JSB: Resting From Rejection
Recently, a family member wrote me about a situation concerning one of her close friends. Her friend was living out a terrible choice knowing full well it was wrong, yet not wanting to give it up. It rocked my loved one’s world.
She wrote that she was still not sure how to handle it, but was starting to feel angry. Why? I wrote, in part:
"What you're going through is a grieving process. They say there are five stages of grief:
You are in the anger stage, and expect to go through some other emotions, too. Eventually, though, with God's help, you can "accept" the "situation" (not approve of what she’s doing, but accept that this is the way things are, and you can only go to God with it, and that's a good thing)."
I then mentioned that I was going to be preaching soon on Psalms 6 and 23. It’s interesting to take these two Psalms together. David's life always had trouble in it, but he handled it by determining to remember God's goodness (even when he didn't feel it). Finally, he could look back at the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23, which I think was written near the end of his life. Reading these two Psalms in tandem teaches us an approach to any grieving situation.
Writers, of course, go through this process whenever they are rejected (and remember what one pro said, "Rejection of your work is never personal, unless it’s accompanied by a punch in the nose.") When rejection comes for one of our pet projects, we can go through stages of grief. It’s natural. In times like that, remember David’s words in Psalm 6:
I am worn out from groaning;
all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.
But then he turns to remembrance, and declares God’s answer as a "done deal":
The LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
Yes, David still faced many an enemy, many a trial. But he always turned his mind back God’s protection, rescue and nurture.
He could finally write Psalm 23. I particularly like verse 2, and particularly in the good ol’ King James Version:
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
The term for "green pastures" in Hebrew means "tender grass," the kind of place that is for resting. "Still waters" are what sheep need for refreshing, as they will not drink from troubled waters.
These are the places God leads us, even in times of trouble, times of rejection, times of mourning.
So what do you do when another project returns to you, unaccepted? Well, you’re a writer. Why not write your own Psalm? Write the way David did. Let the emotions out on the page, and end with your declaration of trust in God. Let him lead you to the tender grass beside still waters.
Soon enough, you’ll be ready to get up and send out more work into the world.
James Scott Bell