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Necessary Heat

Why we have to suffer for the right dreams

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"You have to suffer for the right words."

This would be the strangest—and possibly best— writing advice I would receive at Calvin College's Festival of Faith and Writing this past April. Nathan Foster, author of Wisdom Chaser, and son of Richard Foster, had been insisting to his audience that all good writing is motivated by love. And love is a slow and patient work—a steady, suffering travail.

'You have to suffer for the right words.' I can't imagine that many of us eagerly scribbled down his words.

"You have to suffer for the right words."

I can't imagine that many of us eagerly scribbled down his words. Although the crowd was full of "Christian" writers who are eager to write for God, we wanted bylines and book contracts—not suffering. We hadn't anticipated paying a pound of flesh for the pages we would write. Suffering? No, that had not been an ambition we had entertained.

But maybe Nathan Foster said something profoundly true, not just for writers, but for all dreamers, who dare to imagine doing and being something remarkable for God. Maybe he meant to prepare us for the attendant risks and responsibilities of all-holy, God-glorifying dreams.

You have to suffer for the right dreams.

The dreamers in Scripture

"Here comes the dreamer!" the sons of Jacob said, watching their brother's approaching figure emerge from the hazy horizon (Genesis 37:19).

Twice, Jacob's favored son, Joseph, had boasted of strange, subversive visions. First, his brothers' sheaves of grain had bowed to his. Then, the sun, moon, and stars had paid him homage. These dreams prophetically pointed to a time when the young son of 17 would gain power over his older brothers, but they—and he—were met with outright mockery. "'So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?' And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them" (Genesis 37:8). Joseph's brothers, jealous of the favored son and his multi-colored coat, hatched a plot to bury the dreams with the dreamer.

You have to suffer for the right dreams.

Twenty shekels of silver. Joseph, the dreamer, was sold by his brothers and bartered as a slave into Potiphar's household. Soon, recognizing Joseph's savvy, Potiphar entrusted the entirety of his household into Joseph's care, reserving only conjugal rights with his wife. Nevertheless, she tempted Joseph, begged him to sleep with her, and when he refused, accused him falsely. Potiphar's favor turned to fury, and Joseph was thrown into prison.

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Jen Pollock Michel

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From Issue:
Today's Christian Woman, 2014, July Week 1
Posted July 2, 2014

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Necessary Heat