So much to unpack in this article! I hope you are blessed by it as much as I am. Please let me know your thoughts below.
In the first part of this series, we talked about our identity in Christ and how that relates to our gifts. When Jesus died on the cross, it was to buy us back from the curse of sin. When we chose to follow Him, we became God’s children and committed our lives to His service. The Holy Spirit enables us to walk with God and empowers us to fulfill our life’s mission until the day we pass on. That’s the general purpose for our earthly existence. How we live that out on a daily basis, including the expression of our creative calling, needs closer inspection.
At the opening of this series I’d asked: Why do we create? There are a ton of reasons, but it’s likely that when we examine them, our main motivation will have something to do with us.
‘I love to write/sing/dance…’
‘I just can’t help composing/singing/writing…’
‘Art is who I am…’
‘I’d go nuts if I couldn’t express myself…’
Notice the ‘I’ in those statements?
Is it wrong to find pleasure in our gifts? I don’t think so. God loves us and He wants us to be happy. But, I think it’s important to note that God is the true source of our peace and joy and that any other source will be incomplete and, ultimately, unsatisfying.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Unconvinced? Well, here are a few questions to consider. What happens when you don’t sell many books? Or the post you spent ages writing for your blog doesn’t get any likes? Or your book proposal is refused, or your song rejected by a producer?
What about the time spent away from your family and the money wasted on products or services that failed to deliver?
What about those feelings of loneliness or confusion when nothing works?
What about when your dream fails?
Do you get angry? Bitter? Are you exhausted? Anxious?
Are you disappointed in God?
In case you’re wondering, I’ve been there. It’s humbling to admit, but it would be wrong of me to pretend otherwise. I’ve seen my dreams melt away, I’ve sacrificed time and money only to see nothing come of it. I’ve cried out to God asking, ‘Why?’, as recently as a few days ago.
And the answer has consistently been: ‘Look up. Deny yourself, and follow Me.’
I thought I was humble. I thought I was submitting myself to His will and doing everything right. It was only when everything ground to a halt and I had nothing going for me that I could see how much of my self-worth was tied to needing to succeed. Once it was just me and God, I could begin to see that I am who I am because of Him. Jesus is my righteousness. If I never write another book or blog post again, if this blog fails or I never score that big book deal, or whatever, He’ll accept me just as I am.
He accepts you just as you are, too.
If you are tired, overworked, frustrated, anxious—ultimately disappointed in God, ask ourself why. Rejection and failure hurt, sure. It sucks to be mentally and emotionally drained from going full-tilt for so long. But, listen. This is the time to throw yourself at the foot of the cross and ask God for help.
Here are two points to reflect on:
We run into trouble when we think that success is the result of our efforts
We are called to work. We are called to be good stewards of our gifts. And know that we are accountable to Him for how we use them. (Matthew 25:14-30, parable of the talents)
But, we have to remember that God is in control and, if we let Him, He will see to everything, including the results. The moment we let our identity and sense of well-being depend on the results of our work or efforts, we’re in trouble.
We run into trouble when we don’t fully submit to the Lord
This is an ongoing, daily process. It is also impossible to do on our own. But with God’s help, we can.
James 4:7 (NIV)
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
The importance of submitting our motivations to God has become increasingly clear to me. We might want to do good by reaching tons of people for His kingdom, create programs, build incredible ministries, but if there is any self-indulging or self-pleasing motivations involved, our plans are in danger because it opens the door for pride.
Psalm 147:6 (NKJV)
6 The Lord lifts up the humble;
He casts the wicked down to the ground.
So, how does that affect us?
If you are stuggling to hear from God, find that your ministry has stalled, feel stuck, lost or confused, then maybe this is His way of getting your attention. I know this has been true for me. The more I submit to His correction and discipline, the more I discover His grace, wisdom, and kindness. God sees everything, including the incoming roadblocks and the weaknesses in our character, and He deals with us in accordance to His love and wisdom.
God is concerned about our success but even more so about our well-being and our relationship with Him. When we walk with Him, our lives will become the greatest testimonies of His greatness, and the works our our hands the physical manifestation of that truth.
