You get started writing because you feel that God gave you a message, a message you want to share. You speak to others about what God has told you. You write it. You talk about it on the radio.
And then slowly, you realize that your life isn't living up to it. You're floundering. And it begins to feel like you're pretending.
I've had those moments this year, and it's been really tough. I think they're attacks, most of them, accusing us of not having the right to say anything. When you're outside of it, the answer seems obvious. God gave you the message, and the message doesn't change. The truth is still there.
But when you're inside, it can feel very hopeless. I'm sure it's the same in other areas of ministry, too: missionaries, pastors, charity work. The same whispers: how can you go out there all day and pretend to be a Christian leader, when your life is such a mess?
How many writers have we lost to this? How many pastors? How many of us have given up before our time because we feel inadequate? And the hardest part is that once you're seen as an expert, once you have a platform, to talk about any of these issues can be endangering your career.
I think we need to be free to talk about them, in our own circles, and get support. I'm not sure what that would look like. But we all go through dark periods of the soul, and these dark periods should not negate our ministry, except in the worst circumstances. They're really refining moments, when God can teach us even more, though it may not feel like at the time.
I'm emerging from a dark period right now, and I have more hope in my life and my career than I have in a long time. I can really feel God. But it can't be that feeling that keeps me going, or during the next valley I'll be attacked by self-doubt again. We must clarify our calling, so that when we start to feel attacked, the calling itself isn't at stake. That's a difficult thing to do, but I think it reinforces the need for all writers to have prayer warriors working with them and for them.
We need that support group. It's up to all of us to seek it out, because rarely will people take the initiative themselves. But we must. And then, maybe, we'll lose fewer ministry workers to self-doubt and inadequacy.
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Sheila is the author of four books, including How Big Is Your Umbrella: Weathering the Storms of life. She can be found at www.sheilawraygregoire.com.