I have recently returned from a trip to our beautiful, Australian island state of Tasmania, home of another member of ICFW, Mary Hawkins. I had been invited to speak at a conference there, so took the opportunity to set up a few more speaking engagements and interviews while there and also to enjoy some sightseeing with my husband. Our time away was therefore a mixture of ‘work’ and play, both of which I found very enjoyable.
Now I have deliberately chosen to use inverted commas around the term ‘work’, because in one way, my speaking engagements, interviews and book-selling opportunities hardly seemed like work to me. I love speaking. I regard it a privilege to share something of God’s love and grace and forgiveness and understanding and peace and so many other things in this way. And I’m happy to be interviewed about my writing journey and my novels. I even enjoy the hours spent preparing my various talks. It is very different from writing my novels – and yes, at times I resent being pulled away from what my characters are about to do or say – but I still enjoy piecing a good talk together and hopefully hearing what God wants me to say.
Yet all this speaking, setting up engagements, getting to the various places and liaising with those involved can be draining too – particularly if one is already quite tired and also in pain. All through our trip and a few weeks prior as well, I suffered from severe sciatica in my right leg, making walking, standing for long periods and even driving quite uncomfortable. I was glad we had planned some rest days in between speaking engagements so I could try to relax completely. And God showed his great faithfulness in that I felt I was given strength just when I needed it to deliver my input and share what he had placed on my heart to share with passion and conviction. I got there in the end. People were apparently blessed and challenged – and I even managed to sell quite a few books in the process!
On returning home, however, I have found it so easy to slip into discouragement, as I catch up on various chores and deal with the many emails that have piled up. Was it all worth it, I wonder? Did the effort and expense involved outweigh the ministry that resulted from my speaking, not to mention the number of books sold?
But then I realise whose voice I am listening to. That discouraging voice certainly doesn’t belong to God, but rather to the enemy, who, as Scripture tells us, is a liar, an accuser, a deceiver and a destroyer. I should know by now to close my ears to that voice and instead to choose to believe the encouraging, comforting words God longs for me to hear. And as I do, I know God is assuring me I did my best, that yes, it was definitely worth it, even if I did not make any great monetary profit, and furthermore that people will be challenged and changed as they continue to read my books. And I am humbled and so grateful.
Yet I also realise that God is challenging me to press on, to continue to serve him in the unique way he has given me. Having ‘put my hand to the plough’, I am not to look back but to keep working and writing until God tells me to stop. And I am reminded of and encouraged by Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13b-14:
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
May you also be encouraged in your own writing journey to continue to press on and run the race God has called you to run. Whatever the cost, it’s so worth it!
Jo-Anne Berthelsen grew up in Brisbane and holds an Arts degree from Queensland University. She has also studied Education and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher and editor, as well as in local church ministry in Sydney. Jo-Anne loves communicating through both the written and spoken word and currently has four published novels – ‘Heléna’, ‘All the Days of My Life’, ‘Laura’ and ‘Jenna’. She is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and two grandchildren. For more information or to contact Jo-Anne, please visit her website, http://www.jo-anneberthelsen.com/.