We caught up with Renee Swope to talk about her new audiobook A Confident Heart – How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of God’s Promises. The interview was recorded and can be played below. Enjoy!
ANNOUNCER: Welcome! You’re listening to an exclusive author interview brought to you by christianaudio.com.
VICTORIA MORGAN: Hello and welcome to the conversation! I’m Victoria Morgan interviewing for Christian Audio, and joining me today by phone is Renee Swope, an author who God has used powerfully to help women gain, through Christ, the courage and confidence to stop doubting themselves and live out the calling that God has placed on their hearts.
Her passion is to help women discover the power of their stories and the uniqueness of their gifts. Not only that, but to appreciate and utilize the wonder of those God-given passions. And I know a lot of women who would appreciate learning more about that. That’s why we’re so excited about Renee’s best-selling book and audiobook, A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God’s Promises. A Confident Heart has sold over 150,000 copies and is now available in six languages and audio book.
Renee is a popular national women’s conference speaker and co-host of “Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee.” And it’s a Proverbs 31 Ministry daily one-minute radio broadcast … it touches over ten million women around the world.
Renee’s written works and devotions can be found in Encouragement for Today, Day Spring’s In Courage blog – and that’s spelled I-N and then Courage, Bible Gateway, iDisciple, Crosswalk.com, and ChristianityToday.com.
With twenty years in ministry, marriage and motherhood, Renee wears a lot of hats! But to her, the most important ones are the ones she wears at home. She and her husband JJ have been married for over twenty-one years and have three children: Joshua, Andrew, and Aster – their “Ethiopian princess” who they adopted in 2009.
Renee, I’m going to catch my breath from that huge introduction and welcome you to christianaudio.com!
RENEE SWOPE: Thank you. It is so good to be here with you.
VICTORIA MORGAN: Renee, you certainly do wear a lot of hats, successfully I might add, but you also admit that you still struggle with self-doubt at times. That’s hard to believe! Let’s start by talking about the doubts that you do struggle with, even as you see God touching so many lives through your ministry.
RENEE SWOPE: Well, I always like to share with readers and listeners that I wrote A Confident Heart out of a place of needing this message as much as knowing the truths that God was leading me to write about, and that’s because I wasn’t writing it from a place of, “Oh, I’ve conquered this and now let me tell you how you can too,” but more as a friend to come alongside of you and say, “Hey, struggling with self-doubt is normal. It’s just a part of being called by God because we have an enemy who hates God’s glory in our lives. And so self-doubt is a place where he often trips us up.”
So, even in my own calling as I saw success in the way that God was growing my ministry and my impact, I really questioned why I struggled with self-doubt and why I questioned my calling. And it was a secret struggle, a struggle that I hadn’t really shared with anyone else other than my husband, because I felt like if I shared the struggle of, “Do I have what it takes,” or “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not organized enough,” or “I’m not gifted or anointed enough in my calling or skilled enough,” which are some of the self-doubts that I struggle with, then I must have heard God wrong.
So what I discovered is that God would use my doubts eventually to turn my heart into a place of really deeper dependence on Him, which would lead to more strength and honestly, a greater impact in the ministry that He called me to. So some of those doubts are common doubts that women and men struggle with. And there are still doubts that sometimes get my attention more than they should. And what writing A Confident Heart helped me to do was really discover not a cure, but a powerful tool to know what to do with those doubts.
VICTORIA MORGAN: And it is a powerful tool. I’ve been reading through it and one thing caught my eye and caught my heart as well. You said in your book that you wrestled with a host of these self-doubts until you came to the realization that, “Doubt and hope cannot live in our hearts at the same time.” I’ll say that again for everyone. “Doubt and hope cannot live in our hearts at the same time.” That’s a very convicting statement, but it’s also freeing at the same time. So, please explain how having doubt in our hearts impedes our ability to hope.
