Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today, we have a very special episode honoring the life of the writer of Jesus Calling and countless other inspiring books, Sarah Young. Sarah left this world for her heavenly home on August 31st, 2023. Sarah’s work has had a profound impact, and we’ve been privileged to tell so many stories of that impact here on this podcast with nearly 400 episodes and 700 guests. But that’s just scratching the surface. Her books have reached people all over the world, with more than forty-five million units sold across more than thirty-five languages. Despite the tremendous success of her books, it was never about sales for Sarah. Her sole concern was about leading the reader into a deeper, richer relationship with God. It would be impossible to measure the effect her words have had. Her books have met people in their darkest hours, taught children about Jesus, and changed lives for eternity.
The team here at the Jesus Calling podcast and at HarperCollins Christian are some of the lives who have also been changed by the work of Sarah Young. And it’s our wish to honor her today by remembering her life and her work.
Laura Minchew is the Senior Vice President and Group Publisher of the Children’s and Gift Book Group at HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Laura had the opportunity to work with and become friends with Sarah from the very beginning—when Jesus Calling first came out nearly twenty years ago—and she’s here today to share some thoughts and stories about Sarah as we all reflect on her amazing life.
After we hear from Sarah’s dear friend Laura, we’ll share some perspectives about Sarah and Jesus Calling from others who have been on our podcast, and how Sarah touched each of their lives as well.
A Tribute Honoring the Life of Sarah Young
Laura Minchew: My name is Laura Minchew. I’m the Senior Vice President and Group Publisher of the Children’s and Gift Publishing Division at HarperCollins Christian Publishing and HarperCollins Focus. I have had an amazing honor to get to work with Sarah for nearly twenty years on her Jesus Calling brand.
When I first met Sarah, she was a missionary living in Perth, Australia, so we had a thirteen hour time difference and we would Skype. And back in those days, it felt like dial up days. We’d Skype about 8:00 PM in Tennessee and about 9:00 AM the next morning in Perth. And while communication was a challenge, it didn’t take long for me to know there was something really special about Sarah.
The way that she wrote was unique, who she was so unique, and how she approached creating her books was very different.
As you may know, Jesus Calling and Sarah’s devotionals are based on Scripture, and they’re written as if Jesus Himself was speaking to you. Words of encouragement, of comfort, of reassurance, of His unending love, so that you will find peace even in the middle of a very busy day. Sarah’s hope was that the readers would start each day in the presence of the Savior who always loved them.
Before Sarah wrote a single word, she would get up in the mornings and have quiet time with the Lord. She spent a lot of time in Scripture. She memorized a lot of Scripture. She prayed for people. In fact, she prayed for the readers of her devotionals every single morning.
Sarah struggled with pretty extreme health issues the entire time, from Lyme disease, chronic fatigue, vertigo. At one point, she just was almost bound to stay in her own home—and then finally, with this latest cancer battle. Her life has not been easy. It’s been hard to deal with all of these health issues. And yet her experiences enabled her to write from a place that people who are not struggling, who don’t feel pain, who don’t feel disappointment, may not have been able to relate as well to those of us who are struggling in different ways. Sarah actually said with this remarkable perspective, “Had I been healthier, I might have been able to write a different book, but I could not have written this book.” And that is because she wrote from a place of understanding and empathy.
“[Sarah Young] wrote from a place of understanding and empathy.” – Laura Minchew
As a publisher, it was really interesting to watch the progress of the book sales. In the first three years, Jesus Calling had fairly modest success, but then book sales skyrocketed. Each year they started to double, and now more than forty-five million books have been sold. What’s amazing, though, is that’s forty-five million lives that have been touched by one of Sarah Young’s writings.
Jesus Calling is arguably the best-selling devotional of our time. The average reader ends up buying four copies for their friends and family, and a lot of people are like me and carry a case in their trunk to give away all the time. It’s been licensed in more than thirty languages. It’s been featured on every bestseller list: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today. But this success is certainly beyond a person or a talented team. Sarah would say that, “God was blessing this book and our job was to chase behind what He was doing.”
Truly for her, it was not about notoriety, fame, or sales numbers. Her real joy was pointing people to Jesus. In fact, her books have met people in their darkest hours. They have taught people about Jesus. They changed lives for eternity. That was a success in her eyes.
“[Sarah’s] real joy was pointing people to Jesus. In fact, her books have met people in their darkest hours. They have taught people about Jesus. They changed lives for eternity. That was a success in her eyes.” – Laura Minchew
Often, books appeal to one type of person, one age of person, and yet Jesus Calling and Sarah Young’s books appealed across all ages, across denominations, across all types of people.
Ryan Sheckler is one that I was amazed at his testimony about Jesus Calling. He said his mom gave him a copy of Jesus Calling right when he got into rehab. And the first night, he said he started reading it, and he didn’t even pick a day. He just started reading. He said he just wanted to read something, he just wanted to start feeling. And then he read it every single day that he was there. And then he said it clicked and like, “Oh, none of us are alone in this world. We’re not alone. And we’re supposed to go through this pain and be able to teach this lesson.” Ryan said, “I can’t waste the pain. I do not want to waste the pain that I’ve been through.”
