He has made everything beautiful in its time.
I remember it like it was yesterday, when a new-to-me speaker posed a question that burrowed under my skin like a chigger in the heat of summer —
“Are you the kind of person who walks into a room and declares, ‘Here I am!’ or do you walk into the room and say, ‘There you are!’?”
I wasn’t an “all about me” person, but I’m naturally outgoing and comfortable talking to new people. I can work a room if that’s expected of me. My nerves do rattle on the inside, but they’re energy fueling confidence and conversation.
It also wasn’t that I didn’t notice other people; but the question forced me to realize at best I was blissfully unaware, or at worse, I was more concerned about myself than others. Ouch.
Over the past ten years through unexpected personal deserts and crazy life, I’ve tried to become a There you are! friend, the one who notices what you’re not saying as much as what you are saying. I’ve challenged myself to notice people in the margins. And trusting the providence of God (mostly in hindsight), I’ve wandered into those places myself, learning by experience what it feels like to be ignored, rejected, forgotten, irrelevant, and sometimes invisible.
I’ve hated it.
But on the other side of those hard lessons and hurt feelings is what has become a passion of mine: redemptive purpose.
Just as sure as the sun hangs in the sky behind a veil of dark clouds, God is accomplishing His will and His ways even when I can’t see His hand at work.
And when I do gain insight and understanding in the aftermath of pain or heartache? It is an astonishing gift and grace to discover beauty among ashes.
Pride and ego were subtle idols of mine. God was kind enough to reveal them to me in a way that would sear an impression on my heart and ultimately change me.
It’s been a long, long while since I’ve attended a Beth Moore Bible study. I forgot how she gets to me, how every study I’ve ever taken will somehow speak a word over me so strong it’s undeniable God had her write it just for me.
What . . . you, too?
It was in the fourth week, day three, on her study of James, when a section started doing its thing.
Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)
Beth spoke about “landmines that go with the territory” of teaching:
- The temptation to teach more than we know.
- The capacity to mislead.
- The capacity to be misled.
- The temptation to use the platform for personal agendas or opinions.
And though not exactly in the context of being a teacher, I sensed these landmines speaking to my life as a writer.
It would seem that the natural progression for a long-term blogger is to write a book; that is the childhood dream of many in the online world. Those of you who’ve followed (in)courage since its inception know many of our regular contributors have gone on to lovely writing careers.
Here’s the thing that’s hard for me to admit: Writing a book hasn’t been my life-long dream, and yet, I’ve felt pressure to “publish or perish.”
I feel like I’m supposed to write a book by this stage in the game; it has been jarring when readers or friends have questioned why I haven’t. Truth be told, I have a list of working titles, projects that are important to me, ideas with value and substance that I haven’t been able to let go, and yet . . .
I’ve known the interior of my heart, and it’s been all wonky, a glory hog; and sweet sisters, we aren’t made for glory. We’re designed to give glory to the One who made us.
So years ago, in the fourth week of Beth’s James Bible study, piggy-backing on almost 10 years of There you are!-ing, a veil was lifted.
I realized three important things:
1. The check in my heart was telling me something important (or trying to).
It is essential to be honest about your motives when you say yes to opportunity or commit to a project. Are you following the Lord’s leading or are you barreling ahead and hoping He’ll bless you after the fact? Are you serving yourself or the greater good? Is it about you or others?
There’s a part of me that would like to one day write a book, but until it’s for only the right reasons, I’m finding contentment and affirmation in this season. What I couldn’t see in the past that is clear to me now is how God was accomplishing an interior work in my heart. He was answering prayer in ways I hadn’t anticipated or wanted, but in ways that undeniably matured my faith.
2. There is a time.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture because it speaks so strongly to the human condition. For everything there is a season . . . Such beautiful wisdom. I don’t know what your hopes or dreams are. I don’t know your stage of life or your frustrating or heartbreaking circumstances. But I do know that everything is working together for good, for your good and God’s glory. The roughest seasons of my life have taught me the most; the double beauty is they are not wasted. That, my friends, is redemptive purpose.
3. Not now doesn’t mean not ever.
Say it again, out loud. Not now doesn’t mean not ever. Each season of life brings with it its own set of demands and concerns unique for that season. The “urgent tyrannies” that tug and tax a young mom gradually fade until silenced. The role of shuttle driver doesn’t last forever. The onslaught of change at mid-life eventually settles.