RENEE SWOPE: When we’re focused on all the things that we feel like we can’t do, that we’re not equipped to do, it’s really easy for discouragement to set up residence in our heart. It’s very hard to leap forward with a sense of hope and confidence in what God’s called us to do and His promise to live His life through us. And what I discovered was, on the outside I would step out in faith and obedience to God’s calling. I would step into those places where He was calling me, whether it’d be writing or speaking or leading in ministry, but internally, there was this uncertainty and this constant questioning. And I knew that God had more for me. I knew that there was a sense of hope and peace and anticipation that He wanted me to be experiencing in the midst of my calling. And that’s when He really showed me, “Renee, doubt and hope cannot live in your heart at the same time.” And yet, all throughout His word He tells us that He calls to a place of hope.
One of my favorite verses is in Jeremiah 17:7 and this is from the New Living Translation where it says, “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.” And so, when I saw those two words together, I knew if God is going to be my hope and confidence, then this self-doubt and discouragement isn’t God’s best for me. And what does He want to do with that?
VICTORIA MORGAN: And you got to see, firsthand, these doubts for what they really are. You saw a huge scary shadow on your bathroom wall and somehow, it gave you that new perspective. So tell us what happened that day. Share with us.
RENEE SWOPE: Honestly, that was the turning point. So I wasn’t working on the book. This was the day that I actually recognized self-doubt for what it was. So I was going to speak at a large women’s event. I had been booked for that engagement for months and that day I was wrestling with a paralyzing sense of self-doubt. And I was begging God all week, “Please zap me with confidence.” And He wasn’t answering my prayer. [laughs]
And so, I remember being in my bathroom and putting on my makeup and I turned around to put something in my suitcase and there was this huge nine-foot shadow on the wall, and it was me. And I’m only 5”2’. And I remember thinking, “Wow! It’s humungous.” And I sensed God whisper to my heart, “The only reason you can see the shadow is because you’ve turned away from the light. Turn back towards the light.”And that was the truth. The reason there was this huge shadow is because the light above my mirror was casting a shadow on the wall from my own image. But it was so much bigger.
And God used that imagery as an analogy to show me that in the same way I could see the shadow of doubt or the shadow on my wall by turning away from the light, I was standing in the shadow of doubt, because in my mind, all that week, I had been turning away from the light of God’s truth in my heart. And I have been focused on my inadequacies, my insecurities, my sense of comparison and failure in my own life and some relationship struggles that I was walking through in a project that I wanted to do even better on, and all of those things have really gotten my attention and distracted me from focusing on the light of God’s truth and what He wanted to do at this event. I’ve gotten very self-focused.
And so, that shadow on the wall really became a turning point for me, and it became the tool. God didn’t zap me with confidence that day. But that turning, that physical turning and then that mental and spiritual turning in my heart, back towards God’s truth, became the tool that helped me overcome that self-doubt that day. And I was able to go into that event really focusing on what is the truth about what God wants to do at this event? What does God want to say through me? What’s on God’s heart for the women that will be in attendance?
And once I got my eyes off me, and what I felt like I wasn’t and focused on Him and how much of enough He is, I was able to walk in what I call “a soul confidence” … a soul security that’s much better and a much longer lasting than the self-confidence that I had been praying for.
VICTORIA MORGAN: And it’s so simple just to turn away from that shadow, look to the light because He is the truth and He will tell you the truth. I remember, in your book, you talk about the “triggers” of self-doubt and that really interested me. What are some of the most common things that we can look out for, common things that happen to make us start doubting ourselves?
RENEE SWOPE: Well, as I mentioned, as I was heading into this event and discovered this shadow in my bathroom and recognize that there were things that had happened that week to really trigger my self-doubt and that week, for me, the triggers were comparison – I was comparing myself with other people who will be speaking at that event. The second trigger was conflict. I’d had a conflict that week with one of my friends and being in women’s ministry I thought, “Who am I to be in ministry if I can’t get along with all of these females in my life?” … which was silly, but it was real at the time. So there was comparison. There was conflict and then there was criticism. Those were the three things that week that triggered my self-doubt.
I have received feedback on a project that I was working on, as we often do at work or in committees that we’re a part of, and wonderful feedback, but one person had given some pretty harsh constructive criticism, and that one comment completely consumed my attention. And that criticism was another thing that just triggered that self-doubt.
