For weeks, my head has been buzzing like a swarm of bees, while the world as we know it crumbles. Anxiety, disrupted sleep, trouble concentrating on work, reading too much news, scroll-scroll-scrolling through social media, trying to buy groceries from empty shelves (did I just hear a cough?!), worry, worry, worry.
Maybe you’ve been doing better than me and keeping calm and focused. We’re all different.
But a lot of imaginative people do suffer various forms of anxiety even in “normal” times.
The big change
On Friday, my mind-bees changed their tune in a deep and fundamental way. I believe God caused that change, and I want to share it with you.
On Friday, I attended several hours of a live-streamed conference for Christian business owners. Yes, a business conference not a writer’s conference, but stay with me.
My previous focus had been on hunkering down, protecting, surviving.
I came away from this conference with a very different frame of mind.
What if you’re not strong enough?
You don’t have to be strong enough. That’s the whole point.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)
The actual truth
We as Christians have an extraordinary strength to draw upon.
- The world needs that strength.
- People are more open to faith than I have ever seen them before. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. The regular supports have been stripped away, and more people know they are lost. They are so thirsty, my dear friends. So thirsty. We have living water to share.
We as creatives have the God-given ability to imagine new and unusual things.
- We know Someone who can give us new ideas specifically for this time.
- Remember he is THE Creator and he actually loves to hear from us and inspire us!
We as Gracewriters can speak grace, peace, hope and salvation into the lives of a planetful of people who are frightened and lost.
- If our readers are Christian, we can strengthen them.
- If our readers are secular, we can quietly point them towards forgiveness and hope.
- We can do it through books, through stories, through articles, through blogs.
Is God calling you to be a Gracewriter during this pandemic?
We all have different roles and responsibilities in the body of Christ.
But also, you did click to read this particular article because something prompted you.
Pray, and ask the Father: is this for me?
I edit books for a living and two of my Christian authors have contacted me in the past few days to say that they are not cancelling their book launches because they believe God wants their books out there. One is even bringing the launch forward!
These interactions, which occurred quite independently of my experience at that conference and without any prompting from me, tell me that it’s not just Belinda having ideas – it’s a move of God’s Spirit among the creatives and the “craftsmen”.
He has a job for us.
My change of direction has not magically removed every trace of fear and distraction from my life, nor given me any guarantee that I or my loved ones will not suffer in months to come.
I don’t follow a Santa Claus who grants my every wish; I follow a crucified Saviour.
Please, don’t expect gracewriting during the pandemic to be a magical solution to your stress.
But… a sense of purpose in times of crisis is one of God’s best gifts.
If he is calling you to gracewrite through the crisis, then that is the best thing you could possibly do.
What should you do next?
These are what I’m working on. Consider them, pray, and make your own choices.
1. Be kind to yourself
Many of us are confused, anxious, exhausted and grieving. If you are having trouble concentrating, please don’t berate yourself. Try some of these physical remedies, which have been beautifully designed by God:
- Sleep – try for a good 8 hours per day if possible, even if some of that is in naps. Sleep is a very good gift from God, which heals both body and mind. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:2, ESV)
- Eat healthy if you possibly can. I realise there are constraints for many of us (financial and/or issues of supply), but eating nutritious food such as fruit and vegetables as much as possible, and avoiding junk food as much as possible, changes the body and brain chemistry to strengthen our God-designed coping mechanisms.
- Exercise as much as your health and confinement allow, even just walking around your house, or outdoors if you’re allowed to, or joining online exercise classes. Exercise changes body and brain chemistry, too. God designed our bodies to work best when they move.
- Bonus: did you know that looking after your body and mind increases immunity, too??
2. Limit your consumption of news and social media
I’ve tried to restrict mine to twice per day. I need to look because I do need to know when the isolation rules change. (I’m in Australia and the situation is changing fast here this week.) But I find that reading too much of it drags me down into the pits and away from my purpose.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
- Pray for yourself,
for your loved ones,
for the world, other countries,
for governments and leaders and medical workers and supermarket staff.