Rarely did a week go by that somebody didn’t comment on how a reading in Jesus Calling was exactly what they needed to hear, exactly when they needed to hear it. And Sarah explained it by saying, “My books tend to speak to different people in different ways, meeting them right where they are. I think that is because the books help people connect with Jesus, and He meets us right where we are.”
I loved how Sarah said that, and then she would always go on to say, “The Bible is the standard by which I judge everything I write. I spend a great deal of time memorizing Scripture and reviewing it in my mind day and night.” And I can tell you as someone who knew her well, that she did.
For nearly twenty years, I’ve been honored to have a front row seat watching God change lives through Jesus Calling books. One of the lives changed was mine. Sarah was a dear friend, and having the opportunity to work alongside her has truly been a pleasure, a privilege, and a blessing of a lifetime.
“Sarah was a dear friend, and having the opportunity to work alongside her has truly been a pleasure, a privilege, and a blessing of a lifetime.” – Laura Minchew
I would love to share one of my favorite readings from Jesus Listens, which is the book that Sarah wrote of prayers. This is from August 25th:
Thank You for showing me that heaven is both present and future. As I walk along my life-path holding Your hand, I am already in touch with the essence of heaven—nearness to You! While journeying with You, I perceive lovely hints of heaven. The earth is radiantly alive with Your Presence. Shimmering sunshine awakens my heart, gently reminding me of Your brilliant Light. Birds and flowers, trees and skies evoke praises to Your holy Name. Help me to be fully open to the splendors of Your creation as I walk in the Light of Your Love.
I rejoice that there’s an entrance to heaven at the end of my journey. Only You know when I’ll reach that destination, but I trust that You’re preparing me for it each step of the way. The absolute assurance of my forever-home fills me with Joy and Peace. I know I’ll arrive at this glorious haven in Your perfect timing—not one moment too soon or too late. While I walk with You down the path of life, the sure hope of heaven strengthens and encourages me!
In Your heavenly Name,
Narrator: Now, we’d like to share some special thoughts from people who were impacted by the words and life of Sarah Young. First, we’ll hear from author and speaker Lisa Harper.
Lisa Harper: I am a rabid fan of Jesus Calling, but even more so of Sarah Young. Sarah and I were in a Bible study together years ago at a church here in Nashville. And I didn’t know she was Sarah Young. She was so kind, so humble, and we would talk after Bible study all the time.
Narrator: Now, we’ll from TV news Journalist and author Ainsley Earhardt.
Ainsley Earhardt: What I love about Jesus Calling is I feel like it’s so amazing that God is speaking to me on that very day, in that very moment. It’s almost like God knew when Sarah Young was writing every single page that I was going to need this in my life every day, because she always touches on issues that I’m going through in that moment in my life.
Narrator: Now, we’ll hear from Jim Burns, author and president of HomeWord.
Jim Burns: I tell people that I have coffee with a woman named Sarah Young every morning, and they kind of look at me like, “What are you, some kind of weirdo?” But I truly do. And in fact if there are mornings where I miss it, I pick it back up, and for me, the themes of—and everybody has a different theme—thankfulness, gratitude, trust are the themes that jumped out at me.
Narrator: Now, we’ll hear from artist, writer, and musician Morgan Harper Nichols.
Morgan Harper Nichols: What I love about Jesus Calling is just how it has become for many people a daily reminder of just how close we are to the divine, how close we are to Jesus. And I just feel like with what Sarah has created, it’s just such a reminder that, “Oh, no, but that perfect love is still calling you.” And I just think that Sarah has given a language to a lot of those feelings that people have, those fears that we have about going deeper with Jesus.
Narrator: Now, we’ll hear from Christian music artist, Amy Grant.
Amy Grant: I remember the first time I read the introduction, and how Sarah Young talked about the schooling that she had had, her faith journey, and then the mystery of the far between times where she had believed that she actually felt the presence of God. And that with time, as I believed, as she opened up to that presence, she experienced it more frequently. And I just love how the language of Jesus Calling has taken a lot of us who felt like we would experience the presence of God in circumstances few and far between, and given us a language and understanding. All of that was God.
Narrator: Now, we’ll hear from writer and Bible teacher Margaret Feinberg.
Margaret Feinberg: Sarah Young is such a gift for such a time as this. The words that she pens connect God’s heart to our hearts, and the personal nature to her writing, it helps us to recognize that Christ is real and live and personal and involved and compassionate.
Narrator: And finally, we’ll hear from TV show host and actress Kathie Lee Gifford.
Kathie Lee Gifford: The thing that I love so much about Sarah and the books that she’s written and the messages that she has passed on for years now—in spite of great pain and suffering in her own life, is that even my hairdresser today was saying, “Oh, I read her books every morning and they give me just what I need for today. Just what I need right now.” And this is what everybody says. I feel like she’s written it and God has given her that message just for me today. That’s the miracle of what God has done in her life.
Narrator: Thank you for listening to this special episode honoring the life of Sarah Young. If you want to read more about Sarah’s life, please visit the Jesus Calling website at www.JesusCalling.com.