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Bread Upon the Waters

One of the big tests one often faces in life is how to deal with disappointments. They can be viewed as disasters that derail plans, as distractions that further sidetrack one from the stated goal, or as mere delays, speed bumps in the road to achievement.

I've experienced such a trial of disappointment this week. Without going into great detail, let me explain.

My book Evangelism and Expulsion: Missionary Work among the Cherokees until Removal originally was slated to be out in late summer 2021, right on the heels of Christ in Camp and Combat: Religious Work in the Confederate Armies. But its release was delayed until Spring 2022. Then it was again pushed back until it finally was given a definite, concrete release date of June 28.

In preparation for the big day, I ordered a supply of copies to have on hand for the big release. I purchased business cards and bookmarks advertising the availability of the book. And I prepared a big announcement to post on various social media the day of release.

The big day arrived last Tuesday--and nothing happened. No release. No books awaiting eager readers. No announcement. Having repeatedly contacted my publisher, I finally learned of a problem that had been completely out of my hands from the beginning. Only the publisher could have dealt with it. Even my knowing of the reason behind the aborted release, I could do nothing to remedy the problem. But wait! One of these days, that book will be released! I can't say when, and even if I had another date, I now wouldn't presume it to happen at the specified time. But one of these days. . . .

Since I can do nothing to hasten that day, what do I do? Worrying won't help. Badgering my publisher won't help. So what do I do?

This is another instance when it pays to have several irons in the fire at once. I deal with this disappointment or delay by staying busy with other projects and tasks.

I prepare another book proposal and send it out. It's like casting bread upon the waters (Eccl. 11:1). The attached promise is that you will "find it after many days." One of these days, fruit will come from that effort. It might not occur according to my timetable, but it will happen--and at just the right time.

I finish one book and begin another, researching yet another book project. I take a "break" to mow and trim the lawn. I schedule that long-overdue oil change for the car. I work on the PowerPoint slides for an upcoming speaking engagement. I do research for an article I've been assigned. (Although it's not due for another four months, it's never too early to do preliminary research.)

In short, I stay constructively busy. I keep my mind off what I can't control and my hands busy with what I can control.

Now such multitasking goes against my natural need to focus on one task until I've completed it. For example, when I'm eating, I finish each item on the plate in order, one at a time. I don't mix and match, a bite of this, a bite of that, and then back to this again. But when I've had a disappointment, I've found it's so much easier to handle if I can turn my thoughts to something else and do what I can on it rather than obsessing over what I can't do anything about.

So that's where I am as I finish out this week. To say I'm disappointed is an understatement, but I'm constructively busy, so I can deal with the disappointment. One of these days, Evangelism and Expulsion will be released!

Are you facing some disappointment or delay, too? Something you can't control or influence? Try getting busy doing something else constructive. Cast your bread upon the waters, for you'll find it after many days. Your efforts will not be wasted, and you won't be fretting yourself with things that are out of your control.

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