17 – When You’ve Done Everything Right and Things Still Go Wrong
What if you’ve done everything right—you’ve tackled social media, you’ve refined your skills as a writer, you’ve done all the things your mentors and editor and agent and publisher tell you to do…and your career still doesn’t take off? In this podcast, we’ll address the feelings, and the black-hole reality, this situation creates. And together we’ll explore solutions that will take you beyond the black hole into the light of renewed passion and purpose.
What if you’ve done everything right, and things still go wrong?
We all feel that way at times, whether it’s in writing, our life, our job, our family, this is what happens. Writers can relate to that in terms of their career: you feel that all your hard work doesn’t make a difference. It could be when you pour your heart and soul into a message, and it’s amazing, yet the book doesn’t go anywhere. Or authors who were once best sellers are no longer getting the same sales. Or when a contract is cancelled. Or even with an award winner, the books don’t sell, and so the publisher drops them.
We are doing everything right, and everyone agrees that we’re doing the right things, and yet we don’t see the results we hoped for. We then get disappointed, or feel like everything we’ve done is wasted. We feel discouraged. On the heels of that discouragement, frustration and anger can seep in.
Let’s look at a Biblical man whose life seems to be the quintessential example of “Life’s not fair.”
John the Baptist’s birth was foretold by an angel. Prophecies said he would be great in the sight of the Lord. God gave him a message before he was born, so rightly so, there were many expectations of him even before his birth.
John’s message was to make a way for Jesus…to be a witness, to testify that Jesus was coming. You’d think a guy with this kind of mission before he was born, and whose life’s focus was to fulfill this mission, would be preparing in a place of holy study while being protected and cared for. In actuality, his holy place was the wilderness. It was not an easy life, and in some ways not a respected life by those who were supposed to know religion.
John did his job though. People heard his message and he baptized them. He did everything God asked him to do and was true to his message. Because of this, and his judgement of unbelievers though, he was thrown into jail. But even in prison, John still had the hope, and didn’t doubt. He wondered, though, when Jesus would come and take over. He lost sight of the bigger picture. His expectations were not met.
This is similar to how writers feel…
When it seems like things are really starting to happen, but then suddenly the calls stop, or we don’t get the same great response as before. We try to do everything right but don’t get the results we expect. Sometimes we get so focused on the steps, and where the steps will lead, that we also lose sight of the bigger picture.
It’s not about our career, it’s not even about ability, it’s about obedience.
It’s about doing what we need to do to open people’s eyes to the reality of who God is. Jesus commended John, saying he was the greatest prophet among men. He said John did everything right, and yet in the end, John was beheaded. John’s life seems like it did not line up with his faithfulness. He did everything God asked and this was his reward? What was the point of that?
As writers we could say ask the same question. Maybe our sales have fallen off, or after ten years we still don’t have a contact. We may question why we do this when everything we’ve done just seems like a waste of time.
With whatever happens as a result of our faithfulness to the tests God gives us, we have to keep these things in mind:
We need to surrender, because whatever is going to happen will happen in God’s timing, not ours.
We need to focus. Are we keeping our eyes on God? On bringing Him glory? Whatever happens as a result of our faithfulness, is going to happen in a way that brings God the most glory.
When you are struggling, go back and look at God’s character.
Look at who you know Him to be. You will then start to shift your perspective. Don’t look at your writing and think I did this, so this will happen. That’s not how it works. Faithfulness to God, obedience, they often don’t translate in God’s economy to being successful as the world sees success.
Everything we do out of obedience will come together for what God wants, whether we see the fruit of it or not. Doing everything right, everything God asks us to do, doesn’t mean we will see the results we want or expect, because we don’t have God’s eternal perspective. Like with John, our reward will be in Heaven.
In the here and now, we can surrender to God’s purposes for us.
We can fix our focus on Him and on bringing Him glory in everything we do. In the process of continuing what we know to do, we may gain His perspective. We can then be reminded of what His purposes are and what He wants to accomplish. We will most certainly gain His peace in the midst of it.
If you find yourself in a dark place where it seems like you’ve done everything right, but nothing has turned out the way you want, realize the story is not over. Your path isn’t done. You don’t know yet what the consequences are. You don’t know yet what the reward is. You don’t know what God is doing. We’re still in process. We can only find out from Him, through His purposes, through His perspective, what it will all mean in the end.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
We’d love to hear from you!
Have you found yourself discouraged or frustrated when you did everything right and things somehow just…fell apart?
How did you recover?
16 – Lessons from St. Patrick: Driving Out Your Snakes
St. Patrick’s Day is about so much more than just green and leprechauns and clover. There is a wealth of wonder contained in St. Patrick’s history—wonder focused on God’s redemption and power. Come explore the history and the legend of St. Patrick, and discover truth that will bless you in the deep and beyond.
