Author: Erin Taylor Young

191 – Christian Writers As Hope Bringers

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Christian Writers As Hope Bringers Write from the Deep Podcast Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungVoice. Clarity. Dialogue. Character development. Hook. All of these, and so much more, are important for a strong book. But they’re not the most important. Not for a book written from a Christian worldview. So what is the most important element? Hope! Listen in to find out why your job as a writer is critical in this world.

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

As writers, you’ve probably learned that there are many important elements in a good manuscript. Things like plot, character, conflict, a great hook, voice, authenticity, anecdotes, dialogue, arc, and so much more. But for a manuscript written from a Christian worldview, which element is the most important one? Is there one most important element?

Yes. There is, but it’s none of those mentioned. If you’re writing from a Christian perspective, the most important thing you have to bring to the world is hope. Why? Hope is the foundation of everything we believe as Christians, and everything we have to offer to the world.

What is hope?

What even is hope? How do we define it?

  • Poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.”

That feels good. It evokes a positive sensation. When readers finish a manuscript written from a Christian worldview, there should be a positive sensation. Even in the midst of something sorrowful.

But this definition is non-specific. We can’t try to foster something non-specific in a manuscript, right? Other than a positive sensation. 

  • Psychiatrist Neel Burton in an article in Psychology today defines hope like this: “…Hope is a desire for something combined with an anticipation of it happening. It is, in other words, the anticipation of something desired.”

If someone desires something, that implies that they don’t have everything they want right now, or that everything isn’t exactly perfect. That’s the world we live in.

  • Counseling Psychologist Kim Bailey said in an interview with Erin that hope, on a more personal-improvement level, is the belief that, “I can gain ground this side of heaven.”

And we need to gain ground, don’t we? We don’t want to live our lives stuck in the same place.

But perhaps one of simplest ways for us as writers to think about hope is how a sociologist put it—a sociologist who happens to be Erin’s husband.

  • Hope is: “How the future can be better than today.”  Sociologist Alan Young

That evokes that positive sensation, but it’s a bit more specific in how. This is the kind of hope We’re talking about—how the future can be better than today.

Hope portrayed in fiction

How many of you listeners write fiction? What kind of fiction are readers interested in? The kind where the characters all have a great life with no pain, trials, or struggles?

No. Happy people in Happy Land is not interesting. Or real. Readers want to see characters struggle. And toil. And fight against all odds…and overcome!

Why? Readers experience that with the characters, the struggle the danger, the disasters, and then the victory. Readers live it vicariously.

What does it become inside that reader?

Hope. The future can be better than today.

Hope portrayed in nonfiction

How many of you listeners write nonfiction? You’re not writing memoirs that end in a place of despair and discouragement. That’s a therapeutic journal, and that’s good to do, but it’s not something you want to publish.

You write the book for readers when you find the key to overcoming the discouragement, when you’ve gained wisdom to share.

And you’re not writing prescriptive books that are like, “Yeah, I know the place you find yourself in stinks. Sorry, I don’t know how to fix that.”

That’s not prescriptive. Those are not the type of books hurting people are looking for.

You’re not writing how-to articles to keep people in ignorance. You’re not writing poetry to make people feel awful inside and never point the way out of that? No, even if we start by saying hard things, we want people to think and grow and change, and move toward some positive outcome. 

We want readers to expand their minds and look at possibilities and be inspired that the future can be better than today.

As Christians, hope infuses us. In Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, he wrote this in the introduction to 1 & 2 Thessalonians:

“The Christian faith has always been characterized by a strong and focused sense of future, with belief in the second coming of Jesus as the most distinctive feature…The practical effect of this belief is to charge each moment of the present with hope.” 

This is who we are and what we do. We’re Christian writers and we have an unswerving belief that the future will be better than today.

We portray this message over and over and over again in our novels, our memoirs, our how-to articles, our devotionals. We want people to grow and learn and move forward.

The big picture of hope

If a book is going to reflect a Christian worldview, it has to reflect the hope of God’s overall plan of redemption for humanity and all creation. Look at the big picture to see how hope is the underlying foundation. In the beginning, God created the universe and everything in it according to his perfectly ordered design. Everyone was in a right relationship with God and each other.

