Feb 26, 2015
I am writing a book on how to live by faith. My sister, Janice, is a godly woman, a sharp thinker, and a skilled editor.
So I asked if she would give me some constructive criticism, and she graciously said she would.
A few weeks ago I sent her the first three chapters. I figured they might need minor tweaking and polishing. But when we talked on the phone, she humbly and gently suggested that they needed major revision.
She was quick to point out that she loved what I was saying and that it’s what Christians desperately need to hear.
But she also said the flow of thought was confusing, and needed work.
She Was Right
As she walked me through my chapters, paragraph by paragraph, I could see that she was right. Her suggestions were excellent.
But still, it was not easy to hear. Constructive criticism, even from someone who is kind and loving and helpful, can be painful.
In my case, it was painful because it meant –
- I needed to do more work,
- I had been wrong in evaluating my writing,
- I was not as good a writer as I thought I was.
So as we talked, I felt some pangs of discouragement and frustration.
What Can We Do?
There are lots of reasons why we become discouraged and frustrated. But the root cause is that we are not trusting all that God promises to be to us in Christ.
So when we struggle with constructive criticism, we need to find promises in God’s word which strengthen our faith and crush our discouragement and frustration.
Here are promises I have found helpful –
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
Discouragement and frustration show that our hearts are hungry. They show that we are looking to something besides Christ to satisfy our thirsty souls.
In my case, they showed that I was looking to progress on the book, and the joys of being an excellent writer, to satisfy my heart.
But Jesus promises that whenever our hearts are hungry, if we will turn to him, and believe in him, our heart hungers and thirsts will be completely satisfied in him — knowing him, worshiping him, fellowshipping with him.
So whenever you are discouraged by constructive criticism, know that Jesus Christ is ready to meet you and completely satisfy you in himself.
1 Corinthians 4:7
What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
One reason constructive criticism hurts is because it’s humbling. And the reason humbling hurts, is because we are proud. And pride is dangerous – more deadly than a rattlesnake’s venom.
But here God gives a powerful antidote to the deadly venom of pride – the truth that anything good in us is a blood-bought gift handed to us by nail-pierced hands.
So if constructive criticism has hurt your pride, prayerfully ponder the truth that your abilities or virtues are yours only because Jesus bought them for you on the cross, and gave them to you as a merciful gift.
As you do this, your pride will shrink, your worship of Christ will grow – and your heart will once again be full. Because it’s infinitely more satisfying to worship Christ than to exalt ourselves.
1 Corinthians 12:21
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
In my pride, I like to think I am self-sufficient – that I don’t need God, or other people.
But the truth is that I desperately need God. And in this verse God promises to use other people in the Body of Christ to help me.
Constructive criticism is not something that harms us; it is God’s way of helping us.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
This verse shows that God has good works he has planned for me to do. These works are good, because they will bring glory to him, good to others, and joy to me.
So if constructive criticism shows that my three chapters are not completed, then that means God has planned for me to spend more time writing those three chapters.
And since God is perfectly wise, and infinitely loving, I can trust that more time on those chapters is exactly what I need to be doing.
1 Corinthians 12:7
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
What if someone’s constructive criticism shows that you are not called to do something you had hoped you could do? That can be very painful.
But here God promises that he has given you the exact abilities you need to do what God has called you to do. And since God’s plans for you are perfectly wise and passionately loving, you can trust his plans for you, more than your own.
But this won’t happen overnight. So take time to come before the Lord, praying over his word, turning from your own plans, and trusting his plans.
As you do that, he will comfort you, he will help you, and he will start to give you a vision for the wonderful good he will accomplish through you.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
As Janice shared her critique, I immediately knew that she was right. But someone may have shared criticism that you are not sure is right.
Sometimes people give us criticism that is not constructive at all and that is completely wrong.
But God promises to give us all the wisdom we need whenever we ask him. So come before him, and ask him, and wait on him.
He may show you that the criticism is completely wrong. But even in that case, he will use this not-so-constructive criticism to draw you near to him, to humble you before him, and to satisfy you in him.
As I look back now, I can see what a gift Janice’s constructive criticism was.
- It revealed my pride, so I could battle it;
- It turned my heart back to the Lord as my all-satisfying Treasure;
- It reminded me how much God helps us through each other;
- It produced chapters that are much clearer than they were.
So if you are struggling with constructive criticism, pray over God’s promises until you can see the criticism as a gift from God’s loving hand.
Because it is.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- Feeling Insecure about My Preaching
- Don’t Neglect God’s Promises
- What Thirsts Does Jesus Satisfy?
- 3 Ways God’s Grace Can Transform Your Work
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