There’s a lot of myth surrounding St. Patrick, and some traditions that aren’t, well, saint-ish. But we discovered some powerful truths in the history.
What can we learn from Patrick’s story?
He was kidnapped when he was 16 years old and taken to Ireland as a slave. There he served for six years as a shepherd. In this deep place, in the middle of all the pagan practices in that country, Patrick became a Christian.
Got is not bound by walls, or by culture. He speaks to us anytime anywhere.
Patrick wrote that he took to praying at least 100 times today. Over the course of time he felt God speaking to him, telling him flee to the coast, that there would be a ship waiting for him to take him home.
God directed Patrick in the deep.
Patrick obeyed and walked 200 miles to the coast, knowing that if he would have been captured he probably would’ve been killed. This was a blind obedience. How could he be sure there really would be a ship?
But there was a ship. He was able to make his way home, and he began studying to become a priest. For years he continues his devotion to God, and then he begins having prophetic dreams where he hears the people of Ireland calling him to come back. To come and preach Christ to them.
Patrick again obeyed. He went back to Ireland, BACK to his deep place.
God had created a tenderness in Patrick, in the deep place, for the very thing that Patrick hated—for the people who enslaved him, the things that tore him away from his home. He hears their cry and follows.
Patrick found his message in his deep place. He could never have seen that coming while he was in the midst of his slavery. But God had prepared it, planned it, long before.
God put Patrick in the deep place in order to refine him, to give him his message.
In his deep place, Patrick did the exact opposite of what we all want to do in our deep place. Instead of despairing, or wallowing in anger or bitterness, he turned to God. By doing that, he found the purpose God had planned for him.
The Snakes – the World’s Ideologies that have slithered into our mindset, our way of thinking
1. Belittling, Criticizing, Insulting
The political climate today is a perfect example. The main system they use is not communication or discussion. It’s mocking and belittling each other. They insult and lie about each other. As Christians, we need to be aware of this snake, abhorring it, not supporting it.
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:9-11
2. Courting the World’s Favor
An article entitled “The Church Versus the World,” adapted from John MacArthur’s book Why One Way says this: “Why do evangelicals try so desperately to court the world’s favor? Churches plan their worship services to cater to the ‘unchurched.’ Christian performers ape every worldly fad in music and entertainment. Preachers are terrified that the offense of the gospel might turn someone against them, so they deliberately omit the parts of the message the world might not approve of.” (Read full article here)
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” John 15:18-20
We face the temptation to strip Christ out of our books to court the world’s favor and sell more books. But Jesus is a stumbling block. He will always be a stumbling block.
3. Using the World’s Weapons – Language and Graphic Materials
How do we show the darkness without being graphic? We write evocatively not explicitly.
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.” Ephesians 4:29
Therefore, don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by the way we write.
This is the mindset we face: Who are we to say in our books that there’s only one way to Christ?
Relativism makes us lose our understanding of the difference between true and false.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” Isaiah 5:20
How do we drive out the snakes?
Pick up your shillelagh, and have at it! We need to take a serious look at how we act. Combat belittling and criticizing. Uplift others. Promote other’s books, speak well of other writers, honor the ways they honor God in their writing and careers. Do this because it’s right, not because it will reflect well on you.
Seek God’s favor, not the world’s favor. Write and speak truth, even when it’s unpopular. Stop trying to woo people by making the truth of the Gospel more “palatable.” Let God’s word and truth stand as He has given them.
Be sure what you write honors God. Remember, evocative, not explicit.
Whatever dark places you are in, whatever difficult path you’re on, let the legend of St. Patrick encourage and uplift you. Be more Patrick. Look for God, see Him and listen to His truths. And then share them in what you write and speak. Don’t let the snakes—the world’s ideologies—slither into your hearts and minds. Stand for God’s truth—and for those who need to read and hear it.
We want to hear from you!
What “snakes” do you face?
How did you battle them?
There’s nothing like love—nothing so wonderful, and nothing so potentially hurtful. What do you do when the reality of love isn’t even close to the dream of it? Join us for today’s podcast—a follow-up on last week’s podcast—as we explore the cause, struggle, and solutions for the third, and most difficult, hazard of love.
Hazards of love, Unhealed Wounds
We long for love, we search for love, we anticipate the presence of love in our lives in a romantic relationship. And then often times, when it happens, it may be great at the beginning or it may not be great at the beginning. It may be that the reality of love is just so much more difficult than what we had hoped it would be.