You might be in the midst of a season of personal sacrifice, called to give up what you would love to do, in order to love and serve well those around you. Of this, I’m sure: your interests and your passions will likely evolve over time, and what is The Most Important Thing to you today won’t be next year. What you want to do and can’t now, may not be what you want to do but can in the future.
If doors are remaining closed, or you’re running into obstacles when you’re longing for opportunities, I’m convinced that God is at work if you’re seeking Him. Maybe what you think you want is the farthest thing from what Christ knows you need.
While I don’t know the inner battles you’re fighting, I have a hunch you can always use reminding of who you are and Whose you are, and you, sweet Lovie, have something incredible to offer, in time and in season.
You are one of a kind,
known before time,
and loved without condition.
Is there something you haven’t been able to let go? A long-buried dream? I’d love to hear if you’re willing to tell.Leave a Comment
Summer Rae says
Your words are ever timely… You have brought me so much encouragement and peace, as always. God is bringing me into a new season of tremendous blessings and exciting anticipation. But, also reassessing the things in my life and really setting my priorities in order… your words left my heart nodding in agreement throughout your post. Thank you beyond words for sharing your heart with us today.
This side of Heaven,
Robin Dance says
Good morning, sweet Summer Rae,
I hear this thing in your words: joy in the Lord! And I couldn’t help but smile reading how you are stepping into this season with “exciting anticipation.” <-- THAT on December eve, the season of advent, when we celebrate the birth of our King. Perfect timing for such a thing :).
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I attended “She Speaks” (writers and speakers conference) this past year. There were hundreds of other bloggers there…like me. It seemed that everyone, but me, had an agenda. Most women had a book proposal they were pitching, or a book in progress they were trying to fine tune, or a book on which they wanted to get a publisher’s feedback. When people asked me what MY book was about (assuming I had one to pitch), I replied, “God hasn’t told me yet.” I wasn’t being sarcastic. I do believe there is a book in me that God wants to bring out, but right now my work with Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc. has been so all consuming, I am doing well just posting weekly on my blog (Walking Well With God). I jokingly tell myself and others I’m still gathering research 🙂 I do believe God has something bigger than my blog in me, but I am waiting on His timing and not trying to run ahead of Him and force it. Just like I KNEW it was time to start my blog and then the Foundation. I will KNOW when God wants me to write a book. Thanks, Robin, for the reminder that there is no such thing as too late and to trust God’s timing.
Robin Dance says
Your engagement in the (in)community over all these years speaks volumes to your maturity in the faith. It is a wise woman who slows to listen, eager to hear from the Lord himself. I will be cheering for you in all season, celebrating this obedience to do the work TODAY to which you are called. Well done, sister :).
Since I started coming here a few years ago, you have been an inspiration to me. After I received my first rejection letter, than second, and third, along with other doors being closed, I realized it wasn’t my time yet, God had other plans for me. But that didn’t mean I should give up what I love to do. All what you are doing, for now, is what you’re meant to do. Thank-you so much for being here.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I went through a phase where I was certain I was meant to write children’s stories for magazines. Well, I think I had enough rejection letters to wallpaper my bedroom lol. I love to write, but right now God is using that gift in writing my blog and writing for the Foundation I head up. I take great hope that God used a lot of the famous characters in the Bible well into their senior years. I very well may have a crown of gray hair when “my book” gets published…if it ever gets published. And if so, that will be just great! YOU inspire and encourage on so many other levels and you have lifted my spirits on many occasions. Keep living out those God given gifts….God IS using you!!
Blessings and ((hugs)),
Michele Morin says
Did someone just open a window in this room?
Wow, thank you for this breath of fresh truth that reminds me to turn my heart outward as I survey a room, and to look for the subtle working of God in the seemingly uneventful seasons.
Robin Dance says
You should be able to *feel* my smile from across the internets :). YOU encouraged ME this morning, and I’m grateful!
Linda S. says
Thanks for the uplifting post! 🙂 XO
Robin Dance says
Thank you for reading!
