As a Christian, you and I will each face times in our lives when all we want to do is give up. No great man or woman who we’ve read about, no matter how noble, has not experienced the feelings or thoughts of quitting—not one. Even Jesus, on His knees, with blood dripping from His brow asked God if there was “another way” other than the cross when He prayed that night in Gethsemane. It is natural, and even expected to have these feelings.
The difference between those who are later considered “great,” versus those who never make it into the pages we Christians read for encouragement, is what that person does with the thought or feeling of quitting. Those who may have been called to greatness, those whom we never hear from again are the ones who act on those thoughts and feelings—turning back. Yet, those who go on, like Jesus, are those who rely on Someone and something greater to carry them through. LOVE. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16).
The man who wrote most of the New Testament, the apostle Paul, had a lot to say about giving up. He said, finally, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith, in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Did this man, Paul, have to endure and pass through very much in order to be such a help to us? One day, while having to defend himself to the Corinthians, he said this, “I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
“I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
“Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak?” (2 Corinthians 11:23–29).
Most of us cringe when we think of enduring such hardship in order to help others with our testimony. When it comes right down to it, unless we get something out of it, most of us will simply give up and turn back. To be honest with you, what I “used to” hope to get out of my adversities along my journey was a verse that many Christian leaders hang onto when they want to hear Jesus tell them, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21). Yet, even that thought no longer motivates me now—not winning, not even the prize that the Apostle Paul uses to motivate you and me (and I have always been a very competitive person). Part of the reason is that I would prefer my Husband be Who greets me, not as His “good and faithful servant” but embracing me in the way I imagine my Bridegroom doing—grabbing hold and swinging me around the clouds upon our meeting when I leave this earth.
Paul also said, “I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:23-25).
Once again, Paul tries to motivate you and me while writing to the Philippians, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us [remember this literally means the people in your life who “witness” and watch how you live your life differently], let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Though many of you have read this verse in Hebrews, I found another version that seemed to fit just a bit better this morning in The Message Bible.
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3 Message).
Again, though I love imagining sitting alongside God, I do so imagining sitting with my Husband, by His side. As a woman, we are born and created to desire this kind of love, not the selfish, self-centered, self-serving love of the human race—light-years and plans beyond what most could imagine.
“Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (Ephesians 3:20 TLB).
“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” (Ephesians 3:20 Message).
Analogy of a Full Moon Witness
Looking at the full moon outside my window, I found myself talking to the Lord like I always do. Being Sunday, I forced myself to stay off my computer to take the much needed day of rest with Him. What I found myself saying was that the full moon is like us when we face Him our Sun, His Son, when the world is not blocking or getting in the way of how we live our lives. The beauty, and amazing part, of how God created this universe, is that even if only a sliver of His light shines on our lives, the rest blocked by the many things of this world, even then our crescent can and does attract those who are gazing at our lives— looking for hope.
Turning Back vs Turning it Over
So, yes, I actually came to the place where I wanted to give up, but that’s when I realized that whatever I had been doing that caused me to become weary, leading to wanting to give up, had been due to me carrying too much of the load—the burdens He needed to be given! Burdens of planning or thinking or anything else I’d been doing that began to weigh on me. Coming to the overwhelming feelings of wanting to give up is showing me and you that we need to give up, in order to turn us to turn everything over to the One who’s waiting to take those burdens that He wants us to give up—No, not to turn back—but in order for us to realize that He’s a Gentlemen, a Warrior, a Provider, and anything else we need rather than us doing it.
Read what the Lord’s saying to you, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion [performing good works in order to please others]? Come to me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:29-30 Message).
The Lord wants to and is equipped to carrying the heavy burdens, even the tiny ones that we think we can manage.
So often the burdens I’m experiencing are due to me being yoked to other people’s desires or demands on me, and probably even more often, it’s due to the yoke I’ve put on myself, desires and demands or perfections, I’ve put on myself.
Again listen to what He’s saying to you, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). HIS yoke is always light and easy. So when we feel like giving up, give up that burdensome yoke and exchange it for His—light and easy—where we will find rest for our very souls.
The reason He led me to write this chapter, I believe, is because this morning I received another letter from a woman who wrote to let me know she’s quitting. I get so many letters of women quitting, though I believe there are many more who quit and never write to me or RMI.
So, for all of you who want to quit, give up, throw in the towel, find an easier path, please DO. But rather than turning back to your old life or something the world will gladly offer you (leading to more pain), sit down where you are OR better yet, run to and fling yourself into His waiting arms. Let Him hold you tightly, assuring you that everything that has made you worn out isn’t His yoke at all.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul” (Psalm 23: 1-3). Then during your time of laying down in those cushy green pastures, next to the still waters, together you can sort out all that you need to give to Him.
It was just two days ago that all I could think about all day long was that all of this, all that I have gone through and am going through (and wow, things have been very tough lately and seem to get tougher every day), is for just one reason—to know Him, to yoke myself to Him and to allow all of this as His way of showing me how to live my life differently. Living it abundantly. There is no other way around learning this truth.
Nothing else matters, but in knowing Him personally and living your life yoked to Him—nothing in my life, nothing in your life (not even if this is not how you feel or how you think).
For those who want to hear praise “well done” remember, a trophy gets dusty, praise ceases to feel the same, prestige and fame come with a price. That’s why again it’s important that we understand that there was only one thing that motivated those whom we now look to for encouragement, those individuals who one day became great—it was because, through everything, they came to know Him.
As Paul said, paraphrased by the Message Bible, “The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master [my Lover], firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by Him” (Philippians 3:7-9 Message).
Let me close by assuring you of this one fact I’ve learned Living the Abundant Life, “My beloved is mine, and I am His . . . When I found Him whom my soul loves; I held on to Him and would not let him go . . . For I am [wonderfully] lovesick” (Song of Solomon 3:2–4; 5:8).