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?

Tomorrow will be better if you wait

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap] like coffee. Any kind of coffee. Hot or cold, blended or iced, black or with cream, Americano or latte, plain or flavored. Whatever. I like it all. In the heat of summertime in Kansas, there’s almost nothing better than a big Frappucino from Starbucks (yes, I like Starbucks coffee).

I didn’t used to like them, though, because they didn’t last very long. And once I finished, I was left with a cup full of partially melted ice mixed with watered-down coffee and slightly chocolate-flavored foamy stuff. Bleck! It was so much better to get hot coffee and sip it slowly.

But during the summer in Kansas where we had more than 30 days over 100 degrees, I broke down and bought a Frappucino. But something happened, and I had to let it sit for a moment before I could come back to it. And guess what? When I was done, I didn’t have ice left.

At first, I thought it was a fluke. But the next time I got a Frappucino, I let it sit for a little while, and the same thing happened. I let the ice get started melting, and I sipped it slowly. It lasted much longer, and it tasted much better than it did when I drank it all quickly.

It was better to wait

But waiting is hard. It takes effort and discipline. It takes concentration because you have to constantly remind yourself why you’re choosing to wait. You have to force your brain to remember that the end result will be better if you just hold your horses.

I’m not good at waiting. I see a path that looks promising, and I want to run down it at full speed, barefoot, hair loose, no bags packed or itinerary planned. And I don’t care if I skin my knees or break my toes or have to turn around seven times. At least I’m moving forward, right?

But sometimes moving forward only causes more trouble.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]You don’t escape from quicksand; you’re rescued.[/su_pullquote]

Think about quicksand. Your instinct is to fight to escape, to kick and thrash and flail, but that only makes you sink faster. But you don’t escape from quicksand; you’re rescued. And your best hope to survive is to hold still and wait.

Life’s like that too. But if you think that waiting is the same as doing nothing, you’re wrong.

Waiting is hardest job you’ll ever work. It’s the most challenging class in the school of hard knocks. It’s the most impossible obstacle course you’ll ever run.

Our culture has forgotten how to wait. We live in a world of instant gratification. We’re ruled by our watches and our calendars, and we’ve learned to settle for what’s passable and immediate rather than what’s excellent and inconvenient.

I’m so guilty of this, but I learned the hard way that I can’t rush God.

lam3-26He’s got plans for me, just like He has plans for you. But no matter how badly I want to achieve His goal for my life, I don’t get to decide when it happens. I can strive and fight and push and run as hard as I can, but I can’t move Him. God does what He wants. I can’t change that. And if I really understood His plans, I wouldn’t want to change it.

The Bible says it’s good to wait on God (Lamentations 3:26). I struggle with that. Nothing about waiting is good. It turns your stomach upside down. It turns your hair gray. It makes you cranky and irritable.

Or does it? Does waiting really do all that? Or do we do that to ourselves because we refuse to relinquish control of our lives, our dreams, our plans to the Person who already owns them?

Stuck in summer

I wake up in the morning, and I stare down a beautiful curving path into an autumn forest. Line with golden-leafed trees, blazing red maples and shimmering, white-barked aspens, and it smells like cinnamon and nutmeg and joy. There’s a giant pile of leaves just ready for me to dive into, and pumpkin-flavored everything is waiting just out of reach.

But I can’t get there because I’m stuck in summer. In the heat and the deadness of post-harvest dirt. There’s no end in sight. And I want that world so badly I can taste it, and I can see exactly how I’m supposed to get there. So why shouldn’t I run? Why shouldn’t I just leap forward and reach for that dream? It’s right there.

[su_pullquote] While I’m waiting, I’m learning who God is.[/su_pullquote]

But it isn’t just right there. I can’t see the twists and turns. I can’t see the distance or the effort or the disappointments or the successes that I’ll need to experience before I get there. But God can. And that’s why I have to wait.

That’s why waiting matters. That’s why waiting is good. Just like a Frappucino is better once the ice has started melting, tomorrow will be better if I wait until God says it’s time to run.

lam3-22-23Choosing to wait is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Making the conscious decision to set aside what I want right now in favor of what God wants right now has taken more faith than I thought I had. But I’m still here. I’m still waiting. And I’m not going to stop, because while I’m waiting, I’m learning who God is and who He wants me to be.

