Have you ever noticed how, when you meet someone new, you might be quick to ask them, “What do you do?

The problem with the question, “What do you do?” is that it communicates the message that your worth is determined by your activities, your accomplishments, your achievements.

But what happens when you can’t answer that question? How does that make you feel? Is the implication that you are somehow less important, less valuable, or less of a person?

The answer is an emphatic ‘no’ and it is part of the powerful message of a brand new book called ‘Valuable‘, whose subtitle sums it up nicely: ‘Why your worth is not determined by how useful you feel‘. It’s a book that’s been beautifully written by my friend and fellow author, Liz Carter – and, because Liz has lived her whole life with a chronic debilitating illness, what she has to say is rooted in authenticity and raw vulnerability.

Today I am delighted to welcome Liz to the blog, to answer some questions about her life, her writing and the back story to ‘Valuable’. Liz is also kindly giving away a signed copy of ‘Valuable’ to a lucky winner – so please sign up to my mailing list to be in with a chance of winning it!


It’s lovely to have you here today, Liz. Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Hi Joanna! It’s great to be with you! I’m a writer, poet and editor from Shropshire. I live with my husband, who is a vicar, and our two young adult children. I like turquoise, Cadbury’s chocolate, Fairtrade dresses and The Legend of Zelda, in no particular order.

You’ve written several books, but what particularly inspired you to write ‘Valuable’? 

Throughout my life I’ve often just not felt enough. I suffer from long term degenerative lung disease and I’ve sometimes felt that because of my health I am not useful enough to God or as valuable to God as other healthy, successful people. This has been exacerbated by prayers for healing where I have been told that I need to press in further for healing because God will ‘use me’ more if I am well. For many years I lived within a lesser identity, boxed in by unhelpful words and the idea that it is what we do that makes us better people – and that makes us more valuable. This lie can be seen written all across social media, advertisements and throughout the world, and, sadly, in churches, too. There are churches where the successful people are honoured and lauded more than those who are weak, and this is wrong – and unbiblical. I wanted to dig into the whole language around uselessness, usefulness, and even being used by God, and break down lies that have damaged lives.

Why do you think our culture places so much emphasis on ‘doing‘ rather than ‘being‘, which you helpfully refer to as ‘the productivity lie‘? What would you recommend for those of us who want to overcome this way of thinking?

I think that as humans we have a tendency to be seen as successful, and to hide away any failures. We think that everyone around us is doing just a little better than us, and if we just tried harder we would be happier, healthier, and even more pleasing to God. I also think that there is a certain rhetoric around doing and being that plays out across the canvas of politics and public life: those who do and those who try are the strivers, and those who are weak and fail are the skivers. This has led to so many people feeling desperately hurt and descending into even more spirals of self-doubt.

When the church upholds these kinds of ideas, Christians can feel like this, too, and yet the Bible continually shows how God’s kingdom is an upside-down one, where the first are last and the last are first. The Bible is full of weak, failing people, people who God partners with to bring transformation and salvation to whole communities. Jesus did not tend to hang out with the successful people, but most often those who were discounted by their society. So I would recommend that all of us choose to live in the upside down kingdom rather than in the productivity-driven world, and to find freedom and comfort in the way the Bible frames weakness – not as a place where God has departed, but as a place where God is with us, helping us to flourish within that weakness.

One of the many things I love about your book is the way it helps us find hope when life turns tough. Please can you give us a couple of practical pointers for how to do this well? 

Thank you. This is something I have grappled with all my life, and especially over the past year since I became even more ill with Long Covid on top of my other conditions. There were times I felt like I had no hope at all – so that is where I would start, by saying that it is important to lament when we need to lament, and not to paste a smile-mask on our faces and pretend all is well when it’s not. The psalmists were starkly honest about their suffering, and we can be, too – and that is a relief. But lament does not have to be without hope: Paul talked about how suffering shaped character, and character produced hope – somehow, in a holy mystery, it’s in the suffering we find hope sparking. Sometimes God breaks through and miracles happen, and sometimes they don’t, yet we are filled with living hope because we know who we are and where we are going. We know our hope is for the now and the not yet. So I would say that holding onto hope is about shifting our perspective – there isn’t a formula we can go through to get hope, but we can make every day decisions to look to Jesus, to remember what he has done, and to thank him. For me, lifting my eyes off myself and practising gratitude is one of the most powerful ways of finding hope.

