Short answer: God only knows—as in the only one who really knows the answer is God, himself.
Longer answer: Only God knows for sure, but we can make some guesses. Here are a few thoughts that, God willing, will bring hope.
1) Did I Write the Wrong Book?
Let’s tackle the hardest question first? Did God call me to write a book, but somehow, I failed to accomplish what he wanted?
It is possible.
However, I know dozens of authors in the same position, and there are probably hundreds more. I don’t think we could have all written the wrong book.
Take a look at your book. Is it too violent? Too daring? Is it not violent enough? Not daring enough? Is there material in there that seriously dishonors God? It you see a serious flaw, something that maybe God really didn’t want there, that could be an issue to address.
Otherwise, let’s move on.
2) The Iron Chamber of Memory Principle—what if you are reaching the audience God intended?
The book is The Owl Service by Alan Garner. In it, some kids find plates that have the design of an owl formed of flower petals. Having nothing to do, the kids put paper over the plates and trace the picture of the owl. This leads to a series of strange events tied into the life of Blodeuwedd, the maiden from Welsh Mythology who was created out of flowers and eventually, as punishment, turned into an owl.
Towards the end of the book, in the midst of terrible troubles, the main characters finally discover: “Not owls, flowers.” When they trace the flowers instead of the owl, the spirit of Blodeuwedd is set free.
Not owls, flowers.
This one idea has been so valuable to me. I have brought it up in numerous testimonies at church—because this analogy, of being able to look at a familiar thing (an owl plate service) and suddenly seeing it in a new light (the flowers), seems to speak of what happens when we are healed through prayer, how we suddenly see the world in a new light, as if the truth were there all along, but we were missing it.
The author who wrote this book did not have me in mind. He has no idea how his book has helped me. This book, which I read as a child, was not a commercial success, but this one idea is still inspiring at least one of God’s children upon the earth.
What if that was why the Divine Muse sent that idea to Alan Garner? So that one person, me, might benefit from it?
To Alan Garner, that might not have been worth the effort, but to God?
Once upon a time, my husband was an atheist. He was not an ordinary atheist, minding his own business, but the kind who talked other people into becoming atheists. One day, he had a heart attack, a healing mid-attack, heart surgery, and a conversion experience.
Normally, my husband writes books on the fly, but during this time, a novel came to him fully formed. Having recently returned from the hospital, he dragged himself out of bed and to our office, where he typed up the entire outline. Twelve years later, during an amazing period when he was out of work, and yet God paid all our bills, he took out that outline and wrote the entire book in five weeks. The name of the book was Iron Chamber of Memory.
I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but, basically, Iron Chamber of Memory deals with the extraordinary lengths Heaven will go to in order to save a single soul.
Ask yourself, if your book only sold five copies, but when you reached Heaven, you met the person who would not have been there were it not for your book, would the effort have been worth it?
Yes, we would like to reach a greater audience. Yes, we would like our efforts to reach as many as possible, maybe even help save dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions.
But what if God had just one soul in mind when he sent you the story?
Maybe we should be slow to set just our own criteria for the success to our work. Maybe we should be open to God’s criteria.
3) For Such a Time as…Not Yet
For most of us, the honest answer to the above question is: Yes, Lord. If You want my book to be read by only five people, then be it unto Thy servant according to Thy Word, but…
We want to serve God. That is why we are doing this.
But we also would like our work to reach a wider crowd. We would like the stories that we dream up with the help of the Divine Muse to be enjoyed and appreciated by…well, as many as possible.
To us, this dry ditch of pouring in time and effort and getting almost nothing out is wearying.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Esther. I am always impressed by how brave Esther is when she walks in front of the king, not knowing if she is going to live or die. There is a line from the Book of Esther that has been oft repeated of late. It comes from the scene where her uncle, Mordecai, is urging her to find the courage to face the king and beg him to save her people.
For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time,
then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place;
but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed:
and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Esther was brought to the palace by God for such a time as this—to save her people from the ravages of the evil Haman (who was, incidentally, excellently played in the movie version, One Night with the King, by the same guy who played Gaius Baltar.)
But how long did it take to get to that appointed time?
When Esther lived with her uncle in the city, it was not yet time. When she suffered the indignities of being rounded up with the other girls and brought to the palace, it was not yet time. When she was first chosen to be queen and fetted about by the King, it was not yet time.
Maybe, just maybe, God has called us to write books for a time that is not yet.
Look at the world around us. Almost all the atheists I know have no children at all. Some have one or two. Yes, there are always exceptions, but if you look around, the a-religious are having fewer and fewer children, and the families of the devout—of numerous religions—seem to be getting larger.
Homeschooling is growing—especially this year with all the kids stuck at home. Parents who homeschool are more likely to share more wholesome books with their kids.
What is going to happen ten, fifteen years from now, when those kids have grown up and have kids of their own? Won’t they be looking for reading material that is more wholesome than the Woke dreck being pushed today?
What if our books are not selling the way we wish they would in our hearts because the time is not yet?
I just heard someone talking about the life of Isaiah. Isaiah was a prophet that almost no one ever listened to. He continued speaking as God instructed him to for years, and no one listened.
And yet, when Jesus came into his own, one of the first things he did was quote the prophet Isaiah.
That was a long time to wait for someone to appreciate what you had written, but I bet, today, Isaiah thinks it is worth it.
When will the time be? Maybe in another two decades—as today’s trends continue and society slowly changes and reacts. Maybe only a decade. Maybe a century, or even longer. Maybe we will have to wait as long as Isaiah.
Or maybe it will be tomorrow.