Everybody feels like giving up

What are you dealing with today that makes you just want to give up? Is it a relationship? Or a job? Maybe a dream?

If you’re in that place today, don’t think you’re alone. Everyone ends up there at some point in their lives. Even the most optimistic person in the world has a day when they just can’t take it anymore.

And there’s something God taught me yesterday as I was thinking about pushing through the tough times that I thought I’d better share. What’s even cooler is that it’s a lesson I learned from Christmas.

1149769_48728710Today’s verses are Romans 12:2-3.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

As in everything else, Jesus should be the example we follow. He’s the One we should pattern our lives after, and He never gave up. Not even when he faced agony and disappointment and abandonment. Because He knew what was coming, He had the strength to keep going.

God made you with a purpose. He has a plan for you. Maybe you can’t see it right now, but it’s real. God started it, and He won’t stop finishing it until it’s done. That’s a promise. But our enemy does love to throw darts of discouragement at us, and when life is so busy and so crazy and so broken, it’s so easy to give in. It sounds so much easier just to give up.

And in those moments, it’s tempting to think that Jesus’ example doesn’t fit. Because He was God. And you’re not. I mean, after all, you’re just a regular person. You’re not a superhero. You can only take so much.  Right?

Well, let’s talk about the Christmas story, because, yes, Jesus was involved, but the major players were all 100% human. No superheroes present.

Who better to start with than Mary? A young woman. Pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Yeah, imagine life for her in the first century. You think you’ve got it rough? Mary could have been killed. The Law actually would have allowed for her to be stoned to death because no one would have believed she was a virgin and had still conceived a child. Life sucked for Mary, but if she hadn’t stuck it out, Jesus wouldn’t have been born.

What about Joseph? Mary’s husband. Before they were married, Joseph had to deal with the rumors and the whispers and the gossip that his fiancée had been unfaithful. And those whispers probably followed him for the rest of his life. Put yourself in his shoes. God asked him to be the earthly father of the Messiah, but Joseph would never get any credit. Not really. He’s the forgotten figure in your manger scene. He’s just Joseph. How awful is that?

What about the shepherds in the fields? Sure a bunch of angels popped up and told them the Savior had been born, but the angels didn’t give them a lift. The shepherd had to go searching Bethlehem, going from stable to stable until they found the one with a baby in it.

And the wise men? Gosh, I don’t think anyone really thinks about what the wise men had to go through to find Jesus. They’re always pictured in the manger scene with the shepherds, but they didn’t actually arrive until much later. And they had to do tremendous study to figure out when and where Jesus would be born. And then they had to travel for miles and miles and miles and miles…. you get the idea.

Here’s the deal, friends. Life is hard for everyone. Certainly some have it worse than others, and we shouldn’t ignore that fact. But just because you’re tempted to give up today doesn’t mean you’re the only one who’s ever felt that way. You’re not a horrible person. You’re not a bad Christian. You’re just human, and you’re stressed out and pulled in too many directions at once.

So here’s what you need to remember: Even if you feel like giving up, even if you think nothing is going to change, even if you can’t see an end to the difficult road you’re on, don’t give up.

Giving up is easy. Like the innkeeper when Mary and Joseph needed a place to stay. He didn’t even try to help them. Maybe life had just gotten in the way. Maybe he was having a tough time. But instead of trying to help a young couple in need, he just gave up and sent them away. And he could have been the one to be there when Jesus Christ was born. Think of what he missed out on because he gave up.

That thing you don’t think you can do? Ask God for help and try it anyway. That job you think is too much for you? Ask God for help and give it your best. That goal you think you’ll never achieve? Ask God for help and shoot for the stars.

Everybody feels like giving up eventually, but giving up is a choice. And with God’s help, you don’t have to choose it.

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Butterfly at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

God isn’t finished with you yet

I’ve been writing seriously since I was 11 years old, but when I started back then it was just for fun. It never occurred to me that writing could be something I did for a living. I loved writing books, but I never anticipated that anyone would ever want to read them. My friends changed my opinion on that.

I can’t remember the first time I submitted something for publication. I don’t remember what it was. It could have been a novel. It might have been a short story. I purchased a Writer’s Market Guide every year since 2005, but I know I was submitting before then.

The point is I never got accepted, but I kept trying because deep down inside I truly believed that God had given me a story that needed to be told. And when it was time, someone would publish it.

Butterfly at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Butterfly at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 1:6.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Part of following Christ that is so difficult is believing that He’s still working even when all the doors of opportunity have shut in your face. It happens a lot. Sometimes life shuts the door. Other time people shut the door. And even if you prepare yourself for it, it still hurts.

A lot.

Especially if it’s someone you care about or someone you respect who’s the one shutting you out or closing you down.

I’ve been working on this story for more than 10 years. I started it in 2001, my freshman year of college, and it’s gone through many revisions and many changes to become what it is today. Everyone who reads it thinks it’s brilliant, but no publisher will take a chance on it because it’s too weird. It pushes too many boundaries. It’s too Christian for the secular market and too secular for the Christian market, so I’ve been tempted to give up on it more than once. I understand what it’s like to pour my heart and soul into something and have someone else imply that it’s not good enough.

For years I’ve questioned God about it. I want to be done with it. I want to move on, but He would never let me give up. Just when I think I’d be finished, He’d bring someone else along to cheer me up, to encourage me, to tell me that it wasn’t garbage. And that would remind me that it just wasn’t time yet.

