Thursday, August 31, 2017

All Good Things ... (And "When Things Don't Turn Out The Way You Wanted")

You know what they say - that there's a time for every good thing to end.  Well, I would like to end this blog on these posts, some of my favorites (along with the “How I Broke” post and the series on predestination in April). 

But since I still have more posts from my other blog to break up into smaller pieces for this one, I will be adding new posts in random places throughout the past 8 months.  Just slipping them in anywhere I can.  (And I will be continuing to add posts to one of my other blogs -    

In general, it doesn’t matter when they are dated or where they are placed.  (But if it does, I will note the date that they were actually written.) 

I know this might make it a little inconvenient because it means sifting through the past 8 months for new posts BUT … it doesn’t really matter since no one is reading anyway.  So I am going to do this for me, to have the “ending” that I want yet still being able to add new stuff when I feel like it.

And now ... "When Things Don't Turn Out The Way You Wanted":

What happens when you’ve poured your heart and soul into something you thought God wanted you to do … and yet it doesn’t work out, maybe it even made things worse?  What do you do then?

Throughout the past 5 years, I have been posting things on-line on my blogs.  In the beginning, I felt like God wanted me to do it.  I believed that I had words of wisdom and truth and encouragement to share.  I really wanted to use my story to help others, to bring people closer together and closer to God, to make people feel less alone in their struggles and pain, and to bring glory to God’s name.

But I can probably count on one, maybe two, hands how many page-views my blogs get in any given week.  (Thank you to anyone who has visited.  I noticed every time you did.  And it meant a lot to me.)  But this is something I expected because I am not tech-savvy and so I haven’t promoted my blogs like others do theirs.  

But that’s not what gets to me.  What gets to me is that having blogs has actually damaged my friendships and beat up my self-esteem pretty badly. 

I’ll explain ...

When I began writing, I had high hopes that it could help people, especially those I know.  That it would open up lines of communication and bring us all closer.  That it would help people in their walks with God.  And I was nervous to share what I wrote.  To be so transparent and vulnerable.  I wanted to choke up every time I said, “I’ve got a blog, if you’d like to check it out.”   

But I shared it with dozens of people I know – church friends, close friends, acquaintances, family, etc.  Because I felt “called” to do it.  But in five years, only one person I know has clicked on a few posts.  And that was it.  No matter how many different ways I tried to get people to read my blogs, no one seemed to care.  No one bothered to read anything I wrote.  In fact, people even came up with excuses:  “I don’t like reading things on-line … I have too many books to read already … I am too busy … I would love to (but they never did).” 

[And when the pastor at my church clicked on a link to my blog that I left on the church's blog (my introverted way of sharing my writing with my church), he immediately wrote a new post on the church's blog which was rather critical about the topic I talked about, clearly inspired by what he read on my blog.  In all fairness, he didn't know the comment was left by a member of his own congregation.  And he didn't directly criticize my blog or post.  But I knew it was my post that inspired what he wrote.  Yeah, that was embarrassing.  And it squashed the last bit of hope and enthusiasm that I had left.]

What I thought would be helpful and draw people together actually made me feel worse and more withdrawn.  It seemed to affirm the fact that I really didn’t matter to people, that I didn’t have anything to say that’s worth hearing, that I couldn't make a difference. 

And over the years, it’s caused me to pull back from people more.  (There were many more contributing trials over these past years, not just the blogs.)  It's caused me to shut up more around people because "What does it matter anyway, no one cares about anything I have to say."  It’s made me question if I really should have ever started a blog to begin with, if God was really in it or not.  It’s made me feel like I am truly destined to fail.   

And I am sure that many people out there feel this same way, but with different circumstances.  So how do we deal with this?  What should we think about it all, when what you felt "led to do" back-fires and makes things worse?

When you feel like you somehow failed at something everyone else succeeds in, it can be crushing.  It hurts to sit on the sidelines, to feel overlooked, to have to be happy for everyone else when they get what they want while you have to struggle with yet another heart-ache.  I felt like I somehow missed the boat that everyone else got on.  Everyone else says things on their blogs like “God told me to write this blog.  But even though I was nervous about it and afraid it would fail, I obeyed Him.  And God blessed my faithfulness and my efforts with many readers and the chance to touch the hearts of many people.  Ohh, and look at the new book I just published and the blogging award I just won.”

But what about when you are the one who didn’t make a difference?  When it wasn't your time?  When your dreams crashed and burned?  When no one showed up for you?  When your best efforts weren’t enough?  When your “faithfulness and efforts” made you feel more alone and more like a failure?  When it shattered any positive view you had of yourself? 

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on this.  (And I’ve had to be careful to not be bitter about those who do succeed, to not get lost in self-pity.)  I’ve asked myself “If I could go back, would I write these blogs if I knew it would turn out the way it did?”

And the conclusion that I’ve come to is this:  It doesn’t matter.  It can’t matter because I don’t know what would have happened if I did things differently.  I already did what I did, and I can’t change it now.  So I can’t dwell on “what might’ve been.”  I can’t wonder if I’d still feel close to my friends instead of more distant.  I can’t wonder if my self-esteem would be better because I wouldn’t have experienced this “rejection.”  I can’t keep thinking that I wasted all this time on something so pathetic.  I can’t care if things would have been “better.”

