189 – The Writer’s Psalm, Part 1

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The Writer's Psalm, Part 1 Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungEmotions are a normal part of being human. What’s more, they are God given. As writers, we certainly have our share of emotional highs and lows. But what do we do when our feelings drag us waaay down? When our careers seem stalled or over, when our efforts seem wasted, and we find ourselves spiraling deeper into darkness? Well! Have we got a psalm for you!

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

As creatives, writers tend to feel things deeply. Good things, troublesome things, hard things…we can become immersed in the emotions fueled by what’s happening around us. When our careers are going well, we’re on top of the world. When they’re not, well, it’s easy to get down. We even start to doubt whether we’re supposed to be writing at all.

Of course, those emotions change when something good happens, but what if that good thing doesn’t happen? If it seems we’re stuck in a place where nothing, to our way of thinking, is going right. Too often the enemy sneaks in at that point to whisper lies to our writer’s heart: 

This is going nowhere. 

No matter what you do, your books will never be bestsellers. 

You’re wasting time and money. 

On and on the lies go, feeding our emotions until we spiral deeper and deeper. Friends, that is NOT the deep God wants for you! 

Is it okay for Christians to feel down?

You may be reading this and thinking something along the lines of, “But, we’re believers! We shouldn’t ever be down!”

I hate to break it to you, but being believers doesn’t mean we’re not human. Nor does it mean we’re perfect. Far from it. Believing in Christ doesn’t keep us from feeling. Nor should it! God made us in His image, and those feelings He gave us are a reflection of His feelings. 

 Of course we’ll feel down at times! For so many reasons: Loss, loved ones who don’t know God, disappointment in our careers, expectations that don’t materialize… There is no shortage of difficulties in this life. 

 A writer friend of Karen’s was SO excited that her debut novel was coming out with a major Christian publisher. She’d done everything right, and everyone at the publishing house, from folks in editorial to marketing to sales, were just as excited as she was. Her release day dawned, and she was on the computer doing all the things she’d been told to do…

Then the world went upside down. Two planes came out of nowhere and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. And just like that, no one cared that her book was releasing. No one cared about anything but the attack on America. Her much anticipated book faded into the background, and eventually went out of print with very few sales. 

Is it wrong that this happened to her? No, it was simply life. Life in a broken, sin-soaked world where hatred runs rampant. But you can understand how a writer in this situation would be downcast. 

Of course, that’s an extreme example of broken expectations. But we share it to say that sadness, sorrow, even just feeling blue are all a part of the human experience. And we, as writers, tend to feel those things to our core. 

In her online article, “7 Ways Christians Can Beat the Blues,” Lisa Appello points out that some of the biblical giants of faith struggled with those emotional downward spirals. She writes:

“The Bible calls this being downcast, and it’s an emotion that even some of the stoutest of faith dealt with. David often felt downcast and it’s reflected in many of the Psalms he penned. Elijah, following an incredible mountain-top experience of God’s power, hit bottom as he hid from his oppressor. Jeremiah, discouraged by isolation and constant opposition, felt so down that he cursed the day he was born.”

Now that’s as downcast as you can get!

A Crosswalk.com article by Debbie McDaniel points out that even Jesus knew what it was to be downcast. She writes, “Isaiah prophesied that Christ would be ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.'”

What does it mean to be downcast?

How do we define being down or downcast? Webster’s helps us gain a fuller understanding by defining it as being “low in spirit.”

I don’t know about you, but that definition sparked a lot of thoughts for me. So we’ll come back to that in a minute. 

First, let’s also consider a few of the synonyms Webster’s gives for downcast: “dispirited, dejected, disconsolate, woebegone.”

In addition, Webster’s explains that all of the words, including downcast, suggest a lack of “cheer, confidence, and hope, perhaps accompanied by shame or chagrin.”

Wow! Webster’s is always helpful, but in this instance, it’s perfect. Because this definition, and these synonyms, help us understand why our emotions get caught up in a downward spiral. What’s more, they give us insight into dealing with this emotional spiral. 

