I love writing, but lately I haven’t done much of it. You might even say I’ve been avoiding it.
For me, this means more than a lack of hitting “publish.” Avoiding writing is steering clear of how I adequately process my own feelings, behavior, and sin in light of the Gospel and God’s grace. In doing so, I avoid the intentional and methodical examination and exaltation of God’s work in my life. I avoid enjoying God in a way He has wired me to enjoy Him. I’ve spent months analyzing why I’m avoiding writing and I’m stumped. Maybe it’s setbacks, disappointments, writer’s block, or old-fashioned laziness. I just don’t know. Whatever the cause, the Lord is teaching me how quick I am to avoid worthy things because they are hard.
First, there’s the physical and emotional commitment. For me to write, I need to go to bed early enough so I’ll get enough sleep to wake up and write while it’s still dark (and quiet) in the morning. It’s committing to explore parts of my life in light of God’s character and Word, even when I don’t fully understand. It’s being uncomfortable in the tension of the mysteries of God and begging the Holy Spirit to bring wisdom and discernment. It’s waiting on God for words and trusting in His goodness even when they don’t come. It’s hard.
Second, there’s the crippling weight of perfectionism. I want to do everything perfectly the first time. (Prideful, much?) I want to be eloquent, funny, relevant, engaging, and also humble. I want to use the “right” words to point to Jesus the “right” way, never distracting from the gospel. I want to write in a way so Christ impacts and compels people more than my words or stories. Successfully doing all of these things, is hard.
Then, there’s the embarrassing sinful temptation that crops up from writing. Let me assure you the ugly snare of compare is alive and well. I am tempted to look to other writers’ accomplishments and respond in sinful jealousy, discontent in my own abilities and giftings, or my own lack of accomplishments and play a lot of “Why not me, God?” games. Giving up all together seems way easier – the struggle against my own flesh is just hard.
Last but not least (I’m painfully aware this is not an exhaustive list) in this dirty string of distractions is the temptation to judge my obedience, faithfulness, and success on how I feel and what I see or don’t see. Let me clarify. “If I don’t have high enough blog traffic, a book deal, or people beating down my door for x,y, or z, my writing isn’t fruitful.” I look for visual markers of my own determining to encourage and validate me in a discipline I’m confident God is calling me to (for whatever His purposes are). And when my obedience doesn’t play out the way I thought it would, I’m tempted to throw in the towel because it’s too hard.
It’s embarrassing how ease-dependent, performance-related, fear avoiding, and results-driven my faith can be. Not only is it embarrassing, it’s mournful. One of the greatest gifts of writing has been the way it frees me from my own false thinking and reminds me of the great promises of the gospel. Avoiding writing, has essentially been avoiding the intentional strengthening of my faith muscles.
The Lord Is Not Surprised.
tells us we have a need for endurance – we need to persevere when things are hard.
I am encouraged to know my problems are not new to the Lord. He takes thought for people like me (and all of us) and instructs me throughout His word to take courage. For this reason, I find the book of Joshua very encouraging. Here we see the promised land God’s prepared for His people, Israel, ready for the taking. The time has come for God’s people to enter the land. But even with all of the years of God’s faithfulness and all of His direct promises, the Israelites have to do hard work to take the land. God calls them to be strong and courageous, knowing that the Lord their God is indeed with them ().
God reminds the fearful Israelites time and time again to put their hope and their trust in Him. The battles He calls me to aren’t over land or unruly cities but God calls me to draw from the same source for my strength and courage as I follow Him obediently into battle against my own enemies. How I long to have faith like Joshua, strong and courageous, moving forward, trusting in God’s character. I want to do hard things because His glory is infinitely worthy of my obedience.
Let’s not forget, God called Jesus to do the hardest work of all. My sinful lack of self-discipline, piddly perfectionism, arm wrestles with my own fallenness, and results with obsession may feel hard – but they pale in comparison to the real work Christ accomplished. reminds me to: “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”Christ obediently surrendered himself for me even when it was excruciatingly hard for Him ().
Rubber, Meet Road.
Being strong and courageous may not feel strong and courageous – it may just feel like uncomfortable flailing. Latch onto this truth: God’s mercy through Christ is for you, even in your flailing. Even in your disobedience, in your struggle, even as you avoid things God calls you to pursue. Christ died for you, putting to death once and for all your need to perform perfectly for your salvation. Because of Christ, pursuing God through obedience and faithfulness is no longer a burden but a mercy! The gospel is hope for the hopeless, rest for the weary, and perseverance for the avoiders.
So, here’s the tension: knowing the importance of endurance and faithful obedience doesn’t always equal doing. I want to do hard things but I do not always do the things I should (Thank you, ). And most of the time, I run. I haven’t wrapped up this struggle with a neat and tidy bow. It’s an area of my life that is unfinished, a work in progress. But today, being strong and courageous looks like hitting “Publish” when there isn’t a catchy closing with resolution and asking for you to pray for me to be faithful and do hard things for His glory.
Today, obedience looks like rising with sleep in my eyes and confessing my failures, in hope. God is working and making all things new. Where He is convicting me of weak and sinful character issues, He is also working to sanctify, redeeming my brokenness for His glory.
Is there anything you’re avoiding today that God is asking you to be strong and courageous in? How is God challenging you to persevere in hope?
“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. (ESV)
6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. (ESV)
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (ESV)
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (ESV)
19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (ESV)
11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (ESV)