I don’t know about you, but I loved Steve’s blog post on Monday, When the Outlook is Bleak. People out there are HURTING.
I was with a friend a few days ago, a best-selling author who was battling an especially difficult edit. Difficult because the edits weakened the book rather than strengthened it. She’d uttered a series of gut-deep sighs, read me changes that I agreed didn’t make sense, and finally sat there, shaking her head.
And then she stopped. Straightened. Fixed me with a somber gaze and said:
“Today, in this very moment, someone is sitting in the doctor’s office, receiving the worst news of their life.”
I started. “What?”
She drew a deep breath. “At times like this, I have to restore my perspective. I have to tell myself that somewhere, right at this moment, a mother is saying good-bye to a dying child. A family is losing a home to foreclosure or disaster. In light of all of that, what does a difficult edit matter?”
So saying, my friend shrugged off the mantle of discouragement that had settled over her, smiled, and got back to work. I didn’t hear another heavy sigh or complaint from her.
Seeing this struck–and convicted–me. As you may know, I’ve been fighting computer issues since late March. And I’m still dealing with some of the problems. Had to call tech support again just yesterday! And I was SO FRUSTRATED! WHY CAN’T THEY GET THIS FIXED?? I’M LOSING WORK TIME!! AAAAHHHHHH!!!!!
And then my friend’s words echoed: “Someone, in this very moment…”
I drew a breath, and let the thought come: Someone in this very moment, has just lost everything to the fires raging in Oklahoma.
And then more thoughts, but these were about people I know and love…
A young friend has just been told she has a disease that may kill her.
A friend is facing foreclosure on her home.
A man who has cared for his special needs grandkids just took one of them to the ER, and had to go home without her. Doesn’t know if she’ll come home or if she’s lost to him.
I felt the shift inside. My anger over computer issues was, in a word, ridiculous. A waste of emotional energy. I covered my face with my hands and spent time praying…for my suffering friends, for those who have been touched lately by disasters, for those facing life-shattering issues.
When I was done, I called tech support again. But this time I wasn’t angry. Only appreciative of the fact that I have been blessed with the computers I have–and with those who can help me overcome the problems.
So what’s my point?
Everyone faces discouragement. Especially those of us who have chosen a career path in publishing. Discouragement, rejection, broken dreams…they exist in abundance in this field. But those of us who seek to honor God in our writing, editing, agenting, we need to remember that while things get ugly from time to time, we’re doing important work. Not for ourselves. But for the One who called us to all this. Who walks with us down every road and detour. The One who is not surprised at what comes to us, but rather is using those obstacles and frustrations to refine us.
My dad, a retired pastor, shared this illustration with my hubby and me today:
A woman went to visit her mother, telling her how discouraged she was, how weary of all the struggles in life. The mother took her into the kitchen, set three pots of water on the stove, turned the heat on high. In one pot she put carrots; in the second, she put an egg, in the last, coffee grounds. After about 20 minutes, she turned off the heat, fished out the carrot and the egg, and asked her daughter to tell her what changes had taken place.
“The carrot’s all soft and squishy,” the daughter said, “and the egg is hard boiled.”
The mother then poured the water from the coffee grounds into a mug, and had her daughter sip it. “What change has taken place?”
The daughter smiled. “The water’s been changed into a delicious coffee.”
The mother put her arm around her daughter. “So then, we have a choice when the heat is on in life. We can grow soft and squishy, like the carrot, or hard inside like the egg. Or we can be like the coffee grounds, and change the water around us into something rich and refreshing.”
Let’s give that a try, friends. Let’s let God use the hard times, the discouragements and frustrations, to refine and perfect us. And then let’s let Him use us to change the world around us, and bring a richness of spirit and a refreshment of the heart to those we encounter.
Peace to you today.
I suppose, if that approach works for you, go with it. But when it comes to people looking at other people’s problems, I think some people are quick to dismiss what they are going through because it isn’t the death of a child or the doctor giving them six months to live.
