Overcoming Obstacles in Your Creative Life
As an artist, and a follower of Christ, it is critical for you to learn the skill of overcoming obstacles in your creative life. While talent is essential, and perseverance is necessary, we must dig deeper to understand what God is doing in and through our lives. We live in a fallen world full of disappointments, difficult people, and challenges. We cannot ignore them. We cannot let them distract us or bring us to despair. We must learn to see beyond the obstacles, with an eternal perspective.
Overcoming obstacles and growing creatively are part of a lifelong journey. While the mainstream art world and entertainment industry focus on you becoming a star, God is focused on you becoming more like Christ. This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want you to find great success. It simply means that your spiritual growth is more important. God cares about all of your life and He desires for you to find deeper joy in all you do.
If we gain a healthy perspective on why God brings challenges and obstacles in our life, our heart will be healthier, and our creativity will flourish. We will be able to continue creating in every season of life. This is what God wants for you amidst the challenges – increasing joy and increasing creativity. This requires a unique viewpoint when it comes to the obstacles we face.
When we learned to ride a bike, we knew it is inevitable that we would fall and scrape our knees. Kids today have helmets and endless pads to protect them. But life doesn’t come with a helmet or knee pads. The scrapes and bruises are inescapable. Avoiding pain is a pointless endeavor. It is part of life. Kanye West described his battle with pain and his art in this way –
“Thirty-three-years-old, still creating art.
It’s rage, it’s creativity, it’s pain, it’s hurt,
but it’s the opportunity to still have my
voice get out there through music.”
Great art often comes out of the pain and struggles of life. Whether you have challenges of chemical imbalance, being bi-polar, or just a dysfunctional family and a frustrating job, the pain in life can be the very thing that compels you to create something new and fresh. Maybe its something less personal, but no less daunting in the moment, like when your agent tells you they want an entirely different style, or a mentor challenges you, and says you are resting on your past successes and pushes you to get out of your comfort zone.
Obstacles are Part of the Journey
Like a good story, your life will include obstacles and challenges which become part of a fascinating journey. Sometimes it can be helpful to step outside of your struggles, look at your life, and think like an author who is creating your story – wondering how this struggle will push you to greater creativity and breakthroughs. James reminded us in the Bible that we should “rejoice when we face trials of many kinds because the testing of our faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)
Creatively, this may happen through circumstances, events, and people. We’re not always sure what caused it, or why. But regardless of the circumstances we know that God is with us and He is working through our current situation to draw us closer to him and to further develop our gifts and talents.
This is true in our spiritual life as well as our creative life. We know that God puts us in situations that will stretch us and lead us to depend upon Him. We were never promised an easy chair life.
Jesus told us in John 15:1-2:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit”
If we have a vision of the benefits that arise on the other side of the pain and struggle, we can endure. Without becoming overwhelmed, we can endure the pain with grace, hope, and joy. Especially as Christians, when we run to God with our hopes and fears, through prayer. Then we can hold onto our joy, in the midst of pain. In a moment, your obstacles can be seen as opportunities.
God is faithful to do what it takes to make sure you keep growing spiritually. That requires seasons of fruitfulness and seasons of barrenness. There is no other way. Despite all the Tony Robbins seminars you are tempted to take, the scrapes and bruises will come. All too often we confuse comfort with blessing, and forget that without pain, hard work, and learning tough lessons, we are never going to become the healthy, accomplished artists, and mature followers of Christ that we long to be.
The Dark Night of the Soul
We will all go through what St. John of the Cross called, the Dark Night of the Soul. I remember reading the book for the first-time during seminary, and it was comforting and challenging to consider what God will go through to help us grow. The dark night is that point where God withdraws all the spiritual bells and whistles and feel-good experiences we had as baby Christians, and calls us to grow up. Like a faithful parent, God pushes us to become faithful whether we are in a time of plenty or a time of want.
One of the illustrations in the book is of a mother feeding a child at her breast. He describes the time when every good mother begins the process to wean the child from the mother’s milk. The baby will be unhappy as she must begin chewing food, but the baby’s maturity is more important than the baby’s happiness. This process is necessary for the child to become strong, healthy, and mature. Children must learn to eat bread, vegetables, and meat.
