Writing is pervasive in my life. I create and consume the written word in some form nearly constantly from the time I wake up to the time I sleep. But what does it mean to be a writer who walks with Christ?
God created us in his own likeness, and because of the love of Christ, Christians seek his glory in all that we are, all that we do, and all that we say. Belief in Jesus’s sacrifice and resurrection makes this image-bearing possible in our writing. God glorifies himself through our writing, even when our writing is not “Christian.” The gritty stories of the Bible tell difficult lessons, and the vast majority (apart from the gospels, because, you know—Jesus) don’t portray perfect people.
Not all Christian writers can be as prolific as someone like C.S. Lewis in their fiction or nonfiction. But how can we share the gospel, pursue holiness, and seek to become more like Jesus through our writing, regardless of the topic? Here are a few ways God has used my writing to sanctify me, and how he used the inspired writings of biblical authors to show me that I am not alone in my writing journey.
Writing Helps Us Process
Journaling can help you process real events, emotions, and problems in your own life and discover solutions. Fiction writing can help you process past hurts and philosophical and existential dread in a way that distances you from the pain while helping you work through it more objectively.
This month, I had many things on my mind, and found myself unable to revise my novel, so I journaled and read through Psalms. Poems that were originally set to music, the psalms remind me that my writing is a broken expression of my humanity, and despite my overwhelming inadequacy, it is a reminder that God loves me and will sustain me.
It sucks to make mistakes, both for us and the people we hurt. While I’ve journaled this month, I channeled my thoughts in a linear direction, meditating on the psalms and searching for lessons along the way. It prevents me from getting stuck in a mental feedback loop of shame or fear. It teaches me that my writing is a tool I can use to run to God, just like David did in times of struggle.
Writing Helps Us Learn
In our polarizing world of black and white, good and bad, writing can help you connect with other people who disagree with you and have real discussions that help you understand the ambiguous “other.” If our writing feeds the quest for truth in our hearts and loosens the hold of the lies we tell ourselves and others, we can know that it God is using it to draw us closer to him.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m tackling a difficult problem in my writing, I often want to pause and revisit or find a resource that helps me improve or uncovers a mystery. It drives me to read God’s word, reflect on wise peoples’ opinions, and consider my words before I speak (or write). I find great joy in this process of reflection and research, and I live for the moments when another link of my chain crumbles and I glimpse the true freedom I have thanks to Christ.
My most recent novel, which I’m tentatively calling Life to Give, is about a woman who works through the emotional trauma of her past in order to gain redemption, peace, and victory in her present. Her victory isn’t what she imagined, but it’s a victory nonetheless. Through the experience of writing this novel, God has taught me so much about who I am and who I want to be. This novel, unconsciously, became an expression of my own difficulties, an acknowledgment of my own moral poverty, and a picture of the incredible gratitude I have for Christ’s redeeming work in my life.
Writing Helps Us Pray
Prayer is communication with the personal and omnipresent God. He knows what’s in my heart even when I can’t articulate it. For most of my young life, my prayers were expressed in emotions and mental pictures because I didn’t know how to put them into words.
Very recently, to help me with this, I began writing regularly in a prayer journal. God says that if we seek him, we will find him, and if we ask, it will be given to us (Matthew 7, James 4, Jeremiah 29), so I am learning how to ask. I ask for guidance, I ask for strength, I ask for perseverance, I ask for patience. I selfishly ask for things to go my way, but I also ask for God’s will to be done through my asking and, if he wills it, my receiving. Along with a few other encouragers, my prayer journal sits on my desk every day.
I may not add prayers every day, but I frequently flip through the pages to add “answers” to past prayers to remember how God has been faithful even in the small things.
But prayer, like worship, shouldn’t be relegated to a single ritual action. One action cannot possibly contain the infinite nature of God. It can never express the inexplicable paradoxes of our faith—God’s justice and mercy, Christ’s death and resurrection, and the fact that a holy Creator chooses constantly to love his imperfect creation through the written word.
Writing Helps Us Change
For the Christian writer, writing is an act of worship, of submission, and of communion with God. Since writing is a task, our relationship with our writing can often reveal sin and help us overcome it in a way that less tangible relationships cannot.
When we write, God is working a change in us. When we find that we hate the imperfection of what we get down on the page, God is working a change in us. Even when we find ourselves incapable of writing, God is still working a sanctifying change in us. In writing, as in life, sometimes we don’t have the words to say. They get stuck in our throats or in our minds, and that’s okay. God understands the groanings of our hearts, and language is a tool by which he helps us to comprehend his great love for us.
Writing challenges our ways of thinking and dismantles our pride, and through it, our Savior speaks.
This is the seventh installment of my Faith and Fiction Writing blog series. Check out the other installments here.