The Cost of Giving Up

Giving up is easy. Just throw your hands up, walk away from what’s challenging you or frustrating you, and stop thinking about it. It doesn’t take effort or inner strength to give up. It just takes a choice.

I’ve been there before. Actually, I think I was there this morning. Faced with all this overwhelming stress, this crushing workload, and the exhausting struggle of planning for the future, I considered just walking away from all of it. I was ready this morning. Because what does giving up actually cost?

If I didn’t have to work so hard to make a living, maybe I could rest. If I didn’t have to take care of family members and friends so often, maybe I could actually take care of myself for a change. If I didn’t have to plan for the future outcome of two businesses, maybe I could make one of them work. Sounds to me like giving up would be a greater benefit to me than pressing onward has been.

But is that the truth?

The truth is no matter how little I work, I don’t rest. I don’t know how, and that’s a soul issue. The same is true in taking care of myself, and spending more time to myself won’t help my heart any. And maybe my focus is pulled in two directions with two businesses, but I’m not ultimately responsible for the success of either. And maybe it seems like giving up won’t cost me anything, but that’s an illusion. Because giving up on any of those fronts would cost me the blessings I haven’t received yet.

Work will be rewarded (2 Chronicles 15:7). That’s a promise God makes us. When we work for Him, He promises to reward us for what we’ve done. But the truth about rewards from God is that they don’t always follow the work immediately. Sometimes you have to wait for a while.

Think of it like a harvest. It’s wintertime now, and across Kansas all the wheat fields are dormant. They were all planted before the first freeze, and most fields are already sprouted. Some are green, although right now most are yellowish and brown because we’re having such a dry year. But the farmer who planted the field doesn’t know how the field is going to grow.

He planted the field before winter, and he’s trusting that the field will bring a great harvest in summer. But there’s six months between planting and harvesting.

The same is true with any great objective in our lives. First you plant the seed. Then, you wait for it to grow. Then, you keep waiting. Sometimes you have to tend it, water it, feed it. But mostly you have to leave it alone and just keep living your life. Eventually, the time will come when you can harvest, when the seed has grown into a strong, beautiful plant. But it never happens overnight.

Think about it.

When you try to get in shape, you have to exercise. You don’t develop strong muscles overnight. You have to keep at it. You have to keep walking, keep lifting weights, keep doing your best and working hard to be able to claim the benefits of exercise.

When you start a business, you can’t just let it sit. You have to work it. You have to build contacts, reach out to potential customers, create products, manage campaigns, and talk to people you don’t know. Your business won’t sell a million products overnight (unless you’re just super blessed … and if you are, can you give me a lesson?).

What would have happened if J.K. Rowling gave up after her tenth publisher’s rejection? What would have happened if Edison gave up on inventing the light bulb or if the Wright brothers decided that they should stick to making bicycles?

Giving up before they succeeded wouldn’t have cost them anything they currently had. It would have cost them what they were going to achieve. And it’s the same with the rest of us.

If you give up now, you’re forfeiting something great. No, you don’t have it now, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never get it. You’ll get that reward when the time is right (Galatians 6:9) and not a moment sooner.

Here on Earth, we get focused on time. We live and die by the clock. But when we come face to face with God’s schedule, we need to readjust our perspective. Time has no meaning to Him. He made time. He is beyond time, and so He’s not subject to it. God sees time very differently than we do (2 Peter 3:8-9). And just because He isn’t running according to our watches, doesn’t mean He’s late.

God is always on time. We’re the ones with the watches that run too fast or too slow.

Think about your deadlines that way. So many times I feel the urge to give up because I’m not going to achieve something by the time I set. But who cares about the time I set? My timetable isn’t the one that matters. So how can I even consider giving up when I don’t even have access to the timetable God’s running on?

Yes, giving up is easy. But it costs more than we’ll ever know. So just hold on. I know it’s hard. I know it’s frustrating. I know it’s taking everything you have to just crawl out of bed in the morning. (I know because I’m there too.) But the reward is bigger and better than we can imagine.

Keep walking. Keep writing. Keep believing. Keep building. Keep moving forward. Keep on keeping on. Don’t give up. The ones who came before us endured more than we have, and they’ve received their rewards in full, just like God promised (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Who’s to say we won’t be next?

Give God time to keep His promise

I try to control too many things. But I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember, so I’m not entirely sure when it started. I just have this driving urge to keep a handle on life so it won’t get away from me. Which is ridiculous, as any self-respecting Christ-follower knows (Luke 17:33). But, hey, I’m being honest here.

