Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Writing Through Tragedy

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell @LucindaSMcDowel

Will we ever get used to hearing that there has been a mass murder of innocent people? In a church? In a theatre? In a school? In an office? In a nightclub?

I hope not.

I hope we remain horrified. And utterly saddened. I hope we never get blasé or resigned to this kind of life.

Because then “they” would win. The ones who hate. The ones who crave power or fame or just some twisted sense of belonging to something big.

I will not live in fear! Not for myself, not for my children and grandchildren, most of whom reside in large prominent cities—high target zones.

But I will cry. For the ones who are lost. And for the ones they left behind who must relive the violence and loss over and over again. And I will cry out. Against terror. For laws that might protect. I will cry out that there must be a better way.

God -- the One who created us and loves us all --  knows lament. Have you read the Psalms lately?

 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me. (Psalm 13)

How long, O Lord? How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat? How long will they speak with arrogance? How long will these evil people boast? They crush your people, Lord, hurting those you claim as your own. Who will protect me from the wicked? Who will stand up for me against evildoers? Unless the Lord had helped me, I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. …But the Lord is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide. (portions of Psalm 94)

Are you devastated by the random acts of violence in our world today? (And the targeted acts of violence?)

What do we do with our pain?

 I don’t have all the answers. But I know where to turn.

To God. In lament. In lament, a petitioner addresses God on some occasion of calamity. We are writers so we process through writing.

If you (like me) are feeling helpless and hopeless, may I suggest you join me by reading one of the Psalms of Lament in the Bible and then, using the same elements, WRITE  your own Prayer of Lament:
  • Be still and enter God's presence. Invite Him to sit with you in your sorrow and confusion. This is usually best done in silence.
  • Write through the painful or evil situation that happened which is causing such grief and horror. Articulate your feelings as you think of the suffering and injustice.
  • Wait and allow God to speak into your heart and soul as you continue to intercede in prayer for the people, places and circumstances of this tragedy.
  • Identify with those involved and call out to God in honesty. Yes, lament. Articulate your complaint and confusion and even anger to God. He can take it.
  • Know that our God is a God of compassion. Take time to confess your trust in God's power and provision - in His sovereignty. Use your own words.
  • Listen for God's word of assurance to you. And then write those words to yourself and perhaps share them with your community so desperate for answers. Sometimes the greatest answer is God saying "I am here."
  • Conclude with an offering to God that you will praise Him for who He is - and that you know the end of the story is His ultimate victory.

Sometimes this is all we can do in the face of violence, tragedy, fear, anger, pain and grief.

But it’s a beginning…

Things to remember when #writing through tragedy - @LucindaSMcDowel (Click to Tweet)

When tragedy strikes, consider #writing your own #prayer of lament - @LucindaSMcDowel (Click to Tweet)

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is the author of 11 books, contributing author to 25 books, and has published in more than 50 magazines. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, she studied at the Wheaton Graduate School of Communication and served as Communications Specialist for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (Thailand) and Editor for Billy Graham’s International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists (Netherlands). A member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), she has received “Writer of the Year” awards from both Mt. Hermon and Blue Ridge Writers Conferences. Cindy speaks internationally through her ministry “Encouraging Words” and co-directs the New England Christian Writers Retreat. Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England. Visit her online at www.EncouragingWords.net

Links  www.NewEnglandChristianWritersRetreat.com
Blog/website  www.EncouragingWords.net


  1. Thank you, Cindy. Writing has healed places in me that I did not know were broken. May God continue to use you as you bless others.

    1. Thank you for these kind words Cherrilyn, and for your service as unto the Lord this past weekend at the New England Christian Writers Retreat. Yes, God is a great healer...

  2. Wisdom and encouragement poured over me with your words today, Lucinda. May your comforting message be read throughout Christ's kingdom here on the battlefield. I'll be sharing your post today.
    Write on!

    1. Thanks, Carolym, for encouraging me by reading and sharing this post. Yes, this is one thing we can do. And yes, it is a battlefield, but we know the Victor...

  3. An excellent prescription for pain. As writers we understand the value of writing to heal. I trust your post will reach hearts in need and they will give the above advice a try.

    1. B, I am so glad that you feel, as I do, that this prescription for pain is something we can do. God will do the rest. Blessings in your lament...

  4. my "healing writing" was 20 years ago. as i was healing emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, I just started writing! surprised me, lemme tell ya! now, i see my old pain show up in my characters, and my hope and prayer is that others will identify with them and know there is hope and healing

    1. Robin,I am so thankful that writing has been an integral part of your healing process. I know your words will encourage others on this path. Blessings to you this day...

  5. I have felt deeply the need to lament in Psalm. Sometimes as Christians we forget that it is ok to sorrow, cry and lament before our compassionate Father. Jesus wept and was acquainted with sorrows. Thank you for your words of compassion and healing.

    1. Thank you, Mary, for responding to these situations by going to God. May He wrap you in His arms of love and care.

  6. I started writing three decades ago in order to gain perspective over a large problem I had. I will look up those Psalms of Lament and study them. Now, my issues are different but real.Thank you for sharing.

  7. I just came across this today, buried in a mass of over 400 unread emails. Yes, I just said over 400 unread emails. I lost my mother in May and spent the 5 weeks prior to her passing taking care of her along with my sister. I have shut out most of the world and put everything on hold. This was just what I needed to hear right now. Thank you. Truly. Thank you. It's water to a very parched soul.

    1. Kelly, I'm so sorry about your mother. I lost my dad this past December to Alzheimer's. I'll be praying for you and your family. I'm so glad this post was here when you needed it. Blessings, E

    2. Hi Kelly, So glad the Lord led you to this post and that it spoke to your fragile heart and soul today. Just today I read what CS Lewis wrote when his own mother died: "With my mother's death, all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of joy; but no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent has sunk like Atlantis." If you feel that way too, may the Lord wrap you in His arms of love and comfort. under the mercy, Cindy www.EncouragingWords.net