Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
share post

When the Creative Journey Feels Like Wandering

June 17, 2024

Amanda Cleary Eastep

Our creative journeys can sometimes feel like wandering in the desert—the isolation of the work, doubts in our abilities and relevancy, the silence of audiences . . . the “long obedience” [1] in the direction of the “promised land” of success (however we or society define that). But once we cross the imagined border, will we find a land flowing with milk and honey, with accolades and royalty checks?

In 2019, after more than 40 years of writing and dreaming, of doubting my talent and God’s plan, of striking rocks when obedience didn’t produce the results I wanted quickly enough, I signed a contract to write four children’s books. At last, I’d reached the place promised to my ancestors . . . or at least the seven-year-old girl who’d felt called to write books.

Despite the fact I’d been writing for decades and had been edited hundreds of times, the first bit of criticism had me questioning whether I was cut out to be an author after all. I questioned God too. So, of course I searched Scripture for a pat verse of encouragement to cling to during the three-year publishing process:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NIV).

Have I not commanded you? I considered leaving the “commanded” part off the inspiring sticky note I made for my office wall.

God didn’t tell Joshua, “Feel strong and courageous.” No. “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or discouraged” was a command to Joshua, who was being commissioned to take the land God had promised to Abraham.

This verse led me to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 1 (NIV), before Moses’s death and Joshua’s commission. The Israelites are on the plains of Moab, shortly before they enter the Promised Land. Moses begins to recount their wilderness wandering. I noticed that certain aspects of the Israelites’ journey (vv. 19–36) are analogous with our creative journeys—our calling, our attitudes, our obstacles, God’s responses and ours to Him.

Our calling

“See, the Lord has given you this land. Go in and take possession of it…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 1:21)

Are we “going in and taking possession” of the place God has led us to—the job, the canvas, the story? Maybe we’re discouraged because we do believe God has gifted us for a specific work, but that work is hard, and our spouse has once again referred to it as our “hobby.” Or, maybe we have stopped at the border, afraid because we don’t know what’s next or we don’t understand what God is doing with our efforts (and understanding is more important than obeying). [2]

Our attitude

“But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You grumbled in your tents and said, ‘The Lord hates us; so [H]e brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us.’” (Deut. 1:26–27)

Instead of simply obeying God’s call, we may be “unwilling to go up”: basically, make time and do the work. How much time, instead, do we spend grumbling in our tents like Israelite teenagers? “The Lord hates me! He called me to write only to deliver me into the hands of unresponsive agents to destroy me!” 

Our obstacles and God’s response to them . . .

Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’ Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as [H]e did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.’” (Deut. 1:28–31)

Three obstacles can cause us to continue wandering, rather than working—and even to mistrust God. Like the Israelites, instead of being guided by His Fire by night and His Cloud by day (v. 33), we are often thwarted in our journey by:

Comparison: The Israelites compared themselves to the Amorites in the land, who were stronger and taller than they. As a writer, I have compared myself to the author on Instagram with 120K followers and the soft-light filter over everything. And even the writer who years ago I envisioned I’d be by now.

Fear: Not only were the Amorites big, but the cities were also large. This made the hearts of the Israelites “melt in fear.” But no place God calls us to take is impenetrable—not even the publishing industry. But “we even saw Anakites there” . . . and Beth Moore. Even after I secured a book contract, the city walls rose to the sky—suddenly the word count, the timeline, the editing process, the marketing and publicity, and the sales goals seemed insurmountable.

Doubt: This dread sets in despite the promises of God to us. 

Here are the promises God gave to the Israelites. They are the same He promises to all His children.

  1. I have given you the land.
  2. The land is good.
  3. I’m going before you.
  4. I will fight for you.
  5. I have fought for you before.
  6. I carried you before.
  7. I carried you like a father carries his son. All the way.
  8. I went ahead of you on your journey.
  9. I searched out places for you to camp.
  10. I showed you the way you should go.

. . . and our responses to Him     

“In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God . . . . When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: ‘No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.’” (Deut. 1:32, 34–36)

Joshua is commanded in Joshua 1:5–7 to obey the Law of Moses so he’ll “be prosperous and successful.” Obedience and trust, then success. But this isn’t success as the world defines it, or as we define it, or as our industries define it. Success is carrying out the will of God that He has set before a child surrendered to Him.

What is the promised land for the Christian creative? 

For the Israelites, it was literal land, but it was also the place where God would continue to dwell with His people. As believers, we know our true promised land is God dwelling with and in us. We may be called to write or teach or paint, but our truest calling is to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, to do everything for His glory.     

But we are called not only to our individual work; N.T. Wright explains that Jesus invites His followers to be part of His “cosmic renewal,” just one of many believers “through whom the implementation of Jesus’ achievement can come about.” Through our writing, teaching, painting, composing, building, speaking, encouraging, giving, we don’t “repeat the achievement” of renewal and reconciliation—we “implement it.” [3]

And as we do, we look forward to the new world He promises.

[1] Nietzsche, Friedrich. Delphi Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche (Illustrated): Friedrich Nietzsche, Delphi Classics.

[2] This is a question Elisabeth Elliot poses in her book Joyful Surrender: 7 Disciplines for the Believer’s Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2019).

[3] “N.T Wright: Christian Hope in a Confusing World – Colossians 1:9-23,”,

The featured image, “The View from Here,” is courtesy of Amelia Friedline and is used with her kind permission for Cultivating.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

A Field Guide to Cultivating ~ Essentials to Cultivating a Whole Life, Rooted in Christ, and Flourishing in Fellowship

Enjoy our gift to you as our Welcome to Cultivating! Discover the purpose of The Cultivating Project, and how you might find a "What, you too?" experience here with this fellowship of makers!

Receive your complimentary e-book

Explore the

Editions Archive


organized for ease by author and category.

View Our Editions Archive