Every morning, I get to start over fresh (Lamentations 3:22-24). New day, new mercy, same God. He doesn’t change. He won’t be rushed. And His timing really is perfect.

How can you expect God to answer when He might not?

I remember the very first time I submitted something to be published. I think it was 1991, so I would have been 8 or 9. I was so excited to send off this awesome poem I’d written, and I thought for sure it would be published. Yikes. I don’t even remember what I wrote, but nothing I slapped together in elementary school was ready to be published. I never heard back from the publication.

But that didn’t stop me. I kept trying. Over and over and over again. And every time, I thought it might be the last time I’d receive a rejection letter. (If any of you are writers, you know what a silly thought that was!) As I got older, I kept writing, kept submitting, but now I was praying. I believed God had gifted me as a writer, and I wanted to use my skills for Him. So I’d write and submit and pray, pray, pray. And guess what?

No. Nothing was ever accepted. Sometimes that was hard to swallow, because I believed I was doing what God had called me to do. So why wasn’t He giving me success? He tells us to expect an answer to our prayers, but it’s still up to Him whether or not He answers. So how are you supposed to balance expecting God to answer your prayer when you know He might not?

AW41W55XCBToday’s verses are John 16:31-33.

Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

This is Jesus, talking to the disciples. If you have a moment and are able to read all of John 16, you should. Jesus is telling them about all the tough stuff that they’re going to face in the coming days and weeks and months. The disciples, dimwitted as they are, aren’t really tracking until the end, and then Jesus tacks this bit on at the very last.

Look at it again. Jesus is basically saying that He’s going to be abandoned, and all His followers are going to be scattered to the four winds. And He’s sharing this tidbit (and all the heavy stuff that came before it) because He wanted His followers to have peace.

Really? What sense does that make? You’re going to be scattered and alone, and now you know, so you can be filled with peace. Does that make sense to anyone?

The Bible is full of examples where people have prayed to God, and He’s answered their prayers with an affirmative. There are plenty of examples too where people prayed, and God said no. And what we need to wrap our brains around is the fact that whether God says yes or no, He still answers. And His answers are better than ours, even if they make us unhappy at the time.

From my earliest memory, I wanted to be published. I wanted to have a book on the shelf. I wanted people to read my stories. I didn’t know how to get there, but I knew that’s what I wanted. So I tried everything I could think of, and I prayed long and hard for God to make a way for this dream to come true. And it has. It just hasn’t come true the way I expected it to.

God will always answer your prayer. It just may not be the answer you want, and you have to learn to be okay with that. The disciples faced it too. They wanted Jesus to do certain things, say certain things, go certain places, and He refused. Jesus wouldn’t let anyone put Him in a box.

Sometimes the answer isn’t what you want, but it’s always what you need. You won’t find peace accidentally. It’s something you have to ask for specifically. And your peace has to be founded in Jesus, because He’s the only one who can take the bad news and turn it into something good. Being scattered, being abandoned, being alone–they’re all bad and scary, but because Jesus is who He is, He can turn them into something beautiful.

Expect an answer. You will get it. So ask God for what you need. And believe that He will answer your prayer. It may be yes. It may be no. It may be wait. But whatever answer you get is the answer you need. You can trust Him, and because you can trust Him, you can have peace.

The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

Watching clouds when you’ve got a job to do

I put unpleasant things off. Don’t you? If I have a task to do that I know isn’t going to be fun, I tend to avoid it until it’s absolutely necessary. That’s one reason why I schedule dentist visits six months in advance, so when the appointment comes around, I have to go.

It’s easy to avoid conflict. It’s easy to put uncomfortable tasks off. I reason with myself that now isn’t the best time anyway. I’ve got too many other things going on, and I’ll take care of it when life slows down a little. But God has something to say about that mindset.

The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ecclesiastes 11:4.

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.
If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.

Usually it’s not a good idea to pick single verses out of Ecclesiastes. It’s one of those books where context is especially important, but this verse is self explanatory. Procrastinators never get anything done. And they look for excuses to keep putting things off.

