Last-minute final papers, weekly discussion posts, and 12-page reports that seem to extend forever—don’t worry, I know the feeling too. For those of us who are students (and some of us who aren’t as well), there are some days—maybe even many days—when writing feels like a chore, something on a checklist to cross off.
My first official exploration into the expansive world of writing came in eighth grade when I began to write short stories. The stories I created ultimately reflected experiences that I was going through, and I was enthralled with the potential always waiting within words and their embedded meanings. Soon after, I discovered the genre of writing that felt like home: poetry. It was as if I’d discovered a new part of my identity, this avenue through which I could express things I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Even now, poetry is a form of expression I continually revisit and embrace not only to provide spaces where others can process their own emotions and experiences but also to ultimately showcase the beauty within creativity and the act of word expression that God has gifted to the world.
Each day, we have so many opportunities and ways we can express worship to God. With writing, each word carries so many different meanings. And when you combine those words into phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and so on, you can create beautiful, powerful, and rich stories that speak to certain aspects of ourselves and the God who created us.
Of course, writing isn’t limited to poetry or any other genre. One of the most valuable forms of writing I’ve discovered is prayer journaling. I love writing my prayers because this rhythm keeps me focused on talking to Jesus instead of becoming distracted. (You can even think of prayer journaling as writing a letter to God.)
But by no means does it need to be perfect. There’s no pressure for the writing to be organized, ordered, fancy, or anything like that. My journaled prayers shoulder some of the messiest writing I’ve ever scribbled into existence, and that’s okay. God wants our prayers to be real and authentic, allowing our emotions to be expressed and unhindered. In fact, this attitude mirrors 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
I wanted to share a poem I wrote in response to Habakkuk 3:16–19 and in some ways to Habakkuk as a whole to demonstrate an example of writing as worship. You’ll even hear direct allusions to the passage at certain sections. More specifically, “Ceaseless Restoration” is both a poem and a prayer that mirrors a lot of Habakkuk’s expressions and emphasizes that, even though we see and experience a lot of injustices in this world, and even though we may feel lost amid the pain and the darkness, there’s hope in the strength that only God can provide and in the restoration that’s already taking place here on earth.
Even now do I witness shadows
surround these vacant thoughts residing
freely within the fractured spaces
of my mind, transforming empty
wondering into attached worries
about my own future
and the future of this world
already decaying in its polluted
nature, its tainted desires.
The fragility of my own self
stretches even further as I seek
provision in places where shallow
advertisements advocate for
manufactured fame alongside
fleeting fortune. I discover
my own words seeping over
the edges of pages again in lament
over the earth and the ways in which
I have pursued its hollow offerings.
Hatred has painted over
the interior walls of many individuals,
creating cracks spreading across
the surfaces already deep within
the divisions, dirtying the beauty
that humanity could be if only
we could see and experience
the love from God embodied
in how we are uniquely different.
Though the forests flood with
frayed branches already slashed
to the ground, and the oceans
spiral with tossed debris that encroach
upon damaged lands,
though pain is plastered across
the injustices present within
the hands of humanity, and hope even
appears lost against the torrential
teardrops covering visible refuge,
I choose to remember
true strength is found
in the Lord and His unwavering sovereignty,
even when uncertainty bleeds
into what may lie ahead, and I will rejoice
in the ways that restoration lies embedded
within the justice that He has already promised.
Like the feet of the deer He makes
our aging feet, and with the mountains
and valleys in the future stand journeys
of growth that blossom within us
and our present longings.
The Words that Await
I said that our journaled prayers don’t have to be orderly or perfect, but I firmly believe that truth extends into all kinds of writing, whether it’s poetry or fiction or any other genre. Even if all that you feel like you can write are a few words, they carry so much meaning already, and God sees how much of yourself you attach to these few words.
I encourage you to try out prayer journaling (or even just writing out your thoughts)! While it may not be familiar to you, it’s an opportunity to grow closer to a God who desires to hear our words, thoughts, and even worries, whether they’re about returning to campus, going to campus for the first time, or what the future may hold.
With all forms of writing, I think of Psalm 19:14: “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” There’s so much to explore within writing. At the edge of our fingertips awaits a form of expression that can point us back to the God who engrained beauty within the creativity of every single word.
JP Legarte is a student attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in English. He is one of InterVarsity's Social Media & Editorial Interns for Summer 2021. When he's not working or taking classes, you can guarantee that, nine times out of ten, he is writing a poem about something in the world.
Even in many places across the country where COVID restrictions are being lifted, and campuses are reopening soon, many things are still difficult with no easy solutions. We can’t avoid the darkness that surfaced in the last year and a half. It can feel overwhelming.