Thank you, Robin, for your message today. I was thinking yesterday how. I think I’ve lived the majority of my life with not many goals or dreams, just expectations, and those expectations have sought to destroy me. I’ve been in a long period of darkness or maybe I should describe it as a weariness. The enemy has used it against me relentlessly. “Just as sure as the sun hangs in the sky behind a veil of dark clouds, God is accomplishing His will and His ways even when I can’t see His hand at work.” This truth will be printed and hung somewhere where I can see it, read it, and speak it outloud regularly. I’m so ready to quit fighting myself and to surrender to the waiting as He reveals his plans for me. The struggle is I can’t even discern what it is I’m holding onto it. I just know I’m tired. Thank you for shining his grace as en encouragement to others.
Sorry for all my misprints. I’m using my iPad instead of a keyboard.
Robin Dance says
What misprints? 😉
Seriously…I h e a r you. I know this darkness which depletes you, that rubs your soul raw, that leaves you with questions, or worse, apathy. I never asked, “Why me?” in that season, I wasn’t even mad at God. My struggle was unbelief, and yet…
God would not let go of me! He honored any meager action I offered, and he wasn’t offended by my doubt. He patiently waited, faithful to me–isn’t that absurd? I certainly didn’t deserve it. Melanie, I am praying specifically for you this morning, for your heart to KNOW God in ways that were previously invisible, that you would be filled supernaturally with his spirit in a way that awakens you, strengthens you, and encourages you. xo
Beth Williams says
The evil one seeks to destroy us. Sweet sister I’m praying for the God to lift the veil of darkness over you. May you feel His spirit, love, & grace infused into you mind, body & soul. Praying He helps you surrender your plans for His. Be patient sweet one & wait on His perfect timing.
Anne Capozzi says
As I read this, as an older woman….You are exactly where God wants you to be at this season of your life. Plus I read contentment in your words. When it’s time, if ever, you will be so sure, there will be no question. Until then God bless you!
Robin Dance says
Thank you, Anne 🙂
Kim B Smith says
Oh, Robin, Wow God’s hand is at work this morning as I read your post. I chose to step back this year, and I am blessed to be able to do this, and really let go (control-freak here) and get to know God even more. I am working on taking my lowercase “s” of spirituality to an uppercase “S” and get closer to God. I sold a huge part of my business which I discovered to be my identity, ego, chase, and ideology…which kept me further from God and compromised A LOT! NO more.
I enter rooms with love & curiosity, and place the whose, are you? I use to get a bit sad when others didn’t do that for me, but I have learned there is One there for me, God and His gift of Jesus is now my support.
Your book will come when the serving is right, He will send you the message. I love His nudges, big, small, and everything else.
Robin Dance says
You sound like you’ve taken HUGE steps to pursue intimacy with the Lord; what a beautiful time of learning more about Him, and in so doing, more about yourself. :). Thank you for sharing so much of yourself here.
Kim B Smith says
Yes and my pleasure!
Anne B. says
My dear, sweet, sister Robin! How great & mighty is our God! Your words are affirmation of what I am in & going through this very day and I have taken your writing & inserted my name as Father God has shown me His plans for me! I am not a blogger but I would like to share on my Facebook page how God has used your words to touch my heart today-may I?
Be blessed beyond measure as you ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart & lean not on your own understanding’.
Robin Dance says
Well, I am honored if you find encouragement in my words, and by sharing, I pray that all glory goes to God. Of course you have my permission, but thank you so much for asking xoxo
This was such an uplifting post thank-you so much for your words.
I remember being taught in a course to, “Edit, edit, edit.” At times in life it also applies, so when those doors were slammed in my face, it’s okay, “For everything there is a season.” (Is also one of my favorites).
Blessings to all,
Robin Dance says
“Edit, edit, edit”? Indeed.
Thank you for writing this. This is something I’ve struggled with my whole life…believing God is working behind the scenes. You asked “Is there something you haven’t been able to let go? A long-buried dream?” I am 37 years old and single with no kids. I really relate to what you said about feeling like you “should” write a book even though it may not be what you truly want. I feel societal pressure all the time telling me that I’m less of a woman because I don’t have a husband and kids. A husband is something I do truly want (and I’m sad that I haven’t been able to find anyone), but kids are honestly not something I ever longed to have. Yet I still feel like, in order to be a “successful” woman, I “should” have kids. Societal norms…the killers of self esteem…tell me I’m not enough because I’m not a mom and I’m not a wife. I know with my mind that God is working in there somewhere, but it’s hard to convince my hurting and lonely heart.