Right before Jesus died, he washed Judas’s feet. As he was hanging on the cross he made provision for his mother. And he died, for all of us, saying, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” He seemed to dismiss what he was going through to pay attention to what others were going through.
It’s not that computer troubles, money troubles, editor troubles, aren’t important. It’s that in light of eternity the only reason these troubles matter is that they press against us and give us opportunity to exercise faith in Christ and grace toward others. When we have computer troubles we can say, “I hate this! Stop hassling me, Lord.” Or we can say, “Maybe the computer repair guy has been praying for his finances. Maybe he had extra medical bills this month. Thanks, Lord, for giving me the money to help him.” By turning our focus onto blessing the other guy and away from whining about our own troubles, we live happier lives, we change the world for the better, and we become Christlike.
You really don’t think we should be quick to dismiss computer woes and edits we don’t want to do? Do you really think we should spend a lot of time and energy weeping over things like that? I think feeling sorry for ourselves over things like those is a waste of energy. God says we are to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. Even in the death of a child. How much more in the death of novel or a computer.
As I said, if that works for you, great. But we need to be very careful about dismissing the things that make other people cry. Who are we to say that their fears and their worries are unimportant?
OK, but I have to tell you I was scratching my head when I read your comment over on the hartliine blog today. 🙂
The whole point of this post, I thought was that we ought to dismiss what makes us have our pity parties and we ought to not dismiss what makes other people hurt.
Karen, at least wasn’t dismissing other people’s injuries. She was simply saying she was kicking discouragement over her rebellious computer to the curb.
Great post, Karen, and timely for me as I’m working through my own difficult edit. It’s important to keep perspective and to pray for others going through difficult times, as well as ourselves. Now you’ve inspired me to drink a cup of delicious coffee and tackle that difficult editing job! Thanks!
Thanks for refreshing my perspective. While we should never discount that what we’re going through is a trial and a heavy load, we can view it through a more positive lens. Creating a habit of being positive despite what life throws at us trains to brain to seek that path the next time.
Thanks for the reminder.
That was lovely, Karen. Thank you for that.
Thanks for encouraging us to put our troubles into perspective. Compared to most of the world, most of the people reading this blog are very wealthy. It’s important we remember this and stop acting like spoiled, selfish children when we don’t get everything we believe we’re entitled to.
I love the carrot/egg/coffee picture.
Profound. Especially the carrot/egg/coffee picture as Sally stated. Thank you!
Such a timely, post, Karen. It brought me to tears. I often do the same thing–remind myself that I’m greatly blessed and my hardships are NOTHING compared to so many others. Everything is relative. Thanks for the reminder!
How encouraging is this! Thank you for dishing out this wise advice, along with a very understandable illustration!
Thanks Karen. that’s a illustration I’ll remember for a long time.
Such a beautiful illustration!
Thank you for this timely post. God give us trials (problems, sorrows, failure) to build endurance in us. To show us where we need remodeling. My husband and I have been through financial loss, job loss, loss of a daughter and parents through the separation of death. All dark,discouraging and depressive times. But in all this we learned these are opportunities to have your heart and emotions roto-rooted to give you a greater capacity for compassion and joy.
Life’s problems will make you bitter or better. The choice is ours to make. Thanks again for a great post. A time to refocus the lenses we look through each day.
Great post, Karen. I love the story with the boiling water. What a wonderful way to illustrate that truth.
One of the countless things I love about God is that He cares as much about your computer problems as he does about the homes lost to fires. He cares as much about your client’s edits as he does about the sick children. As hard as that is for us to believe sometimes, it’s true because he cares about us, and what grieves us grieves him.
He wants us to keep our problems in perspective. He wants us to have grateful hearts, and he doesn’t want us complaining. But he also wants us to depends on him for everything, the big stuff and the seemingly small.
Thanks for a thought-provoking post.