And in the book I talk about several other triggers, like failure, shame, discouragement, lack of sleep. And that’s one thing I think is really important because if we can recognize what’s triggering our self-doubt, then instead of starting to play that mental game, that kind of feels like we’re in quicksand and we’re just sinking. We can recognize, “Okay, there’s a trigger. This is what I’m feeling. This is what happened. This is what my emotions are telling me. But what are some of the facts?” And instead of just looking at the emotional truth of it, we can look at the logical truth of it and then the spiritual truth of it. And that really helps to come out of that sinking place.
VICTORIA MORGAN: I love the analogy of the quicksand. We start sinking in it and we can’t stop. The more we try to struggle against it without Christ, the worse we get, and the deeper we get. We’ve all tried to uncover our fears and our self-doubts. We think that we’ve nailed them all, and then we replace them with God’s promises. And as soon as we do, another fear or self-doubt rears its ugly head and we’re a mess again.
One of your readers even had found your book to be very helpful with this phenomenon. She compares it to “peeling the onion of security one layer at a time.” Can you talk about these hidden layers of self-doubt, as you realize and then you go deeper? Do these self-doubts ever end?
RENEE SWOPE: What I have discovered is that doubt can be a good thing. I wanted it to end and I will tell you where I am today compared to where I was in 2010 when I was writing the book. It is remarkable. I’m experiencing a freedom that I have never known before. So, walking in these truths does make a difference and it can absolutely change your life.
Does doubt completely go away and never show up again? That hasn’t been my experience. But what has been my experience is that, the enemy of our soul, who the Bible calls Satan, he wants to use doubt to turn our hearts away from God. We can see it in the very beginning of the Bible with Eve. She had everything her heart longed for – intimacy and beauty – and she was chosen and beloved and yet, the enemy tried to convince her it wasn’t enough, that she wasn’t enough, that she could have more and be more and do more, apart from God’s provision, His perfect provision for her.
And so, what God has shown me through these tools of turning back towards the light of His truth, walking out the truth of His Scriptures, even when my emotions and my circumstances maybe shouting the opposite of what God’s telling me to do, when I am willing to walk in faith and truly act on God’s promises, it activates God’s power in my life. And instead of it turning me away from God, like the enemy was able to accomplish with Eve, it actually presses my heart into God, because I’m looking to Him and I’m counting on Him to show up, to live His life through me and to reveal Himself to me in this circumstance, where maybe I’m doubting that I have what it takes.
So, the reader that shared about the onion layers – one of the things that I discovered and I walk through in the book with readers and listeners is that there are layers of doubts. And it’s important for us to identify where those layers started building in our lives. Was it through things that were said to us or about us? Is it things that we say to ourselves? And then unpack those layers to identify, what are my most common doubts and also what triggers those doubts? What circumstances or relationships trigger those doubts? And then began to unpack that with the Lord and through each chapter. I give stories, biblical stories, as well as personal stories and then real practical tools to be able to counteract those doubts and work through those layers in that onion, that the reader described.
VICTORIA MORGAN: And that’s great to segue into my next question. You were talking about beginning to walk with Christ and in Christ. But we do get to a point where we’re wondering, well, who are we really in Christ? Because in the throes of being wives and mothers, ministry leaders and so forth, we sometimes forget who we are – our essence. Some of us ask ourselves the question, where is the “me” in this? So how do you deal with this? How can you make a distinction?
RENEE SWOPE: Well, I think it’s really important to realize that God’s number one pursuit is a relationship with us. It’s not what we can do but who we are. He truly pursues intimacy with us. And so, it’s more important who we are and not what we can do, and it’s not just about serving God, but really that serving Him is birthed out of a place of seeking Him, and just being in His presence and letting Him remind us who we are.
And so, when we put our trust in Christ as our Savior, the beautiful thing that God promises is not only is Christ in us, but we’re hidden in Him. And that begins to change who we are from the inside out. And instead of being inadequate, we have our adequacy in Christ. Instead of being rejected, we’re accepted. Instead of feeling abandoned, we’ve been adopted as God’s child. Instead of feeling worthless, we’re told that we’ve been bought with a price and that we belong to God. Instead of feeling insecure, we can know that we are secure because God works even the hard things together for good, for those who love Him and are called to appointing to His purposes.