Then we sinned and broke everything. God told Adam, “…Cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” Genesis 3:17

In God’s perfect time, Christ comes and changes everything. His life on this earth, his death on the cross, and his resurrection create reconciliation for us. This is where we live, reconciled, yet not having obtained the future perfection waiting for us in heaven.

For now, we’re still here dealing with the consequences of the fall. But we know God’s redemption plan is moving toward its ultimate fulfillment of the new heavens and new earth, where original perfection is restored.

That’s the hope. But we’re not there yet. We’re dealing with painful toil.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Why? We persevere because of our hope. It’s not because we’re amazing and mighty people, but because we’re weak and dependent on the God who is Lord of all.

We persevere because God’s commitment to US is unwavering. He’s lifting us. He’s sustaining us. He’s giving us the life and breath to carry on.

He sees the grand design, the big picture. And he sees each individual component—every person, every tear, every heart break, every crushing wound.

And God does not waver in his commitment to us. He will not fail to sustain us. That is our hope.

And this is the message he gives us for the world: “The future can be better than today.”

Because we have a God who will make it so, who IS making it so.

With every word we write, we forge hope, because hope is at the core of everything we believe.

A world without hope

Do you know what happens when someone has no hope? Pastor and author Ray Johnston puts it like this. He writes:

“When people lose hope, they lose their ability to dream for the future. Despair replaces joy. Fear replaces faith. Anxiety replaces prayer. Insecurity replaces confidence. Tomorrow’s dreams are replaced by nightmares. It’s a lousy way to live.”

How many people are living like that right now?

Psychiatrist Neel Burton writes “…hopelessness is both a cause and a symptom of depression, and, within the context of depression, a strong predictor of suicide.”

Do you see what an important role you have? You’re hope-bringers. You’re truth-tellers.

Why is this truth, this hope that we as Christians have important? Because false hope is rampant in this world.

Scientology, Buddhism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Islam, just to name a few. The Bible tells us these are false hopes that lead to hell.

Then just watch TV for ten minutes. You’ll find “hope” for sale. Beer. Toothpaste. Perfume. Pretty cars. Deodorant. Dating apps. Diamonds. They all promise a lifestyle of satisfied desires. Remember that hope can be the anticipation of something desired? But that’s ultimately false hope. It’s empty.

Why? Because none of those things can deliver what God has designed for him and him alone to be, to deliver, and to satisfy. Psalm 65:5 tells us that God is “the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.”

God. Not shiny trinkets.

We’re not saying toothpaste and deodorant is bad, by the way. Please continue to use it. But that’s not going to take away the pain of a lost child, or heal the deep wound of rape or betrayal or abuse.

It won’t help anyone break the spiral of addiction or debt. It’s not going to inspire anyone to take a stand against human trafficking, oppression, or injustice, or any of the other great evils in this world. Take your pick, there are plenty to choose from.

False hope is rampant, so we as Christian writers cannot keep silent.

You guys, through your authentic words on the page, through your stories, Bible studies, articles, biographies, essays, poems, songs, and moreall those things that God puts in you are part of God’s master plan for you, for the body of Christ, AND for the whole world.

You have a purpose and a job. You’re heralds of hope. True hope.

You don’t have to have some character in your novel spelling out the four spiritual laws. You don’t have to have them preach. You don’t have to somehow turn your homeschooling article into a Bible study.

But you do have to understand what your bottom-line perspective is. Think of it as the overarching theme of your collective body of work. I love how author and editor Susan Bell defines theme. She says, “It’s an idea written in invisible ink on the back of your text.”

Hope is what’s written on our lives as Christians. Hope is what’s written across the pages of our manuscripts.

Hope is what you’re getting up at 5AM to write, or staying up late after the kids are in bed, or what you’re dictating during your coffee break, or on your exercise bike, or what you’re wrestling with on your commute.

And we do mean wrestling. We all know—or will find out soon enough—that this is not an easy job. It’s hard.

Learning the craft is hard. Facing rejection is hard. Being vulnerable on the page is hard. Dealing with disappointments and detours on your writing journey is hard.

Sometimes it’s so hard we’re in danger of losing hope ourselves. That’s when we go back to God and his unwavering commitment to us. To equip us for his purposes. To sustain us and carry us.

Remember the parallel storylines of redemption amidst the fall. We have hope. But we’ve got to preach the message to ourselves first and foremost. Then do not fear to walk through deep valleys with God. Don’t run when things get hard. Don’t try to hide, because your struggles refine you.