Pray for and about everything!
Pray when you walk and when you sit,
when you are washing your hands,
patting the dog, cat or other pet,
driving the car,
queuing 1.5 metres behind someone (pray for that someone, maybe?).
- Try telling God out loud exactly how you feel. He knows anyway, so why try to hide it? The psalms can be quite strident and not always completely polite, so there is good precedent for honest prayer.
- Give thanks for big and little things, as often as you can. Science has discovered that gratitude changes brain chemistry and strengthens our coping mechanisms, but God already knew that, because he designed it. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV)
- Journal your thoughts and prayers. Sometimes the act of handwriting helps get the thoughts outside of our heads onto paper where we can untangle them. It can also help to stop the endless thought-cycling.
- If your prayers are scattered sometimes, that’s okay. “For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14 NIV) God loves us and loves to hear from us anyway. Which is pretty amazing.
- Pray about your Gracewriting. Maybe something as simple as this: “Dear Lord, do you have a particular task for me with my writing? If you do, please show me what it is, and give me the strength and opportunities and ideas and resources to do it.”
- The enemy does not want God to turn this disaster into something good. Make a project of strengthening your spiritual armour. Perhaps you could pray through Ephesians 6:10-20 every day?
4. Read the Bible, lots of it
Read it like a book, not just little snippets. If you’re not sure where to start, maybe try some of these:
- Stories of people overcoming through times of great personal and national trauma, such as Joseph (Genesis 37 onwards), Gideon (Judges 7-8) and Deborah (Judges 4-5), Esther, Daniel.
- Stirring prophecy such as Zechariah and Isaiah.
- The psalms.
- The Gospels.
Many of us are stuck at home now, or soon will be. But if you’re reading this, it means you have internet!
- Find another Christian writer to buddy with. Meet them for coffee, using Skype or Zoom or some other online meeting platform, to talk about possibilities and ideas and to pray together.
- Look for opportunities in various online settings to encourage others, especially other Gracewriters.
To receive the links to both the Zoom meeting and the private community, please subscribe to the Gracewriters blog.
We are sharing the links only with subscribers at present to help limit issues with disruptors. 🙂 Participation is *always* optional and you can unsubscribe easily at any time.
Edited 24 June: We now have a Gracewriters Podcast where we discuss some of the issues confronting Christians who write to change popular culture.
If you are called to write, write.
Whether you write strongly, purposefully, confidently,
falteringly, fumblingly, hesitantly,
in great oceans of suddenly-spare time,
or short snatches between disruptions from the kids or work or responsibilities,
in sickness or in health.
Write, and find your calling and your unique contribution.
Write the gracenotes our world needs right now.
Come on in and let’s fight this battle together. There are great things in this strange new world, and we serve a huge God.
Please help me get the word out, and share this article with other Christian writers – by email or on social media.
Victor Dewsbery says
Thanks for this Belinda. For a couple of years now I have been reading and re-reading Matthew’s gospel and mulling over how to convey the excitement of Jesus as a study in book form. But work on this project was almost always crowded out by my work as a freelance translator. Many times I asked the Lord to give me time to write. And now – whoppee, the translation work has faded to a trickle, and I now have more time to work on the book (with the classic writer challenges such as concentration, stylistic dithering, tension between detail and the big picture etc.).
I live in Germany, and initially I am writing in my adopted language (German), but I hope to follow this by a version in my native English (I come from the UK).
Belinda Pollard says
Hi Victor, thanks for your comment. Yes, you asked for more time to write! 🙂 There are definitely many writers who now have time but are also distracted. I look forward to a more settled situation in weeks to come. Wishing blessings on your writing project.
Thanks Belinda, great advice and encouragement! Looking forward to seeing where/how God moves in this space.
Belinda Pollard says
Thanks so much, Donita. It’s an exciting time in a weird way, isn’t it?