Thank you, Karen. What an important reminder for me. I’ve been complaining about a minor physical discomfort lately, yet I have a friend dying of stage four colon cancer–leaving two young children and a husband. It puts everything into perspective when we can count our blessings and see things from a God-view rather than a me-view. And the writing? What better way for God to hone us into Christ likeness than this incredibly difficult journey.
Great reminder!! Thank you!
Such a great reminder, Karen. Perspective is everything. Where are my eyes focused? On me or on the world around me? My hope is that I can see beyond the trials I face to grow in compassion for those in my world.
When I’m frustrated or disappointed that something isn’t working out the way I want in my writing life (and real life), it helps to remember those who are dealing with life-changing circumstances and pray for them. I may not be able to do much more, but I can lift them up to the Savior. This helps in maintaining a good life perspective.
Rebecca Barlow Jordan
Great post, Karen. My father was a pastor, too. An old Indian proverb used to hang over his office: “I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man who had no feet.” It always helped me keep perspective. He was a great encourager and probably was one of the greatest influences in my life to help me become an encourager. Everyone needs encouragement and compassion!Your post reminded me of my need to keep constant perspective. God has given so much! How can I complain about anythng?
Wondeful reminder, Karen, thank you!
Thanks, Karen. Reading your blog post today gives the day a right perspective.
Over the years I’ve realized a verse I learned as a child carries deeper meaning than we usually think. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice in it,” says it all. The trick is learning to rejoice in the ordinary day and ordinary frustrations, instead of just slogging through. m learning.
Your wise friend summed up that practice well. We all know it’s true, but we forget. Thanks for the reminder.
Love the reminder to have perspective. And to keep a heavenly one at that.
So appreciate all your comments. Love reading your thoughts.
Karen, your post was a comfort to me on a very personal level today. Our family is currently facing a difficult situation related to the steadily worsening cardiological problems of our 27-year-old son, who was born with multiple disabilities and has had four open heart surgeries so far, and another pending in the near future. Caretaking for him consumes much of my time and energy. Needless to say, my writing ambitions and difficulties have been on the back burner lately, but I was strengthened by your words.
So often, many of us are consumed with relatively petty distractions and worries that obscure the unending flow of grace and blessings we take for granted every day. While I agree with Timothy Fish that comparing one person’s suffering to another’s does not lessen anyone’s burden, I do think we all are called to find reasons for gratitude in every set of circumstances, and this can include being aware of, and thankful for, the bad things that AREN’T currently happening in our lives!
Many years ago a man at our church used to start every public prayer with the phrase “Lord, we thank you that things are as well with us today as they are.” I have carried that thought in my heart for over three decades now. I have never known a circumstance where it was not an appropriate prayer. Thanks again for a most helpful post.
Wonderful message, Karen. Thank you so much! I’m working through edits right now, along with some domestic issues, and needed the reminder. Bless your dad, and you, for sharing the story.
S. Kim Henson
I love the carrot, egg and coffee message. Perfect. Just perfect.
This makes so much sense and is easy to remember — until the next time my computer does something funky.
Great post. Love your dad’s story. Perspective
Rita Stella Galieh
Hi from Down Under!I am scheduled to blog on the International Christian Fiction Writers Blog. It was also about Frustration. I’d like to use that wonderful illustration your dad gave you. It’s so simple and yet so very profound. Thanks Karen.
Sure, feel free to use it. Just please credit the Steve Laube blog when you do. Thanks!
Discouragement comes with life. But while we are discouraged about one thing, there are probably a dozen other things to rejoice over. Just gotta keep it all in perspective and in prayer. Great post!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts today – what a beautiful message of grace and mercy. Sally made such a wonderful point about Jesus setting aside His own suffering so that He could reach out to the thief on the cross beside Him – and in so doing, ushered another soul into grace. If I can set aside my own frustration long enough to help another see a hint of Christ in me….
I came over here for the first time today. This is precisely, exactly what I needed to read. An answer to the prayer of my heart. May I be coffee. Always coffee. 🙂 *Thank you*.
Good stuff, my friend. Discouragement comes in all shapes and sizes. Thanks for the balm.