Here are a few verses that have helped me :
James 4:3 (NIV)
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
I’d like to know what you think. Can you relate? How have you coped with disappointment, overwork, stress, etc? What verses encourage you? What lessons have you learned through your creative challenges? Let me know by leaving a message below!
Why do we create?
Do we create because we are inspired by an inherent urge to make something? Is it to scratch a creative itch that won’t go away until we put pen to paper or our fingers on a guitar’s strings?
Why do we jerk awake in the middle of the night, wiping sleep from our eyes, to frantically jot down lyrics we struggled to put together during the day?
Why do we fantastize about worlds, peoples, and languages that only exhist in our minds until we transcribe them on paper or produce them into a film?
We do this because we were built to create.
Creating isn’t just one thing. A builder creates when he puts form and structure to an architect’s plans. A chef creates, using smell, taste, and skill to whip up incredible and unique dishes. Gardeners create when they sow and tend seeds until they become an array of fragrant, colourful plants and trees. We all create to some extent—I think it’s important to recognize that ‘creating’ comes in many, often unrecognized and undervalued, forms.
On this blog, we usually use the term to refer to artists; people who take their passion, skills, and talents to create some form of art, perfecting our abilities and creations because we feel that it is something we must do—even if we don’t gain recognition or rewards for our efforts.
The act of creating causes us to feel free, happy, and fuilfilled. There’s a sort of high that comes over us after struggling to bring an idea to life and then holding the result in our hands.
We create because we love it.
And we create because it gives us a sense of purpose.
Think about that for a minute. How do you feel after you complete a story, a book, an article, or a song? How do you express it?
I think God felt similarly at the end of a busy 6 days. He probably felt a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and joy. He looked at the universe, the earth, and everything in it and concluded, ‘it was good’. (Genesis 1:31)
We shouldn’t be surprised by this incredible connection to Him. He made us in His image, after all, and He is the Ultimate and Orginal Creator.
So, if He created us to create, what is the purpose for our creations?
In this crazy, busy, noisy world, it’s easy to forget that we were created by God for God.
Colossians 1:16 (NLT)
‘for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see–such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him’.
Not only that, but the world’s mentality caters to pleasing and satisfying the individual and our ego: ‘Do what what feels right to you and to heck with everybody else’. When our world view is focused on the Self, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the world revolves around us, our, wants, our needs, or our purpose.
The truth is the opposite : the world revolves around God. And, guess what? If we claim to be children of God, followers of Christ, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, then our lives and everything we have belong to Him. Stop there and think about that a moment. Maybe repeat it to yourself a few times. Sometimes the truth needs some time to sink in. Then follow it up with this :
Galatians 2:20 (KJV)
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Our Lives (and Gifts) Find Purpose in God’s Plan
This is a truth I feel the Lord drilling into my head at the moment, so I share it with all humility and the full knowledge that I haven’t mastered it but am working it out with ‘fear and trembling’ (Phil 2 :12). Just this morning, I was feeling down about my writing career and wondering what good I thought I could do with it, and wondering if it’s all a waste of time. You know, the usual mental attacks that bring us down. But God is faithful. When I decided to turn from my emotions and negative thinking to do what I felt He wanted me to (write this post), I felt my faith being restored, my focus shifting back into place, and joy returning. I guess it’s worth noting that there are times we are called to create even when we don’t want to. But as we will see below, ultimately, we don’t create for ourselves.
Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV)
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
This is the key verse for this series, so I hope you hold on to it. It’s easy to feel special and excited when God puts the desire to create in our hearts. And we should feel special! God has chosen us to do something incredible! But that’s the point where Self can trick us into believing that the vision/project/venture has anything to do with us.
Once we choose to follow Jesus, we are His and the Holy Spirit works out the Father’s master plan in our individual lives to accomplish a goal that has global reach. God loves the world and, though the world rejects Him, He still desires to save it. We can take pleasure in the gifts He has given us but we can’t hold on to them. We must submit them to Him so that He can use them. But guess what? By doing that, He is inviting us to participate in His work—his master plan—with Him!
