The heart of your story


By Betty J. Slade | PREVIEW Columnist

“Are you prayed up?” I asked the writers. “Is your heart open to the Lord? Are you ready to hear from God? If you are, these words might help you to write better.”

As writers, we need to put heart in our stories. How do we do that? Take one of our old writings and see how it touches us. Then be willing to go deeper into what we want to convey. As an author, dig into your heart.

It’s more than a theme, it’s a message from our hearts to the heart of the reader. I asked the writers, “What made your writing breathe and come to life for you? If you don’t know that, you will miss the message from your own writing.”

“What do you think of the story of Job?” I asked the group. There were many answers, none that lined up with what I found when I studied the book. Answers that they had heard but didn’t comprehend. Like Job, they uttered words they didn’t understand.

My women’s Bible study group spent two years studying 42 chapters of this writing. People would frown when we told them we were studying Job. “Job? That’s probably the most depressing book in the Bible. Poor Job. Horrible friends. All those sores and God told Satan to do what he wanted to do to a good man but only to a point. Why would God do that?”

The answer was in the missing puzzle piece of the story. Not the suffering of a righteous man — the real problem was that Job tried to justify himself. His three friends turned advice givers couldn’t solve his problem either. They charged him with sin without any solution. Elihu, God’s spokesman, reached higher ground, but still fell short.

Job was the E. F Hutton of his day. When he whispered, everyone listened. He took care of the widows and poor. This is recorded in his book, “In order to turn man from his deeds and conceal pride from man, God keeps back his soul from the Pit. Yes, his soul draws near the Pit and his life to the executioner.”

Job knew enough to see how man is bent on disaster, but he still didn’t have the answer. He begged for a mediator so God could hear his cries. He spoke swelling words but didn’t believe that God would deliver him, that God found a ransom and restored to man His righteousness.

Many of us write swelling words, robust in our declaration, but how many writers really believe what we write? It takes digging into our words and into our hearts in order to give breath to our writing and feel the heartbeat in our stories.

In the third act, chapters 38 to 42, God reveals himself. “Job, stand up like a man. I will question you and you shall answer Me. Can you, ‘Disperse the rage of your wrath?’” To paraphrase: Can you deliver a proud man from his anger? No. Neither can you deliver yourself. If you try, you will become angrier.

We’ve always heard of the patience of Job. His wife told him to curse God and die. He refused.

In the last chapter of Job’s story, Job acknowledges God’s sovereignty and humbles himself. I would say Job’s story is about God’s patience with us. Job confesses, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” 

The puzzle piece, the heart of Job’s story, is found in James 5:11: “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord —That the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” 

God revealed Himself in His majesty and power. Job emerged from suffering into double blessing and restoration. It was when he surrendered all of his lofty ideas about himself that he was able to receive God’s mercy and compassion.

“Actually, God considers all of humanity to be prisoners of their unbelief, so that he can unlock our hearts and show his tender mercies to all whom come to him” — Romans 11:32 (TPT).

Final brushstroke: Writers, don’t idolize your words; be willing to turn loose of them. Find your heart in those old writings. Then your words will breathe for the readers. Your writing will give life to someone who needs what you write.

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