I try to control the silliest things too. When I go grocery shopping, I try to think of everything I need for about a month. Grocery stores aren’t exactly convenient to where I live, so it’s easier to make one big trip. But that means I have to plan ahead. That means I have to make meal plans. That means designing several different meals all at once and hoping that life doesn’t go crazy between shopping trips.

The trouble is, life always goes crazy. Life always screws up my plans, and usually I’m left with expired produce, questionable meat, or stale crackers. And none of that would have happened if I’d planned a week in advance rather than a month.

I’m not saying don’t plan. But what I am saying is don’t rush ahead too far, because you never know what curve balls are going to come at you.

Life will take crazy twists and turns. God will lead you down paths you never dreamed possible. He may take you down roads you never even thought you wanted to go down, and somewhere along the way you’ll realize you never belonged anywhere else. But that’s all part of His promise (Psalm 37:4). And God can be trusted to keep His promises (Hebrews 10:23).

But that means we have to wait.

I hate waiting. Maybe you didn’t know that about me. Unlikely if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time. Waiting is my least favorite thing.

At least, it used to be. God has been working on my old stubborn Scottish heart this past year, and I’ve begun to see the joy we can have when we release the things that scare us and trust God completely.

I had to go there several times in 2016. More than once, I had to pry my own hands off of my life and hand it over to God. And then I had to sit and wait and trust and pray, and that was literally all I could do.

No, I should clarify. It was all I did, but I could have done several other things.

I could have gone back to the corporate world and asked for my job back. I could have gone to my many loving and supportive friends and asked for a loan, just big enough so that I could afford groceries for the next month. I could have gone to a pawn shop and sold anything I had of value (I’m not joking, the thought did occur to me).

I could have done any of those things, but one question kept hovering at the back of my mind: “Do you trust God or not?”

I told Him at the beginning of this journey that I wanted to rely on faith rather than finances. I told Him I didn’t care what was coming, that I wanted to place my trust and my life and my future entirely in His hands. And if this was the life I was supposed to be living, I needed Him to provide for me, and if it wasn’t, I needed Him to stop.

Good gracious, friends, be careful what you ask for. Because God will hold you to declarations like that.

A few times throughout last year I thought God had stopped providing, but that was because I was planning too far ahead. So I started looking at life differently. I woke up every morning and thanked God for what I had that day, because every day I had what I needed for that day. And when tomorrow arrived, I would have what I needed then. God just wouldn’t always let me know ahead of time.

That is the recurring tale of my 2016. Until the end of December when God opened his storehouses and poured some major blessings on my silly head—blessings enough to provide over and above what I had expected for 2017.

While part of me is concerned He’s providing this much this quickly and telling me about it, the louder part of me is simply choosing to be thankful. I don’t want to forget what He’s taught me this year. Even if I have enough for months and months, it could still all be lost in an instant.

God has to be enough. Just God. Not money. Not possessions. Not power or influence or book sales or car maintenance or health insurance. All those things are wonderful blessings, but God is enough for me. He’s enough to provide what I need when I need it, and He doesn’t have to tell me what He’s doing or when He’s doing it. He’s God. He’s got a plan. He’s working everything out for my good. (Romans 8:28)

My part in this story is to be still. To trust. To wait. My responsibility is to give God time to keep the promises He’s made me, because He will. He always has, and He always blows me away with His goodness and generosity.

Are you trying to control your life? What about your finances or your health or people in your life? You can’t. You need to let go and give it to God and trust that He will work things out. And once you do that, you need to wait.

Even if it feels like you’re standing still. Even if it feels like you’re wasting time. Even when it feels like you should be doing something—anything. Just wait.

You’ll see the door when He opens it. There won’t be any doubt in your mind.

Just because you’re still waiting doesn’t mean you’re lost

My yard is full of weeds. We don’t have a lawn here at Safe Haven Farm. We have weeds, and at certain times of year, the green “grass” is practically yellow with all the dandelions. But it’s not worth pulling them up. One, there are just too many of them. Two, their roots are so deep and so intertwined with the other plants that you can’t ever uproot them completely. And, three, even if you get them all up, the seeds will still plant themselves in spite of your efforts. So out here, we don’t worry about them.

It’s a never-ending battle with weeds. If you garden, you understand. Could you imagine what gardening would be like without weeds? But weeds never go away, kind of like other unchanging circumstances in our lives. Maybe it would be easier to live without those situations or relationships, but that’s not the path we’re walking.

See, following God is easy when He asks us to do easy things. When He asks us to help a friend, when He asks us to be kind to someone who has been kind to us, when He asks us to be thankful for all the good things He’s given us, those are all pretty easy to accomplish. I mean, I don’t know many people who would turn a friend away if they needed help. And most people I know are kind in return when someone else is kind to them. And from personal experience, I know it’s easy to be thankful for all the blessings God has given me. But following Christ isn’t about the easy moments.

pexels-photoToday’s verse is Hosea 12:6.