And instead of feeling condemned, we can know that we’re free from condemnation, that there’s nothing that can separate us from God’s love. And instead of feeling like we don’t really have a purpose, we can know that we are significant, like we’ve been chosen and appointed to have a life of purpose and meaning, and that we’re His workmanship created in Christ Jesus. And so, it’s not that we disappear, it’s that God wants to uniquely show up through each of us, through Christ in us.
And so, what Christ looks like in me, Vicki, is different than what He’s going to look like in you. But instead of like in the Old Testament, the commands and the laws were written on stone, but because of Christ it’s written with the Spirit of God, not with ink or etched in stone, but though Christ in us, it says that His love letter is written in our hearts. And so, we can take our story and ask God to weave His story into it and we become a love letter, as we allow God to love us, then we can love others.
Insecurity keeps us from offering ourselves to others because we hold back. We stay hidden. We hesitate. But when we’re secure in Christ, we know that even when we see a stranger in an elevator, who looks like they’re having a hard day, the confidence that God gives us is to say, “Hey, how are you doing today, or is there something I can pray for you (about)?” Or, “Wow! What a beautiful dress you have on.” Or just be an encourager and show up and be a picture of Christ to that person that might be struggling with loneliness. I think the most beautiful thing that self-confidence or Godfidence gives us is the confidence to let Christ live through us and love those around us without hesitation. We know we have something to offer.
VICTORIA MORGAN: Let’s shift gears a little bit. Let’s just talk about the woman who doesn’t really need confidence. She hears very clearly from God, but she says to herself, “I can’t possibly do what God’s called me to do because my circumstances prevent it. Things will never change. My life is never going to get any better. Change is too hard. Too many people depend on me.” Sometimes I stop listening to God because I feel like I cannot rise to what He’s actually calling me to do, just because of my circumstances. And it looks like, here, you claim that this is actually an epidemic.
RENEE SWOPE: Vicki, I love that you asked this question because I can so identify with thinking that exact same thing. The Lord called our family in 2008 to begin the process of adopting a little girl from Ethiopia. And in my mind I kept thinking, “I can’t do this. My circumstances prevent it. Our finances prevent it. I have boys that are almost teenagers. I don’t remember how to do babies.” My ministry and my career was growing. And my mother was aging. Both of my parents were having some health problems. And I just remember thinking, “Lord, I can’t do this.” And yet, God provided everything that we needed and more to really walk in faith with Him and to adopt our little girl who’s now seven and a half years old. And she was ten months old when we adopted her.
And I will say, Vicki, it was one of the hardest things that our family has ever walked through. Aster had health problems and a couple of years later she was diagnosed with a speech disorder and an anxiety disorder. So it’s not that it was easy. But I’ve experienced the power of God’s love and His provision in such a beautiful way that I never would’ve known had I not been willing to just, not walk in my feelings and my fears, but to truly walk in faith and the hope that God could do what I could not.
And you mentioned that I talk about this epidemic struggle. When I wrote A Confident Heart, I wasn’t really convinced that as many women struggled with it as I did. But what I did to help convince myself and verify that it was a needed topic was I researched and surveyed 1,200 women through my blog and I ask them questions about doubts and how it makes them feel and how it affects their relationships.
And what I discovered is that women didn’t even realize that they struggled with self-doubt, but once they looked at the questions and they looked at the symptoms, they were blown away by how much self-doubt and uncertainty and insecurity had really impacted their life and truly made them feel paralyzed or stuck in a rut, and insecure about their abilities and really uncertain about God’s plan for their life.
And then when the book was released and over 150,000 copies were sold, and now it’s in several languages, I realized, “Wow, this is an epidemic struggle, and that I’m not alone in this.” And that God was calling me to give voice, to put into words what others were feeling and struggling with, that now they could name and put a frame around it and begin to address it. Once we name something and know what we’re dealing with, it’s so much easier to then address it and take action steps out of that rut we have felt stuck in.