They prepare you. They give you purpose and understanding. God does all that through your trials.

You can acknowledge struggles and give them voice. You write about pain. You expose lies and write truth. Your insights help you both HAVE hope and SHOW hope through the characters in your novels overcoming. Through your how-to articles. Through your personal experience stories. Whatever you write.

But also through whatever you sayWhatever you doWhoever you are.

Please understand that it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing for thousands or just for you and God. In your work, God works in you, and it is good. Your labor is never in vain.

Your writing turns you into a person who radiates hope. True hope for a world bombarded with false hope. A world that needs you doing what you’ve been gifted to do, being what you’ve been gifted to be.

Hope bringers. Truth tellers. Heralds.

We’ve probably all seen, heard, or read this verse before, but look at it again in the light of knowing that you are a hope bringer. God says to you:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Share that hope with your readers. Live that hope with everyone you know.

The future can—and will—be better than today.

The most important element in your writing isn’t what you think it is. #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet

Does being a hope bringer inspire hope in you?


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

Thanks so much to our June sponsor of the month, Wendy L. Macdonald. She’s a writer, poet, podcaster, photographer, and nature lover, and she’s offering a free gift we can all use: 10 Good Habits to Help You Become a Great Listener!

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


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190 – The Writer’s Psalm, Part 2

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The Writer's Psalm Part 2 Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

As we discussed in part one of the Writer’s Psalm, emotions are a natural, God-given part of life. But they also can lead us astray if we’re not careful. Especially when things on our writing journey don’t go the way we’d hoped or planned. So what do you do when you feel God has abandoned you? Come explore the rest of Psalm 42 to find out.

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

In episode 189, part one on Psalm 42, which we’ve dubbed the writer’s psalm, we ended with the truth that emotions have a way of ebbing and flowing. How often have you felt down one day, thinking it’s time to hang up your keyboard, and the next you wonder why on earth you were so despondent?

No, it doesn’t mean you’re bipolar. It simply means you’re experiencing the normal emotional ebb and flow of being a writer. And just when we think we’ve dealt with those emotions, something else happens. As it did with David.  

“My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration!” Psalm 42:4

There’s another of Satan’s tactics: encouraging us to focus on the rearview mirror. If you’ve been in publishing for a while, and especially if you experienced some success—success that seems far too long ago—the enemy loves to come whisper in your ear about how it used to be: 

“Remember how things were when you first started? How exciting it all was. How the newness of writing and being published had you waking to each day with anticipation? Even joy? How you felt so fulfilled? Well…all that’s gone now. So what was the point? You’ve wasted time and money that should have been used better…” 

This tactic is so very effective, isn’t it? Especially with the changes happening in publishing over the last several years. It often seems so much harder now. And many of us have lost contracts, or can’t seem to find someone who wants to give us a new contract. Or maybe we decide to go indie, but that, we discover, has its own big pile of difficulties. Why can’t it be like it was?

Oh, friends, remember how we’ve warned you against comparing yourself to others? Well, comparing where you are now to where you used to be, letting that comparison stir up a sense of defeat and discouragement, longing for what was doesn’t help with what is. Not. Ever. 

If you’re tempted to do that, go instead with the next several verses of Psalm 42 and say with David: 

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:5 

Acknowledging who God is in the here and now is a powerful weapon against Satan’s lies. So please, every day, every time you feel the enemy tickling your ears and spirit, ask yourself one question. Because the answer will send the enemy and his forces scrambling away: 

Who is God to me?

Is he Elohim, the One and only true God? The Master Creator? No one is more trustworthy. No one else is Sovereign. There is no other God but him. 

Is he Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord my Shepherd? The One who watches over me, guarding me from all enemies? The one who fights to save me from predators like Satan? Whose staff will always guide and protect me?

Is he Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord my provider? The One who meets all my needs, no matter what they are? The One who has never let his own go hungry or be lost? The One who provided us with a way to escape sin and death?

Is he Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord my healer? God told Moses right out, “I am the Lord who heals you.” He will heal you on every front in his time, in his way. He will heal you of being downcast. Just keep your eyes and heart on him. 

Is he Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord my Banner? He is the Visible God who is seen in our lives. He is the sign to all, especially Satan, that we belong to him. As our banner, God lets everyone know HE is with us, our protection and shield, and they will try to do us harm at their own spiritual and eternal peril. Remember Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon formed against you shall succeed.”