So now, come back to your God.
Act with love and justice,
and always depend on him.

I prefer using the New Living Translation when I read the Bible, but when I want a deeper word study, I use the Amplified Bible. And this verse is interesting in the Amplified Version:

Therefore return to your God! Hold fast to love and mercy, to righteousness and justice, and wait [expectantly] for your God continually!

The part that caught my eye this time is the last bit. That part about waiting expectantly always stings, because I’m good at waiting. But waiting expectantly is different than just waiting. Waiting expectantly means you fully believe that God’s going to do something. What really grabbed my attention was the very last word in the verse: continually. 

Stop and think about that for a moment. Wait expectantly for God continually.

That means we’re supposed to be still and expect God to do great things all the freakin’ time. Not just on Sundays. Not just on Wednesdays or whenever you’re at church. Not when you pray. Not when you’re singing in the choir. All the time. Continually. Of course, that also means God is continually doing great things, and we’re the ones who aren’t paying attention.

Sometimes we lose our patience because we have to keep waiting. In our instant-gratification culture, waiting for anything usually indicates that we’ve made a wrong turn or a wrong decision. But that’s not always the case when you’re following Jesus.

Being a disciple of Jesus means that we walk His footsteps, and Jesus didn’t have an easy life. We are to help friends, but we’re also supposed to love our enemies. We are to be kind to everyone, not just the people who are kind to us but those who hate us. And yes be thankful for the good things, but we’re also commanded to give thanks for the “bad” things too.

The Christian life isn’t sunshine and daisies all the time. It’s more like hurricanes and dandelions. It’s pulling up weeds that never stop growing. It’s trusting that God is right even when everything in your life feels wrong, and it’s waiting and waiting and waiting because you believe that God’s going to work things out.

Just because you have to keep waiting doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path. It actually might mean you’re on the right one.

God’s timing is perfect, even though it means we have to wait

I was irritated at God last week.

Yeah, I don’t like admitting that, but I was. Not angry. Just put out. See, I’d known that this whole freelancing thing was 100% dependent on clients. Eventually I want to get to the place where my novels will support me, but I’m not even close to that yet. So it’s freelancing that’s putting food in my mouth. And my big main client’s workload was starting to diminish, just like I knew it would. But nobody was stepping up to take its place.

But every time I sat down to start beating the online streets for new clients, something would happen. My internet would crash. Some issue would blow up with the publishing company. Something crazy would happen that would take my attention away from the search for clients. Later, every time I would sit down to contact people, I just had this overwhelming sense of hesitation, and I only experience that when God is trying to tell me not to do something.

Really? He doesn’t want me to announce that I need clients? What difference could that possibly make to Him?

Well, we had a conversation, me and God, and it came back down to the very same issue we struggle with constantly. Trust. He wants me to trust Him. He wants me to believe that He has everything under control and that I’m not the one who’s in charge of my own wellbeing. It’s not the freelancing that’s putting food on my table, it’s His grace. And that’s hard.

It’s so hard to let go of that thing you think you need to do. And if you’re doing it because God says to? I mean, you can’t exactly talk about your reasons with other people because you’ll come off like a lunatic. So I came to my decision. I decided to trust Him. To not even ask for new clients. To just let Him bring them in His time.

I don’t like to wait for anything, generally. Patience is something I struggle with on a daily basis, but some things are worth waiting for. Waiting for your coffee to cool off is worth it. Waiting for the gasoline to finish pumping in your car is worth it. You get the idea. But if there’s one thing I can’t stand waiting for? It’s an answer.

Whether it’s from the doctor or a friend or a family member or a coworker or even God Himself, waiting for an answer drives me insane. So as a result, I often run ahead. I refuse to sit still while others think about the what if’s and the whyfores and the such-and-suches. I make up my mind, I figure out a way to do everything by myself, and I forge ahead, often alone. And while being a self-motivated, independent thinker is always a good strength, it can become a great weakness … especially when you start running ahead of God.

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Big yellow jungle flower at the Tropics Exhibit, Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 14:25-28.

Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

Have you ever had to wait on an answer from God? Let me tell you, there’s very little else that runs my limited reservoir of patience dry than waiting on God to answer a question I’ve asked that I think is time sensitive.

Think about that. I’m irritated at God because my request is time sensitive. He’s the One who made time. Who do I think I am to be irritated at Him?

