working in and through them in places and with people in ministries they would never have chosen or even imagined doing. I pray they learn to see how He redeems our most painful experiences for His glory. I pray they see the gifts that come from their willingness to do what God desires and how He can use them to encourage others in their walk with the Lord.

How is your book different from the many other books on the topic of drawing closer to God?

Sheila Cragg: Many books are about how we must draw closer to God and that we are responsible for the quality of our spiritual life. But what I hope to convey is that the spiritual life is much more about what God does for us and about how He draws us closer to Him. Closeness with the Lord begins with recognizing the initiative He takes toward us. That’s why God longs for our commitment to Him to flow from our love relationship with Him, not out of obligation. He wants us to lean against Him, to turn to Him even when difficult circumstances press in from all sides.

I used to believe, “It was all up to me.” My relationship with God. My commitment to spiritual disciplines. Even whether or not things were going “right” in my life.

I used to believe that the way to a deeper relationship with God was to have personal objectives that I worked toward every day. I set monthly, yearly, and lifelong goals and tried to develop habits that I believed would help me grow in my relationship with God.

I was basing everything on my efforts, my plans, and my determination to please God with my devotional life. All well meaning, but it was all self-driven, not God-driven. It was based on my working to get closer to God rather than daily waiting on His guidance and listening for what He wanted to teach me during my time with Him and throughout the day. And I kept failing!

Instead of helping me, the goals I set for myself made me feel like a disappointment to God when I didn’t achieve them or even work toward them. Those goals kept me from realizing that God is Sovereign and He has plans for my life and to bring about spiritual growth that I had never imagined.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV).

Give us two or three of the most important pieces of advice for people who are asking, “How Do I Get Closer to the Lover of My Soul?”

Sheila Cragg: First, loving us is God’s idea. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19 kjv). Because He loves us He takes the initiative to draw us to Himself, so we need to open our hearts and receive His outpouring of love through Jesus as our Savior.

Second, we need to realize that the Lord initiates a relationship with us. Once we recognize this we are relieved of the burden of feeling it is all on us. We begin to see that He is drawing us closer to Himself through His Word.

Third, God has plans for our lives that we would never imagine, and once we surrender to His will and do what He desires, He draws us closer to Him. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you” (Jer. 29:11-12 ESV).

Fourth, we discover the “gifts” that come out of the difficult challenges we may daily experience and that is to minister to others even in the midst of our own trials. “The Sovereign Lord has taught me what to say, so that I can strengthen the weary. Every morning he makes me eager to hear what he is going to teach me” (
Isaiah 50:4 GNT).

What do you say to the person who has trouble spending time with God? They don’t really know what to do and it’s not very exciting?

Sheila Cragg: My book offers practical ideas and creative ways to spend time with the Lord and be open to Him. But I also struggle with having devotions and setting aside the time. I have come to realize that even when I don’t get anything out of my Bible reading, the Spirit of God is still imprinting the Word on my heart and mind. Then the Spirit speaks through those passages at other times when He is working in me. Once I shift my focus more on God and not on my expectations for what I’m going to get out of devotions, I can see more clearly what He is teaching me and how He is working. Once we realize that God initiates a relationship with us, and we open ourselves to watching for Him at work in our lives and listening to how He is guiding us through Scripture, our time with Him becomes more genuine and real and, yes, exciting.

You discuss being open to God’s presence. What does that mean? And what do you say to the person who says, “I don’t know what God’s presence feels like”?

Sheila Cragg: We become so consumed in thinking about our own needs and what we want from Him that we do not feel His presence. We experience God’s presence through his Word as we listen to it, how it applies to our life, and then act upon it. The Holy Spirit is also present within us, and He makes Himself known to us whether we realize it or not. So we need to be intentional about watching for the Spirit of God working in our lives and how He daily desires to guide us. He prompts us to do certain things and convicts us of sin. My greatest caution is that the Spirit of God never tells us to do wrong or to twist His Word. Pray and memorize Psalm 139, which is a promise of God’s presence in our lives.

What has the response been to the book so far?

Sheila Cragg: My book seems to resonate with readers because I have been transparent about my own personal and spiritual struggles. I question why God works the way He does and why He takes so long to answer. I even become angry at times when our trials are so horrible, such as the abuse and severe neglect of our foster grandchildren by their birth mother. I wondered why those in authority refused to intervene. Where was God? Even during that time God revealed Himself to me through His Word and in many other surprising ways.

I try to help readers understand that it is okay to question unrelenting hardships and that some heartaches like what we went through will make no sense this side of heaven.

Here is what readers wrote about A Woman’s Heart for God.

“Sometimes I think to myself, ‘How does this woman know my exact thoughts and fears???’ I love that you admit that there are times you feel like you pray the same things over and over…I have been going through the same thing myself. I also love that you say it is OKAY and show me ways to break out of that pattern.”