Is he Jehovah-M’Kaddesh, the Lord my sanctifier? He makes me holy. I don’t do that. I can’t do that. But Jehovah-M’Kaddesh has already done it! He has given us his Holy Spirit for that very reason. How do you disperse being downcast? Come before him and ask for more holiness. Ask for the strength to see past what seems to be until your vision matches his for what is, and what will be in him!

Is he Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord my peace? Strong’s Concordance tells us that shalom means completeness, soundness, welfare. When the Lord is our peace, we are complete. We are sound in him, not to be shaken. Our welfare is in HIS hands. What better place could it be?

Is he Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord Who Is Righteous? It’s frightening for many to even think of being attacked by Satan and his followers. But friends, there is no reason for fear! Not when we’re covered in the Lord’s holy righteousness. Not when Jehovah-Tsidkenu holds us in his righteous hands and his holiness is an impenetrable barrier between us and the ruler of this world. A ruler who is already defeated by God’s righteousness. 

Is he Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord who is there? Oh, how I love this one! My Lord is here. With me. Whether I feel it or not, whether my emotions recognize it or not, The God of the Universe is with me! He is near to you even now. He is ever present. You are never alone, friends. Never. 

Let’s pick up with Psalm 42 again, finishing verse 6:

“Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.” Psalm 42:6

Here is such good news! Being downcast is temporary! When David says, “Now I am deeply discouraged,” he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say, “but I will remember you!”

Being downcast is a feeling, an emotion. And feelings or emotions change. They may last for a few hours or days, or even for a season. It’s only a matter of time until it passes. 

Keep in mind that emotions, even unwanted ones like being downcast, have significance and purpose. Otherwise why would God have given them to us? Having an underlying sense of sadness, of being downcast, can be a trigger for you to realize that something’s not quite right. It helps to explore the root of those emotions. When we understand what we’re feeling and why, we can take steps to feel better. 

For example, a few weeks ago I was moping around the house. Don, my hubby, asked me what was wrong. I looked at him and said, “I’m depressed.”

Now, I wasn’t talking about true depression. What I meant was I was feeling down. Like something just wasn’t quite right. We talked about it and I realized we’ve had far too many gray, rainy days lately.

Don and I have always turned off the lights if we’re not in a room. Why pay for electricity that isn’t needed? But I realized I was missing sunshine and light! So we agreed that when the days are gray, we’ll keep more lights on and pull the window blinds up to let in as much light as possible. Within a few days, I was back to being cheerful, laughing at the antics of the birds and squirrels in my yard, and savoring God’s goodness. 

Not all causes of being downcast are easy to discern. But ask God to open your eyes to why you’re feeling as you are. Sometimes, you can make changes to lift the gloom. Other times, you need to wait on God to release you from these emotions. Whatever the case, it is temporary! Sometimes it lasts for days. Sometimes it lasts for a season. But, it will pass. 

Don and I recently visited Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. On the ferry ride to the island, I was struck by the varying currents, swirls, and white caps on the surface of the waters of the Puget Sound. I couldn’t help but wonder what was beneath the waters that caused these different actions, some within feet of each other. Was there some obstacle down there? Or was it caused by some fish or whales or orcas? Or could it just be a difference in water temperature?

But here’s what I loved: Whatever the underlying cause, the ferry just kept gliding along the surface, not the least bit bothered by the various whirlpools, white caps, or whatever. That vessel was built to ride the surface and keep moving forward. 

Just remember times of being downcast are often based on how things seem to be. Or even worse, wondering what’s happening until you grow afraid that maybe…just maybe…God has left you on your own. But the reality is that while we may not know where God is leading us, or why, what we do know, without a doubt, is that he IS leading us. And these downcast feelings will pass in the light of his truth. 

David starts to understand that with the next verses…

“I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.” Psalm 42:7-8

In this moment, David’s soul isn’t downcast! It’s focused on God, on praising and worshiping Him. When you struggle, take hold of two of the most powerful tools in your arsenal: praise and worship. 

We’ve talked about praise and worship in other podcasts, but let’s review a few things here:

God is the only One worthy of true praise. And the praise we give God isn’t like praising someone for doing a good job. It’s not based on what we think of God. It’s based on WHO God is. 

