I felt like giving up today. Again.
I hit these times every so often. Times when life just feels hard. Times I don’t feel needed. Like the universe takes this “I can take it or leave it” attitude toward my existence on this planet. My impact on the world being reduced to what it looks like for me to pull my hand out of a bucket of water, it leaves a small ripple then nothing. I feel it when I’m stuck and feel maxed out, when it feels like I’ve hit the end of the road in my life-pursuits. As I sit here and think about it, this feeling shows up in a lot different ways.
This feeling sucks!
I’ve tried to analyze it. Sometimes it comes from too much work (I’ve seen it enough times and watched it drive my neglect of the deeper places within me.) Sometimes it’s from outright assault from the enemy (we’ve been warned he exists to ‘steal and kill and destroy’ our lives.*) I see where it has roots in unfinished places within me. And if I’m honest, sometimes it’s just plain old self-pity. But, however it comes, it feels real. Very real. And too familiar. So, here I am again today — I feel like giving up. I can’t draw an arrow to exactly what I’m giving up on. Maybe just myself. It just feels like nothing I do matters.
This is painful. It’s hard. And it’s disorienting. I can’t think straight. Can’t think my way out of it. It hurts below the surface. The resignation and frustration it brings with it feels more like a broken bone than a scraped knee. It lingers in a part of me that I can’t access, can’t overcome with simple ‘will-power’. I want to shake it off, but alone I can’t find the strength.
So, here I am, sitting here thinking and feeling and wondering where to turn with all this, and a picture of my grandson is coming to mind. He is 7-years old. And last year he was learning to ride without training wheels on his bike. He just couldn’t get it. Couldn’t figure it out. Couldn’t master it. And he wanted to give up.
I guess we all feel like this. At every age.
But I knew that he could do it, if only he would give it more time. If only he would pause to ask questions. Observe what it looked like. Absorb in the presence of others who already knew how. And be patient in the growing process.
He wasn’t having it. We all do this. At every age.
We experience set-backs, difficulty, moments of isolation, feeling like we’re stuck in a pit and can’t see anything but dirt. We’re digging and hoping, digging and hoping, and then just digging and digging and digging. It feels hopeless and the process feels unending. We feel we’ve done all we can do. Mastered all we can. Lived without success for too long. We need others, but we feel alone.
Watching my grandson ride, I knew he was so close to getting it. My heart sank to see him want to give up so soon. To stop before the end. To abandon the fight while he was so close to victory.
It’s really hard to get back up when we feel alone.
I don’t think we are supposed to do this alone. I don’t think that was Jesus’ plan.
There’s a story in Luke 12:1 where a crowd of people had gathered to catch a glimpse of Jesus. They desperately wanted to hear his words. “Maybe,” they must have thought, “maybe he has something for me.”
“… when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, … they were trampling on one another…“
Trampling. One another. Thousands of people who wanted good things — they trampled each other. Maybe it was because of cares about themselves, or their own very real needs, or hope for their success, whatever it was, they forgot about each other. They forgot about the person standing next to them. And they literally trampled each other under their feet.
That is not the way it was supposed to be. A new thought is surfacing in my mind — maybe I’m one of them. Trampling. Trying to get close to Jesus, needing him to rescue me from from my pit. I’m tired of digging. Tired of not mattering. I need his help! Am I willing to do whatever it takes? Even trample over you to get what I need? Is this what happens when someone loses hope that their life can make a difference, that they are needed? Is this what happens when people feel like giving up?
There’s another story, this one in ‘Judges 20’. A group of Israelis had stumbled upon someone who had been mistreated by a neighboring clan. So, they stepped in, trying to do the right thing, taking a stand against the injustice. But, they got beaten badly. That is, until…
“The next morning the Israelites got up and pitched camp near Gibeah. The Israelites went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah. The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelites on the battlefield that day. But the Israelites encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day.”
The Israelites were badly beaten and discouraged, but they did something amazing. They “encouraged one another…” They could have trampled each other, looking for safety. Who would have blamed them?! But they “encouraged one another”, and that made all the difference. They restored hope in each other and in the God they followed. They found their courage again. And they returned to the fight.