“I just had to let you know that I have finished A Woman’s Heart for God, and I have never been so sad to finish a book! I read one chapter a day (most days) and learned SO much from you. I am now going back and reviewing the highlights I made just to reinforce what I learned. I admire and respect the way you have handled difficulties in life. Your story has reminded me that God uses trials and difficulties to get us where we need to be. I need to remember what the ultimate goals of this life are….. to stay in God’s will, serve Him, and to join Him in heaven when this life is over. We lost our youngest daughter 8 years ago to ovarian cancer (she was just 17 years old) and I have been floundering around ever since. I haven’t lost faith, but I haven’t been actively serving either. I’ve just been in a waiting pattern. I know there is something more God would have me do and you have encouraged me to continue watching, waiting and praying in the meantime.”

Faith Farrell wrote this review:

“I loved every chapter of this book!
All the topics addressed lie so close to a woman’s heart.
Don’t we all feel that our relationship with Jesus is sustained by our own efforts?
Don’t we all feel that once we are saved by Grace it is up to us to strive harder to grow in Grace?
Have we ever lost sight of this truth: “My deeper relationship with God is up to Him, not me: He will guide me and instruct me in His ways?”
Don’t we all want to respond to God as the Lover of our Souls? Don’t we all forget He is the one who initiates this Love relationship?
Don’t we all worry that our flaws are too much for God to Love?
This book begins with a foundation of rich theological truth, an overview of God’s Perfect, Divine Nature.
Our heart sings as we read about His Glory, His Love, His Holiness, His Mercy and Long-Suffering Kindness toward us; His Ever Present Care for us. . . .
Reading this book causes us to celebrate our Lover, and to look into His heart of Care for us, and to look into our own heart that needs His Love, and to see He is there to pour it out upon us.
The chapters on knowing we are God’s, and that He will never turn us away work to heal our frail hearts. Our hearts fear being unloved, or unworthy of love, and this cripples our relationship with God. We fear being rejected.
“God’s beloveds include those who feel flawed, frail, handicapped; who are hurting and wounded; who have emotional and mental illnesses; who have personality quirks and physical imperfections. But, far more importantly, these men and women have a heart for God and great worth in His eyes–and they are spiritually beautiful.”
“The truth is, you are one of God’s beloved. As you receive His love and understand the worth you have in Him, you will radiate His beauty. You will be a woman after His own heart.”
In the chapters on loss and affliction, being crucified with Christ, every observation she made struck a chord with me. It was so heartening to hear some of Sheila Cragg’s personal story, and her reflections on life.
“Life’s uncertainties can definitely challenge my confidence in God. I know in my mind that God is faithful and reliable, but I waver emotionally. I would rather not go through the wrenching process of my faith being tried and stretched. I’d like to be a spiritual super person, but I’m not. And I suspect I’m not alone. Yet as I persevere by faith, my trust in the Lord grows stronger.”
Looking at our afflictions honestly and trusting God to hold us in Him when we would run away leads to hope: “Even in our brokenness, a tiny seed of confidence in God will grow deeper spiritual roots. We can cling to our Lord no matter how terrible the heartaches, despite our inability to handle the painful circumstances, and regardless of our doubts about God and our wavering faith. We can ask God to hold on to us when we can’t hold on to Him any longer, and He will.”
The chapters on the devotional life are the best I have read so far in my Christian reading.
“God is the One who helps us embrace the beauty of a life devoted to Him. As we faithfully meet with Jesus, He enables us to face trials of all kinds, He guides our steps and strengthens our faith, and He uses us to comfort others with the comfort we have received from Him.”
“I used to think I’d failed when I came away from my quiet time still feeling spiritually empty. I now realize that my feelings have little to do with what God is doing in my life. I now want to spend time with God to build our relationship just as I want to spend time with my husband, sons, and grandchildren to build our relationship–and simply because I love them and enjoy being with them.”
Reading this book, a woman comes to understand that an intense season of giving care to a suffering loved one or raising children does not make her a failure at prayer and the disciplines. We need to draw closer to God in an intense season, but every season of Seeking God will not look the same.
“Seeking after God in every season of life will allow Him to cultivate the soil of our hearts, prune sin, cut off dead branches, and tenderly nurture our growth. He yearns to meet with us in a simple, sacred place where we can flourish in His watchful, protecting presence.”

What else do you want readers to know about your book?

Sheila Cragg: Our life here on earth is not all about us or what we want. It’s all about the Lord and what He wants to do in and through us. I have come to realize that we cannot possibly become committed to God or lead a disciplined life or form fixed spiritual habits by our personal efforts. We fail every time. Developing good spiritual habits means surrendering to the God-directed life. It means listening to the Holy Spirit directing us in each season of life—whether it’s an exhausted season with young children demanding our time, an intense season of finding our place in our vocation, or a lonely season of waiting and reflecting.