Anyway, God works in his own time, and what I’ve learned is that He never stops providing for His children. Everything He gives to His children is right on time. Not on their timetable but always on His, and that’s better … because He knows what we need and when we need it. And we just don’t. And if God cares for birds and flowers to the extent the verses describe, how much more does He care about you and me?

God won’t ever let us go it alone in the world. Yes, waiting is hard. Keeping the status quo is hard, especially if you’re one of those people who likes to improve things. But if God is calling you to stop for a while, you need to stop. If He’s calling you to stay still or go climb a mountain or read a book or bake a cake, you need to do it, and you need to do it now, whether it makes sense to you or not. Maybe you think it feels like a waste of time, but nothing God asks you to do will ever be wasted. Not ever.

And as for me and my client situation? No sooner had I told God I would stay put and let Him provide than two clients appeared. Is that an accident? No, it’s not. It’s just an example of how God takes care of us. Are you waiting on an answer from God? I think everybody is. But don’t be discouraged. He’ll answer when it’s time, and His timing is always perfect.

I wait quietly before God

Do you ever just have upsetting days? Those days where everything conspires against you to ruin your mood? Some days start out bad, but then other days come along and they’re fine until the end–when that one thing happens that completely wrecks your perspective.

When that happens, how do you calm down? How do you get your focus back? When you’re so angry, you can’t even speak–when you’re so frustrated, it’s all you can do not to burst into tears–how do you see God in that situation?

In those moments I just want answer. I just want God to tell me what I’m supposed to do with myself. I want to do something–run or fight or jump up and down or scream or just something. Anything except stand still.

But making hasty decisions is always a bad idea. And making hasty decisions when you’re angry will always, always make more trouble than it solves.

So what do you do? I read Psalms, and I read until one makes me cringe because it hits all the right emotions raging in my silly human heart.

That’s what happened yesterday. I was so mad, so frustrated and worn out and tired and disappointment and discouraged. You name it. It all hit at once, and I just wanted to give up. Even after I cheered up, even after I calmed down, I was still debating about how to handle this overwhelming frustration I can’t seem to shake. So I started searching Psalms, and I found what I was looking for.

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Psalm 62

I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.

So many enemies against one man—
all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
or a tottering fence.
They plan to topple me from my high position.
They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
but curse me in their hearts. 

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
Pour out your heart to him,
for God is our refuge. 

Common people are as worthless as a puff of wind,
and the powerful are not what they appear to be.
If you weigh them on the scales,
together they are lighter than a breath of air.

Don’t make your living by extortion
or put your hope in stealing.
And if your wealth increases,
don’t make it the center of your life.

God has spoken plainly,
and I have heard it many times:
Power, O God, belongs to you;
unfailing love, O Lord, is yours.
Surely you repay all people
according to what they have done.

Wait quietly before God. People may turn against me, but my God is my fortress that can never be shaken. He’s told me plainly over and over that He repays people for what they’ve done.

I want to run. I want to fight. But all I’m supposed to do is to wait quietly before God because my victory comes from Him. Sure, that may mean I need to make some changes. But that doesn’t mean I have to take it all on my own shoulders and make decisions on my own.

But what it does mean–for now? I need to remember where my hope is. Not in people. Not in the world. But in my God.

Are angry today? Frustrated? Lost and unsure of yourself or what you’re supposed to do? Instead of scrambling to make sense of it or to defend yourself or to find an answer, think about just waiting quietly before God. Just stand still and be open to what He wants, instead of just what you want.

The hourglass from NewSpring Church's 2011 Judgement House, Wichita, KS

What you learn when you wait for God’s answer

I finished my first “for real” novel before I hit high school. What do I call a “for real” novel? I mean one that has more than 50,000 words. I never thought I was a great writer, but I did think I was good enough to get published. So I started trying very early on, preparing myself for rejection after rejection because every author out there says that’s what you should do.

I don’t know how many rejections I finally had to get before I started thinking that maybe I needed to try something different. I just know that in 2001, my freshman year of college, I felt the need to try to write something different.

So I did. And that began a journey that lasted from 2001 to this year. December 1, 2014, my first novel hits the shelves. And I guarantee you that it looks nothing like it did when I finished the first draft in 2003 or so. This wasn’t an easy journey. If it were thirteen years of hard work, that’d be one thing. But this was thirteen years of hard work, full of dashed dreams, harsh criticisms, and one major philosophy change that turned my perspective on its head.

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I remember the first time it was properly rejected. The manuscript request. The elevated hopes. The rejection letter itself. And the disappointment that followed. I thought I had prepared myself, and I really hadn’t.

