Theology

God Gave Me This Blog Post

God gave me this blog post.

By invoking divine inspiration, I have guaranteed that you will read this post and possibly give me money to read more.

Sound like a stretch? Then what if I just wrote or said:

“God spoke to me.”
“I was led to write this.”
“God revealed this to me.”
“I have been called to write this.”
“I believe this is an inspired post.”

In the Christian publishing industry, editors, publishers, and literary agents hear these phrases all time. (And I suspect they are heard in the aisles and parking lots of churches every week.) I’ve heard them on the phone, in person, and in writing … in varying degrees. Everything from “If you don’t accept this book idea you are not a Christian because God gave it to me” to “The Lord has laid this on my heart.” Obviously, the first is outrageous; but what is wrong with the other one?

Often a writer will approach me at a writers conference, lean in, and say in whispered tones, “I know I’m not supposed to say this, but I truly believe that God gave me this story.” I know what they mean. They are trying to express their passion for their work and their sincere belief that it is life changing. I do not doubt their earnestness or their truthfulness. But it can be a problematic thing to say, especially when prefaced with “I know I’m not supposed to say this.”

Granted, some of this comes out of an author’s nervousness when pitching to an agent or editor. Many told me later they didn’t remember a single thing they said during those few minutes. But still, it is important to guard your tongue.

The Bible is very clear that God speaks to us via His Spirit, sometimes through other people in writing, speaking, singing, or actions. We are admonished, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies” (1 Thessalonians 5: 19-20). But note in the next verse (v. 21) the apostle Paul wrote, “Test everything.” The apostle John wrote further, “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). 

But to invoke divine inspiration in a pitch session with an editor or agent can be seen as an attempt to force acceptance. In other words, if I say no to the project, then I’m guilty of impeding the work of God Himself. 

I have had authors tell me, point-blank, that God told them I should be their agent. Bold? How do you think that sounds from my perspective?

Therefore, the next time, before casually or intentionally using this type of language:

  1. Consider your motive. What is being accomplished by invoking divine inspiration? A legitimacy that was somehow missing before the statement crossed the lips? An expression of passion and sincerity? Is the phrase being used as manipulation?
  2. Consider your audience. The publishing professional being addressed has already made the assumption that God is inspiring a lot of people a lot of the time. That is intrinsic to the artistic process. We assume that you are passionate about your work or that you feel it is inspired in some way; otherwise you would not be showing it to anyone. An honest, sincere, devout person may have been inspired to write something. That is normal.

    (By the way, I’ve yet to have someone invoke the alternate form of inspiration (“the devil gave this to me”)!)

    A few of the more sarcastic among us may be tempted to respond, “God told you but forgot to tell me” or “Really? God did that? Please sign this dotted line so we can get busy with publishing it!” You see how silly and mocking this can get?

  3. Consider your source. Annie Dillard wrote, “Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?” (Teaching a Stone to Talk, page 40). Are you really speaking for God? Are your words supplanting God’s? Or adding to them? That is a danger of invoking God’s name in order to validate one’s material. “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God … so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). And, “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36).

So before anyone takes offense, I’m not trying to “quench the Spirit.” Instead, I’m encouraging a bit of caution when talking this way among publishing professionals. 

Would you be surprised to know that I heard this in 1992 at the very first writers conference I attended as an editor? I was a newbie faculty member. I’d been in the industry as a bookseller, but had never been at this type of conference or knew what a one-on-one pitch session was all about. That first day, a person sat across from me and with glistening eyes and a shaking voice declared, “God gave me this.” It didn’t feel right back then either.

Leave a Comment

Author Statement of Faith

I hope this isn’t a surprise, but if you put a hundred random, but devoted Christ-followers in a room, you would probably end up with a few differing opinions on a variety of theological issues. Hopefully, the disagreements wouldn’t be related to the essentials of the faith; but I suspect …

Read More

The Pressure Is Off

Last week, I wrote about the pressure on writers to write well and compelling enough to gain and keep readers. Today, I promise to take some pressure off. For Christian writers only, if you feel the pressure to affect a reader’s life rests entirely on your own ability to write …

Read More

Our Essential Work

My husband and I recently attended a ceremony for a milestone event, after which we felt depressed for several days. The memory still leaves us despondent. Why? Because no one invited the Lord. No one mentioned Him in any way, shape, or form. I waited helplessly to hear His name. …

Read More

In Your Time (A Writer’s Prayer)

Heavenly Father, you make everything beautiful in your time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). I submit to your timing. I await your timing. I desire what you will, as you will, when you will.  That goes for my writing, too. I long to touch lives with my words … in your time.I want to write passionately, effectively, impactfully …

Read More

31 Ways to Pray for Your Writing

I consider prayer to be an important—indispensable, even—part of the writing life. I’ve written about that here, in fact. I’ve also written and published 31-day prayer resources (here and here). So, I thought I’d offer here a 31-day prayer plan specifically for you and your writing. See how nice I …

Read More

Success

I am using the 20th year remembrance of the death of Clifton Hillegass as inspiration to make a larger point about the direction an author’s life can take. Clifton (pictured above is his statue in Kearney, NE) was the creator of CliffsNotes and passed away in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the …

Read More

When the Outlook Is Bleak

by Steve Laube

In the constant ebb and flow of this industry we have authors celebrating and authors in tears. Ask any agent and you will hear the same. For every author excited about their new contract there is another experiencing bitter disappointment.

And I wish I could fix it.

To hear the anguish is difficult, but to be the one who delivers the bad news is heart-wrenching. Why is it that they seem to come in bunches? So what do you do when you run into the inevitable disappointments the writing experience throws at you?

Read More

Read “A Christian Reading Manifesto”

Last year David Steele created this document: “A Christian Reading Manifesto.” It bears review for those of us in the writing of books and those who believe in the power of reading said books. Given the efforts of our secular culture to redefine words and their meaning, his statement “Reading …

Read More