Many people have faulty belief systems about their identity. What advice would you give anyone who is struggling to accept how God sees them? 

I would encourage people to compare Scripture with anything they have been told about their identity or use. In the book I tell the story of my friend Tracy, who is deaf and was told that she should press in for healing because ‘God couldn’t use her if she was deaf’. Lies like this can leave great gaping wounds, and they are not based in Scripture. Instead, we are told that God partners with us and joins with us (John 15) and is delighted in us (Zephaniah 3:17). In God’s economy, we are all loved and all equal (Galatians 3:28). The picture Paul shared of us all being equal parts of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) was astoundingly radical and counter-cultural in a time where power was valued and the weak were thought of as lesser, and still speaks to us today in a society where ‘doing’ often seems to count more than ‘being’. I would encourage people to be still with God, just as Mary was in the story of Mary and Martha, and hear him telling them how precious they are, how loved, how infinitely valuable – and that this is not based on what they do for him, but simply on his love for them.

Finally, how can readers find out more about you and your writing, and how can they get hold of a signed copy of ‘Valuable’? 

The best place to start is my website here, or to find me on social media: Twitter: @LizCarterWriter; Facebook and Instagram: @greatadventureliz. Your readers can get ‘Valuable’ at all good online bookstores and in their local Christian bookshops. They can also get a signed copy through your giveaway, by signing up to your newsletter!


Having read what Liz has to say, here are some thoughts for you to ponder:

What is your go-to ‘getting to know you’ question? What might this say about you or your culture?

If it tends to be, “What do you do?” is there something else you could ask instead, which would encourage a response that focuses more on ‘being’ than ‘doing? If so, what might that be?

If you’re reading this and you’re not based in the UK or another Western nation, what questions do you usually ask of strangers? (I’ve mused before about far more insightful ‘getting to know you’ questions from other parts of the world – see here for example!)

As ever, constructive comments are welcome below.



  1. Elizabeth Gyfford Reply

    I have tried in the past to think beyond the two questions, “How are you?” and, “What do you do?”. The first is too often answered, “I’m fine!”, and the second creates too much judgement. Unfortunately, our world, including the Christian world, has become somewhere that places too much value on doing.

    I’m looking forward to reading this book, and learning how to reevaluate how we cherish and uphold each other, regardless of ability.

    I can relate to the responses to the interview above: my husbands first wife (who never told anyone how ill she was because she didnt want pity) had a degenerative disease, and my daughter is profoundly deaf. Well done to Liz for writing on such an essential subject and reminding us what God actually says about it.

    • Joanna Watson Reply

      Thank you for this insightful comment, Elizabeth. I’m so glad to read that you want to read Liz’s book, and the reasons why. I pray that it really blesses you.

  2. I can identify with this so much. I have had fibromyalgia for many years and have been for prayer for healing a number of times. On one occasion, when my foot wasn’t healing, the person praying called for reinforcements and then they asked me if there was anyone I hadn’t forgiven, putting the reason for my not being healed squarely at my feet. I have had similar other experiences too. I would love to read this book, as I agree with everything Liz says in your interview with her. Too often, people are made to feel that they can’t be used effectively because of a disability or long term illness. I wrestle with God often over not being healed, but ultimately know that He loves me in spite of him not healing me. I’m so grateful he is a patient and loving God, as I argue with him a lot. Thank you for this interview with Liz, Joanna. It’s very inspiring.

    • Joanna Watson Reply

      I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had this experience, Janet, where people have somehow blamed you for being ill. It sounds traumatic. He is, indeed, patient and loving. He is also kind and merciful. I pray you know this, even as you wrestle with not being healed.

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