A shorter version of this post appeared on Seriously Write.
Though most of us have gone through hard times, we’ve probably never before suffered such an intense period of refining. The lessons we’re learning, shared with our readers while the hardships are still in progress, have provided countless opportunities to engender renewed confidence in Christ.
At the turn of this century, our family went through challenging times. We were hit hard by numerous difficulties, coupled with six relocations. One of these landed us across the street from Columbine High School five days before the massacre.
The isolation we felt as we moved multiple times, coupled with losing all of our supportive relationships repeatedly, left us feeling traumatized like Job, with no one in our corner but God. At one point, I felt betrayed by even Him. These events birthed my autoimmune diseases.
Eventually, these experiences also birthed copious writing. The Lord had provided a wealth of experiential knowledge that I had never wanted, and yet, these hardships provided commonality with so many others. From the knowledge of what it is to truly suffer, what it means to lack social support during suffering, and what is necessary to even begin to recover, I discovered that the Savior had equipped me to write with the strength gained through tribulation.
And yet, as we’ve gone through these past five months, for the first time in my life a novel isn’t cooking in my brain. Writing fiction is exhilarating, but my mind now daily digests our current devastating life events, and I am silent. I’ve got nothing.
I cannot write characters who experience the setbacks that make a good story, because we have enough trauma of our own right now. I simply cannot subject myself to the traumatizing effect of my fictional characters’ difficulties on top of our own.
Additionally, because I can’t yet perceive the interpretation of our current circumstances within the larger narrative of our family life, I’m in mourning. I’m not grounded solidly enough in these current realities to pen fiction. Who are we now? Who would these fictional people be?
You may be experiencing this, or the opposite. You may have fresh stories springing forth, now that you’ve experienced this devastating, though rich, companionship with loneliness, hardship, sickness, and perhaps death, which God in His goodness has allowed for our welfare.
In this time of pandemic and social upheaval, what work is the Savior doing in you? How is it impacting your writing? We will each have an entirely unique takeaway.In this time of #pandemic and social upheaval, what work is the Savior doing in you? How is it impacting your writing? We will each have an entirely unique takeaway. #WritingCommunity #WritingLife Click To Tweet
As we’ve endured this time of struggle, my family has simultaneously experienced some of the most horrific tragedies we’ve ever lived through, making our past trials small by comparison.
And yet, those troubles from our past were definitely not small, since they consisted of the Columbine massacre, a life flight, an assault, major surgeries, debridement, economic losses, and kids tangling with moving automobiles, for starters.
We’ve suffered much, and yet every trial in the past five months, though more wrenchingly difficult, has seemed more bearable than those earlier decades, because the entire world is experiencing hardship simultaneously.
We’re all on the same page. We’re all struggling. We’re all suffering in some way. No one needs to explain themselves. We can console one another right where we are, rather than being the lone suffering family with everyone else looking at us like Job’s so-called friends.We’re all on the same page. We’re all struggling. We’re all suffering in some way. No one needs to explain. We can console one another right where we are, rather than being Job's miserable comforters. Click To Tweet
And so, dear writers, what can we learn?
Recently, I tangled with one of Job’s friends, their sharp words and wrong assumptions leaving deep wounds that hurt for days afterward, keeping me awake at night, the hurt ever-present on my mind. Job said this about the “friends” who gathered to “comfort him” during his suffering:
“As for you, you whitewash with lies;
worthless physicians are you all.
Oh that you would keep silent” (Job 13:4-5 ESV).
“I have heard many such things;
miserable comforters are you all.
Shall windy words have an end?
Or what provokes you that you answer?
I also could speak as you do,
if you were in my place;
I could join words together against you
and shake my head at you” (Job 16:2-4 ESV).
Like Job, we have the freedom to choose how we’ll write and speak. We can determine never to be like Job’s friends, miserable comforters all, worthless physicians, but rather to sit with the mourners in solidarity and silence from here on out, remembering the lessons of our shared hardships.We can determine never to be like Job’s friends, miserable comforters, but rather to sit with the mourners in solidarity and silence from here on out, remembering the lessons of our shared hardships. Click To Tweet
We can aspire never to write like Job’s friends would have penned, condemnatory and smug, but instead to write from a position of sympathy and kindness, in solidarity with those suffering, rather than judging them.We can aspire never to #write like Job’s friends would have penned, condemnatory and smug, but instead to write from a position of sympathy and kindness, in solidarity with those suffering, rather than judging. Click To Tweet
This is how we can bless our readers and, simultaneously, how we can become more like Jesus, who regards us with the kindest sympathy and upholds us during every single trial.
Let’s write with the mercy, tenderness, and kindheartedness of Christ.
How has this time of hardship shaped your writing? How has it impacted how you speak about trials and the harm that has occurred to so many people during this struggle?
How have you grown in compassion during this difficult time? How has this time of struggle changed you?
I highly recommend Anne Mackie Morelli’s book When Grief Descends: