“Surrender.” Outside of the context of battles and wars, it’s not a word we hear often. It’s a negative-sounding word that often implies giving up, failing, or releasing control. And in a world where we’re told to never give up on our dreams and to take control of what we want for our lives, surrender sounds unthinkable.

Well, depending on what kind of work you pursue, surrender could be part of your daily routine. There’s no better word than “surrender” to describe sending a piece of writing to a publisher— except maybe “submit,” which also suggests relinquishing control to someone else. It’s a frightening thing, to take your hands off your work and leave the final decision of publication to someone else.

Back in spring 2020, my pandemic project was writing a fantasy novel. I was very happy with how it turned out, so I decided to pursue publication. I spent two years revising, editing, workshopping, and getting feedback from friends and family. Finally, in spring 2022, I decided to take the next step and begin querying and pitching my novel to publishers.

Within a few weeks, I received my first rejection email: a milestone in the lives of most authors. But while the first few felt like checking off a box on the universal list of a writer’s experiences, it began to feel disheartening about a year later. Was I really ready for this? What if my book wasn’t good enough? You’ve likely had similar questions about your own hopes and dreams in life.

The Christian life is full of submitting, surrendering, and changing plans. When we give our lives to Jesus, we choose to surrender our own desires and dreams as we take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23). We do our best in faithfully serving and loving others through the jobs and responsibilities given to us, then we trust God with the outcomes. In our hearts, we may plan our course, but it’s ultimately the Lord who directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9). This may feel scary (it does for me), but it can be a great comfort. We don’t have to worry about what comes next when we’re willing and open to obediently following God’s plan in directing our lives, knowing He sees the bigger, eternal picture.

A few months ago, I was talking at the dinner table with my family about an article I was working on for a Christian magazine, and my dad said, “You’re living my dream.”

“But this isn’t my dream!” I thought to myself. Yes, I’d published many articles, poems, and short stories, but that was never my plan when I set out into the world of creative writing. My dream was to see my novels in bookstores and libraries. I never imagined I’d start by writing for magazines and devotionals and websites… but all those things have been better than I ever expected.    

King David experienced a rejection from God that, instead of leading to only frustration (he probably had some), led him to praise God’s sovereignty even more. David longed to build a temple, a permanent place dedicated to worshiping God, but God said no to that request (2 Samuel 7). Instead, God told David about His greater plan: to make David’s name great and to establish an eternal kingdom through David’s family line, a promise eventually fulfilled in Jesus and far greater than David could fully comprehend at that moment.

Psalm 96:3 (NLT) says, “Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.” I’m going to keep doing that until God opens the next door in my writing journey. I’ll keep sending queries and writing stories and articles because I know God’s given me this gift for a reason. Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that God’s thoughts are higher than ours, and I’m thankful for that. Although King David never got to build a temple for God, he was able to do other great things by actively using his position of authority to unite the Israelites and leading them in following God. He made preparations for his son to build the temple. David’s passion for serving God ultimately led him to be known as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), which is a more important goal than building a temple or getting a book published. Even when our dreams go unfulfilled, God is working. He may be using our gifts in unexpected ways that will turn out more amazing than we can imagine. We just need to stay open to his will when our dreams seem to be at a standstill.

So, when I’m waiting to hear back from a publisher, it doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing. I’m constantly rewriting and improving my work and always have a new project or two on the go. Some sharks have to keep swimming to breathe; and for me, I have to keep writing for my creativity to stay kindled. A waiting room in a hospital or office may be a place of boredom, anxiety, or mindlessly scrolling on the internet, but waiting doesn’t have to be passive or unproductive. Receiving dozens of rejection emails from publishers and literary agents may not feel great right now, but it offers a chance to build resiliency and to remember my identity is in Christ and not in my success. Think about times in your life when waiting helped to positively shape you, or when anticipating something for a long time made it even more exciting when that thing came. And, if you can’t think of anything yet, consider if there are any steps you can take to make your period of waiting more active. The process of waiting may not be pleasant, but it can be healthy when we choose to wait with action, to continue growing in our faith, and to move forward in serving others.

We’re all waiting for something. Maybe it’s a book deal, or maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s a child or a job. May we make our plans with open hands. May we honor and glorify God in whatever work we do, knowing He works through the smallest mustard seed of faith to accomplish miracles (Matthew 17:20). May we build our boats and boldly sail towards our goals and take our grip off the rudder to let the Spirit’s wind lead to a destination that may be different, but ultimately better than we could’ve imagined.