Once upon a time, there was a writer. She aspired to write books, stories, and articles that would change the world. And, by golly, she was going to accomplish that.

But then her manuscript fell apart. Her article was rejected. Her story was too terrible to finish, so she discarded it and stopped pursuing her dream.

For many of us, this is a scary reality.

Sometimes I cringe at the prospect of quitting. I promise myself I’d never do that. Yet, just as quickly, loneliness and feelings of inadequacy overcome me. I start to wonder whether I’m capable of finishing my project.

How do you cope when discouragement surrounds you—when doubt is overwhelming and rejection runs deep? I’m going to share the principles and facts I’ve learned through a recent season of questioning myself and God.

God Has a Plan for You

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)

As writers, our time is devoted to outlining other people’s lives. We plot all our characters’ experiences—what lessons they learn and when. We write a story or poem from beginning to end. But we don’t know how our own lives conclude—or what happens twenty minutes from now.

Even when circumstances seem to be spinning out of control and we can’t foresee where our future and career is heading, God can. He is the greatest author to ever exist. The Bible is the greatest story ever told. Take comfort that someone is writing your story.

Though we often see Jeremiah 29:11 printed on calendars, postcards, and notebooks, I think that we tend to pull it out of context. We assume it means life will be smooth. But sometimes life stinks, and to be honest, there are moments when I want to plop down, cross my arms, and cry.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a bright spot in a dark chapter. God’s people have been informed that they are to spend seventy years away from their homeland. Reading this passage as an introvert, I’m frightened, and I can’t imagine how the Israelites must have felt. They were probably terrified, but God’s message emanated hope.

Everything Happens for a Reason

Rejection is disheartening. I’m shy, but I made friends easily as a kid. Years of strange looks, snide comments about my talkativeness, and a few unfortunately timed bullies whittled me down to a young adult who gets nervous ordering food at McDonald’s.

Explaining my writing ambitions to extended family has been difficult too. The reactions have ranged from proud, to skeptical, to amused, to mortified. My aunt, who is nice but incredibly blunt, asked, “But how will you earn money doing that?”

Rejection can lead to doubt, even for the most talented writers. It’s hard to accept that it occurs for a purpose and that God allows it. Why would he let us walk through something so painful?

I can’t answer that. I struggle with it myself. But that’s why Scripture is encouraging.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6–7)

We know God has a plan. And Jeremiah 29:11 assures us that his plan isn’t to harm us, but to prosper us. However, we will encounter suffering and challenges along the way. God puts us through these trials to prove the genuineness of our faith. We’ll emerge more precious than gold—which, as the passage declares, perishes.

We can focus on how badly rejection hurts, or we can use it. I’d suggest the latter. Rejection isn’t a hindrance, but a tool, and we’ll become better writers if we utilize it correctly. Though it stings, rejection highlights weaknesses that may have gone undetected. Acknowledging those problems is the first step toward improving your skill as a storyteller.

But why are we exerting the effort?

We Were Created to Glorify God

Maybe you’re a writer hoping to publish a book someday. Maybe you’re an artist striving to meet your own perfect standards. Maybe you’re a poet yearning to be noticed and appreciated. Those are valid motivations … by the world’s standards.

Though these goals aren’t sinful, they may or may not coincide with the plan God has for us as individuals. Are you contented with writing purely to glorify God and not yielding to the needs, desires, and pressures of the secular writing industry?

Words, sentences, and paragraphs penned in God’s name will always honor him. Even if we doubt that anyone will be impacted by our writing, God works in ways that are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8–9). We must write despite the fact that we may never realize how far our writing reaches.

I’m not saying this is easy. I’ll be the first to admit that trusting God is difficult, especially when we seem to be wandering through life, aimless and alone, like travelers in a fog. Relying on God means relinquishing the deep-rooted worry that weighs us down. Knowing that someone upstairs is directing our steps is both comforting and alarming. Because humans are visually minded, it’s almost against our nature to trust in the invisible.

Anxiety and doubt are byproducts of the career we’ve chosen. Writing is dependent on much more than we can control. But God has placed a love for writing in our hearts. He’s called us to use that love to spread his light throughout the world.

In turn, we must trust him and believe in his promises. Rejection will come and go, but through it all, God holds us in his hands.