As we trudge down the long publishing road, hoping for our first (or our next) contract, it’s tempting to give in to envy. I’ve heard about “writer envy” on many writers’ email loops. One person gets a contract and everyone cheers. Congratulations and good wishes fly—as thick as a flock of starlings. But then a writer posts, saying she’s ready to quit. All she’s gotten are rejections. And she’s depressed.
Why does success for others tempt us to despair? We can be perfectly happy one minute, and fall into a depression the next. News that someone else got a contract from a publisher we were hoping to sign with can cause envy to flare. We know it’s a sin to covet our neighbors’ contracts—but we struggle all the same. We want to be happy for friends when they get good news, but we wonder why God isn’t blessing us. When is it going to be our turn?
It’s always our turn for joy.
We choke joy out, though, when we expect temporal things to give us fulfillment. No matter how many “things” we pile up—how many accomplishments, how much money, how much fame—it will never be enough.
If we’re depressed before we’re published, we’ll be depressed after we’re published. There will always be someone else with more contracts, more awards, more bestsellers. If we see earthly success as indicative of God’s love and blessing, we’re bound to be disappointed. We’ll always think he’s giving someone else bigger blessings.
But that’s not how God works. He doesn’t give the biggest contracts to his favorite children.
A friend of mine who was a basketball coach tells me that every year on her basketball team she had girls who didn’t get to play much. They were on the bench not because she disliked them, but because they lacked skill.
Was my friend being unfair to make them sit out? Does every girl deserve to play? What if some of the better team members had scholarships riding on the team’s performance? Would it be fair to them if the coach played the unskilled girls?
You may say writing isn’t a team sport. But it is, kind of. All of the Christian life is a team sport. We’re part of a team. Part of a family. Part of a body. If publishers put out bad books, readers will quit buying, and publishers will go out of business. Then the whole team will suffer.
Sometimes unpublished writers, like unskilled basketball players, simply need to keep writing. Keep practicing. Take time to learn. If God called you to publish, that doesn’t mean it will happen right away. Joseph spent time in prison. David spent years in the desert. The call and the consummation don’t come in the same instant. There may be years of preparation. Don’t despair. Wait patiently on the Lord.
But what about the writers who have put in years? They’ve studied, they’ve nurtured their talent, and they still can’t break in. What about those folks?
Those writers need to fill up on God’s love and let it squeeze out every other longing.
God’s the coach and he’s also the Father who loves me. I’m thrilled that he lets me watch with him from the sidelines. I’m thrilled when he puts me in the game even if I only get to assist while another team member gets to shoot and score. I want my team to win.
Maybe you’re on the bench this year and you want to play. Maybe you’re playing, but you never get to shoot. Wait patiently. Your Father is wise—the best coach around. He loves you and he’s preparing you for the work he’s called you to do. Rest assured: At the perfect time, he’s going to give you the ball.