When God has given us a task, like writing, it’s imperative we keep our focus on Him and His purposes. Because the second we don’t, we may very well be creating a foothold for the enemy of our souls to gain access to our hearts and spirits. Come discover how to protect yourself from the spiritual foothold of discontent.
In Ephesians 4:27, we’re warned: “…do not give the devil a foothold” (NIV). The NASB says it this way: “…do not give the devil an opportunity.” But what does that mean?
What kind of opportunities, or footholds might we, as writers, give the enemy? And if we discover we’ve done that, how do we get rid of these footholds?
What is a spiritual foothold?
A place where a person’s foot can be lodged to support them securely, especially while climbing.
There’s also this definition: a position providing a base for further efforts to advance (as in a military invasion).
A spiritual foothold is a place in your heart and spirit where you give the enemy an in, where he can be lodged and supported, where he can be secure in his work to bring you down. The longer you allow it, the more it becomes the “base,” so to speak, where the enemy makes progress in his effort to undermine God’s work in your life, impacting your emotional, spiritual, and even physical well-being.
Once you give in to the temptation to go against God’s guidance, it becomes that much easier to tempt you to do so again and again. And for you to give in.
When we allow destructive tendencies into our hearts and minds, they work very much like water does on sand or dirt. They erode the stability of your foundation of faith. Think about building a sandcastle on the beach. The tide comes in and your castle collapses.
Once that happens, you’ve opened the door to more footholds being created within you. It’s a vicious cycle.
We’re going to address some of the most common footholds for writers. Those places where we too often are weak and vulnerable, and give in just long enough to give the devil an opportunity.
Foothold #1: Discontent
We’re starting with this foothold because it’s sneaky. It’s the kind of thing that creeps inside us in little, seemingly harmless ways, but once it gains a foothold, it’s pervasive. It can color everything we do and think.
What is discontent?
Discontent is lack of contentment; dissatisfaction with your circumstances. For writers in particular, it’s being discontent with our career. Thinking we “deserve” more or that things “should be different.”
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Am I discontent? How do I know?” Here are some things to watch for:
Signs of Discontent
This can be grumbling against God, or publishers, or marketers, or sales teams, or readers: anyone or anything that is, in your mind, hindering your “success as a writer.” You’re grumbling about the things people do, the things they say, how hard it is to write, how your back hurts, how your computer is too slow, how Amazon’s algorithm is messing with your sales, or whatever.
Ultimately, if God gave you this task, these are grumblings against God, because He’s not making sure things happen the way you want Him to.
“I’m a better writer than ______ so why don’t I have the sales he does?”
“Why did she win that award? My book is way better!”
“Why did that agent pick him up when I’ve got a much better platform?”
Exaggeration is trying to make more of yourself, your work, your success than is true. Let’s call this what it is: lying. It may start small. I mean, who is it going to hurt if I say I sold more books than I really sold? But one small lie doesn’t stay small. Lies have a way of growing and spreading, until one day you find yourself having to tell lie after lie to keep the illusion going. Bottom line: God won’t honor lies.
4. Demeaning Others
“That writer is a hack, but I guess that’s what readers want because they don’t know any better.”
“Publishers won’t take a chance on me because my books tell the truth, I don’t sugarcoat it.”
If we allow ourselves to put others down in an effort to build ourselves up, we’re not just walking, but we’re running into sin.
We’re ignoring Scripture like Philippians 2:1-4. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
We’re all on the same team. We want God to be glorified, and people’s lives to be changed. Let yourself demean someone else, and you’re providing one heck of a foothold for the enemy.
”I’ll never be as good as __________”
“Why do I even try?”
“What made me think I could do this?”
Four sources of Discontent
1. Unrealized or Unadmitted Expectations
When we start our journey as writers, we often don’t even realize the expectations that dwell within us. But as things don’t go our way, as awards go to other writers, as contracts don’t materialize, as sales fail, rejections pile up, or whatever, deep inside the grumbling starts.
“If I’d known it would be like this, I never would have tried.”
“What’s wrong with me or my writing?”
“Why don’t I have a book contract yet?” Notice how that statement reveals my expectation that I would get a contract? On my timeline? But when God gives us a task, He rarely tells us the outcome, we’re just supposed to be faithful.
“Why does this have to be so hard? If God wanted me to write, it wouldn’t be so hard!” Well, guess what? Under that statement is a giveaway of my expectation: that doing what God wants me to do is somehow easy. HA!
When you’re feeling discontent, you’ve got to dig deeper to figure out what’s going on. Do a check on your expectations and if they’re not in line with God’s Word, then realign them.
2. Thinking You’re Not Living up to Others’ Expectations
We’ve all heard it from someone—family, friends, even strangers who find out we’re writers: “Are you a best-seller?” “Would I know any of your books?” or that soul-crushing “When are you going to get a real job?”