It’s About the Spirit

Remember Webster’s definition: “low in spirits”? And the synonym “dispirited”? When I read that, I sat back and thought, “Whoa. That can be the cause and the cure!” For believers, it’s being low in the Holy Spirit. Or as though the Holy Spirit has been displaced by whatever is fueling our sadness. 

You’re Not Alone

Charles Spurgeon went in and out of feeling depressed. He once wrote, “Fits of depression come over most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous and the joyous not always happy.”

And, of course, there’s David. Now there was a creative. A singer, musician, writer, and poet. His heart was tender toward God. And yet that same heart that made him a “man after God’s own heart” led him to feel down when things were hard. Or, as we said earlier, downcast. This, friends, is where Psalm 42 comes in.

PSALM 42

When you heard in the introduction that this particular psalm was dubbed “The Writers’ Psalm,” I bet you wondered who did the dubbing. True confession time: Karen did. I happened to read this psalm right after our podcast with Lori Ann Wood (episodes 187 and 188). We’d been talking about writers’ struggles, and I was amazed at the way Psalm 42 acknowledged the struggles and then, as only God-inspired writing can do, gave us the solution to the struggle.

When you’re downcast or dispirited, when you’re low in the Holy Spirit, do what we’re going to do now: explore and follow David’s lead in Psalm 42.  

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?” Psalm 42:1-2

 At first glance, it might seem that David is praising God or acknowledging his need for God. But when read in the context of the whole Psalm, you can see that this beginning is one of desperation. As though David is at the end of himself and has nowhere else to go. He’s crying out to God. “I need you, Lord, as much as I need water.”

We can survive for as long as twenty-one days without food. We can live even longer without things like shelter. But water? Three days max. After three days without water, you’re done. 

David knew he was in a bad place, and he cried out to God. When your heart and mood seem to be sinking, or if you realize you’re full-on downcast, call out like David did. Tell God how you long for him, how you thirst for Him and His spirit. Seek Him and Him alone. Not sales numbers, not Amazon rankings. Focus only on Him and His holy spirit. 

I confess I almost laughed when I read verse 2: “Where can I go and stand before Him?” 

David KNOWS where to stand before God: wherever he is. So I think this gives us a glimpse into just how lost he felt, how he feared he would no longer have God’s blessing and presence. 

If you struggle with these kinds of feelings, counter them with God’s truth, especially this truth expressed all throughout both the New and Old Testament: God will never leave you nor forsake you.

 “…be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” Hebrews 13:5-6

When you start feeling down, seek God. Right where you are. 

David goes even deeper into his woes in verse 3:

“Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, ‘Where is this God of yours?’”

One of the enemy’s most effective tools against us is mockery. And questioning God:

If, indeed, He gave you the task to write, then why aren’t your books on the bestseller list?

Why isn’t your name a household word?

Where are the movies made from your God-given stories?

The good news is that this tactic of Satan’s is hardly new, as you see from the psalm. The moment mockery comes, go on the counter offensive. Attack the enemy with prayer and Scripture. Praise God. Sing to Him. Acknowledge His presence and power and close your ears and spirit to the enemy’s old and tired strategy. 

These solutions we’ve explored so far can lift your spirt from being downcast into the healing and encouragement of God’s truth and light. They are there, ready and waiting for you to use them, to stop the enemy cold. But our psalm doesn’t end here. Emotions have a way ebbing and flowing, and just when we think we’ve dealt with them, something else happens. As it did with David…

We’ll talk about that in the next episode, so stay tuned!

As writers, we certainly have our share of emotional highs and lows. But what do we do when our feelings drag us waaay down? Well! Have we got a psalm for you! #amwriting #christianwriter Share on X
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What do you do when you feel downcast?

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

A huge thank you to our May sponsor of the month, Priscilla Sharrow! She’s working on her memoir called Bonked! Life, Love, and Laughter with Traumatic Brain Injury, which will release with Redemption Press. Learn more about Priscilla at her website priscillasharrow.com and follow her blog for the TBI/PTSD community.

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!

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