Can you imagine a farmer waiting for perfect weather to plant a field? In Kansas, that just never happens. We only have perfect weather when we don’t need it. The important times of years, planting and harvest times, it’s either too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry. But the farmers here make it work in spite of the weather. And that’s the mindset we need to attack life with.

Our lives will never be perfect. There will always be something wrong. Maybe it’s a job or a relationship. Maybe it’s financial trouble or health issues. Whatever is going wrong in your life isn’t significant reason to avoid doing the right thing. If you can’t do the right thing when life sucks, you won’t do the right thing when life is better.

That begs the question, what is the right thing? Like always, the answer is what’s in the Bible. What does God say? God tells us what He expects from us. He has shown us how to live our lives. The example He set for us, and the examples other godly men and women have set for us, led us to live lives that aren’t always fun. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions. Sometimes we have to take a stand against friends and family and loved ones, and sometimes that will make us the bad guys in their eyes. But what is right is right.

Don’t run away from the right thing. Don’t run away from doing what God has told you to do. You know what God says. And if you don’t, pick up a Bible and start reading. He’ll talk to you soon enough.

But whatever you do, don’t wait. Don’t sit around making promises to do what God has told you to do when life gets better. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll make the right decision when things aren’t so stressful or when you’ve cleaned up all your messes. You’ll never get there. Life is messy, and you can’t even begin to start cleaning it up until you bring it to God anyway.

If you don’t know what to do, keep waiting. God will show you. He’ll make it obvious. Believe me, He’s not that subtle. You’ll know what you’re supposed to do when the time comes. And until the time comes, just keep living life the way He says.

But if you know what God wants you to do, why are you waiting? Why are you sitting there? Do it. I know it’s scary. But your life isn’t going to work until you take the next step and do what God says. Stop putting it off. Stop making excuses. Stop watching the clouds. You’ve got a job to do.

He’s God at both ends of your journey

When I have a question, no matter how random or strange, all I have to do is type it in my smartphone and wait for an answer. When I’m hungry, I can go to a fast food restaurant and get a burger immediately. When I’m thirsty, there are Quik Trips on every corner with fountain drinks on the cheap.

No matter what I need, or even really what I want, there’s a way to get it right now. Nobody really has to wait for anything.

We live in an instant gratification kind of world, and to a certain extent, there’s nothing wrong with that. The convenience of modern technology has made it easy to get fast answers, make fast decisions, and accomplish more in less time than ever before. Those are all great things. But instant gratification doesn’t help us learn patience, and it absolutely doesn’t help us learn to make long-term decisions.

mountains-man-person-hikerToday’s verse is Isaiah 46:4.

I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
    until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
    I will carry you along and save you.

There’s nothing short-term about God. But being a long-term God also means He’s not really into instant gratification.

You can ask Him for an immediate answer until you’re blue in the face, but He won’t just because you asked. He loves you enough to withhold a good blessing in order to give you a better one, and sometimes that means holding off on answering your prayer until it fits in His schedule. Not yours.

In a world obsessed with now, now, now, I think God is asking us to wait, wait, wait. Nobody really likes waiting, but you have to admit that it builds character. And once you get down the road a little farther, you can look back and realize that waiting actually did you a favor. How many times have we jumped on a deal or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity only to discover that a better deal or a better opportunity came up a few weeks or months later?

There’s always a time for action, but waiting is an option we need to consider more frequently in our fast-paced, instant-gratification focused, short-term world. God has promised that He’ll be with us until the end of our life on Earth. He isn’t just God for a moment. He’s not just God until you have a problem too big for Him to solve (that never happens, by the way). And He won’t even stop being your God after you die. He’ll be your God in eternity too.

So don’t ever get it in your head that God’s going to walk away from you or abandon you. One of the many things I love about God is that He’s in it for the long haul. He doesn’t sign up to be our God for the days of our youth. No, He wants us all the days of our lives, from our foolish childhood, to our rebellious teenage years, to our bullheaded mid-life crises, and finally to our wiser years when we finally start understanding what matters in life. Throughout all of those stages in our life experience, God wants to be our God. And if we ever feel like He’s stepped away from us, He isn’t the one who moved.

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.

DSC_0060

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.