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.

What if questions

What if God had chosen a different way to save the world? Or what if He had decided we weren’t worth saving at all? What if keeping the Law were the only way to get to heaven? The world would be a different place.

There’s a book by a writer named Bill Myers that I really enjoy. The book is called Eli, and if you haven’t read it, you should. It’s a quick read. And basically, it looks at what the world would be like if Jesus didn’t come until the 20th century. It looks at how modern culture would have reacted to Him. 

Imagine. I mean, really imagine what the world would be like if Christ hadn’t come when He did. Think of the state we would be in now.

For one thing, I wouldn’t be a Christian. No one in the United States would be. No one in England would be. No one in Europe or Africa would be. And no one in most of Asia. Because one of the biggest things that changed when Jesus came was that salvation was offered freely to non-Jewish people.

If Jesus hadn’t come, we would all still be held accountable under the Law, which no one can live up to. If Jesus hadn’t come, we would still have to live by the rules laid out in Leviticus. We would have to offer sacrifices. We would have to dot every i and cross every t.

But that’s not the way God decided to do it. And, of course, God in His eccentricity made salvation happen in the strangest way possible.

The passage for today is Luke 1:26-28.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Can you imagine what this must have been like for this poor girl? I’ve never seen an angel so I can’t compare, but I’m sure it must have been terrifying.

What would have happened if Mary had refused to do what God was asking of her? After all, this was a big deal. And she had to know what people would think. But she didn’t refuse. She accepted the responsibility of it. I don’t think God would have chosen her otherwise.

And I guess at the end of the day, the what if questions don’t really matter. Because speculation on what could have happened doesn’t really benefit anyone, except to be thankful that it didn’t happen that way.

It’s a good thought for a Wednesday, midway through the week. Because there are a lot of what if questions flying around in my life right now. And I can sit and ask them all day long. I can let them take over until the speculation glues me to the ground because I’m so afraid of what might happen that I never take steps to do anything at all.

But all I have to do is think about the story of Jesus’ birth. There are so many bad things that could have happened. I could keep us here all day listing them. But the beautiful part is that God had everything planned already. He knew everything that was going to happen. He had everything figured out. And none of the what if’s applied.

And I don’t know if that’s comforting in your life or not, but it makes a big difference in my life. Because I always feel like I’m on the edge of a cliff and one wrong move from me will send me toppling over the side. So it’s nice to remember that God has a plan and He’s working everything out for my good, even down to the specific details that I have no chance of foreseeing. Because He’s God. And that’s just what He does.

So if you’re paralyzed by what if questions today, stop asking them. They don’t do you any good. Because if God can work out the birth of His Son to a virgin at just the right time and keep them both safe and well cared for around the First century, God can handle whatever stuff is going on in the lives of you and me.