By Jeff Southerland
What would you do if you were convinced God had told you to do something, but nothing was happening? As a writer I can relate to a story I heard this week. “I wrote what God wanted me to write. Spent five years typing it out on my old typewriter. Got rejected by 18 publishers and when one finally agreed to publish my book, it was 18 months before it sold.” In the meantime, I had gotten burned out of preaching at my father’s church and ran back to my old boring, low paying job, hand painting skis. Convinced I would retire there at a ripe old age. My effort, my energy, my enthusiasm disappeared. I was broken before God. Hurt. Depressed. Anxious. Even angry. But that brokenness before God led to repentance. Lord what do you want me to do? I’ll do it.
A month later, the call to the publisher revealed, sales. Real sales. Thousands. The next month tens of thousands. Soon a hundred thousand book sales in a month were not uncommon. What happened? That brokenness that led to repentance is reiterated in Scripture over and over. Abraham, Moses, David, Job, Peter, all men of God who thought they were going where God wanted them to go but God revealed a new path.
God sends us what the Puritans called divine appointments all the time. While at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference last week, they came at me in dozens. I got a chance to help a couple who were floundering, wondering where they would go. I talked to a blogger who is reaching thousands. I talked to a retired landscaper who volunteers his time at Ridgecrest. But the most amazing appointment I had was with the broken writer mentioned above. Out of over 400 attendees he only met with about 6.
The work he did 35 years ago couldn’t even find a place on the Christian bookshelf. No one even knew where to put it. Christian Fiction. 1985. It wasn’t even a category. Now it is the fastest growing section for new Christian writers. People who use mystery, suspense, and the supernatural to weave into their stories a Christian worldview, one that might not get published if it were written plainly. The truth is in the work, but you must dig it out.
This writer who took time to talk to me, was the keynote speaker for the conference. Selling over 15 million adult and children’s books. His first book, the one no would publish and wouldn’t sell? This Present Darkness. The author, Frank Peretti. In my interview with him he is convinced that if he hadn’t gone back to painting skis, become broken and repentant, the world would never have heard of him.
His encouragement to writers and to Christians everywhere? Don’t give up. Turn back to God. Depend solely on His providence in all things. This present darkness can lead to real light.