Seeing Good in the Hard Things

bible study girl lysa terkeurstI’ll never forget the first time I attended a publishing convention, giddy with excitement and weighed down with fifteen copies of my book proposal. I was more on a mission than a college senior looking for a diamond-toting man willing to grant her a Mrs. degree.

Yes, ma’am. My shoes and I clippity-clapped all around that convention floor making appointments and praying that someone, anyone, would like the words I had all packaged up in the professional purple binders.

Because, really, nothing says “bestselling author” like a purple Office Max binder.

My last appointment of the day was with one of the biggest and most respected companies in the Christian publishing world. I couldn’t believe they were even willing to talk to me. Seriously, I kept pinching myself while sitting in their appointment waiting area.

It looked convincing and classy to have red pinch marks all down my arms when meeting with this publisher. Really.

The pitch went okay, but I watched as the publisher put my beloved manuscript in a tall stack with what seemed like hundreds of other people’s beloved manuscripts. And then he scooted me off with some version of the famous last words, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

But all was not lost because, outside the meeting room, a famous author was doing a “meet and greet.” She was BIG TIME! And while I was excited about standing in line to meet her and get a free signed copy of her book, I was more excited about the tray of chocolate-covered strawberries awaiting on the other side. I hadn’t eaten all day. Those strawberries were an oasis in the midst of a dry and weary desert of rejection.

Who needs a book contract when you can hand a starving woman a strawberry covered with the cure of all disappointment — chocolate? I barely remember meeting the author and I’m not even sure I took a copy of her book, but I will never forget the deliciousness that was bound up in that one little red berry.

It was so good, in fact, that I had to have another. But the lady holding the strawberry tray had the only-take-one-or-else look in her eye. So, I came up with the brilliant plan to just go through the line again. I mean, really, who would remember me?

I stood in line again, met the author again, and finally a second strawberry was mine for the taking. I reached out, my mouth watering to the point I had to suck in vast amounts of air to keep from drooling. Right as my fingers were perfectly poised to score the berry, a slap that could be heard ’round the world suddenly stunned my hand.

Everything started moving in slow motion at that point. Every eye looked my way.

And the strawberry guard scolded me in very dramatic fashion:

Y-O-U–C-A-N-N-O-T–H-A-V-E–A-N-O-T-H-E-R–S-T-R-A-W-B-E-R-R-Y!

I would have paid lots of money to have the convention floor open up and swallow me whole. I would forever be known as the glutton wannabe author who tried to take two strawberries and got her hand slapped at the convention. Until, that is, everyone forgot about it two seconds later. But me and my clippity-clap shoes have never forgotten that day.

Many years later, having weathered many, many rejection letters, I finally made it back to that same convention. This time as an author of that very publisher. And instead of toting purple bound book proposals, I was in my hotel room preparing to go to the convention floor for my own book signing.

Again, I was nervous. And again, I was decorating my arms with red pinch marks when there was a knock at the door. I opened it and couldn’t help but double over in laughter at what the bellman handed me.

Me and my clippity-clap shoes thanked him, closed the door, and twirled about that hotel room holding the biggest tray of chocolate-covered strawberries you’ve ever seen!

Life does have a way of eventually coming around. Sometimes it’s in the way we hope, and other times it’s in completely surprising ways. The apostle Paul’s words have comforted me and helped me press on when I honestly felt too weak to face another day:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. — Romans 8:26–28

Notice a couple things about this passage.

  • It doesn’t say that God works all things in a way that makes us happy.
  • Nor does it say that God does things in the timing we desire.

Seeing the good come from hard things takes time. But it can be time well spent if it leads us to realize that it is more important to follow God than to follow what we think is the best path for our life. If I could have written the script for my life, I would have written a much shorter route to getting published. I definitely would have left out all the rejection letters and hand slapping.

But I now realize the purpose for all of that. It humbled me and taught me the beauty of trusting God to direct my life (James 4:10).

Not getting those opportunities sooner were not God’s way of keeping me from my calling; they were His way of preparing me for it. This humbling process wound up being thrilling. I found God in deep ways during those lonely days of writing book proposals that were never published and articles that only my friends enjoyed. But God was faithful, and although my ministry was very small-scale for years, it was still fruitful.

God used that preparation time to teach me how to be passionate about following only His plans.

Becoming more than a good Bible study girl means waiting for God’s timing, waiting for the good He is working in us. And when we’re ready to move forward, becoming a good Bible study girl means remembering to help those coming along just behind us. This ensures that our calling is not just about us.

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Your Turn

Are you waiting? Having a hard time seeing good in the hard things? Does your calling seem to delayed far too long? Are you in a situation or season of life that is humbling and lonely?  Come join the conversation! We’d love to hear what God is doing in your life!

Lysa TerKeurst

Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the New York Times best-selling author of Uninvited, The Best Yes, Unglued, Made to Crave, and 16 other books. Lysa was recently awarded the Champions of Faith Author Award and has been published in multiple publications such as Focus on the Family and CNN online. Additionally, she has appeared on the Today Show as one of the leading voices in the Christian community. Each year, Lysa is a featured keynote presenter at more than 40 events across North America, including the Women of Joy Conferences and the Catalyst Leadership Conference. She writes from her sticky farm table and lives with her family in North Carolina. Connect with her at www.LysaTerKeurst.com or on social media @LysaTerKeurst.

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