But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."
On the outside, pursuing this dream to become and illustrator and author doesn't look like a trial. It's not like I have experienced rejection yet, or broken a sweat or gone bankrupt. I'm still in the infancy stages, building a presentable portfolio, developing a blog that displays my process, work and voice, finding my "style" and just keeping up with the schedule I have made for myself. But it is change, even if it is only changing my mind.
Last week I joined a lovely group of people on Face Book to form a critique group. We introduced ourselves and posted our respective sites so that each of us could look into the work of the others. Each person told a little about themselves too.
Well, I'm going to admit it. I got intimidated. It really has little to do with the people as much as it has to do with me talking to actual people and exposing who I am. That dark inner critique, who used to grind me down, was attempting to rise up again and tell me "Give up! What are you doing here? You don't belong here! You are out of your league."
So there is my trial. The battle is inside my own head and it will continue to be fought there no matter if I find success or not. So what do I do about it?
I have found my strength in scripture, God's word. In the past I would try to just ignore those words of negativity. But that was usually a sure fire way to lose. I have lost with that tactic over and over. It has never worked. Over the years I have heard people talk about how God's word and presence have given them strength. I knew the way to endurance is in the Bible along with the practice of prayer, but I have never been able to practice getting my strength from the Bible so my prayer life has been frustrating. And going to God's word for your daily strength (or bread) is a practice.
I've also heard that courage is not the absence of fear, but it is doing what you need to do in spite of the fear.
I turn again to James 1:2 "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." What is this joy? I don't feel like having a party when I am stressed or discouraged! I don't believe it is excitement or happiness like when you just received a present for your birthday and it is something you have always wanted. This joy is actually more like peace - knowing everything is going to be okay, no matter what happens. Why would I have peace when I should feel stressed? Because of what I know about God and I know him from scripture. This is it: When you face trials, of all sorts, it is a test of faith - will you hold on and not give up or give in to discouragement and fear and anger? Will you believe God is for you and not against you(Romans 8:31)? Will you believe he has your best in mind (Jeremiah 29:11)? Will you believe he is working all things for the good (Romans 8:29)?
Now I know that this dream and the pursuit of it is not earth shaking. It will not change the world by overthrowing dictators or changing the minds of millions to embrace peace on earth - more than likely. So I don't have a real burden on my shoulders for that. I don't even need to look at this as the only way to make a living - it's not. I believe God will provide for my family, one way or another.
But the pursuit of this dream is a trial I have chosen, to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone, to push myself harder, to accomplish something difficult rather than easy, to meet new people who in the past I would have felt too intimidated by to approach. And in all of it to learn to trust God more deeply. If I can keep myself centered on that and make it the goal, then I can begin in a small way to use this to bring glory to my Father in Heaven and his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who lives in me giving me wisdom and strength.