So what do you do when the one that you love, the one to whom you’ve given your heart, the one that you trust with all of who you are, has hurt you or betrayed you?
In Webster, it defines betray as to hurt someone. That someone who trusts you such as a friend or a relative hurts you by not giving help or by doing something morally wrong. For us, betrayal is when somebody takes that trust that we’ve put in them, our hearts, and they do something so opposite of what real love is that we can only look at them and wonder how we ever loved them to begin with. So when betrayal comes into play in our romantic relationships, when betrayal becomes a part of love and living the love relationship, it can be extremely difficult to recover from that. To be able to move back into that same relationship–the one that caused you hurt–and feel as though anything can heal it, anything can bring you back to a place of trust.
How do you heal from betrayal or how do you even start?
Obviously in a 15-20 minute podcast, there’s no way we’re going to unearth the way to heal from these things, but there are a few tips that we can give you if you’ve been hurt, if you have the sense that you’ve been betrayed, or if it’s very clear that the person who loves you, and that you love, has betrayed you. There are some things that you can do to prepare your heart and mind to move into healing and forgiveness and restoration.
One of those things is realize that restoration takes time.
Healing takes time. It’s a process. It’s not a one and done. It’s not like you can sit there and say, okay, I forgive you and then everything’s good and then you move on. Even if in your heart you purpose to forgive, even if you make the conscious decision to forgive and to move forward, that hurt is buried deep in your heart. Often times, it’ll just pop up when you least expect it. And when that happens, when it pops up, it can seem as devastating as the first moment you were hit with that betrayal. It’s so easy to want to punish back.
This leads us to another step in how to heal from it: Resisting the urge to punish.
Its tempting to make the other person suffer because you suffered, or to do little things to let him know he screwed up. But that only drags out the process of us moving on.
Another aspect of punishing is that you withhold. You withhold your trust, you withhold relationship. You withhold even the small actions of forgiveness or relationship. You withhold yourself from being a part of their life again. We’re not trying to say there aren’t consequences when someone betrays us, because there are. There is a difference though between the kind of natural consequence and us deliberately making them pay as retribution and deliberately withholding. Sometimes maybe we can’t help it, and that part is what takes time. But we can’t make that deliberate choice to withhold or to cause them to suffer.
How do you avoid making that choice every time those emotions come up?
You take a stand in your heart and mind. You take a stand and you tell those all too human, all too normal emotions that emotions are not a good basis for truth. You can feel the freedom to go through them, and to feel them, but then let them go. The only one who can come in and work that healing, and who will help the other person to see what he needs to repent of, what things need to change, is God. You are not the Holy Spirit in your loved one’s life and that’s hard to recognize. You have to take a stand in your heart and mind every time, and rather than choosing the desire to make them suffer and to pay a price, you choose that this is someone you are going to trust. Again, it’s a process. It’s consistently making the choice to move forward.
How do you trust again?
The answer is the same every time you are hurt, or you hurt someone else. Surrender to God. Take what you think are your rights, what you think the other person should be, everything you think is owed to you, and put it on the altar. Acknowledge the fact that what we deserve, in light of God’s righteousness, there’s no comparison.
We have to recognize that and take all those things that we think are our rights and that we deserve, and just put them on that altar, and say, God, they’re all yours. Show me what to do in this moment. Put your focus on God, on your relationship with Him. Take it off of the one who betrayed you. Take it off the emotions. Again, I’m not saying don’t feel those emotions. When those emotions come and they seem overwhelming, put them on the altar of surrendering to God. He will answer. He will work within you. That means we need to let those go. In the process of forgiveness we also have to let go of what the other person did. We have to forgive that. We sometimes have to do that over and over again, every time we feel those emotions. Consider this scripture:
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25
God gives us His ability to remember our sins no more, to forget. That’s Gods character and God wants us to be imitators of that. If God is going to do that for us, we can do no less than remember somebody else’s sins no more.
Another step is to recognize we aren’t just the betrayed, but we too are betrayers of others, and of the source of love.
We learn through being betrayed ourselves that we too betray others. And we betray Christ. We don’t, and we can’t, be perfect in our relationship with Him. But it’s a fact we will fail, and we will at times betray what we say we believe in following Christ. If we betray, we are in the same category as anyone else, as the person who has betrayed us. There is no gradation of sin. Sin is sin. Sin is a broken relationship with God, whether we see the sins as little or big. God categorizes it all as what contributes to breaking relationship with Him.
We need to recognize that yes, it’s bad when a human betrays us, but we have all at some point betrayed God. We’ve thrown His love and His forgiveness back in His face and we’ve lived in unforgiveness, and in anger, and in bitterness, and we’ve let those things eat away at us.
