So, you want to write.
Maybe it’s something you’ve wanted your whole life. Maybe you’ve only just discovered it. Maybe you’ve always loved it, but kept it secret because you felt that you weren’t qualified enough to write for other people. Maybe you’ve finally decided it’s time to take that next step.
However you come to it, you’ve finally reached the point where you say, “Yes, I want to write. I want this to be my purpose, the thing I devote my time and effort to.”
But with that determination also comes a question: You may want to write, but does God feel the same way?
The Bible tells us that God has a purpose for our lives, but it isn’t always obvious what that purpose is. How do we determine if our newfound desire to write is something God instilled in us, or if it’s actually a distraction from his true calling for us?
Passion Vs. Purpose
You already know when you have the drive to write. It sneaks up on you like a mischievous child and won’t leave you alone. You can be sitting at the bus stop, trying to decide what you’re going to fix for dinner, when you see a random person at a stop light. Some small detail catches your eye, and bam! Now you’re inventing that person’s entire history in your head. And you might have missed your bus.
That passion for storytelling is as much fun as it can be maddening, usually at the same time. Even at its worst, it’s a blessing to have, and most of us wouldn’t trade it for anything. The big question, however, is whether passion and purpose are the same.
I can tell you right away that I have a passion for a lot of things besides storytelling. These include (but are not limited to) reading, drawing, playing video games, making costumes and props, crafting, baked goods, children, animals, period dramas and chocolate. Not necessarily in that order.
Naturally, while I enjoy all of these things, not all of them will be my calling (all right, most of them won’t). God designed each of us with a specific purpose in mind, and His plan for us is infinitely more fulfilling than anything we could want or expect. (Jeremiah 29:11) If that’s the case, we should have no trouble telling what our calling is, right?
If only it were that simple.
I wish I could tell you I had a way to define the mysteries of God’s will in a single blog post. The Lord reveals things to everyone in unique ways, so I can’t really give you a surefire “here’s what to look for” that will expel all doubts from your mind. What I can do, though, is give you a few Bible-based tips that might help to guide you, and get you on the right path to confirm your calling with the Lord.
How Can God Use Your Gift?
This is quite possibly the most important question you can ask before you begin your writing sojourn. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says,
If Paul encourages us to honor God in every part of our life – even eating and drinking – where should we show it more than when we use the gifts He gave us?
This doesn’t mean that you can only write sermons or Bible analysis. It doesn’t even mean that everything you write has to be directly about God to honor Him. God can be glorified in a number of ways, and He wouldn’t call you to writing if He didn’t give you something unique to contribute. You might feel inspired to recreate Bible stories and help people understand their lessons in new and insightful ways. Maybe you want to tell stories that show Christians how to approach modern-day problems. It might be something even subtler: a story written for entertainment on the surface, but one that reflects God’s power, compassion and salvation in its themes.
These are only a few of the possibilities God might have for you and your gift, but the core remains the same – furthering God’s Kingdom and His glory. If your writing doesn’t do this in some way, then you’ll find yourself writing for your own purpose, not His.
When In Doubt, Ask
It’s mind-blowing sometimes to realize that while God does have a role for us, He doesn’t actually need us. He is the author of the greatest story ever told, after all – He’ll get the ending He wants whether you cooperate or not.
To me, this makes it even more astonishing that He still invites us to play a part in all of it. A very specific part. A part tailor-made for you. You don’t have to be a one-off side character; you are the main character in your story, and you are the vessel by which God displays His greatness.
Pretty neat, right?
Of course, we aren’t actors; we don’t get a script to run through. We’re up on stage in one long series of improv skits, hoping we can figure out the plot. This is the point where you ask for a little stage direction.
Take your petition to God and ask Him what His plans are for you. This isn’t to say that He’ll give you an instant answer, or that what He gives you will even be clear. When you pray about your calling, however, the Bible tells us that God will answer you.
John tells us very clearly that if our request is in line with His will, God grants that request. If your desire to write is part of His plan for you, then you can have confidence that He will make it happen.
Be Prepared for Hard Work
You might think that if writing is God’s purpose for you, then it will just magically happen. You might even be waiting for a “sign”, some perfect opportunity to fall into your lap.
Can that kind of thing happen? Absolutely!
But it doesn’t happen to everyone. For most of us, it’s still going to take work.
Writing is not a game for the faint of heart. It requires hours of learning, research, planning, character creation, prayer – and that’s before you even start on the first page! Writing is a game of sacrifice, and the sad truth is that you won’t be guaranteed great success for your hard work.
I wish I had a more encouraging way to say this, but if you ask any writer, professional or otherwise, you’re likely to hear the same. It is the universal truth of any creative passion – you must sacrifice to create something beautiful. Even if it’s your calling. Perhaps especially if it’s your calling.
But here’s the most interesting parallel: Writing requires sacrifice.
So does following Jesus.
If you’ve been a believer for any length of time, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Like writing, following God’s path will require you to give up some things you might want or enjoy. It will take you out of your comfort zone. It might even bring you to your breaking point. And just like writing, if you’re following God’s path, but you don’t find any of this true… well, it likely means you haven’t been giving it your all.
Here, though, is the good news. If God has called you to write, He will help you. In fact, He likely already has. There is a reason you want to write, isn’t there?
When the Answer is No
As we established earlier, passion alone does not a purpose make. Neither does the Bible promise that God will grant us what we want when He knows it wouldn’t be right for us. This means that there is a very real possibility that you might ask for the Lord’s blessing… and get a “no” instead.
This actually happened to a friend of mine. She loved creating characters and telling stories, and at one point decided to take a stab at writing her own Young Adult novel. Although unfinished, the story ended up in front of an editor who praised the idea and wanted to clean it up for publishing. It’s what every author dreams of hearing!
After some soul searching and a hefty amount of prayer, however, my friend received a very different message from God – this wasn’t the path for her. God had other plans in mind, and writing would get in the way of her relationship with Him. She ended up throwing away the entire story. Now, if she writes at all, she does so purely for fun and without any thought of publishing.
It’s a hard lesson to hear, but it isn’t an especially new one. There are plenty of stories in the Bible of people with plans who get completely derailed. Ruth becomes a penniless widow in a foreign country; Jonah is told to leave his cushy prophet job to bring salvation to his enemies; David has to flee to the wilderness when the jealous king tries to kill him; Joseph’s own brothers sell him into slavery, and as if that weren’t enough, he then ends up in prison!
If you know the rest of the story, however, you know that redemption is a central part of God’s plans. In all of these stories, sorrow is turned around into something wonderful, and God’s promises are fulfilled in unexpected and glorious ways. He may say no to you now, simply because He’s waiting to say yes to a greater blessing you don’t know about yet. Don’t be too disappointed if he asks you to put the pen down – God’s still working on your story, and He’s far from finished with it.
Here’s Your Challenge
If you’ve made it all the way here to the end, you may find yourself in one of two places: either you feel confident in your place as a writer, or you feel like you’re still waiting for God’s confirmation.
Wherever you are, I deeply encourage you to spend some time in prayer and contemplation of God’s word. Keep your heart and your ears open. You never know what God will say, but you’ll only hear it when you’re listening!
I Want to Hear from You!
As a fellow writer, I also struggle with doubts of my own. One of the most encouraging things for me is to talk with fellow wordsmiths like you!
What are you most passionate about in writing? Do you feel confident in your calling, or are you still figuring things out? What do you struggle with the most?
Share your thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to talking with you!