I can't keep looking back, wondering "What if ...?"

Life is not supposed to be lived from the back of a station wagon - sitting passively, eyes glazed over, looking backwards at all the places you've been.  It's supposed to be lived on a bicycle - pedaling along diligently, keeping your eyes focused on where you're going, enjoying the scenery, and following after the Lord in the direction He's headed.  

And truth be told, this time period is only a snapshot, a step on the foggy path which leads into an unknown future.  I can't know how (or if) God might use this, if my efforts will ever accomplish anything.  

But I do know that if I never attempted anything, I would be 100% guaranteed to accomplish nothing

But now, even though there are no benefits or rewards at this time, my writing is out there for God to use someday, if He chooses.  It's there for the one hurting person who might stumble upon it in a moment of need, looking for some encouragement.  It's there to help tip the scales of what's on the internet - to add a bit more of the godly stuff when so much on the internet is so ungodly.  It's there ... waiting, ready, and available for if and when God wants to use it.

And that's really all God asks of us.  He doesn't ask us to make things happen or to make things work out perfectly or to be successful in all we do.  He asks us to show up.  To be waiting, ready, and available for Him to use us to accomplish His goals when He asks, in His time. 

He doesn't tell us to "succeed," He tells us to obey, to be faithful, to do whatever we do for His glory and to let Him determine how to use our efforts.         

And as much as it hurts, He doesn't promise us that life will turn out the way we hoped or expected.  But He does promise us that He will walk with us on this journey of life and that He will work all things into something good, even if that only happens in eternity.

Even most of the people in the Bible didn't have life work out the way they wanted or expected.  Hebrews 13:39 says "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised."  They had been promised things and they had dreams, but they didn't see it or experience it fully in their lifetimes. 

And that's something we need to remember:  Death is not a deadline.  Promises from God don't need to be fulfilled before we die.  Rewards don't need to acquired this side of eternity.   

Because while death feels like an ending to us, it's just the beginning to God.  Eternally speaking.

Our hopes and dreams and goals might not get realized on this side of eternity.  Our efforts might not accomplish what we want them to accomplish while we are alive.  But we can trust that God will use our faithfulness in the spiritual realm, that our efforts will come to fruition in eternity and make a difference for eternity. 

And that's what really matters.  The things we can't see, not the things we can.  The eternal effects, not the temporary ones.   

Looking back on this experience, I have to change my focus about why I did it and who I did it for.

In the beginning, I did it because I thought I could make a difference.  I thought it would help people and that I had something special to share.  I thought it would bring people closer together and deepen my friendships.  I thought I could help people experience more of God’s love and healing. 

It did none of that.

But while it wasn’t good enough for anyone else and it didn’t matter to anyone else, I have to decide that it’s “good enough” – that it’s worth it - if God was pleased with it.  (And honestly, it helped me to write out what I was thinking and going through, because I didn't have many people to talk it over with.) 

You know, I look and I see all these successful blogs and authors, people who are saying the same thing I try to say, and I think to myself "God doesn’t need me.  Look at all the people He’s got out there doing better than me.  He doesn’t need me."

And you know what?  He doesn’t need me.  He doesn’t need my blogs or my words.  He doesn’t need anything from us.  But He does want us.  He wants our praise, our faithfulness, our diligence.  He wants us to draw near to Him, to cling to Him, to run to Him when we hurt and need help and are failing and feel like we are not enough.  He wants us to honor Him with our lives, even if no one else sees or values what we do.

It’s not about any kind of earthly success or about what the world thinks of us.  It’s about if it matters to Him, if it touches His heart. 

He saw my efforts, my desire to help others and to honor Him and to share His Truth and Love.  He knows that I poured my all into it, that I did my very best, with the best intentions.  He saw the sacrifices.  He saw my heart’s motives.  He saw me.  Even if no one else did.

Even if no one else showed up, He did!

And that has to be good enough for me.  Even if what I did makes no difference for anyone else on earth, God was glorified by it in the spirit realm.  Angels and demons witnessed my hard work and my faithfulness, even if no one else saw it.  And God’s name was praised!

And through it all – even though it hurt – I grew in faith.  When our hearts are broken, our faith gets tested.  Our trust in God.  Our motives.  Our heart’s desires.  Pain and failure have a way of purifying these things, if we let them.  And I was deliberate about maturing in my faith through the heart-ache, instead of letting it pull me away from God.

And that kind of success can't be measured on the world's scales.  It isn’t visible to the world.

But God sees it.  He alone defines true success.  And success in His eyes looks very different from success in the world's eyes.  My rewards will be waiting in heaven, and I’m good with that. 

And so now I can be content knowing that it didn’t have to work out the way I expected for it to be worth it.  And I can genuinely thank God for this opportunity to serve Him and glorify Him and to grow in my faith through the heartache.  And I can celebrate when I see successful blogs on-line that are sharing God’s love and truth and encouragement.  May His name be praised and may He get all the glory!

(And now it’s time for me to get on with other areas of my life.  So I will be “passing the baton” - adding links on the right side-bar to some of the blogs that I enjoy.  Read them and be encouraged and praise God for their heart, wisdom, and faithfulness.)           
Take care and God bless!