God has plans for all of us, and He’s promised that He’ll see them through to completion. This verse is really referring more to our life as Christ-followers. When you accept Christ, you don’t become perfect overnight. Your spirit is redeemed, and your soul is saved, but you still have to live with a broken body and a sinful nature. And you still have to live in a sinful world too. Following Christ is a process, and you learn something new about God every step of the way.  And God has promised that what He started in your heart on the day you accepted Christ is a process that won’t be finished until Christ comes back for us.

But I think it refers to our dreams too. God gives everyone a dream. Even if you’ve ignored it to the point that you’ve forgotten what it was, you had a dream. God gave it to you. And God never gives us anything without a purpose.

The difficulty comes in realizing that the fulfillment of our dreams won’t look like what we expect. If you want to see your dream become reality, if you want to make the most of your dream, you have to give it  back to God, and God will make it bigger and better than you could ever imagine. But it will take longer than you expect, and when it’s finished, it won’t be what you expect either. Because God doesn’t work like we do.

I always knew my book would be published. I just didn’t plan on founding the publishing company that would do it. Beginning in June of this year, my critique group and I will be launching an independent small press, Crosshair Press. I posted all about it on my personal blog a little while back. The four of us felt the undeniable call of God to do this, and to start it only made sense to launch with our own stories, on the off chance it didn’t work. (If we fall on our faces, the only work at risk will be our own and we wouldn’t have jeopardized someone else’s.) Believe me, this wasn’t my idea. I don’t have time for this, but somehow God is making it happen anyway. We’re becoming more official every day; we even have a Facebook that’s got a decent following.

And the fact remains, my unpublishable book will be published in January 2015. Not what I expected. Not even how I expected.

So what’s the point?

Don’t give up on God. Maybe your life circumstances are all working together to discourage you. Maybe people you trusted have turned against you. Maybe you think you’re out of opportunities to try again. Or maybe you’re just so tired you can’t keep going.

Don’t give up. Your dream is still alive, and God’s not finished with you yet. Remember that and keep moving forward. Keep trusting God. He can see how all the pieces fit.

The final product will surprise you, and when you see it, you’ll understand that everything you went through to get there will be worth it.

Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO

God is a God who finishes

If you know anyone who writes or who fancies themselves a writer, you will know that one of the hallmarks of either is that they have a hard time finishing their stories. To write a story is a marvelous thing. To build a universe inside your head, to craft characters who are like real people to you, to weave a complicated plot line–all of that takes time and effort. A lot of time and effort, mixed with concentration, dedication and much gnashing of teeth.

Writing is frustrating. And I’m not even talking about the publishing process. Just the act of writing is difficult, and it takes a lot of sacrifice to finish a manuscript. Even if writer starts a new book, you don’t really know if they’ll finish it.

Fortunately for us, God is the kind of author who always finishes what He starts; it just might not happen when we think it will.

Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO

Glen Eyrie Castle – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Philippians 1:6.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

I like to finish things. It doesn’t matter what I’m working on; finishing projects makes me feel accomplished. Maybe it’s my performance-based mentality, but that’s just the way I am.

The trouble with finishing is that it takes a lot out of you. And that’s just finishing, not finishing strong. Finishing strong? That’s something else entirely.

Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, including Philippians, was an athlete. He loved sports, or if he didn’t, he just talked about them all the time. But one of the most common sports Paul talks about is racing.

I don’t run. My office puts on a Fun Run every year; I don’t think those two words should ever go opposite each other. The only time I run is when there’s a skunk in my yard, and that has nothing to do with fun.

But many people do like to run. If you’re one of them, good for you. And I’ve watched enough Olympic track sports to know that the quick, fast speed of the sprinters is impressive but what really requires the discipline and endurance of a champion is the long races. The 1,000 meter races. The marathons.

Those little sprinters who can run flat out and set ridiculous records are awesome. But have you seen someone in a 1,000 meter race cross the finish line without difficulty? Have you seen someone running a marathon cross the finish line and not be tired?

Maybe it’s happened. I haven’t seen it. Run for any great distance, and you’re going to get tired. And you’ll be tempted to quit. I mean, why not? It’s only a race. Right?

But that’s not the case at all. Anyone who runs competitively knows that there’s more to racing than just “the race.” It’s the thrill. It’s the challenge. It’s the title and the medal and the recognition. It’s the achievement. Even people who don’t race competitively but who still participate in marathons look at it like something to be accomplished. Even if they don’t win medals or endorsement contracts, they want to finish … because it means they’ve finished.

Finishing matters. Anything else is giving up.

People give up all the time. We drop the ball. We walk away from opportunities. We stall out just in sight of the finish line. That’s people. But God isn’t people. God is God. And He always finishes what He starts.

He has started something awesome in all of us. Each of us is a masterpiece He’s painting, a beautiful symphony He’s composing, a complicated novel He’s weaving, a design He’s engineering. Whatever the metaphor, God is working on us. He’s perfecting us every day.

God wants to finish strong in our lives. On the day He brings us home, whether it be by death or by rapture, can we say that we let Him? Yes, God will do what He wants to do; that’s part of being God. But He never forces anything on any of us. We can choose to let Him work in our lives. But we have to choose it.

Don’t kid yourself, though. Letting God work in your life can hurt. He has to strip away the parts of us that aren’t like Him. He has to put us through difficult circumstances so that we let go of whatever we’re holding on to that is slowing us down. He has to remind us that this life isn’t all there is. But through it all, He’s there. He never leaves us. And even when it doesn’t feel like He’s working, you can trust that He is because God is a God who finishes.

So let Him do His thing. But don’t be surprised if your life blows up. And don’t give up when it does. Just hold on to the promise that He never abandons us and remember that He’s writing a story of His own, and He has some editing to do. And if you can hold on, your life will be beautiful, not only to you but to Him and to everyone you know.