Stephanie L. says
Ria, I just want to tell you that your words echo in my own heart. I have the same long-buried dream, and we are nearly the same age. And I agree, it’s hard to remember in my heart that God is always working. Christmas is especially hard for me, because it’s such a family-oriented, romantic season, and my dearest wish is to spend it with a husband. I know that doesn’t complete the “Hallmark movie perfect” celebration of the birth of Jesus, and a husband won’t bring purpose to my life, but it’s still hard. I hear you. And I’ll be praying that we both – and any other ladies that are struggling the same – are able to give our hurt and loneliness to God and trust Him in all things.
Thank you for your reply. Yes, the holidays are particularly hard. Especially with all the commercials on TV of loving couples giving each other presents… It helps, though, to know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Thank you again for your response. I will pray for you as well!
Ria and Stephanie L.
I am right there with you both!!
Robin Dance says
Oh, friends… my heart goes out to each of you, not because I feel sorry for you, not anything related to pity, but because you shared such an intimate, honest entry into your lives. I’m praying for each of you–Stephanie, Ria, Katie…and no doubt, so many more–that our great God WILL supply your every need; and I’m also begging that He help you see your true needs vs. wants.
Culture is a tough one; we live in it and cannot escape it. I’m praying for you (and me, and all of “us”) to find satisfaction in God, and for each of us to believe what he says about us: we ARE known, and loved, and noticed, and bear his image. For each of us, he has a plan and a place in the Kingdom.
Be filled with him and sense Christ’s wonder, love, grace, and favor throughout this season, and beyond a new year.
DIANE "DEDE" G GIBBS says
Yep. Yes. Certainly. I had a dream. I have ventured ahead in eagerness to make it happen. After many “false starts” and disappointments, and even outright devastation, I have given up all my many plans. Radically changed my course. Submitted to my husband’s wishes and “got a real job.” And now, I found surprising freedom. I am no longer striving after good works. Instead, I am trusting God to be with me right where He has me. Day by day, I am asking for His strength, His wisdom, His direction in everything I do. It isn’t about me. And that is good. My “calling and election” still sure. I am called to love and serve those in my midst. My husband. My six children. Those I encounter each day in the real and very desperate world. A world that may not be seeking a minister of God, but is certainly looking for a source of light and hope. I pray, I can be used to open the blinds where I am. To shed some light and offer some hope. And that is enough.
Anne B. says
Amen & amen!
Beth Williams says
Loved this: “God is accomplishing His will even when I can’t see His hand at work”. It never ceases to amaze me how God works out His perfect will in our lives. We can have trials, tragedies & He will turn them into beauty. I was never sure what my exact calling or spiritual gift was. Over the years I have come to realize that i have the gift of encouragement & helping older people navigate medicine. My dream was to have a “good/great job & save for retirement. I thought I’d be doing great right now. God had other plans. Detours, no work for 16 months to care for aging dad, etc. Now God has given me a good part-time job. The people are nice to work with. I pray for them daily. This also allows me more time to be a “local” missionary & do God’s work.
Beautiful, Robin. — One of the best parts of waiting, is when we realize we’re not waiting alone. He’s with us, shaping us, so we’re able to accomplish His best when the wait is over. The waiting period is what produces fruit in the work. ♥
So needed by me today. “If doors are remaining closed, or you’re running into obstacles when you’re longing for opportunities, I’m convinced that God is at work if you’re seeking Him. Maybe what you think you want is the farthest thing from what Christ knows you need.”
Thank you!! It’s all I can say after an opportunity came my way that I believed was mine didn’t happen. I continure seeking Him!! He will provide at the right time!
Kathy Cheek, Devotions from the Heart says
Thank you Robin for this post. It is so easy to get ahead of ourselves and think we are ready when we aren’t. Or that being a writer doesn’t always mean writing a book. I have tried to get a devotional book published and it has not happened yet and in trying to discern how and where God is leading He is showing me I still have so much to learn and that He uses our writing in many more ways than we can imagine. I continually thank Him for the joy writing of Him brings me and I am so glad I can do it without having a book published!
Writing has been spoken over me countless times. I have a title for a book, and have begun writing several times. I get stuck, and honestly? The biggest factor is fear. I’m afraid I will say it wrong, nobody will read it, the people who know me will treat me differently … I could go on. Prayers for confidence and moving past the mental block would be so deeply appreciated! I know this project is meant to happen.
