I felt like giving up today. Again.
I hit these times every once in a while. Times when life just feels hard. When I don’t feel like my impact is felt or I’m not advancing in my life-pursuits or the things important to me seem far off. As I think about it, there’s a lot of different ways it presents itself.
This feeling probably comes from too much work (which leads to my neglect of the deeper places within.) Some of it is probably from outright assault from the enemy (we’ve been warned he exists to ‘steal and kill and destroy’ our lives.*) Some of it is probably rooted in the unfinished places within. And some of this is probably some self-pity. But, however it comes, it feels real. A too familiar feeling. And here I am today — I feel like giving up. Not necessarily on life itself. Not on God. But on myself. It just feels like nothing I do matters.
This is painful, hard, and disorienting. It hurts below the surface. The resignation and frustration feel 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, I’m 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.
We all do 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.
In our experience, 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 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 people had gathered to catch a glimpse of Jesus. They desperately wanted to hear his words. Maybe, they must have thought, maybe he has a word for me. “… when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, … they were trampling on one another…” Trampling. One another. Surrounded by people who Jesus loved, surrounded by people who wanted good things they trampled each other. Maybe it was cares about themselves, or their needs, or their success, whatever it was, they forgot about each other, forgot about the person standing next to them, and literally trampled each other under their feet.
Contrast this story with this one in ‘Judges 20’. Israel had stumbled upon someone who had been mistreated by a band of Benjamites. So, they stepped in, trying to do the right thing, taking a stand against the injustice. But, even though they had righteous intentions, 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…” And that made all the difference. They regained hope. They found their courage again. And they returned to the fight.
My grandson wanted to give up. 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.
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, the careless seekers missed the point. What if they had come along side each other, ushering in the Spirit of Love? What if, instead of the hypocrisy Jesus observed, they had encouraged one another? Imagine what could have been.
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.
After all, that’s what I want to offer here in these blogs — not just giving “answers”, but to invite each other into our journey — the messiness of it all — the whole wild, complicated, perplexing, beautiful adventure. (I’d hate to think anyone would wait for another person to have it all down pat before we turned and grabbed another’s hand, before we paused to share our story, or listen to one.)
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 alonside?
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 along side him when it happened.
And, it’s a funny thing how God works, but even as I write this, as I try to get my bearings by writing it all out, and as I share my experience with you, trying to come along side you, I’m feeling a little better. Hope feels a little closer.
It’s so obvious, we need each other. We can’t do this alone, we can’t see what’s going on around us in our own lives.
Thanks for that.
Help me break free from this place. I don’t want to give up. But when I’m in this place, I just don’t feel like I can ‘will’ my way through it. These times feel so real, so true, and so endless. Its 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. 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 that what I’ve been offering is enough. You are enough. Bring along side me the “each other” you speak of in your word to reorient me, to remind me of what I can’t see.
And, as I re-read my own words, I know I’m not alone. 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 that shouldn’t be 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 more than 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. And on and on. I don’t want to ‘trample’ people anymore through my ignorance, my busyness, my apathy, my distracted living. Instead, help me be attentive, that I could begin to “encourage one another daily”, every day. Help me Jesus. Let’s see where you take all this. ~ Amen
* John 10:10
* Luke 12:2 “Be[a] on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”