Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sarah's Laugh

Has God ever spoken something to you that you had a hard time believing? Or maybe you believed it once, but as time has gone on, that promise has seemed to flicker and fade?

Seems so much of a writer's life is spent waiting. We wait for clarity, for direction. Then we wait for feedback. We get rejections, so we change our stories. We study and grow in the craft. And then we wait to see if we're yet ready, hoping with baited breath that this will finally, finally be our time.

Can you relate?

Sometimes, in the midst of all that waiting, doubt begins to creep in. We don't always even know that's what's going on. Maybe it's one particular comment a contest judge made, or even a friend. Maybe those around you seem to be making leaps and bounds of progress in their writing journey, meanwhile, you're where you feel like you've always been... waiting.

It can be so hard to hear God's voice in what feels like silence. Have you ever searched, longing for direction, for even a whisper of clarity, and felt like God was hiding out?

Often, I think we shortchange the work of God in our lives. When something seems to be fizzling out, we're quick to get discouraged and leave that project or calling behind, instead of pushing through to the higher purpose God has for our lives. Or, if we do push through, we do so with heavy discouragement and hunched shoulders, filled with doubt and self-consciousness rather than standing strong.

This week, I was reading the story of God's promise to Abraham and Sarah. First, God tells Abraham (then Abram) that he's going to be the father of many nations and richly blessed. Abraham says God must mean He's going to make one of Abraham's servants an heir, to which God says, no--the heir is going to come from Abraham's own bloodline. Already, Abraham's insecurities begin to crop up. He has trouble stepping out in faith because he can't see past the obstacles he's constructed in his own perception.

Then Sarah comes up with a plan. She tells Abraham to have a child with her maidservant because she herself is too old to bear children (a situation which, by the way, God still redeems--meeting Hagar right at the point of her need).

You would think this would give God reason to go back on the deal. But instead, what does He say? He comes to Abraham years down the road--Abraham is now 99--and reaffirms He is going to establish an "everlasting covenant" with Abraham and his descendants. I don't know about you, but this story brings me peace that God does not forget the promises He has declared in our lives, even if we mess up along the way.

Later, three men--an image, I would say, of the trinity--appear before Abraham, and they ask him where his wife Sarah is. He tells them Sarah is inside the tent. This is what follows:

"Then the Lord said, 'I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.'
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was well past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, 'After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?'
Then the Lord said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.'
Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, 'I did not laugh.'
But he said, 'Yes, you did laugh.'"
-- Genesis 18:10-15

How many times do we, like Sarah, struggle to believe the promises of the Lord in our lives? How many times do we go as far as laughing at them, then reminding God all the reasons we can't do what He says we will? Think of Moses, struggling with the idea of leading the people of Israel. This concept isn't a new one, even in Biblical times.

When we fail to believe in our ability to carry out the promise of God in our lives, we fail to step into our calling. Like Sarah, we shift our focus from the "could be" to the current obstacles we're facing.

Maybe your doubts are not stemming from feeling too old and dried up. Maybe it's just the opposite. Maybe, like Moses, you feel unqualified. Maybe you've received some harsh feedback that you've taken to heart, and now you doubt your ability to convey emotion on the page, to be vulnerable, to even hear the word of God in your life. Maybe tough circumstances have left you feeling emotionally paralyzed. Maybe you've grown so tired of getting rejections that you just feel like giving up.

I have news for you. Sarah was 90 when she had her first child.

God is a faithful and just God, who will fulfill the promises He has spoken over our lives.

It may take one day, or it may take a hundred years. But that makes no difference. God made a mighty nation out of Abraham's descendants, more numerous than the stars. He didn't give up on Sarah, even when she doubted His word. And He won't give up on you. Keep keeping on. One day, you're going to see the fulfillment of His promise--and just imagine what a glorious day that will be.

Do you struggle with doubt over being a writer? (Don't we all?!) When do you find this doubt hits the hardest? How do you keep it from entangling you and distracting you from your calling?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blogFacebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


Susan Anderson said...

What if your truth as a writer is scary and personal? Does God make room for that too? I question him on that. Is is just my flesh wanting to put pen to paper? Is it material meant for me alone? Can someone else benefit from my truth? Either way, I've got to write. Maybe just not hit the submit button. Thanks Ashley.

Karen Schravemade said...

Aaaah.... Feeling quite convicted right now.

Favourite line: "reminding God all the reasons we can't do what He says we will." Hmmmm.... Not that I'd ever do that, or anything! :P

Karen Schravemade said...

OH, and this: "God does not forget the promises He has declared in our lives, even if we mess up along the way."

I need to print that out and stick it to my laptop. Or maybe my forehead.

Jeanne T said...

Ashley, profound thoughts in here. Yes, I struggle with doubt, am stuggling a bit right now as I try to figure out my characters' journeys for my next book. Was I crazy to think I could write more than one book? In my own strength, definitely. With God's help, definitely. I just have to remember to trust His timing and His leading, rather than be discouraged when He doesn't work/open up time for me to work to my own deadlines. :) I'm definitely clinging to the truths you shared today.

Ashley Clark said...

You bring up a great question! I think sometimes in life, all God allows us to see is the next step. It's hard to say whether He's calling you to write a personal story for your own sake or for the sake of others, but I think as you continue to follow Him in that, He'll make the next steps clearer. Sometimes the most touching stories, though, are the ones that come deep from an author's heart.

Ashley Clark said...

Aw, Karen, I am so glad it encouraged you! I really felt led as I wrote this one... Definitely something I think we all struggle with... How do we go about shifting out focus to God's infinite ability when we feel so weak? I loved this story of Sarah when I read it because it shows we don't have to be perfect to receive God's dreams for us... We just have to keep moving toward them. Thanks for sharing!

Ashley Clark said...

Thanks, Jeanne! I go through a similar struggle with doubt every time I start a new book. I'm always worried I'm not picking the best plot fort characters or developing them in the right way... I actually wrote about this on my personal blog yesterday. I had a real struggle with this "What if my new book isn't as good as the last one?" question last year after I started my newest book, the first one I wrote as an agented writer. But what I learned and am continuing to learn is that God is so kind to us, and He isn't holding a secret story just out of our reach... He gives us a whole host of colors to paint with, like crayons, and desires for us to cultivate stories from the depths of our heart... Not worry over whether or not we have the "right" plot line. Sometimes it's still hard to let of doubts, but that helps but them in perspective. Thanks for stopping by!

Jeanne T said...

Ashley, I love your description of God and how he gives us a host of colors to paint with when we're beginning a new story. Thanks!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Amazing post today, Ash!

Ashley Clark said...

You bet, Jeanne! It's a concept I struggle to fully understand and believe sometimes, but I know it's true. Nonetheless, I definitely get what you're saying! It's hard sometimes to step out in faith, but isn't it cool how God meets us when we do?

Ashley Clark said...

Thanks, girl! You're so sweet!

Angie said...

Sorry it took so long reading this. Ashley, you certainly do speak right to my heart every time. I wish I read this yesterday because I was in such a struggle with the wait! Thanks, oh wise one. (HA! Sort of.) :)