In Writing for the Soul, Jerry B. Jenkins writes: “If you’re a person of faith and believe you have been called to a sacred profession, that alone should move you. With a single phrase you can heal a wound or tear it open.”
VALUED BY GOD
The written word is powerful—so powerful, in fact, that God used writing as a means of revealing Himself through the Bible. God’s law was written down for Moses to give to Israel. Exodus 32: 15, 16 say: “Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.” It must be noted that God valued this form of communication enough to require Moses to carve new stones after he broken the others over Israel’s idolatry (Exodus 32:15, 16, 19; 34:1).
God’s intent with written communication didn’t stop with the new tablets Moses delivered; instead, God continued to speak to His people over the years through writing. He gave the psalmists, the prophets, and the apostles. But the greatest gift God gave in the flesh was the Word who was in the beginning with God—Jesus Christ. Though an unusual word-picture, it’s the one God has chosen to give us through the Scripture.
The way God has used (and continues to use) writing for His divine purposes delineates the value He puts in this form of communication. Writing, in all its genres (particularly narratives, poetry, and stories), is beneficial and approved of by God. God’s historical narratives were given as the history of God’s people, recorded accurately for all to read. His narratives show His continued faithfulness and unchanging nature.
Additionally, biographies have been crafted for God to tell us about the saints who have gone before: Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Joshua, David, Samuel, and Solomon—to name a few. It was to these saints that God gave His promises. Sometimes they were written and others times they were spoken. Either way, they were recorded in writing for the benefit of those who follow. These predecessors also illustrate how Christians are to live holy and blameless lives.
God has also given us the literary pleasure of poetry as found in the Psalms and Lamentations. Through poetry He teaches us how to rejoice, grieve, give thanks, and be honest before Him in all things.
Finally, God has given Christians story. The factual narratives of the Old and New Testaments are proof of this. While the primary narratives include the creation of the world, formation of God’s people Israel, and also the birth, life and ministry of Jesus, story is not limited to narrative, and Jesus uses another form of story in the New Testament—parables, or fiction.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus used parables to make a point, expose the sin of His listeners, or illustrate His purposes. Therefore, there is no reason to shun imaginative works that portray the human condition. Fiction, if written well, serves a good purpose. And since it was used by Jesus, believers have no fear that it’s considered lying for Jesus did not lie.
While God has given and approved of writing, a question remains: what are Christians to do with this medium? Colossians 3:17 clearly states that Christians are to do everything, whether in words and deeds, in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father while doing so.
THE PRACTICE OF WRITING
The execution of writing for the Lord is impossible except for knowing the True Word of God. It is He who gives the strength and time to practice writing. Since writing is a gift from the Lord, it would be foolish and incompetent stewardship not to develop such a gift. The gifted preacher does not keep from preaching regularly because he’s good at it. If he didn’t preach, his gift would become like biceps that have not been worked in a while—they begin to atrophy. Writing is the same: robust and lithe when worked, but requiring hard work to become so. The Apostle Paul beat his body into discipline and submission to the work he had to do (1 Cor. 9:27). This is the job of the writer.
Writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, comes from creativity that is not a once-in-a-lifetime act; it is a continuous process that flows from communion with the Almighty Creator. This is redemptive and used for sanctification of either the believing writer or audience. It is here that wounds can be torn open if one is not careful, but souls can also be healed when the Lord leads through the creative process.
For this reason, it is of the utmost importance that thoughts and beliefs are articulated clearly. Anything spoken or written should be done so with conviction, clarity, and dignity. Great care must be taken. The Great Physician commissions Christian writers—by virtue of the fact that they are redeemed—to bring a healing balm to readers rather than pouring salt into open wounds. Ultimately, I believe the purpose of a writer who is following God’s order, is—as Vinita Hampton Wright says in The Soul Tells a Story—to “name the world and help other people recognize the grace, wisdom and wonder that have been present all along”