Living and Writing Through Storms

ACFW Advice, Authors and writing, Encouragement, Friends of ACFW, writing 10 Comments

By Tara Johnson

“If only this toothache would go away, I could write another chapter on the problem of pain.” ~ C.S. Lewis

When my debut Engraved on the Heart released last year, I lost count of how many people said, “This will be the most exciting year of your life.” It was, but not for the reasons they thought.

Six months before the book released, my mother underwent brain tumor surgery and spent half a year in the hospital. My daughter faced sexual advances from a once-trusted friend and betrayal from another, resulting in crippling panic attacks and a severe anxiety disorder. Our family was plunged through a gamut of personal trauma on every level, and I learned this lesson in spades: when you step out to do something big for God, the enemy paints a target on your back.

Despite the turmoil, deadlines still loomed. Responsibilities cried to be met. I felt pulled from all sides, unable to breathe, much less write. So, what’s a writer to do when the storm closes in?

I had an epiphany during the hazy mess that marked this past season. I came to realize why I write. Writing to win over the masses or for my own personal ego is a broken cistern of despair. Nor do I write to escape. Instead, I start each book with a question I don’t know the answer to and ask God to reveal the answer as the story unfolds. To reveal Himself.

In other words, I write to know God.

Navigating the nebulous unknown can be difficult when the light is dim, so here are a few things that helped me as I waited for Him to make Himself known.

  1. Be present.

Creation is brimming with inspiration. God speaks to us in so many ways but He often requires us to become still before we can hear Him. Creative content, like beauty, is all around us. We must train our eyes and our hearts to see it.

  1. Be a sponge.

In the middle of a storm, it’s exhausting to rise from bed each morning, much less string together words of timeless wisdom. Taking care of yourself, and your creative well, is doubly important. Read works by other authors. Set aside time to watch that movie you’ve always wanted to see. Download podcasts on screenwriting and listen while taking a long walk. Feed your creative soul.

  1. Stay close to Jesus. I cannot emphasize this enough. He is your Life, Light and Hope. Be like Mary of Bethany. Each time she is referenced in Scripture, she is found at Jesus’ feet.

He isn’t just walking us through the journey. He is the journey.

As hard as it may be, don’t run from your storm. God may use it to birth something new.

I was signed with a Christian record label for ten years. When I was diagnosed with gastroparesis and began losing the ability to sing full concerts, confusion flooded my heart.

“Lord, You told me You would use my voice to lead people to You.”

As I poured out my frustration through writing, someone suggested I attend the national ACFW conference in St. Louis. I sat in my first class, listening with rapt attention as the instructor taught on the distinction that should mark each author’s unique voice.

It was then God spoke to my heart.

Tara, you can have a voice and not have a voice.

No matter the reason for the storm, it can draw us closer to the Author of Life and remind us why we write in the first place…to know Him.

Don’t run from your storm. What God might be doing with your writing during the hard times. @TaraMinistry #ACFWBlogs #writing #encouragement Click To Tweet

Tara Johnson is an author, speaker, and writes stories that help people break free from the lies they believe about themselves. Tara’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (Tyndale) earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, among other accolades. She is a history nerd and adores making people laugh. Find her at




Comments 10

  1. Tara, golly, that sounds like quite a year, in the worst way. I’m lucky in comparison; two fatal cancers, but my problem’s pretty simple. Choose to live, period. So far, so good.

    A poem for you. Hope you like it.

    Sometimes the storms just won’t quit
    and you’re battered to the bone.
    You suspect it’s not the worst of it;
    “Lord, for what must I atone?”
    The waves are breaking o’er your head,
    and in the blood-red gloaming
    come the footsteps of the walking dead
    in their evil, heartless roaming.
    Now’s the time to reach within,
    and not for bravery’s loss.
    Forget the flaying of thy skin;
    lash thyself unto the Cross.
    He whose Blood the wood hath stained
    shall hold the heart you feared disdained.

  2. Awesome Awesome Awesome. Thank you my sister in Christ. Thank you for sharing and reminding us of God’s unfailing love mercy and truths for our lives. We all face battles of some sort if we try to live a life for God. I sympathize with Bethany most because the same thing she has gone through has happened to me. It had left me more scarred then even I realized. But God is amazing in His healing. I love you Tara.

  3. Oh, Tara, those storms teach us so much. Thank you for sharing. I know that during the time my husband was battling cancer, I was pulled in so many directions trying to keep up, but it’s our faith that pulls us through and makes us stronger. God is amazing in how He uses the worst of times to make the best of times on down the road. Remember Galatians 6:9 and never give up. Your trust Him has carried you this far, and He’ll never let us down or fail us.

  4. Thanks, everyone! Your stories have encouraged me, just as I know they are shining lights to those you meet. God is so very good to meet us in our storms and with us through them.

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