Can I really know what God wants from me?

I’ve been having a dilemma lately. Well, for a couple of years, if I can be honest.

No, I’m not having a crisis of faith. If anything, I’m more concerned with being faithful, but as I read the Bible and desire to follow God’s plan for my life I end up more confused and floundering.

Here’s the latest dilemma: for a couple of years I’ve wanted to stop writing about Christian music. I’ve been feeling uninspired, unmotivated and frankly unpassionate about the topic. (For those of you who don’t know, I have been covering Christian music at Beliefnet.com for a couple of years, in addition to a column that runs in several newspapers and countless magazine articles. The Beliefnet blog won a 2009 EPA award from the Evangelical Press Association for best blog.)

I continue, however, to love the relationships I have with people in Christian music – artists, publicists, other writers.

But I simply became overwhelmed with the avalanche of projects that cross my desk every week and quite frankly jaded with the commercialism of an industry that basically makes its money from God’s word.

Christian music has a place, certainly, but when you deal with it day in and day out it becomes very weary.

Every time I decide to take a break, though, something happens that I interpret as God telling me to continue what I’m doing. Another writing opportunity, a paying gig, something I never pursued but has landed right in my lap. I end up feeling horribly disrespectful for not having put more effort into the work, even if I hate it, because I guess I feel like if God gave me the work I should buck up and change my attitude.

So I take a deep breath and forge ahead, renewed for a few months before the weariness sets in. Again.

And that’s where I find myself, for maybe the 100th time in the last five years.

I have some regular paying gigs that are Christian-music related, and frankly are the sole source of the meager income I make as a writer. But I don’t feel like I’m doing myself or the publications any justice by doing the work half-heartedly.

So this week I decided that at the end of my contract with Beliefnet, I would take a break. (No matter what I’ve written about Christian music over the years, what generated the most readers were posts about Katy Perry and season 9 of American Idol. Really, how long can you ride those coattails?) Understand that I LOVE writing for Beliefnet, but recently the company was sold, my editor has left for another job, and I kind of feel like maybe it’s a sign to go.

I figured I’d stop my music column that runs in newspapers at the same time and focus some energies on my latest passion: dog writing.

And then … it happened again.

Within hours, I got a call from a newspaper that wants to run my column in their newspaper. A magazine has approached me about writing some music articles, and another paper needs a music article asap.

My first thought was … UGH!!!

Ugh, because I never know how to interpret this stuff. Is Got telling me to keep writing about music and stop being a whiner? Is God testing me to see if I’ll let go even though I’m being offered money – which we need – to step into the unknown (and as yet, unpaying) to see what he has for me next?

Do I just overanalyze everything?

And then I remember that the things that Jesus taught us were to love God with all of our hearts, minds and souls, and to love others as ourselves. Not love Christian music or paychecks or jobs. Love God and his desire for the world – a desire that all might know Christ.

I don’t think that God puts us into a box occupation-wise.  I think he can accomplish his goals wherever he has me working. And I think he knows my desire to follow his will.

So that’s where I am right now. Take a break from covering Christian music – which, if I’m being honest, I’ve kind of done in a way already, because I’m doing it without any heart – or change my attitude. Keep making my few hundred dollars a month and take on new work, or step into the empty wallet and see what else God might have.

I think what I know I can’t do anymore is sit here and debate it.

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4 responses to “Can I really know what God wants from me?

  1. I enjoyed your work here Joanne,

    I’m sure you’ve noticed how different it feels writing about something that you want to write about as opposed to the alternative. I admire your respect of the craft in that you don’t feel right doing it if the passion isn’t there.

    Can I really know what God wants from me?

    Perhaps what God wants is to restore the passion between you and Him. To recharge you and fill you with a new inspiration to express through your writing.

    “Keep making my few hundred dollars a month and take on new work, or step into the empty wallet and see what else God might have.”

    I think you’ve got it right…the best may be yet to come!

    blessings on your journey!

    • Thanks – that’s how I feel but I also want to make sure I’m honoring God and not just being a whiner. 🙂 But I think you’ve hit it on the head: “restore the passion between you and Him.” Reading the Bible and knowing about God isn’t the same as being in daily contact. Just because I have someone’s phone number on speed dial doesn’t mean we actually have deep and meaningful conversations as often as we should.
      Thanks for the perspective!!

  2. I enjoyed the Gospel Soundcheck blog. I will miss it.

    As to whether God is using events to test you or tell you to keep writing about music, do you think God would test you without first making His will clear? Personally, though, I believe the best way to discern God’s will is not by trying to interpret the meanings of small events, but instead considering what actions most demonstrate love for God and love for neighbors. How much does writing about Christian music glorify God and serve the Christian community?

    I think you do a service for the Christian community by writing about music. Not only do you help keep people updated on album releases and other events, but your blog was also thoughtful and addressed issues like homosexuality in the Christian music industry (Ray Boltz, Jennifer Knapp) that many people are not willing to discuss. At times, your thoughts were original, too. When the Jonas Brothers were at their peak popularity in 2008, you did a post about them and noted the conflict of interest between their purity rings and their sexualized image. At the time, no one was really saying those things (though the topic was eventually covered by South Park). Yours was the only thoughtful discussion of the matter; everything else seemed to come from either obsessed fangirls or “haters.” Such topics (homosexuality in the Christian music industry, sexualized teen stars who are otherwise positive, etc.) are certainly worth discussing in the Christian community, especially for parents trying to guide teens in discerning the often mixed messages they get from the media and the entertainment industry. In the above post, you brought up another interesting issue, “the commercialism of an industry that basically makes its money from God’s word.” It would be interesting to hear you elaborate your thoughts on that topic. I can’t guarantee that a lot of people would want to read about that topic, but I think there are a lot of people who need to read about it, especially among casual fans of Christian music who have never really given much thought to how the industry actually works.

    Of course, you also do a service with your dog writing by providing people with humor and promoting animal welfare, but I don’t think the contributions you make in that arena are as distinctive or unique as the ones you’ve made in writing about Christian music. If you decide to continue writing about music, maybe you need to think about it from a different angle, perhaps writing about “music from a Christian perspective” rather than “Christian music,” if you know what I mean.

    • Thank you SOOO much for those kind comments. Sometimes I felt like I was writing that blog in a void, LOL. Except when it was about Katy Perry or American Idol, of course. That’s a good suggestion about the industry; I’ll do a post about that soon and give a little background, because to be honest, the notion that there’s strictly a “Christian” industry is almost null. The big labels are all owned by mainstream corporations, artists sign dual contracts with mainstream/Christian labels, and the drive is pretty much to get music into the mainstream, whether on radio or on TV or in movies. The lines are really blurred.

      I haven’t decided to stop writing at Beliefnet. I am under a contract and will definitely fulfill it. And I really do love writing over there. The site is great and all of the people I worked with were so great to work with. If I could … I guess, muster up the energy … I’d keep doing it. I just feel like I’ve been doing a crappy job because I’m so worn out that it’s not fair to them or readers. I’ve been pretty lax in July so maybe this break will help, LOL.

      And that’s for the perspective on God. I think you’re exactly right and it’s a good reminder for me!

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