It’s not wrong to get your hopes up, as long as you recognize that fact that what you hope for won’t always happen. But how do you live like that? How can you hope for anything with the knowledge that it may not happen? And how does that fit into a Christian lifestyle?

Today’s verse is Hebrews 4:16.

The hourglass from NewSpring Church's 2011 Judgement House, Wichita, KS

The hourglass from NewSpring Church’s 2011 Judgement House, Wichita, KS

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Why is it that when we don’t get our way, we instantly jump to the conclusion that someone is trying to prevent us from happiness? Does that happen to anyone else, or is it just me? That’s my default.

When someone tells me No, my first reaction is that they don’t like me or they’re trying to deny me something. And that’s rarely the case. Admitting it makes me sound childish, so I’m hoping others out there struggle with the same problem.

The plain truth is that our authorities sometimes have to tell us no for our own good.

If you’re a parent, do you let your child do whatever he or she wants? If you’re a manager, do you let your subordinates do whatever they want? No! That’s a horrible idea. Because most of the time people don’t know what they want. And as the appointed authority you are the one who has to make the decision as to what’s good for them and what isn’t, whether they like it or not.

This is true with my novel. More than anything, I wanted it to be published. More than anything, I wanted it to be in print. And I had my heart set on accomplishing that. But it wasn’t to be—at least not at that moment. And now I know why.

Because the manuscript as it was 10 years ago wasn’t ready. It wasn’t what God wanted it to be. And I didn’t know enough about writing, the industry, my book, or myself to be published.

I’ve learned so much in 10 years, I don’t think I could fit it in a book if I tried. And if I had run ahead of God and done things my way 13 years ago, I wouldn’t have learned any of it. Granted, I might have learned some of it in the school of hard knocks, but this way, I got to learn what God had for me and still get my book in print without having to overcome the consequences of bad decisions.

That’s what He does for everybody. Just because He says no now doesn’t mean the answer will always be no. It may just mean that you’re not ready. It may just mean the time isn’t right.

So before you give up on God, take a step back and try to see it from His perspective. How do you handle disappointment when you don’t get what your heart is set on? I’ve learned how to hope in God’s plan, knowing that if He doesn’t give me what I want, I still have a lot to learn. And if He does give me what I’ve asked for, it’s up to me to make the most of it right now.

Buckingham Palace just before the changing of the guard, London, England, UK

God’s never late, we’re just impatient

I want things done when I want them done. When I’m ready for something to happen, I want it now. I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to be patient. And the last thing I want to do is to sit back and let God take care of it. Why? Because His timetable absolutely runs too slow for me.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned–or maybe relearned–in the last six months it’s that God’s timing is truly perfect. I know I’ve posted about it before. It seems to be a reminder I get frequently, but maybe that’s because I need it frequently.

Buckingham Palace just before the changing of the guard, London, England, UK

Buckingham Palace just before the changing of the guard, London, England, UK

Today’s verses are Habakkuk 2:2-3.

Then the Lord said to me,
“Write my answer plainly on tablets,
    so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.
This vision is for a future time.
    It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.
If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,
    for it will surely take place.
    It will not be delayed.

Yesterday morning I watched my best friend hike up the ramp to the security line at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport where she would board a flight that would ultimately end in Manchester, England around 2:30 a.m. this morning (US Central time). It was the day I’d been anticipating (with equal parts dread and excitement) since January. I knew she was leaving, but neither of us were really sure when. We were both waiting to see when God would give the go-ahead.

He did. And Katie jumped.

I don’t know why she couldn’t go in June, which is when she had originally planned. I know I was thankful for the extra time with her, but it wasn’t what she had expected.

There are so many things in life that don’t happen the way we plan for, and sometimes that can be really frustrating. I’m a planner. I like things to work out the way I expect. And then when God turns my plans on their head and things turn out better than I could have ever dreamed, I know He’s up there shaking His head at me. Maybe someday I’ll learn. I’m still working on it.

I guess I just felt the need to remind myself that God really does know what He’s doing. I know that. And I believe it with all my heart.

He’s not late.

His plan is progressing exactly the way it’s supposed to, in the time it’s supposed to, with the people it’s supposed to. No accidents. No coincidences. And when everything is ready, He’ll say jump–and that’s when we need to be ready to spring into action.

Waiting can make you weary after a while. I know that better than most. But you just have to remember that if God’s answer seems slow in coming, it’s because He’s still setting up the pieces. If it seems to you that He’s not moving, just be patient. Just keep waiting. And you’ll see. He’ll come through. He always does.

It just doesn’t always look like you expect it.

You may leave in July instead of June. You may invest your life in other people instead of your own children. You may switch careers. You may leave everything you know behind.

Everything happens for a reason. Even waiting.