by Nancy Farrier
With over 400,000 books in print, Nancy J. Farrier is no stranger to the ups and downs of the writing life. That combined with being a worship leader and Bible study leader has given her all kinds of valuable lessons on discouragement–and its solutions!
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…” II Cor. 4:8a
During my writing career, I’ve often felt like Paul, hard-pressed on every side or perplexed due to the many areas of discouragement I’ve faced. Unlike Paul, I’ve often felt crushed and in despair. When I prayed about staying strong, God gave me a way to battle discouragement, showing me three areas where I often come under attack. Once recognized, they are easier to combat.
D—The first area is those who are distant to me. These are people I don’t know well, but who have contact with me: readers, critics, sometimes industry professionals. I don’t believe any of these people intended to say or do things to discourage me, but seemingly insignificant comments often cut deep. Even when most of my reader letters are very positive, notes like the following too often have a greater impact:
“I bought one of your books to give my granddaughter, started to read it first, and realized you’ve never opened a Bible in your life!”
I can’t tell you how much that hurt. I love God’s Word and I love sharing Scripture, so that attack was more painful than most. She didn’t say why she came to that conclusion. She didn’t even give her name or contact information. Perhaps from her perspective she was being honest, but her words wounded me and made me doubt my abilities.
When I first faced these types of criticism, I would be depressed and question my calling and my ability. Now, I understand that I have no control over what others perceive in my writing. My job is to please God–and only God.
I—Second on my list are those intimate to me: family, friends, co-workers, church people. Once again, they don’t mean to dishearten, but all too often, they do. Early in my fiction writing career, someone close to me asked, “So, when are you going to write real books?” This person meant nonfiction books, because they didn’t believe in reading fiction. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion or reading preferences, but that question belittled my work. I felt what God called me to do for Him didn’t count or wasn’t important.
I find it harder to face discouragement from family and friends. I used to want to justify myself and my writing to them. Now, I thank them for their comments and go to God with the issue they raised. I want to be aware of what God wants from me, not what other expect, but I also don’t want to ignore a change if it’s God’s plan.
S—Third on my list, and perhaps the worst to battle, is self. I can be very hard on and critical of myself. When I see others more successful or in a place where I want to be, I tend to question what is wrong with me. The answer of course is that as long as I’m doing my best and working hard, I’m right where I should be. I’m not the one in charge, God is. Now, I’m learning to recognize those moments when I am my own worst enemy. I realized I’m elevating myself in importance and instead return my focus to God. His plan for me is perfect and does not depend on the plan He has for anyone else.
I love looking at the story of the Israelites when they were led to the Promised Land. I can relate to those men who saw the giants and were afraid. When I look at the ‘giants’ mentioned above, sometimes I’m tempted to run away. I don’t want to face criticism or complaints, but in Deuteronomy 1:28, the Israelites excuse of “our brethren have discouraged our hearts” was considered rebellion.
Therefore, I find I need to remember Joshua’s words in Joshua 1:9 to the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” My writing success doesn’t depend on others or on myself. It depends on God. He will go before me. He will heal me when I’m wounded by others. He will be alongside me no matter what.
Writing is a solitary and difficult business. There are so many distractions I wouldn’t have with that nine-to-five type of job. The pressure can become especially bad during the holiday season, when I have to juggle writing with all the extras of shopping, wrapping, mailing, entertaining, and on the list goes. To avoid getting depressed in a time that should be filled with wonder, I have to maintain focus on what is the most important, and keep my eyes on God.
When I understand God is right there with me, I can take the DIS out of Discourage, leaving me with the Courage to face anything.