Play With Fire: Crying Out

For our God is a consuming fire. — Hebrews 12:29 ESV

During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and He remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. — Exodus 2:23–25

Introduction: Dark Night of the Soul

At age twenty-one, I was in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer, I had a bad breakup with my boyfriend of three years, and I was a jobless college graduate living at home with my parents. I was the very definition of a crisis! I felt like the Phoenix bird in the desert, calling out to the sun, only to receive SILENCE. I was crying out, “God, where are you? God, what are you up to? God, please rescue me!” I was raw and weary and felt weighed down by pain, confusion, and desperation.

Looking back now, I see that my experience in those moments of pain and confusion was actually a Dark Night of the Soul. The fifteenth-century Christian writer John of the Cross was the first to describe this experience. He called it La Noche Oscura. Dark Nights often provoke deep questions spiritually and psychologically in our lives, and provide opportunities for growth.1

Watch the Session 1: Crying Out

Take a few minutes to play the video teaching for session one. As you watch, feel free to take notes or record any thoughts that stand out to you. Use the following concepts and questions to guide your group conversation.


Name a time or season in life when you may have experienced a Dark Night of the Soul.

Based on our teaching, what does God say about our past?

And when you’re alone there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.2 —Dr. Seuss

DTR (Define the Relationship) = God + The Israelites

Name a few things about God’s relationship with the Israelites. How do we know God understood the pain of the Israelites during their wilderness journey?

Why is it important to voice our needs to God and for God?

A vital component in our relationship with God is VOICING our need for Him. — Bianca

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.3 —The Apostle Paul

What are your sorrows and pains? Where in your life are you crying out to God and asking Him, “Please deliver me!”?

What does Scripture show us about our weakness and God’s strength?

In my distress, I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. — Psalm 18:6





The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. — Psalm 34:17

Group Discussion

Okay friends, now it’s time to KIR [Keep It Real]! Our discussion will only go as far as we are willing to be honest. For us to have real change, we need to be real about where we are in our lives. Use these questions as a guide for group conversation:

{CONVERSATION STARTER}: Do you have a story about playing with fire as a kid or young adult? If so, share it with the group.

What stands out to you about the story of the Israelites’ journey through the desert wilderness? What do you hear?

What is the difference between CRYING OUT and COMPLAINING? Share a few personal examples.

Like I always say, “Honesty and vulnerability lead us to CRYING OUT.” What keeps us from honesty and vulnerability as individuals and as a community? How can we encourage honesty and vulnerability as a community?

God HEARS. When or how has God heard you?

On this adventure, don’t fear the fire. Don’t fear the invitation God is giving us to walk into transformation, and to experience the presence of God in those places where we feel this journey is a little scary, or a little dangerous. — Bianca

God REMEMBERS. How has God remembered you during a difficult season of life?

God SEES. What does it mean to be seen by God? How does this knowledge impact the way you live your life?

God KNOWS. Why do you think we try to hide things from God when the Bible tells us God is all-knowing? Name some of the ridiculous things we try to hide from God.

How does this teaching session change your perspective on life? Name at least one thing.

He knows that your past does not pre-determine your present. Your history does not determine your destiny. Your past is in your past because it’s passed. —Bianca

Group Activity

Take a few moments in your group to practice honesty and vulnerability together. Ask each person to SHARE (out loud) one specific area she wants God to transform in her. As everyone shares with the rest of the group, write down each person’s answers in the space provided below, and then be mindful to pray for each person in your group this week.

Group Prayer — Conversation With God

Prayer is personal, and I would never require it to be forced, repetitious, or scripted. If you want to pray out loud your own unique conversation with God, go for it, homegirl! But if you need help forming language to communicate to God, I’ve included this prayer for you here.

God, we thank You for this group and for this session. Thank You that You hear us, You remember us, You see us, and You know us. Please help us to stop complaining and start crying out to You when we’re in those desert moments of life. Please help us to practice honesty and vulnerability as individuals and as a group over these next few weeks. We believe You are the same God who rescued the Israelites in the wilderness, and we trust You will rescue us too. And we believe in Your power to TRANSFORM us as we learn to play with fire. Thank You that You choose us, and today, we choose You too. AMEN.

THANK YOU for being honest and vulnerable as individuals and as a group. God wants you to walk in freedom and fullness instead of wandering and complaining in the wilderness. And we are better when we walk in freedom together!



Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings.” — Exodus 3:7 ESV

* To enjoy the Between-Sessions Personal Study, pick, up your Play With Fire Study Guide today!

  1. Chuck DeGroat, “Three Truths About the ‘Dark Night of the Soul,’” Christianity Today, February 23, 2015,
  2. Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (New York: Random House, 1990).
  3. 2 Corinthians 12:10.

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Your Turn

Join the conversation on the blog! We want to hear from you!

Bianca Juárez Olthoff

Bianca Olthoff is the Chief Storyteller for The A-21 Campaign and the Creative Director for Propel Women. Her debut book, Play with Fire: Discovering Fierce Faith, Unquenchable Passion, and a Life-Giving God arrives on August 30, 2016. Bianca is a step-mom to Parker and Ryen and has spent the last ten years mobilizing God's people to action alongside her husband Matt, the Executive Director and Pastor for Project Europe. Bianca has been in church ministry for 15 years inspiring women to live with unquenchable passion. With Bianca's trademark humor and honesty, Play with Fire reminds women that God has huge dreams for each of his children. "He's whispering in the wind and speaking through the fire and shouting in silence the extraordinary dream."

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