Ruth Embery says
Great confirmation for me, Belinda. The last couple of weeks have been hectic with my daughter’s wedding and my mother moving house, which has meant that the writing I have been wanting to do has been on the backburner. As of today, I am hoping to have more time. One of my major thoughts (in between all the rest going on) has been remembering that one aspect of my gifting is encouragement, and that is what I have to offer at the moment. So far it has been a couple of Bible verses I have posted, but I sense that we can have such a different impact on the feed in social media – putting out a voice of hope and encouragement in the middle of what is sometimes negativity and divisive comments, let alone simply bad news. Love the idea that we have such a time to use our gift of words to offer a different perspective and make a difference in what people are reading! I would also be interested in joining in the cuppa and chat. Bless you 🙂
Belinda Pollard says
Thank you so much, Ruth. I’m so excited when I hear that other Christian writers have been having similar thoughts. It really seems to mean that the Spirit is having similar thoughts. ❤️ I love your idea to make a difference to the social feeds. We have such a great need for good news right now. With everything else shut down, our social feeds are in a way our replacement community. Bless you too! 🙂
Nola Passmore says
Great blog, Belinda. Ironically, I’m launching my author website today with the tagline ‘Weaving Words of Courage and Hope’. I picked that tagline last year when we had no idea that COVID-19 was on the horizon. I had a mild panic the other day when I realised that God might actually want me to write words of courage and hope. LOL Let’s see how we all go. One step at a time 🙂
Belinda Pollard says
Haha, that sounds great, Nola. Isn’t it interesting that your tagline and website launch date are not at all accidental in God’s economy?? And yes, baby steps. 😉
Jeanette Grant-Thomson says
I’m definitely interested but don’t know what I could do that is any different from what I’ve been doing all along. Thanks, Belinda, for embracing this vision.
Belinda Pollard says
Thank you so much, Jeanette. It could well be that you just keep faithfully doing your work. 🙂 And possibly encouraging other Gracewriters. Those of us who’ve gone to ground because of the stress might choose to rise to the task instead of hiding. And those who’ve held back book releases due to the poor market at this time might actually go ahead, for reasons other than sales. But I imagine that God will have a vision for each one of us.
Lynda A Dietz says
Belinda, this is so timely. I’d been getting angrier and angrier as I scrolled social media, and found myself not necessarily panicking, but just starting to trust in my own strength and efforts to get us prepared. My pastor put out a quick (5 min.) video yesterday on Facebook and read Philippians 4:4-7 to us, reminding us that we can be effective through our reasonableness. If Paul could rejoice from a prison cell, I can surely rise to this occasion. Honestly, it was like a complete reset of my mind, and today has been so much better.
Today submitted an article for the Koinonia publication on Medium on exactly this. Their monthly Scripture prompt is Psalm 73:26, so perfect for this moment, and yet they chose the prompt long before March even arrived, not knowing how we’d all need to lean on this verse right now.
Belinda Pollard says
Wow, Lynda. That’s amazing. It always surprises and delights me when it becomes clear that God knew it was coming. 🙂 (I know I shouldn’t be surprised…)
I’m so excited to see how this weird time in history will be used by God to achieve incredible things, things we never thought were possible. When I saw all the churches closing I was thinking how the enemy was enjoying this virus. And then all the churches, even little non-tech churches, went to live-stream, and suddenly they are upskilling for the new world, and creating new ways to connect and minister that will continue to bless people long after we’ve resumed “normal” life.
I’d love to read your Koinonia article. Can you share a link?
Michelle Keener says
Thank you s much for this. I’m a Christian author and my last book released on March 10th, right at the start of the pandemic panic hitting the United States. It was a disappointing week for me, and I was discouraged. But as the days have gone on, the ebook sales have been climbing. People need hope right now. They are hungry for faith and certainty in the midst of the fear. They are open to hearing about Jesus. What a perfect time for us to share our stories.
Belinda Pollard says
Thanks so much for your comment, Michelle. I’m so glad that as Christian writers we have a role to play. Having a real and useful task in this period is a great blessing, let alone being able to contribute to God’s purposes.