When I Stopped Writing… Lessons learned in the shadows

I have always dreamed of being a writer.

When I was four, I wrote my first book – complete with construction paper cover and illustrations. I was an avid reader before entering Kindergarten. The more I read, the more I felt compelled to write. I filled journals cover to cover with my thoughts, ramblings, heart-pourings, and poems. By the time I was ten, I wrote a short novel, but I couldn’t bring myself to finish the last chapter (knowing the fate my hero would face was too painful.) And here I am now – 32 years old, and the burning desire to write is stronger than ever.

Several years ago, I stopped writing for a time. Here is why and what I have learned.

Since childhood, writing has been cathartic – even therapeutic.  I use it as a method of putting my thoughts in order. It was a tool to help me learn to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5b) by taking inspiration from Davids style of writing.

Many of the Psalms written by David follow a pattern. He uses writing to pour out his heart and find expression of the pain, frustration, fear, and depression he is facing. And then he focuses his thoughts – and pen – towards God: His character and statutes. By doing so, he is able to find solace and emotional healing in resting in God’s Sovereignty.

But even good things can be marred and tainted because of sin… even something as seemingly innocent as writing in a journal. 

During a particularly dark period of my adult life, my writing became increasingly self-focused. I poured my heart out on paper, each line dripping with the intense sorrow that comes from a deep depression. It felt good to empty out the emotional torment. I thought I would burst if I didn’t.  I trusted that feeling and relied on my emotions to determine the truth of my situation, believing the lie my sinful heart spoke.

“The heart is more deceitful than all else, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  (Jer. 17:9)

In doing so, I allowed my focus to be inward instead of focusing on Christ. It was hard – it is such a discipline to stay focused. Our sin nature constantly is driving us to focus on our self – driving us towards self-idolatry.  Focusing inward made the darkness of depression all the more unbearable. Which turned into a vicious cycle – of needing to write all the more and being driven deeper and deeper inward. I was spiraling out of control.

The Lord placed several things in my life then that drove my writing to a screeching halt. I bucked against it – I was even bitter about it. But various circumstances would arise to keep me from sitting down and writing.

I was so focused on my pain that I couldn’t see God’s mercy in the moment.

God is safe to trust but I didn’t believe it was true for me. So I wallowed in the muck and mire of self-idolatry. The Lord was so merciful and patient with me. I wanted to hold on to my pain and find comfort in the shadows of depression – but God wanted me to find comfort, rest, and solace in Him. He wanted me to understand that the suffering was for my good, my very sanctification, and for His glory.  Even though I don’t always understand why, I can trust Him.

So five years ago I started writing again. Writing is still a balm to my soul. And now I write so that I can help others know Him more – because that is all that matters anyway.

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