R. Abbott says
This blog is so incredibly what I needed to hear today. It leaves me with an excitement to see what “next year” (next season) has in store. A walk of faith is an adventure!!
Such a lovely article.
I am 40 and still waiting on the LORD to provide with a mate.
God has a time and he will do his best in his time.
Kellie Kinnear says
These timely words are for two hearts today, my daughters, and my own. My daughter has long been the ‘sees others’ person, she has a true gift of compassion and the ability to draw people in just by her peaceful presence. But the enemy has sought to sabotage her beautiful heart through a person within her circle; at times I feared he had succeeded, but I trusted things would get better, and with much hope and prayer, I see her re emerging (after a period of painful trials) as a young woman with a desire to once again pursue God’s call upon her life. The verse in Ecclesiastes you have chosen is her verse, she has loved this verse since she was a child. I shall share your wise words with her. Thankyou
Love and blessings
Honestly, my dream has always been to write a book… but I want to write romance novels! Kind of silly I suppose, but I enjoy them. Thank you for the reminder that there is a season and often the thing I wanted most but couldn’t do going in is the last thing I want coming out. I needed that reminder today!
Rebecca L Jones says
Yes, He’s working while we wait.
Jill Richardson says
Oh Robin, this is so perfect. I am in this season. People look at me funny when I say I don’t want to write another book right now. I’m truly content where God has put me. And yes, He has also revealed to me that success earlier would have ruined me with pride. Thank you, Jesus, for not giving us what we want sometimes. Also, “I’ve hated it.” Thank you for being so honest. I have such a difficult time being one-on-one with people. I often hate it. But I just keep doing it anyway. I love that you let me know I’m not alone and it’s OK.
Bella Morganthal says
This was especially encouraging to me today! Thank you for sharing <3
Richella Parham says
Robin, Robin. . . I’m going to leave a message for you at your own blog, but I’m so grateful to have read this today.
I know better than I know my own name about those mixed motives. Thank you for stating that so publicly, and for being honest about your own process. You are just the best.
Glee LaVroff says
HI ROBIN: THANK YOU FOR YOUR BLOG. IT WAS VERY INCOURAGING!
When you’re down a dark tunnel in search of any form of light and boom that little crack tho minute just lights the way! I visit this blog often but I must say Robin your writing resonated with me in a deep tummy churning way. What a way to start the month off…so refreshing with truth but vulnerable at the same time. God is doing something you have yet to see don’t lose hope.
K Ann Guinn says
Your words are beautiful and true. I am in a unique “waiting” season which seems to have continued all year.
It began with a knife slip and a cut resulting in finger tendon surgery in the spring and the resulting weeks (and months) of recovery. Then as things began to feel like they were smoothing out, my husband had recently had symptoms checked leading to his heading into the hospital for stints (for blocked heart arteries), and finding out that instead he actually needed bypass surgery. He was at such risk they didn’t even let him go home; he was transferred to another hospital and kept safely under watch until he could be operated on, and is now recovering nicely.
While I am so thankful that the outcome of these “incidents” has been favorable, and recognize that clearly things could have been so much worse, it hasn’t made it easy. Besides the stress of each situation, it’s put me behind in practical responsibilities (especially in the home) and it’s been difficult to work on things are important to me and that bring life to my soul. I’ve been blogging almost two years now, but just when I was ready and felt good about “diving in” and progressing in my blogging, life’s circumstances kept me on my toes, and instead I’m struggling just to complete a bare minimum of posts.
Maybe it is just a “season of sacrifice”, and I pray that God is doing a work I cannot see or appreciate right now. Perhaps he just wants me to offer everything to him once again, trust him and learn to lean on him more fully.
Either way, I appreciate your precious reminders today that God working his will in my life, and that it’s for my good. And for that I’m thankful.
Jen Zamzow says
Thanks for the great post, Robin! I think you bring up a good point about the importance of checking our motives before committing to a project. Another thing that can be hard is finding the balance between the need for having pure motives and the need for doing what we are supposed to do. We can make great strides in developing purer motives, but can we ever get to the point of having perfect motives? And how can we know when we’ve reached the point of having “good enough” motives to say yes to something?