2016-06-30
Paula White co-pastors the 18,000-member Without Walls International Church, based in Tampla, Fla., with her husband Randy. She also runs Paula White Ministries and hosts the nationally syndicated television program, "Paula White Today." Her new book, "Deal With It!" (Thomas Nelson) explains how 10 women of the Bible--some well known, some more obscure--can help women confront their emotional, sexual, and professional issues. White spoke with Beliefnet about the own issues she has confronted, how women of the Bible have helped her, and her ministry work.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?
Mainly it was to equip people to manifest the greatness that is inside of them. I believe there are seeds of potential greatness in all of us. There were some defining moments that happened in my life that enabled me to identify, conquer, and confront the issues of my life. Every one of us has to answer, "Who am I? What am I? Why am I?" And then, "How do I get there? How do I do it? How do I become it?"

I know some of those moments in your own life are of a very personal nature, but can you explain briefly what your background was like?
Oh, absolutely. It's all out to hang. Many people know my testimony. When I was five years old, my father committed suicide. From age six to 13 I was sexually and physically abused. I had never heard the gospel until I was 18 years old, and I had not been in church. Then I was at a friend's house, and his uncle said, "I can give you the answer to the love you're looking for and for the hope you need." He led me to Christ--I heard the gospel for the first time my life was radically changed. But I found out it's a process with many defining moments. God gave a vision, and I didn't even know what a vision was, and I have not read the word of God. I just knew my life was suddenly radically changed.

It sounds like it must have been a little scary for you.
It wasn't scary in a frightening sense because it was like a light bulb turning on. I had an empty love tank and I was trying desperately to fill it. When I heard the gospel, that hole in my heart was fulfilled. I did transform--my life began to radically change. Of course years later I began to understand that our spirit man is born again immediately, but transformation is a lifelong process.

I had this vision from God: my voice was heard in the vision as far as I could see. There were multitudes, masses of millions of people, and I was speaking the word of God. People were either getting saved or healed or delivered, and when my voice was not heard, they were falling into darkness. And God said, "I've called you to preach the Gospel." I went to my pastor and said, "I've got a call to preach the gospel," and he put a broom in my hand. I was just so excited to be trusted to clean the church. The process began to take place from there. And in this process, I met a man by the name of Randy, who is now my husband.

Randy was the first person that caused me to confront myself and deal with my issues. I really realized many years later it was packaged in a man called Randy, but it was God showing his love to me. God knows how and when to show that love, and whether it needs to be a love of grace, or a love of mercy, or a love of toughness. He knows how to cause us to confront our issues. He loves us so much that He won't leave us in a state that would prohibit us from being who He's called us to be. I didn't know how to be a wife or a mother or happy or anything else, so I asked for voices to begin to teach me and I began a journey.

Your book is about that journey, and specifically about the women in the Bible who have helped you along that journey. Do you relate to any of the women more than the others?
I relate to all of them closely because of the lessons they have taught me in life. At different seasons, they taught me different lessons. The book follows the lessons they've taught me almost in chronological order. Ruth taught me that you have to leave your past to enter your future. That's hard for most people because our past is familiar, and even though it can be dysfunctional or it can be diseased or sick, it's still familiar, and familiar is hard to leave. She taught me the lesson that I have to let go of yesterday to enter my tomorrow.

Then Leah taught me that a man can't fix you, only God can. Leah always lived in the shadow of a younger sibling who was much more beautiful than she. I'm sure she felt inferior. When she marries Jacob, she probably wakes up thinking, "my dream's come true," only to find an empty bed. We can do all kinds of things to get people to like us or love us or listen to us, but you can't make another person fix you or make you whole or make you complete. Many of us waste a lifetime trying to do that, but Leah finally wised up. She said, "This isn't working. He's not listening to me." Like her, there was a time in my life I realized a man can't fix you. I can't get wholeness out of another person. There's a wise proverb, Proverb 5, that says, "Drink of thine own cistern and out of your own running well of water." You have to learn to drink out of your well, especially if you're ever going to feed someone else.