Ephesians 1 :11-12
11 In Him also we have received an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will, 12 that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, should live for the praise of His glory.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
Thanks for reading. I hope you stick with me as I go through this process. I intend to keep posting as I work through these complex issues of purpose and identity.
Can you relate? Have you had ups and downs in the pursuit of your creative calling? What has helped get you through? Please comment below.
Please see Part 2 here.
I’ve been a social worker for 20 years. The profession wasn’t my first choice. I kind of fell into it because, though I didn’t know what I wanted ‘to be’ when I applied to university, I did know that I wanted to help people. That started my professional journey into the harsh realities of human suffering. People’s lives were messy, complicated, and, often, painful. As a naturally empathetic person, I often felt overwhelmed and helpless. I struggled with my role as a helper to the point of getting sick, and the thought of doing the job until retirement drove me deep into waves of stress and anxiety.
But, recently, that began to change once I started to see things differently.
Lessons from the prophet Micah:
This morning, I felt the need to read the Word. That’s a big deal for me, because for a long time I struggled to pick up the Bible and read for more than a few minutes, if at all. But lately, I’ve begun to look forward to my time with God, and the more we talk, the more I realize the need to support our relationship with the Word.
As I said, this morning I felt the need to read. So, I flipped through the minor prophets until I came to Micah and stopped at this:
Israel’s Misery (NIV)
7 What misery is mine!
I am like one who gathers summer fruit
at the gleaning of the vineyard;
there is no cluster of grapes to eat,
none of the early figs that I crave.
2 The faithful have been swept from the land;
not one upright person remains.
Everyone lies in wait to shed blood;
they hunt each other with nets.
3 Both hands are skilled in doing evil;
the ruler demands gifts,
the judge accepts bribes,
the powerful dictate what they desire—
they all conspire together.
4 The best of them is like a brier,
the most upright worse than a thorn hedge.
The day God visits you has come,
the day your watchmen sound the alarm.
Now is the time of your confusion.
5 Do not trust a neighbor;
put no confidence in a friend.
Even with the woman who lies in your embrace
guard the words of your lips.
6 For a son dishonors his father,
a daughter rises up against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.
Aside from my work, like a lot of people, I’ve felt generally discouraged by the chaos in the world. The news is depressing, everyone is decrying injustice and fraud, and we are killing the environment. Even the movies we turn to for distraction are often bleak and dystopian in nature.
When I read Micah, I realized that what we are seeing and experiencing today is nothing new. The evil, malice, disregard for decency and rebellion in our relationships inside and outside the home have always existed. His world sounds just like ours!
Then I thought: what we bear now during one lifetime is what God has been bearing since the Fall.
That put more than a few things in context.
Thankfully for us, Micah doesn’t stop there:
7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me.
Israel Will Rise
8 Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.
9 Because I have sinned against him,
I will bear the Lord’s wrath,
until he pleads my case
and upholds my cause.
He will bring me out into the light;
I will see his righteousness.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the darkness and despair around us, but this verse reminds us that we have reason and cause to hope. This verse reminds us of God’s faithfulness, that He’s trustworthy, and that He is the Light. If we trust Him, He will lead us out of despair to Him, the safest place to be.
As a social worker, I’ve always known that I can’t solve anyone’s problems. Most of my families’ issues are too big for any one person to solve. Once I accepted my weakness and turned to God for wisdom, He brought the solutions and resources that were needed. Eventually, I understood that when I trusted Him and focused on what I could do, that made the difference. The results might be small, but many small successes accumulating over time eventually result in one big solution.
How does that relate to Christians using our talents?
Whether we are a professional or an amateur, God gave us gifts and talents for a reason. Yes, we get personal pleasure out of them, but what if God has a larger, more global purpose for our work? God could easily swoop in and fix everything, but He chooses to use people, often regular, even atypical people, to change the world.
Our stories, photographs, plays, and paintings might not seem like much, but art is often the vehicle that stimulates change. Think of all the books, speeches, essays, painting, plays, and movies/documentaries throughout history that have packed such powerful punches that influenced social change.
1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NIV)
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
We, as Christian Creatives, figure into God’s Master Plan. If we all do our part by serving Him with our talents, can you imagine the global impact it could have?