There are times, not often, that I think the following:
“Why hasn’t this church/organisation invited me to preach? Is it because of my chequered past? Is it because I am not high-profile enough? After all I see them inviting speakers like Edmund Chan, Robert Solomon, Benny Ho, etc. Why not me?”
A recent article by Toni Bernhard helped me understand why I think along such lines. I am guilty of personalisation. (She writes from a Buddhist perspective but all truth is God’s truth.) She calls personalisation a cognitive distortion, an error in thinking. She writes:
Everyone experiences disappointments and struggles in life. When you personalize, you treat these inevitable events as the result of some character failing on your part. . . . If you’re turned down for a promotion, you assume it’s because you weren’t good enough at your job, when in fact, there could be many other explanations. Perhaps the company is having budgetary problems. Perhaps the job went to the boss’s nephew. Instead of even considering these alternatives, when you personalize, you jump to the conclusion that you weren’t good enough. (“How We Can Learn to Stop Taking Things Personally”, Psychology Today, August 28, 2018.)
The truth is there could be any number of reasons why a group has not invited me to speak. It may not have anything to do with me at all.
Of course there is also the possibility that my worst fears are true and that I have not been invited because of some of the reasons I mention above. But what right do I have to expect that I will always be invited to speak? As Bernhard reminds us:
. . . blaming yourself for disappointments and struggles makes no sense; they’re an inevitable part of the human experience. No one gets a “pass” on them, because no one gets what he or she wants all the time.
A Christian response to such disappointments should include two other matters. First is the matter of self-worth. Do I find my self-worth rooted in Christ or in my work? I am not saying that there is no joy in a job well done. But if success in my work is the primary source of my self-worth, then I will be vulnerable to negative feelings when I think I have “failed” in my work. Rooting my self-worth in Christ and His love means there is an inner core to my life that is not subject to the ups and downs of life.
Second, is the need to trust in the loving, wise, sovereignty of God. He is on His throne. He knows what doors to open and when. Instead of speculating about ministry opportunities that have yet to happen I should be faithful to the work that He has already entrusted to me. Indeed it’s “well done good and faithful servant”, (Matthew 25:23) not “well done successful and famous servant”.
As 2019 progresses I need to grow up more in this area. Lord, deliver me from personalisation and help me to find my joy in You.