Your book is obviously geared toward women. What are some of the issues that women face in particular that you feel you need to teach them about?
Twenty-first century women have opportunities that have never been afforded to any other generation. But while we have those opportunities and privileges, we have challenges that no generation dealt with. It's a different life we're living. In the 1950s, the greatest issue when you sent your children to school was excessive talking and chewing gum. Today we wonder, is there going to be an act of terrorism? Is there going to be a shooting? We live in a totally different society. How do we balance being a wife, being a mother, and being in the workplace? I believe God not only showed us the problems in the Bible, but He also showed us the solution--He offers us mentors and coaches. Typically, men have had coaches, but women have not. Men have been coached in business, men have been coached in sports, but it's a new concept for women. And yet God gives us the coaches, He gives us the mentors. And they sure are the voices that helped me overcome the obstacles that I was faced with.

Are there any lessons in the book that you think men could learn from, even though it's more for women?
I do, because God's principles transcend gender. When you live your life based on principles that guide your heart and rule your head, it brings forth God's promises. Although they come through the voice of women, these principles are powerful. They go beyond the scope of being female.

Can you give some examples of things that you cover in the book that you think other books for Christian women might not do?
Well, one of the things I do is approach different aspects of women's lives. We might hear a lot about Ruth and Esther. But I write about the Shunammite Woman, I look at Dorcas. I take people who are not your majority, who might be minor women in the Bible, and I deal with their issues.

Let's take Dorcas as an example. We're all like Dorcas. Women feel the need to say yes to everyone else, and she is your typical placater. But if you say yes to everybody and no to yourself, you're going to die like Dorcas did. And you've got to be willing to audit your life and be honest about your life. Or Rahab, the woman who had everything. She had her own business, she had prime real estate, she was influential, she had political power with the king, and she was a whore. She was the woman who had everything but was empty on the inside. In my book, through Rahab I talk about how sexual promiscuity brings damnation to our soul, but I don't address the issues in a condemning or judgmental way.

So what would you tell a woman who read a chapter of your book and said, "That's me, but it's too late. I've already committed these sins. What can I do?"
Nothing's too late with the God that we serve. Let's go back to Rahab. Rahab was in a crisis, but she makes a decision about her life. Your decisions really do determine your destiny. I think it is crucial to make sure that you make the right decisions. I help people relate to these stories in every day terms, to help them understand the problem and find the solution.

Let's turn a little bit to your ministry. How many members do you have in your church?
It's about 18,000 members now, and recent statistics show that it's the seventh largest church in the nation. My husband and I started 12 years ago. We have a wonderful congregation, and we also but we have 270 outreach ministries. We come together to celebrate Jesus, to receive instruction, and to help people find their destiny and fulfill it, and then go outside of the four walls to meet the needs of the community, the nation and the world. That's the heartbeat of who we are and what we do.

One remarkable thing about your ministry is its multiracial focus. Is that unique?
I think it is unique, though it should not be. The ministry represents the body of Christ, the kingdom of God. Not only does it transcend ethnicity, but it transcends all barriers-- socio-economic, age, gender. You'll have a multi-millionaire sitting next to a homeless person. You have both Randy and I in the pulpit. So it's really I think a prototype and a model of what the kingdom of God is.

Many people talk about your crossover appeal. Why do you think you appeal so much to an African-American audience?
I see the ground of Calvary as equal, and faith is an equal-opportunity business. I think we need to be respectful of cultures. God made the rainbow, and the rainbow is beautiful and we're very respectful of different cultures. I love Africa.

If God hadn't called me to America and if my husband and children didn't keep me here, I would probably live in Africa. But I think it's our differences that make us so great, and that's Psalm 139, it says that we are "Wonderfully and fearfully made in his image." And of course fearfully means reverent, but wonderfully in the Hebrew means different. It's our differences that make us so valuable and I think being respectful of the cultures and understanding the differences in people and appreciating that. At the same time understanding beneath the gender, or the ethnicity, the diversity of differences, there is a common ground around the human heart.

What are your goals are for your church and your ministry in the next few years?
I know this sounds so spiritual, but it's just to say yes to every assignment God gives us. And that could mean to just continue what we're doing, which is to reach out, to save the lost, to transform hearts, to see lives changed and empowered, or if God says, "Go to Africa," to do that. I do put goals in front of me, and one is I would like to win 10 million souls to the Lord.

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