We all want to be healthy and mature, but we forget what is required. Our comfort cannot be our primary aim. We must see new challenges as opportunities to learn. These are opportunities to depend on God when life is hard, and to persevere when the race is long.
Here are a few points to remember when you are going through a dark night, or a difficult season in which God may be pruning you or drawing you closer to Him. He still loves you, just as that mother weaning a little child. Your discomfort is part of an invitation to a deeper walk with Christ, and a more mature approach to life on this earth.
1) Don’t fight it– God is calling you to a deeper faith, and greater creativity. He is inviting you to love him out of conviction and love, instead of loving him simply because we ‘feel’ blessed. God has not abandoned you. On the contrary, He loves you deeply. Hold onto this truth.
2) Don’t question God’s goodness or confuse goodness with pleasure and an easy life. Christ did not come to make us happy over little pleasures, he came to give us deep abiding joy, and to make us holy. Jesus himself suffered on the cross, and the apostle Paul reminded us of the power of identifying with Christ and his sufferings. Somehow, these things unite us with Christ in a mysterious way. (Philippians 3:10)
3) Don’t expect a quick resolution. As in all good things, it takes time. God is trying to rewire your passions and your desires. This is no simple task, and it cannot be done without discomfort and prolonged seasons that challenge us to reorient our hearts and minds. Seek the Lord in prayer and draw near to him. Just as it takes time to develop a new approach or learn a new technology for your craft, so it takes time to learn how to love God in the midst of challenging times.
4) Don’t run to quick fixes. Our temptation is to run to things that brought us joy and peace in our spiritual walk when we first became Christians or when we were growing up. If you came to Christ through reading, and intellectual understanding, you may be tempted to read more books. If you came to Christ through changing your actions, and behavioral modification like through twelve step groups, you may be tempted to focus on behaviors. If we came to Christ through an emotional experience, you may be tempted to whip up your emotions, or go to churches where the worship whips up your emotions. You can become feelings focused.
The truth is that God used these doorways of faith to reach us because of our own unique design, but he wants us to move beyond the milk that nourished us in the beginning.
This dynamic is true in your creative life. You will be tempted to go back to doing what first inspired you in the very beginning. But the path forward is not a retreat into the past. You need to grow beyond your old ideas and techniques. God doesn’t want you to rest on your past successes, spiritually or creatively. He wants you to use all the gifts he has given you to keep growing creatively and keep trying new things.
5) Seek to grow during the dark night. Take time to assess your heart, to pour out your fears, hopes and dreams to God. Ask yourself if you love God for what he gives you or if you love God for who he is. Are you confusing pleasure with blessing, and comfort with God’s approval? Take time to read stories in the bible like Job as he is tested, or David as he runs for his life even though he is anointed king. Or consider the fear Esther must have experienced in approaching the king. What was God teaching them and what is He teaching you?
Likewise, if you heart is not weaned from its selfishness, your art will be limited by your selfishness. Yet if your heart can be enlarged to love God and your neighbor as God does, then your art develops in profound ways, to be a blessing to others.
6) God loves you too much to leave you where you are. He is inviting you into a deep faith, a deeper love, and deeper contentment with where he has placed you. If we grow through the dark night instead of resisting it, or fleeing from it, we will find a deeper joy, and a more profound level of contentment with our current life. The dark night is meant to push you to grow up, like an eagle pushing it’s chick out of the nest so it will be forced to learn to fly.
Don’t fight it. Cling to Christ even when it is hard, and stay strong in the dark night of the soul. See the challenges as opportunities for life lessons.
If you can embrace this mindset, seeing obstacles and hardship as the hand of God inviting you to grow in your art and in your faith, you can become a beacon of hope, joy, and love in your industry. Your heart will become healthier, and your creativity will flourish. This is what God wants for you, and it is part of why the hardships exist.
Now it is up to you – how will you respond? Will you run to the past, living in spiritual and creative nostalgia, or will you look to the future knowing God is with you, pushing you to grow in your love for him, and in your ability to use the creative gift he has given you?
Don’t give up. He is with you all the way until the end. Take to heart these words from the book of Hebrews:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 21:1-2)
Copyright © 2021 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
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