I think I’m seeing why this picture of my grandson came to my mind. I want to give up. My grandson wanted to give up. But, I knew what he needed — he needed some encouragement. He needed to know he wasn’t alone. He needed to know he could go on. And so, I came along side him. I need this same thing.
We all need this. We all need someone to come along side us. To encourage us — to re-courage us. To help carry our load. To tell us we’re not alone. To remind us of what is true.
In Luke 12, they missed the point. What if they had come alongside each other, partnering with the Spirit of Love? What if, instead of the hypocrisy Jesus observed, they had encouraged one another? Imagine what could have been.
Oh, God, encourage me. And strengthen me to encourage, not trample, those around me.
In your life right now is someone like me. Someone like you. Someone who quietly is ready to give up on a dream. Someone who is ready to resign themselves to something less than they were created for. Someone who doesn’t know if the light they shine is worth keeping lit. Someone who’s fear is holding then back from offering the answer you’re looking for. Someone who might be the best friend you’ll ever have. Someone who has greatness and faith buried under a shallow mound of disappointment and discouragement. Someone who needs to be reminded of what our Father is really like, reminded of his heart for us, and that he will come through.
As I write all this, the Father is reminding me of this — He has not abandoned me. And He has not abandoned you. And he stands among us to encourage us. And he does it in the best way possible — he gives us each other.
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be [so discouraged by lies and isolation that your heart becomes hopeless, hard, allowing the enemy of your heart to win].” Hebrews 3:13 [My paraphrased interpretation.]
And that’s why I’m writing, now, right away, while my feelings are fresh, still raw, honest, before I’ve had a chance to ‘work it all out’, before I’ve ‘found the answers’, before I’ve had time to ‘edit’ my story to make it sound better than it is. I need encouragement from you, and from the Father. (And think those two things overlap more than I realize.)
Maybe you’re feeling the same way I’m feeling. Have you shared how you’re feeling with anyone else? Some might ‘trample’, but not everyone. You’ve got to say the words and let them know.
Is there someone who’s coming to mind who could use some re-couragement? Someone you could come alongside?
P.S. My grandson did learn to ride that bike. It didn’t come without fear and some scrapes and bruises, but he did it. And you should have seen the look on his face the day he did it! It was great to be standing alongside him when it happened.
And, it’s a funny thing how God works, because as I write this to you, trying to get my bearings by writing it all out and sharing my experience with you, I’m feeling a little better. Hope feels a little closer. By trying to come along side you, I’m feeling some of the encouragement I’m trying to bring to you. What a strange and wonderful thing.
It’s so obvious, we need each other. We can’t see what’s going on around us in our own lives. We can’t do this alone.
Thanks for that.
Help me break free from this place. I don’t want to give up, but I just don’t feel like I can ‘will’ my way through it. These times feel so real, so true, and so endless. It’s exhausting. I don’t want to lose heart. I don’t want to isolate and check-out. I want just the opposite – I want to feel alive, connected, free to offer myself. I want to believe it matters. But, I confess these feelings cause me to turn inward, to hold back. I want to believe what you say about me, how you value me, to believe you want me and even need me to be me. Help me to trust you with what I’ve been offering, that it is enough. You are enough. Bring alongside me the “each other” you speak of in your word. Encourage me. Reorient me. Show me what I can’t see.
And, as I re-read my own words, I can’t help but think I’m not alone in this. There are others that need encouragement, breakthrough, need to know what is true, about themselves and about you. Even with these feelings hovering overhead, I know somehow this prayer isn’t just for myself.
Would you bring to mind or have cross my path someone who needs to be encouraged? Wisdom and clever words would be great, but in addition to that, please give me the courage to just say what’s on my heart. Help me pray for those who are stuck in the enemy’s quicksand of lies. Help me to see the greatness you placed in them. Help me value them and reflect back the ways I see you in them. Their joy. Their beauty. Their humor. Their humility. Their love for fun and play. Their wisdom. Their artistry. Their faithfulness. Their strength. Their glory. Their value. I don’t want to ‘trample’ people anymore through my ignorance, my busyness, my apathy, my distracted living, or putting my own needs as my single focus. Instead, help me be attentive, that I could begin to “encourage one another daily”, every day. Help me Jesus. Help us Jesus. ~ Amen
* John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
* Luke 12:2 “Be[a] on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”