3. Comparison to Other Writers’ Work or Careers
One of the most damaging things you can do to yourself on your writing journey is take your eyes off of God and plant them squarely on other writers. Looking at their success and making that a measurement of your own success.
Entitlement is thinking you “deserve” more. After all, we’re spending all this time and money and effort, we’re spilling our guts in our books, we’re doing everything God has asked, so where’s the return?
This can motivate us to go to extreme measures to achieve what we think we deserve. Folks, that’s striking it out on your own. That’s your own plan, not God’s.
Sometimes our extreme measures are even at the expense of others. You end up seeing other writers as a threat to your deserved success. Again, we’re all on the same team.
Scriptural Warnings Regarding the Foothold of Discontent
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1
Our “race” is already marked out by God. What we do, how well we do, what becomes of our writing, that’s in His hands. Yes, we need to work toward excellence, but with the purpose of bringing glory to Him, not to ourselves.
”Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6
Think about why this verse starts with: “Keep your lives free from the love of money…” Money is a nice thing to have, but we’re supposed to love God first, God most. God is our treasure. Money comes and goes. God stays with us always and forever. Nothing can separate us from Him or His great love for us. That’s our treasure.
We’re not just warned against discontent with God, but against discontent that focuses on or is aimed at others:
“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” James 5:9
Then there’s Psalm 78. The entire psalm is about God’s people, right on the heels of His provision and protection, grumbling against Him. Not because He didn’t care for them, but because He didn’t care for them in the way they thought He should. Because they didn’t get their way. Or they didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it.
Rather than focusing on God’s goodness and miraculous provision, they grew discontent, and allowed that to move them to slandering God.
If we’re honest, we have to admit that most of us have, at some time on our writing journey, been dogged by the demon of discontent.
“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11b-13
We’ve read those words many times. I’d venture to say we’ve read them so often we gloss over them. “Yeah, yeah, Paul was content no matter what.” In fact, it’s far more likely that we are saying, deep in our hearts, “We have learned, in whatever state we are, therewith to be discontent.” Because what we’re going through is so much harder or more or whatever than anything Paul faced.
But folks, think for a moment what, exactly, Paul endured. His path, if you will, to contentment involved being:
- Whipped five times, each time receiving forty lashes
- Beaten at least 3 times with rods
- Stoned in Lystra and left for dead
- Shipwrecked 3 times
- Being beaten in Philippi and thrown in to prison
- In, as he says in 2 Corinthians 11, “in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
And us? What exactly are we discontent about? That our sales are low? That our manuscript got rejected?
Then there’s the fact that, right after Paul’s amazing conversion, the Jews plotted to kill him when he spoke in Jerusalem against the Hellenists. The Jews in Antioch persecuted Paul and banned him from their region.
So with all that in mind, let’s read Philippians again:
“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11b-13
Five Cures for Discontent
Trust that God has a plan for you and your writing. That He knows what’s best. That He has HIS purpose and timeline for you and your work, and whatever that is, it will be far more wonderful that what you want.
Keep your focus on God, not on what is or isn’t happening in your career. Remind yourself WHY you’re doing what you’re doing: obedience, to help others, to share your experience of God.
Acknowledge that God is God, that He is sovereign, that His wisdom is far beyond any wisdom you may have. That He will do what He will do. That we need to not just trust Him, but have a holy fear of Him, understanding that there are consequences when we allow ourselves to grumble against Him or rebel against His truths. Acknowledge with our mouth and with our behavior, that God has the right to do whatever He wants.
Let go of your expectations. Lay them on His altar and leave them with Him. God will reward our obedience in His ways, in His timing, and because He loves us, not because we “deserve” anything.
Be grateful for what you have. Now. More than that, savor what God gives you, whatever it is. Keep your eyes and heart open every day to see the blessings He has for you. Know that everything that comes to you is by His hand, and thank Him for it. Be grateful that He’s asked you to write, whatever His purposes.
And, always, always, remember the unimaginable grace He’s given you. When we’re having trouble with feeling entitled, especially, it’s a sure sign we’ve forgotten the meaning of God’s grace to us.
Christ Gives us Strength to fight discontent
Remember, these five cures we’ve given you aren’t done in your own power. Go back to what Paul says in Philippians 4:13. Where does his strength come from? It’s Christ who gives us strength. Lean on Him to help you do these five things.
Bottom line, as you embrace these cures for discontent, understand one important truth: If you’re not content in your circumstances now, whatever they may be, you won’t be content in any circumstances. Thinking sales or success or accolades or money will give you a spirit of contentment just isn’t true. Because when you think these things, you are believing your source of contentment is in circumstance.
There’s only one source of true contentment—contentment that will withstand any of the trials and struggles and the enemy’s attempts to gain a foothold—and you know, in your heart of hearts, that that source is God.
So today, let’s embrace the wondrous truth of Proverbs 19:23:
“The fear of the LORD leads to life, So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”
We want to hear from you
Have you struggled with discontent? What helped you?
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