Realize again what a long process this can be. We have to stay in for the long haul. We can’t have a timeline for this. There are things for us to learn in the long haul. As much as we are needing to feel God’s grace, it’s still about us learning to extend grace. It’s another part of God’s character that He wants us to reflect. It’s part of the long process of understanding love. Not the romantic idea of love. True love, the love that God shows to us is kind, patient, doesn’t hold onto wrongs, it moves into working toward the other person’s good, not just our own good.
It’s hard to embrace that. Love is choices. Love is the decisions we make every day. When people are writing, I hope that’s what they put in there. We all know that for the romance genre, there is an expectation of a happy ending, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be these issues along the way that we can portray authentically and realistically. If you get to the end of your love story, and have done what God has called you to, then you can know there will be a sense of satisfaction, and that the love that you have for each other has been hard fought and hard won, and one that you can be proud of.
What about the reality that some betrayers do continue to betray?
There is no limit to the grace that God extends to us, though we betray Him over and over again. No we are not God, but here’s what I’ve learned. The reality is, we still deal with issues in relationships because we all are human and broken, and we are each dealing with our own needs and our own expectations. All of that comes into play. The whole relationship of love is not an easy relationship.
Look at the truest representation of love in scripture and that’s the book of Hosea where God has the prophet marry an unfaithful woman! She is a prostitute and returns to prostitution. And every time, God says restore her, go bring her back. It’s not because she deserves it, it’s not because she’s worthy of it. It’s simply because God loves.
He created us because He loves us. There is no end to what God can enable you to do in a relationship. Now understand, I’m talking about the emotional issues of feeling betrayed by the one that you trust. If there is physical danger in the situation, get out. But in my situation, I realized, first, that I would never reach the end of what God enabled me to do and, second, I made a vow before God, and there’s only one who can release me from that vow and that’s God.
What about the betrayers who continue to betray?
There’s only one with the answer to that, and that’s God. It’s seeking Him every time. Laying your rights, and what you think you deserve, on the altar and saying show me what you want me to do. I know there are people that God has made it very clear that they are to remove themselves from the situation. My situation wasn’t like that. My answer has been, “As long as I have loved you, you will continue in love for him.”
When talking about all of these hazards, they all have one thing in common. We are dealing with human beings.
Sinful, imperfect people who will always at one point or another, disappoint us. The bottom line? There is no relationship here that can compare to the relationship we have with God. The fact that the love we share together as humans isn’t all that the relationship with God is the consequence of our fallen nature. We cannot love purely this side of eternity. Our relationships can be very good, and they are an example of our relationship with God, but they will never compare to the purity of the love that we know in Him.
One of the most helpful things in dealing with all of this is to come to a real understanding about God’s love for us.
“I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you know the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19
Only when we understood the amazing deep, high, long, wide love of Christ, can we be all God created us to be.
We can’t understand that without Gods spirit in us. But that’s how we love. That’s how we turn into what God wants us to be. It’s all about understanding His incredible, vast, unsearchable, unimaginable love for us. And then asking Him, and His Spirit, to show that love through us to those with whom we’re in a relationship. Even those who have hurt us and betrayed us. To become, in essence, Christ to them and to love them regardless of how they’ve hurt us.
It’s very difficult, and it’s not an easy place to be. We live in a society that looks on marriage as something disposable. If it doesn’t work out, just toss it and we can go find somebody new to love. But the problem is, what society is teaching us about is not love. Society is teaching us about self-gratification. Teaching us about things that are temporal, that will not last, will not sustain. But when you submit yourself to God, even in the midst of great, deep hurt, and beg Him to empower you with inner strength through His spirit, that’s an amazing thing when He responds.
We can’t love others, not real love, not true love, until we do it out of an abundance of God’s love for us. Out of an abundance of seeking God’s love. Seeking to let Him make His home in our hearts and spirits. So as we bid farewell to February, the month of valentines and hearts and cupids and all that stuff, I want to make a decision, and I’m asking you to make a decision, to also say goodbye to those things in your heart and your spirit that have taken root and hinder you in the knowledge of God’s love for you, and the knowledge of God’s love for those with whom you are in a relationship. Let go of your expectations. Instead, open your hearts to God’s longing for, and His love of you. Make it your goal to know the love of Christ as much as humanly possible. Open yourself up to that, because I’m telling you, it will change everything. Rest in that love. Savor that love. Write about that love. Put it on the page, whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, it doesn’t matter. Let that be the love you express in whatever your message is, because we all need to know it better.
We want to hear from you!
Tell us about God’s love for you. Seriously. You need to know it’s true, so write it here for the whole wide world. What helps you feel/hear/see/know that God loves you?