This morning I heard the story of a man who became a pastor of a church. The church was small, both in physical size and population, and after six months of leadership he saw no growth and little success. The man felt sad, wondering why his church wasn’t prospering like he thought it would. When the area group of pastors and church leaders decided to meet to give their annual report on how all of the churches were doing, this small-town pastor felt discouraged. The last thing he wanted to do was tell his peers that his calling wasn’t going exactly according to plan.
He drove to the conference to present his report with an elderly couple from the church. He didn’t mention his discouragement and arrived at a large city church where the leaders and pastors were to gather.
As he stepped into the sanctuary, he was marveled at how big it was. He could fit every church he had worked at in this sanctuary with room still left over. He just stood there, in silence, wondering what it would be like to lead a ministry of that size.
As he was standing there, he felt a hand clasp his shoulder. He turned, noticing it was the man he drove to the conference with. “You’ve got great things ahead, Pastor.” The old man said. “One day, you’re going to lead this church.”
The pastor gave a polite smile, but deep down inside, he was touched. It wasn’t every day people told him he was doing a good job. Why would anyone think he was a success, seeing how his current church was struggling to stay afloat?
But there was something about the man’s words that stuck in the pastor’s heart. You’ve got great things ahead. One day, you’re going to lead this church we’re standing in right now.
That one encouraging moment changed the pastor’s life forever. And twenty-four years later, he’s now leading that big church in the middle of the city, and it’s changing a lot of lives for the better.
I should know, because that church in the middle of the city is the church I go to. And that once-discouraged pastor is the pastor I listen to every Sunday morning.
As writers, it’s easy to get discouraged. Whether it’s writer’s block, rejection of publication, lack of success, or just a plain lack of support from family and friends, it’s easy to feel down and out about your writing. And when it’s something you feel is your “calling”-i.e., something you want to do as a profession or something you feel in your heart that you’re meant to do-when things don’t go as planned, it’s easy to feel down and out. It’s easy to question yourself, doubt yourself, or even quit your dream.
But just because things aren’t going to plan doesn’t mean the dream is over. It may be the dream is just beginning to come true.
Hearing my pastor’s own story on discouragement really encouraged me today. There are times I question why I even bother to write-the success rate of first-time author’s is far from encouraging and I have yet to have a publisher say, “Oh! I like your story. I want to read more!” Rejection letters and criticism (the non-constructive kind) are easily intimidating.
But just like how the man encouraged the pastor, and just like how the pastor encouraged me, I think we can encourage others by our own words or stories. Chances are if you are feeling discouraged, someone somewhere else in the world is feeling the same, and you never know how much an encouraging word can help change a life for the better. Whether it’s encouraging your fellow writers or inspiring your readers through what you write, a kind word can go a long way in making the world a better place.