“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…” II Cor. 4:8a
I’ve often felt like Paul, hard-pressed on every side or perplexed due to the many areas of discouragement I’ve faced. Unlike Paul, I’ve often felt crushed and in despair. Yet, when I pray about staying strong, God always gives me a way to battle discouragement. He showed me three areas where I often come under attack. Once recognized, I’ve found them easier to combat.
D—Distant. These are people I don’t know well, but who have contact with me. For me as a writer, this can include readers, critics, sometimes industry professionals. I don’t believe any of these people intend to say, or do things to discourage me, but critical comments often cut deep. Even when most of me reader letters are very positive, notes like the following are more memorable.
I bought one of your books to give her granddaughter, started to read it first and realized you must never have opened a Bible in your life.
I can’t tell you how much that letter hurt. I love God’s word, and I love sharing scripture, so that attack was more painful than most. She didn’t say why she came to that conclusion. She didn’t even give her name or contact information. Perhaps, she was being honest from her perspective, but her words wounded me and made me doubt my abilities.
Intimate—These are people I come in contact with on a regular basis, people I know pretty well—family, friends, co-workers, and church people. Once again, they don’t mean to dishearten, but often do. Early in my fiction writing career, someone close to me asked, “So, when are you going to write real books?” This person meant non-fiction books, because they didn’t believe in reading fiction. They thought my fiction writing was meaningless. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on reading preferences, but that question belittled my work. God called me to this work of writing. This person’s comment discounted my ministry as if my calling wasn’t important.
Self—The hardest battle of all is to quiet my critical inner self. I am my own worst enemy at times. When I see others more successful, or in a place where I want to be, I tend to put on my figurative hair shirt and question what is wrong with me. The answer of course, is that as long as I’m doing my best, and working hard, I’m right where I should be. I’m not the one in charge, God is.
I love looking at the story of the Israelites when they were led to the promised land. I can relate to those men who saw the giants and were afraid. When I look at the ‘giants’ I mentioned previously, sometimes I’m tempted to run away. I don’t want to face the hurtful criticisms or complaints, but in Deut. 1:28, the Israelites excuse of “our brethren have discouraged our hearts,” was considered rebellion.
Therefore, I find I need to remember Joshua’s words to the Israelites as they prepared to enter the promised land: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God iswith you wherever you go.” Josh. 1:9
My writing success doesn’t depend on others, or on myself, but on God. He will go before me. He will heal me when I’m wounded or hurt. He will be alongside me no matter what.
When I understand God is right there with me, I can take the DIS out of Discourage, leaving me with the COURAGEto face anything.