“The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”–Luke 6:45 (BSB)
Our words and actions reflect what fills our hearts. As Christian creatives, we strive to write encouragement and hope; to let goodness flow into our pens. We want to let the light that shines in us saturate everything we do. But what do we do when the words stop flowing? What do we do when it feels like the overflow of the heart has slowed to a trickle?
Last month, I struggled hard with putting pen to paper. Something about October threw me off-kilter, and I found myself breaking writing habits I’ve tried so hard to build this year. Part of the gap in my routine was simply life getting in the way. I spent lots of time with friends and family, enjoying fall activities. On these days, missing writing goals didn’t bother me so much.
However, a bigger problem lurked in the background: I couldn’t find anything to say. All my words had packed up and left without giving me any clue where they’d gone. It took me until last week to realize what was causing the well of my ideas to dry up. Without meaning to, I’d been filling my heart with the wrong things.
Usually harmless things like binge-watching cartoons and sleeping in later than normal were taken to excess. I was letting negativity creep in as well–frustration over uncooperative projects, worry for friends in tough situations, and discouragement from not meeting my goals. All the while, I neglected to take in what I needed to refresh my spirit. Time in the Word, reading the books on my nightstand, and even making my bed all fell by the wayside as I hurried to finish other things.
I let gunk clog up my pen while also letting the ink get low. No wonder the words wouldn’t come.
Renewing the Overflow of the Heart
In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus teaches that our actions and words reveal what rests at the core of our being. We can’t produce goodness if we’re filled with evil, and we won’t produce evil if we’re filled with goodness. Our output is shaped by our hearts. It follows, then, that if we want our words to be life-giving–encouraging, hope-filled, and loving–then we need to be attentive to what we internalize. We need to be guarding our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).
On days when the writing won’t come, we should start by considering the condition of our hearts. Most of us would agree that our faith forms the core of our message, so if we step away from God’s outpouring of His Spirit and love, we step away from the source of our words. What we need in these moments is to let ourselves be refilled.
So how do we step back into the overflow?
1: Plunge deeper into God’s presence–
Personal Scripture reading, prayer, and worship are vital to a healthy relationship with our Savior. Yet, even knowing this, it can be so easy to neglect spending time with the Lord. Other things seem more urgent; so many distractions tug at us as we try to focus on Him. But deepening our relationship with Christ enrichens our lives. It helps us grow in wisdom, peace, and joy.
It can be tempting to come to these moments of prayer or Scripture searching for something to share, but we can’t share what we don’t first have ourselves. We have to remember that loving others well is a result of walking with God; it isn’t the reason for walking with Him. Our first priority should be focusing on the Lord purely for the purpose of growing in our love of Him and praising His name. If we get that right, everything else follows.
2. Plunge deeper into community–
When we’re feeling drained and hollow, we need to let our community of fellow believers pour into us. Rather than trying to force ourselves to keep putting out more, we need to take a moment to receive. Ask for prayer. Listen to the stories that others are sharing. Spend time with fellow Christians outside of church services. Deepening our relationships with other believers helps to strengthen our walk with God. It reminds us that God is still working; it gives us someone to lean on when we’re struggling with our faith.
And the encouragement we gain in fellowship recharges us. Fellowship sharpens our faith, and in doing so, strengthens us in our ability to fulfill our ministry–including the ministry of writing.
Clear the Writing Clot
The overflow of the heart changes the way we speak, the way we write, and the way we live. As writers focused on glorifying God with our words, the greatest way we can invest in our work is to first invest in our worship. By growing in our faith, and then growing in our fellowship with other believers, we let God’s Spirit work in our lives. As His love overflows, He washes away all that we’ve let clog up our hearts, and He makes us new.
And then, perhaps, we can speak.
Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both. (You can connect with her on Instagram @karleyconklin )