096 – Why Writers Need Faith

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Why Writers Need Faith Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungBelievers talk about faith all the time, but what is it REALLY? What does it look like in the writing life? And why is it crucial for a writer’s heart? You may be surprised at the answers!

When we start our work calls, we like to read from Streams in the Desert, and then pray. One day we read this:

“Faith does not say, ‘I see this is good for me; therefore God must have sent it.’ Instead, faith declares, ‘God sent it; therefore it must be good for me.’” (Phillips Brooks, from Streams in the Desert, May 1)

Is that faith?

Yes. It’s about perspective. In the first example we judge whether something is good, and then decide God must have sent it. That’s too easy. And problematic, because not everything that happens to us outwardly looks like a good thing. In the second phrase, “God sent it, therefore it must be good for me,” the perspective acknowledges God’s sovereign hand, and then we trust that He knows what He’s doing, and that He’ll use it for our good.

definitions of faith

From Merriam Webster:

“Allegiance or duty to a person: loyalty”

“Belief and trust in and loyalty to God”

So yes, in our reading, that was faith, because it’s trust in God.

A few more definitions from Webster’s:

“A firm belief in something for which there is no proof”

“Complete trust”

“Something that is believed especially with strong conviction”

FIXING OUR EYES ON THE UNSEEN

The Bible gives us a definition of faith as well. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Paul echoes that in 2 Corinthians 5:7 when he says, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”

What does that mean in our writing life? It means we can’t rely on our limited human sight and perspective as we navigate the writing life.

One of our big questions on our writing journey always seems to be: Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing? And the way we typically try to answer that is by determining: Is this worth it? Am I seeing the benefit? Am I seeing a return on my investment of time and money? A return on what I’m doing that’s worth the cost of all the other things I could be doing that I’m not because I don’t have time now?

But that isn’t faith.

We can’t do that kind of cost analysis because that’s all about what we can see.  Remember, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

That’s why Paul also says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18. In the context, he’s talking about hardships and difficulties, the “light and momentary troubles,” that are “achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” We as writers can totally relate to hardships and struggles. We can see those.

But walking by faith in the writing life means we can’t quantify the outcome of our efforts. We can’t say, “If I write a great book it will sell 50,000 copies.” It doesn’t work that way.

For some writers, we’ll have our writing read by others. Maybe hundreds, or thousands, or millions of others. But we can’t know that when we’re first learning the craft. We put huge amounts of time and energy into studying the craft— years— writing word after word, page after page, to become better writers over time. We don’t see the immediate results of that. It’s not like by page two we turn into Francine Rivers.

Then there’s years of pursuing knowledge about the industry, or learning about marketing. Years of building a platform bit by bit, never knowing if it will take off or if we’ll remain in relative obscurity.

Doing anything without seeing immediate results takes faith. And that glorifies God.

Think about the bigger picture here. You bring glory to God by walking in the path He told you to walk. The outcome is a better you. Even if no one ever reads your writing, you become a person, more conformed to the image of Christ by following Him in obedience. That’s a hope we can be sure of, like it said in Hebrews. That’s fixing our eyes on the unseen: on a vision of what we can be, but aren’t now.

One more practical thought about walking by faith not sight: If God gave us this task of writing, then we can’t be discouraged by what we can or can’t see. Don’t let your earthly vision dishearten you. God can do anything anytime, and most of the time we’re never going to see it coming.

But neither can we be distracted by what we can see.

Sometimes what you can see, and what you want to head for, isn’t where you should be going. We miss God’s direction because we think we know where we’re going. Walking by sight can get you where you’re not supposed to be.

LOYALTY

We’ve talked about the definition of faith that’s found in Hebrews, but let’s go back to one of the dictionary definitions of faith: loyalty. How do we show loyalty to God?

It’s when we don’t give up on what He’s asked us to do, no matter what things look like, as we’ve said. It’s obedience, adherence.

But it’s also standing up for God. Speaking truth in the face of lies about Him, writing truth in a world full of darkness— worse, a world where people do what Isaiah warns about in 5:20:

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

We live in that world, and it’s our job to show loyalty to what God calls good, and the light of God’s truth, and the sweetness of what’s good for us in God’s eyes.

Loyalty means we conform to His image, and not the image of the world. And we assign Him the value and glory He’s due, no matter what the world says. And no matter what the world tempts us to do.

Faith in the writing life means we’re loyal to Him and what He wants in our life instead of betraying Him with unethical behavior, for example.

Remember when Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt, and he’s in Potiphar’s house, and Potiphar’s wife wants to sleep with him? How does he respond? He talks about how Potiphar made him responsible for everything and trusts him completely, but then in Genesis chapter 39, verse 9, he gets to the heart of his reason to resist: “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

That’s all about loyalty to God. And that didn’t come easy. It cost Joseph a great deal.

What about us? Are we willing to pay the cost? To do whatever it takes to be loyal? It’s easy to say yes, but harder to back it up with our actions.

Karen knew a best-selling author who’s had numerous companies option one of her most popular books for a movie. This book, made into a movie, will change lives. With each offer she prayed and sought God’s will.

Every option fell through. Some because the companies wanted to make changes to make the story more “palatable” to viewers. Some because they wanted to go a direction that would sensationalize the wrong things. Others because funding fell through. And on and on.