VICTORIA MORGAN: And you said it perfectly. You said it perfectly when you called yourself a grace-needer. And we all need grace. We’re all a mess. I think it’s on your webpage you shared that you accidentally took your dog’s medication. That is messed up! So let’s talk about the grace that we all need. The promises in your book, A Confident Heart, and the hope that we’re all longing for. It really does come down to God’s infinite grace, doesn’t it?
RENEE SWOPE: It does. Absolutely. And I think that’s just so important. God’s grace is His undeserved favor. And for so many years in my own life, I was trying to earn God’s favor. I was trying to make Him proud of me. And honestly, I think I had created God in the image of my father and my father loved me, but he often would focus more on what I needed to improve in, just as his way of trying to motivate me. And yet, I formed that pattern in my mind of thinking that that’s what God was focused on, all the things I needed to do better and work harder at. And God showed me, just throughout His Word, the power of His grace … His undeserved favor that I don’t have to work hard to gain.
Early on, when we’re talking about doubting myself and my calling and just the self-doubts that I struggle with. There are so many times when I would say, “Lord, have you really called me to this, this writing and speaking and this calling of mine? Can I just stay home and fold clothes and make meals for my family?” Because I am such a mess. Like the day I accidentally took my dog’s medication, instead of my allergy pill I took her seizure medication, but that’s just one of my many crazy stories. One time I locked my daughter in the car at the radio station right before a huge interview I was doing, and they had called the fire department to get her out. It’s just one thing after the other. But you know what? Instead of beating myself up, I just keep remembering the people in the Bible that God called and none of them are people that I probably would’ve picked for my team either.
And so I think God loves to call messy people to give us a message of hope personally, and then our lives become a beautiful message of hope, just even through the messiest places in our lives when we don’t just stay in that mess, but we invite God into that mess and we invite God to speak into our hearts and in midst of that mess and give us His perspective and ask Him to give us His word to change the way that we’re thinking, which changes the way that we’re feeling and eventually transforms the way that we’re living.
And I believe that’s what living with a confident heart looks like. It’s a better relationship with Him, in the middle of our mess, getting real about it, giving ourselves the grace that God offers and walking with Him in the mess and out of the mess that our life might become a message.
VICTORIA MORGAN: Wow. Well, thank you for helping us understand the shackles of lies that the enemy tries to keep us in. We are all eager to pour into your audiobook and make a study of it. I know I am. What’s the best way to find you online to connect with you and all the ministries we talked about?
RENEE SWOPE: Well, I’m so glad that you said that, because I’m actually going to host an online study that will be focused on my blog, as well as my Facebook page, and I’d love to have listeners join us. And we’re going to be doing some giveaways and just some fun things. So that’s going to be coming up soon. And they can find out more at ReneeSwope.com. So that’s ReneeSwope.com. And then also on my Facebook page, which is Facebook/AConfidentHeart and Facebook/ReneeSwope.
I’d also love to invite you to sign up for my free 7-Day Doubt Diet. I wrote a devotional, it’s a 7-day devotional to help us lose the weight of self-doubt and gain a confident heart. And it’s just actually a free set of devotions that are pulled from the book, some of the best content in the book pulled into these short devotions so that you can get a taste of what’s inside and really determine if this is a message for you. So I’d love to invite you to sign up for that and then join us for the upcoming study.
VICTORIA MORGAN: Well, that sounds great. It’s just like anything else with the diet. If it’s a healthy diet, we process it well and our bodies thank us. I’m really looking forward to that.
RENEE SWOPE: Yeah, yeah. I actually have a doubt index analysis, kind of like your fat index analysis, but this is the quiz you can take to find out where you are in your struggle with doubt and see what A Confident Heart might help you gain.
VICTORIA MORGAN: Well, I’m excited about that. I’m excited about your audiobook, which is gaining popularity even as we speak. We’re looking forward to your next one too. And we just thank you so much for joining us today. It was a pleasure speaking with you.
RENEE SWOPE: Thank you for having me, Vicki.
VICTORIA MORGAN: Find out more about Renee Swope’s audio book A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of God’s Promises at Christian Audio dot com. Also, if you’d like to receive our free audio book of the month, please do join our mailing list. I’m Victoria Morgan. Thanks for listening!
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