Webster’s defines praise as a number of things—commending excellence, expressing approval, honoring others—but the praise due to God is different. In fact, that praise gets this definition from Webster’s: “The act of glorifying …God.” 

Here are a few of the definitions of glorify:

to make glorious : surround with glory : secure honor, praise, or admiration for 

to exalt to a state of glory  

to throw a resplendent light upon : make splendid with light. 

Resplendent. I love that word. It means lustrous. Shining with brilliant light. Imagine entering a darkened room, then someone turns on a number of large, sparkling chandeliers. I’ve seen that, and the glorious beauty of it is almost a shock. It takes your breath away, and then fills you with delight. 

Now think: How much more resplendent is God? How much more glorious? How much more worthy than any thing or any one of our praise and worship?

When you find yourself slipping into being downcast, jump instead into praise and worship just like these verses say:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians1:3-4

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15 NIV

Then there’s this blockbuster in Isaiah 25: 

“LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago… You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert. You silence the uproar of foreigners (and critical readers and reviewers and naysayers!) as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled.” Isaiah 25:1,4-5

Do you hear that? “The song of the ruthless.” We like to think the enemy’s voice will be easily recognized because it’s full of evil, but remember, Satan is the deceiver. He will seem to sing to you, to woo you with a refrain of all you deserve but aren’t getting. The ruthless one will sing condemnation with the voice of an angel and the words of trickery. Don’t be fooled!

Isaiah 25 goes on:

“On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’” Isaiah 25:6-9

Remember that old saying, “God said and I believe it!” God has said you are precious to him. Believe it! God has said he will never leave you or forsake you. Believe it! God has said he loves us so much he sent his beloved Son to die for us, to restore us to himself. Believe it.

Friends, if God has said you are a writer, then God has spoken. Believe it!!

But David’s downcast state isn’t over yet, because right on the heels of Psalm 42:7-8 comes verses 9-10:

“’O God my rock,’ I cry, ‘why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?’ Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, ‘Where is this God of yours?’”

See? Same old tactics. Mockery. Unrealized expectations. Taunting.

How often have you heard people say things like:

“If God is real, why is the world in such a mess?”

“Why are so many people starving and suffering?”

“Where is this God of yours when nations attack nations, slaughtering innocents.”

“If God is so great and so loving, why did the person I love die an agonizing death?” 

“If God cares about me, why do I have cancer?”

Let’s face it, there are a lot of reasons to doubt God exists. Lots of reasons for people to mock us and our faith. Lots of reasons to doubt God and us. 

The enemy takes advantage of the most punishing reasons to derail us from doing whatever task God has given us. Good night! Satan doesn’t want us doing God’s work! He doesn’t want us ignoring him and just trusting God. 

Satan is so determined to get us downcast that he uses those around us, even those who know us best, to mock and taunt and undermine us in doing the work God has given us. Because when we fall prey to all that, when we become downcast, we can’t see what God’s doing. 

Or maybe it’s more that we aren’t looking for what God is doing. All the hard, negative things are so much more obvious. But God? So often he works in the background. Even in silence. Which seems so counter-intuitive to us. With all his power, all his glory, why isn’t everyone aware of what he’s doing?

Remember when Moses went up on the mountain to meet with God? How did God speak to him? In a still small voice. You see, that’s the thing with true power. It doesn’t have to blare its existence. It just is. God’s power is there, and it’s working for the good of all his children. For you. 

As we come to the end of Psalm 42, it seems David has learned that as soon as he heads back into being downcast, here comes the solution: truth!

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! My Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11 

Say those words out loud! My Savior and my God.

Our hope is in him. Our joy and fulfillment and peace and wonder…everything we need and could ever want is all in HIM. 

Psalm 146 is the the perfect response, to that truth: 

“Praise the Lord! Let all that I am praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath. Don’t put your confidence in powerful people (publishers, editors, reviewers, sales teams, marketers, producers…none of them deserve your confidence. ONLY God does); there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly…The Lord will reign forever. He will be your God…throughout the generations. Praise the Lord!”

Feeling down? Let the Writer’s Psalm lift your spirits! #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet

In what ways does David’s psalm inspire you as a writer?


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 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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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 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.


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 Click To Tweet

What do you do when you feel downcast?


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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 and follow her blog for the TBI/PTSD community.

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