With each instance, she stayed focused on God, trusting that He was the one who made the deals not work. She’s now in negotiations with yet another company, and it may happen. But her stance is, “It’s in God’s hands. If He wants it to happen, it will.” She says her job is just to focus on Him and to be true to the story and message He gave her for the book.

two key components of faith

Action (doing)

Part of what faith means in the writer’s life is doing, acting, moving forward. It’s taking steps to go to that writers’ conference. To build relationships with readers and other writers. To get that book on craft and read it. To make time in your schedule to put your rear end in a chair and write. Then to write more. And to keep writing. To work for excellence. To keep submitting, keep publishing, no matter what the sales, no matter the rejections.

Keep doing until God says to stop, because all those things are your faith in action. Faith isn’t passive.

Look at the long list the writer of Hebrews gives us as examples of people acting in faith in chapter 11. Noah builds an ark, Abraham gets up and leaves his country, Rahab hides the spies who come to Jericho. They do all this because of their firm belief, trust, conviction, and loyalty, no matter what things look like.

Waiting (patience)

But there’s a flip side to all this doing, this action. It’s called waiting. That’s the second key component of faith. And we’re not talking about antsy, crabby, whiny waiting. We’re talking about waiting well. We call that patience. Patience is all about submitting to God’s timing.

Hebrews 11 covers that too. There’s a list of people who wait in hope, like Abraham and Sarah waiting for their promised child. And Abraham knowing he’d inherit the land one day, but never seeing it. Isaac and Jacob waiting for the same thing.

Waiting is good, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Waiting means we’re acknowledging our need for God to act on our behalf. And He does:

Isaiah 64:4 says “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”

So how does waiting look in the writing life?

Let’s face it, nothing moves quickly in this industry. Sometimes it’s patience as you’re waiting for responses from your submissions, or for your cover designer, or your critique group.

Sometimes it’s waiting months, years, as your craft improves.

Sometimes it’s waiting for the right timing for something you’ve written to go to market. Maybe God has told you to put that manuscript in a drawer and wait, and you don’t even know why. Maybe it’s a story that needs a more seasoned hand and you’re not there yet. Maybe the right audience isn’t ready for it. Whatever.

That happened to a friend of Erin’s. She wrote a novel that was good enough to get her signed with an agent, but unfortunately the industry wasn’t at a place where that manuscript could succeed. Ultimately no publisher wanted to take it on.

But all this time, she’s been honing her craft, writing other books, selling them pretty well, and building an audience. Finally, recently, she felt it was time to pick that manuscript up again.

That’s when she saw it could be so much more than it was. She hired a macro editor, got a long revision letter, and now she’s steadily rewriting it. And when she’s done, it’s going to be a much better book. A book it couldn’t have been a few years ago.

But will it be time to take it to the market? She doesn’t have that answer yet. All she knows is that now is the time to make it better. Then she’ll see what God says next.

That’s waiting well, and it’s also doing well. And at the end of the day, that pleases God.

The Fruit of Faith

Pleasing God
Faith is crucial for us not just as writers, but as followers of Christ, because Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “…without faith, it is impossible to please [God]…”

Why did He set things up this way? One reason is to help us could get the roles right: He’s God, we’re not. He gets the glory. But we get a reward for our faith.

Hebrews 11:6 goes on to say, “…for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” He knows what’s best for us, and what He has in store for us is perfect.

Peace
Another fruit of faith is peace. When we have unswerving belief, complete trust, unshakable loyalty to our God, what do we have to worry about? He’s taking care of us. He’s in control.

Our job is to rest in that. To stop striving. To stop trying to make things happen in our own strength. That doesn’t mean we don’t keep working toward excellence in craft, marketing, and everything else. But it means we do these things with peace deep in our heart. And that trickles right back out: “…Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” (Matthew 12:34 ESV). You want the words you share with the world to be filled with deep, inner, soul-healing peace.

What is faith in the writer’s life?

Ultimately it’s a mindset and a lifestyle. It’s living with deep down conviction of who God is. It’s an unwavering choice to trust. To lay down our ability—or, more to the point, our inability—to predict and control, to measure with our insufficient human standards.

But you don’t do this on your own. Faith is a gift from God. Ask Him to build your faith, and He will. Why is faith crucial? It glorifies God. It brings peace, rest, hope, and joy to us, and through us to the world.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 can help us focus our hearts and minds when we need to act in faith: “May the LORD direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” Dwelling on God‘s love for us helps us know and trust Him. So let’s focus on Him, on who He is, on how very much He loves us, and leave everything else to God.

we want to hear from you!

What do you think faith is? How does it play out for you in your writing life?

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What is faith? And why does it matter in your writing life?

Thank you!

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

Special thank you to our June sponsor of the month, Stacy McLain. Watch for her first book, Make Known His Path, a Christian speculative novel, to be released sometime this summer!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!

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4 comments

  1. Thank you, dear Karen and Erin, for reminding us that it’s not a bad thing when we don’t know where our writing journey is taking us. This comforts me to hear this. One thing I do know is that writing and waiting draw me closer to God. I learn. I grow. And I know Christ better through it all.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

  2. Paul M3 says:

    Wow, I’m in Awe of God’s Miraculous workings Through other’s. “FAITH” is Truly KEY, the Flow of God’s AWESOME LOVE is Wondrous. You Both are Truly Blessed, for God’s Love Truly Flow’s Through you Both, you Both have Truly INSPIRED me to Share & Write of God’s INFINITE LOVE, Thank You & I’m Very Appreciative of All God is Leading you Both to do. Again, you Both have been a True Blessing to me & others. I Pray, that God, in the name of Jesus Christ, will Keep you Both & others Lifted up, with FAITH, HOPE & LOVE, & the Greatest of these is LOVE. Hava Smilin Good & Blessed 1, a-ok, a! 😃 👍 ✝️ 👍 🙏

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