Recently I attended a conference where many people there received one blessing after another.
In almost every way, anyone would have considered the gathering a success. But only a few in attendance knew how many years, how many prayers, and the names of those who’d labored so hard to provide this opportunity.
In front of me sat a woman who I knew had worked for decades to make this conference what it is today. I leaned over and whispered in her ear, "You know, most of the folks receiving such blessings today have no idea the years that you’ve invested for their benefit. Thank you.”
She turned to me with tears. “So many times, I’ve felt like quitting.”
You see, when God calls us or gives us a vision, the road can get really steep and rocky, and we feel like quitting.
What will help when we find ourselves in a hard place and we see very little return for all our labor?
Pray and Read God’s Word. I can’t overstate how important it is to find quiet time before the Lord to pray when discouragement sets in. If we don’t find it, our feelings will rule us, and we’ll start entertaining those discouraging thoughts. We can’t just stop having those thoughts, but we can replace them with God’s truth, which we find in his word. A wonderful resource I’ve used which teaches how to do this is a book Beth Moore wrote, Praying God’s Word. Read and pray God’s word everyday to stay grounded in truth.
Listen to Mentors. It helps to read works from those who’ve been your mentors. On my desk, I keep Walking on Water by Madeleine L’engle and an anthology of her writing reflections, Herself. Turn to those God has used to speak to you in the past. If you’re blessed to have someone who’s accessible, make an appointment and have a talk. You’ll leave renewed for the work ahead.
Set Goals. At the beginning of every year, I set goals for my creative endeavors. Also, every year, I have to adjust these goals. Sometimes my time doesn’t work out the way I think it will, or a project takes longer than expected, but goals give me something to shoot for when I don’t feel like anything much is happening. It’s important to have long term and short term goals, so that if the waiting grows long in reaching long term aspirations, accomplishing the short term, more achievable goals can give encouragement. I’ve found when I’m waiting on an editor’s response, or contest results, that working towards my next goal helps me through those times.
Review the Call. I have a folder of all the messages I believe God has given me concerning writing. When I grow discouraged, I pull it out, and review. It helps me see this journey was not something I came up with on my own, but something to which God led me. If you don’t have a folder like that, it’s not too late to start one.
Surrender. Sometimes we work so hard and so long, we forget that it’s not about what we do; it’s about what God does. When what started as a joy becomes a heavy burden, that’s a clear sign that you’re carrying the load all by yourself. Once more, bend the knee, and surrender it to Him.
I started writing this post last night, and this morning in Streams of the Desert, the reading just happened to contain these words:
“Do not pray for easy lives! Pray to be stronger men (and women). Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.” –Phillip Brooks.
If we allow God to give us power equal to our tasks, we become a miracle.
Though my friend at the conference may never receive much public recognition for her work, her perseverance has helped her see the fruit of decades of labor—so many blessed in the Lord. She is a true inspiration to me. Like her, we have to be willing to work without thought of recognition, but simply for the glory of God. And when we stand the testing in this, we do become a miracle.
So if you feel like quitting, read again these words in Hebrews 12 from The Message, “God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment’; it’s training, the normal experience of children…Discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out.
And run for it!”
Running with you, friends.