Shannon Bream: Faithfulness, Family and The Women of the Bible
Interviewed for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: You are a Fox News anchor and legal correspondent, and you wrote The Women of the Bible Speak during 2020, which we all know has been a very interesting year. While these biblical women are unchanging, how did researching that and getting to know them a little bit during this pandemic impact you?
Shannon Bream: I found it to be super encouraging because I had heard these stories growing up in Sunday school and in church and being in a Christian school, a Christian university. And I thought I knew a lot about these women, and I did have a good start, but really researching them, leaning on some theological experts that I had who were kind enough to answer my questions about what were the customs at the time, what would this have meant to this woman, what would it have meant to this family? I mean, I just got a lot more context, and the stories were just more layered and richer to me being able to get a better understanding.
And I found that problems really are kind of timeless and universal about family issues and health struggles and financial struggles and fertility, widowhood. I mean, so many of those things translate to what women are dealing with today, especially in the last year. And I just found so much encouragement through it to see how God was working, even when it would be years that they wouldn’t have their prayer requests answered in the way that they had hoped. I mean, He was always working, and He was always hearing them, and I just found that very comforting too.
RM: In your book, you share the lives of 16 women, and you pair them together. How did you select the women, and then how did you come to the pairings that we see?
SB: We felt like you want to include stories that most people are going to know. We thought about Mary, the Mother of Jesus. A lot of people are familiar with Queen Esther’s story from the Old Testament. So there were some that we definitely thought, “These are strong, prominent stories of faith and of courage. We want to include those.”
But then I sort of fought and pushed for a couple of others that maybe were not the easiest Bible school study lessons. I mean, Tamar really gets off track and does some questionable behavior. But even through that, we see that God redeems it in the long run. She’s part of the lineage of Christ. So even in her getting way off track, God is able to use that.
And I wanted to include Rahab the prostitute, and I actually pair her with Queen Esther because they both have this common thread of being in the right place at the right time to help Israel survive and go on to great victories as they survive as a nation and as a people.
So some of the people, they made sense for their pairings. They were sisters, or they knew each other, but others, we thought there’s a common thread to their story that we can get more lights on that by looking at them together and seeing how this played out, sometimes centuries apart.
RM: People that we see in the Bible, their stories are not always pristine. They’re messy but God is faithful through all of those stories. For you, when has there been a time where you’ve seen God be faithful in your story?
SB: I went through a season, as many people have, and it’s why I identify with this woman with the issue of bleeding in the Bible for 12 years, couldn’t find a doctor to help her ran out of money, ran out of resources, and just was completely despondent and isolated. And I’ve been open about going through a time of chronic pain and chronic illness I lived with in my life. And it was very trying. It was very depressing. It was very dark. I think, as Christians, we’re not guaranteed that we’re going to not have those kinds of experiences.
Well, what I found was true was that God walked with me through it. He never left me. He may not have healed me in the way and the timing that I had wanted as I was seeking Him, but I really had nowhere else to go. I felt like there were times when I just prayed, “Lord, please help me,” or, “God, please help me.” I would literally just say that over and over again, especially in my most painful moments.
It doesn’t have to be an eloquent prayer. It doesn’t have to be fancy and sophisticated. Really, He knows our hearts and sometimes, when we’re just most vulnerable to Him and just crying out for His help, I found Him to be faithful in that He pulled me back from the edge so many times, answered my prayers for finding a doctor to help me, and just walked with me through it, even when the doctor told me those words, “There’s no cure for this. We can manage it, but it’s not going away.” That first time I heard those words, I left his office and just sobbed in my car and just said to God, “I can’t go on like this. How can I live like this?”
And I tell people, I don’t feel like I’ve audibly heard the voice of God, but there was something in my spirit that I heard Him saying, “I will be with you,” those words. And I’ve seen that time and again, and certainly in the darkest, toughest parts of my life, He’s been there, and He’s been faithful.
RM: And these women that you chose, their stories are all steadfast… growing up was there a woman that was a role model to you, or is there somebody now that you wish to emulate?
SB: I always say my mom, and it’s true because she’s this serious prayer warrior who really lives out the, “Love your neighbor as yourself” better than anybody I’ve ever seen. It meant when I was growing up, there would be people at the table we’d never met before. My mom would run into them at the grocery store and just start talking to them in check-out line and feel like they had no family or they lost their job or something. People would come eat with us. They’d move in with us.
I mean, my mom was just so selfless, and she is one of those people where if you ask her to pray for you and she says, “I’m going to be praying for you,” I mean, she means it. It could be 5:00 in the morning in her closet. She’s in there for an hour or two praying. She’s just such a selfless, godly person who’s also a lot of fun and a little bit crazy. And so I say all the time that I really want to be like my mom when I grow up, and there’s a lot there to aspire to.
We’ve had ups and downs as every family does. We’ve had really tough financial times, health crises, all kinds of things, but she has never wavered in her faith in that. And she’s been such a good role model for me in that. So she’s certainly influenced my faith journey and continues to.
RM: I love the aspect of going deeper and at the end of each of your chapters you have study questions. So talk to me about that, about getting to understand it a little bit more in the Scripture or have that as a resource. What’s your hope there?
SB: I love a study question. I love when I go through a book and there are study questions because like I said, I like to journal. I feel like it helps me to make things more personal and to get the deeper information behind these passages and behind these stories.
So my hope is that it will take the stories from being fascinating, interesting stories which we don’t have to add a thing to them because the Bible is full of these page-turning stories I think a lot of people don’t know are in there. The stories stand alone. But what I hope is that those questions will make it more personal. So people can see, “What do I take from this? What do I see about God’s faithfulness that then I can remember as true in my life too?” He hasn’t changed at all from centuries ago to the God we know now today.
And I’ve had a lot of people say to me too, they’re ordering these to do as a group for Bible study or Zoom group or family group. And I always get a lot from hearing other people’s impressions and lessons and what God has laid on their heart. So I love that we were able to include study questions here. So I think you can learn a lot on your own, but I think they’re great for discussion too.
RM: I have to ask you, can you leave us a word for men? Now, I know your book focuses on women, but what can men learn from reading it, or is possibly your next book Men of the Bible Speak?
SB: Well, we do include a number of men in these women’s stories because they’re woven together. We see Abraham. I love Hannah’s story. She is the one who was a quiet, not from a big elite, fancy family or well-known rich family, but we see her every year going to the temple to pray fervently for child. That’s what she wanted. And we see that her husband has great compassion on her. He loves her very much, and he sees her sorrow when we see how he tries to meet her in that.
So I think we see these men all throughout the Bible who are great counterparts. Like the women, they are flawed. They make mistakes. But we see real marriages and relationships. And I think, of course, the most important man we see in the book is Jesus and just the way He relates to women, the kindness, the compassion He shows them and the fact that He kind of busted up the norms of the day. I mean, these women studied with Him and did things that wouldn’t have been traditionally how things were done in those days. He disregarded customs because He was all about the person and making sure He met their needs and had great compassion for them.
So I think for men, they be encouraged by His example and by the men who are woven into these stories too because they’re key players in many of these women’s journeys.