The making of art requires precious time, energy, and money. But more than that, it requires investing yourself in it, almost as if every piece of art you make has a little piece of your soul incorporated into it. When my work is rejected, it feels like the person isn’t just rejecting what I did but also rejecting who I am. And I’m sure it’s the same for every artist everywhere. Rejection hurts, and it’s not going away any time soon.
I think it’s worst when we have a vision we feel comes from God. We see the impact our message could have, and so we lovingly craft it, package it neatly, and then sometimes our audience tosses it into the trash without so much as considering it. This was the usual experience of the prophets. I’m reminded of Jeremiah 36, in which Jeremiah writes out a prophecy only for the king to cut off each piece after it is read and burn it, with both he and his attendants ignoring the message. I’m reminded of Elijah (1 Kings 19) proving before all Israel that Yahweh alone was God and there was none like Him, and being hunted to death for his efforts. I’m reminded of God comforting Samuel, saying that Samuel shouldn’t feel like the people were rejecting him but God (1 Samuel 8).
If being an artist for God means being a prophet of God, then when we’re doing our jobs that might mean our lives begin to look like the prophets. Sometimes, like Jonah, we receive an overwhelming response as hearts turn to the Lord. Sometimes, like John the Baptist, we live unusual lives on the fringes of a corrupt society we can’t stand being a part of any longer. Sometimes, like Ezekiel, our message is strange even to us, its meaning hidden within symbolism or emphasized with shocking language and imagery that is foul even to us. Sometimes, like Hosea, we find that our art costs us dearly. And sometimes, like all of the prophets, we find out sooner or later that nothing angers a crowd like a truth they don’t want to hear.
I wish I had an easy answer, a three-step Biblical process to ensure that your message is always clearly heard without you having to feel rejection. But no such process exists. If Jesus spent much of His ministry being misunderstood, challenged, ignored, and persecuted, then when we pick up our cross to follow Him, we can hardly expect better treatment. It hurts.
I’ve experienced both sides of this. I’ve written things that I felt the Holy Spirit flowing through, only to have them utterly rejected. I’ve listened to a pastor speak and watched the logical part of my mind launch a barrage of arguments against a message I did not want to hear. And it was only by the power of the Holy Spirit that the essence of truth penetrated into my soul. So I know what it’s like for a listener to fight against the truth. But it doesn’t make it any easier when I’m the one delivering that truth.
At the end of the day, we are messengers. We are given a message, and we are to deliver it. And we will answer for whether we delivered the message or not. If we are faithful, there is a reward. And when God sees the bruises and indignities and the pain we suffered as a result of being faithful to the call, He will recognize those and say, “You look just like my Son.” This is the life we are called to; this is the adventure we get to live. So take heart and keep going, remembering the reward that awaits you.
Cameron Miller, writer
Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash