The phone surprised me when it rang today. I wasn’t expecting a call; not even a “Hi, this is the nurse at the school” call. I peered at the called ID and noticed that the number was from a publisher. Shame set in really quickly. I didn’t want to answer the call because I knew what the question was going to be: How close are you to publishing?
The truth is that I stopped writing six months ago. I realized then that the people who would love my book are also the people who would hate my theology and be the most unkind to my mentors. Unable to market this book to a different kind of crowd, I let it go.
But my publisher hadn’t.
“How’s it going?” my agent asked.
“Um…I’ve actually decided not to publish.”
Silence. “But why?”
(inner groans) <<mumbles something about discouragement>>
“I think you’re wrong. I think you’ve put a significant amount of time into this book and there is a greater audience for it than you imagined and you need to rethink your conclusions.”
That’s just it, isn’t it — Discouragement makes it so you can’t see clearly. And not only can you not see clearly, but you end up making poor decisions and choices. It looks a little something like this:
I can’t go back to school (even if one night a week of school means that you’ll be able to financially provide for your children better for a lifetime).
I can’t “do better” and get another partner (even if it means that you are in a psychologically destructive relationship.)
I can’t lose weight (even though I know that eating right and exercising would do wonders for my mind, body, and spirit, even if I didn’t lose the weight.)
I can’t approach my child about <enter touchy subject> (even though not talking to them means that your voice isn’t heard and someone who cares about their future far less will advise them).
Discouragement always leads to the same path: shame for you, and someone else missing out on your gifts, talents, abilities, and blessings. It always causes us to have self-condemnation, and a loss of hope in others’ ability to value us. Discouragement always takes an order from God, intended to be a light for the world, and turns it into a dagger to our own souls that leaves everyone lost.
So how do you defeat discouragement?
The first thing is to let go of expectations. Discouragement will always point out how the goal is to big — too unattainable. So remove that goal. Here’s your new goal:the goal of this task is that I complete it, and that I can honestly say that I gave my best.If no one else benefits from this, you can be assured that you have grown and changed and become a better version of yourself. And that needs to be enough.
Secondly, treat discouragement like a Vulcan. On the hit TV Star Trek series, Vulcans always pointed out how certain actions or efforts were irrelevant or illogical. The famous captains always would smile and say something like “noted.” That’s because discouragement always has a little bit of truth in it — enough that you should pay attention, but not enough that you should let it have power over you. In fact, I’ll save you some time. If you specifically feel that God has asked you to go on a mission, it will seem irrelevant to the world’s standards, and it will be totally illogical. I’m not saying it will be devoid of wisdom. In fact, it usually takes wisdom to understand a call of God and how it can be carried out. But if the time, ability, and money to complete a task are there, and it’s just a matter of choosing to be courageous, then you know what you have to do.
Lastly, discouragement usually thrives when you have a full schedule and when you have been far from your closest loved ones. So circle the wagons. Reach out. Tell people you need them to pray for you. Missions don’t happen in a vacuum. They take cooperation from many different people. That’s why they are so powerful. Missions become movements. And movements…well those change the world.
Love and peace,