Tuesday, April 21, 2020

It’s Okay for Writers to Lament

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell @LucindaSMcDowel

For me, today marks 40 days of quarantine—not leaving my home at all except to walk in my empty neighborhood, wearing a mask of course. This Coronavirus Pandemic has upended our world and we are all adjusting to a whole new way of life. 

What does the pandemic mean for you as a writer and speaker?

Well, for many of us, it means that new books are launching out into a world with no book tours, speaking engagements, and radically reduced publicity. Shipping of product and online shopping have even been affected so that your book may not be available at this time. That wonderful launch party or conference you planned so long ago with such excitement? Cancelled. All those speaking events are now either postponed or cancelled since large gatherings are banned indefinitely.

For others in the middle of writing, pitching, editing, and exploring, there are many contacts in the industry who are currently furloughed, or just don’t know how to make promises on future projects. And yes, there are some who are still signing new contracts—yay!

While we may have joked about needing to be chained to our desk in order to get work done, being stuck at home isn’t a panacea. The current situation is often so fraught with emotions, financial concerns, and family matters like homeschooling that many of us simply are not writing at all. Of course, some may be especially inspired and full of productivity.

Regardless of where you are in all this, I suspect there is some deep grief that your 2020 has not turned out to be what you hoped and planned. Writers conferences have been cancelled or moved online. Perhaps one of the best perks of gathering at such events is the face-to-face with other writers and people who understand. Needless to say, those relationships have had to be fed and nurtured in other ways. Writing is a lonely profession to begin with, but now even more so.

Friend, I believe with all my heart that we will get through this and God will continue to use us (and yes, even all our books that come out during this season). But right now, I also want to tell you that it’s okay to be disappointed and to grieve whatever losses you are experiencing.

I refuse to live in fear. But I do cry—for friends and family who have already died from this virus; and for dreams and hopes that must be recalibrated now.  

God—the One who created us and loves us all—knows all about lament. Another writer—King David—often wrote down his lament.

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? …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)

Can you relate to King David’s words? What do we do with pain and discouragement?

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. Since we are writers, it seems logical and healthy to process our pandemic lives through writing. 

If you (like me) are feeling helpless (or even hopeless), may I suggest you join me by reading one of the Psalms of Lament in the Bible and using the same elements, write. 

Writing 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 loss. Articulate your feelings as you think of the suffering, deprivation and hopelessness.
  • 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 situation.
  • 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 when our world turns upside down and the future is unclear. But it’s a beginning. 

Cry out to God. He will answer. 


Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping you Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the author of 15 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her award-winning books include LIFE-GIVING CHOICESSOUL STRONG (2020), DWELLING PLACES (2017 Christian Retailing BEST Award for Devotional)ORDINARY GRACES  (2018 Selah Finalist), LIVE THESE WORDS, and Refresh! Lucinda, a member of the REDBUD WRITERS GUILD, received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs for The Write Conversation, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Blog and (in)courage. Whether co-directing  “RENEW ~ RETREAT FOR NEW ENGLAND WRITING,”  pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Lucinda’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things.  Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at https://lucindasecrestmcdowell.com/ Follow Lucinda on Twitter: @LUCINDASMCDOWEL


  1. Lucinda, thank you for this guidance about processing grief, and that laments are legitimate. God has been teaching me this lesson, also using Psalm 13. I appreciate your “how to” pray guide.

  2. Many times in grief I have “written out” my sorrow and felt better. Thank you, Lucinda for pointing out that this is a time like that, because there is so much going on that we have never experienced before, it is hard to pinpoint all the rapidly changing emotions. I believe you have hit the nail on the head here. Good plan. :)

  3. Thank you for wise words and plan to turn to Scripture, Lucinda.

  4. I have not been able to do much writing due to a fall I took pon March 2. I have been doing a lot of devotional reading throught Lent and now into Eastertide. Peace and blessings to you.

  5. Such good words, Lucinda. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Beautiful. Thank you.