Sunday, December 13, 2009

Keep Trying

Sometimes when the going gets tough, I simply want to give up. It's tempting to think that my struggles don't matter anymore or that my efforts don't really make any difference anyway. I want to quit, resign, forfeit. Still, I've discovered over time that although there are many times when I want to give up, there are only a few cases when I really should.

The mean old Hawks coach in the movie The Mighty Ducks (1992) told his little hockey players, "It ain't worth playin' if you can't win!" Even from a sports perspective this is completely ridiculous. Losses can be very informative, teaching teams lessons that will help them win the harder games later in the season. Losing forces us to develop character, to work on our game, to try harder and do our best. Losing is just a part of the game. Still, it's so tempting to get stuck in the "winning is everything" mindset. What is the point in doing our best if our best isn't good enough? Wouldn't we maintain more dignity if we just quit instead of facing ridicule as we try and fail to reach big goals?

From a Christian standpoint, I know that it's often important to toil on when things get tough. Love is hard and relationships are difficult. Being a contributing and peaceful member of the Body of Christ is not always a picnic. Do I consider a divorce every time my husband and I have a fight? No. Do I leave as soon as my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are dealing with difficult issues? No. Do I abandon my calling if I face obstacles along the way? I certainly hope not. Sometimes sticking with the things I really care about may feel like beating my head against a brick wall. All the time I spend working for the things I care about may feel like wasted time, and the strides I make towards my cherished goals may seem feeble and insignificant. My failures may loom large and give me great pain and embarrassment. Still, defeat is only the end of the journey if I give in.

God is my ally, and He's famous for turning defeats into victories. How many times did God lead the underdog Israelites to military success? How many times did He choose unlikely champions to change the world? Moses was an outcast murderer with a speech impediment when he encountered the burning bush, and God turned him into a heroic leader. David was a shepherd who attracted the homicidal jealousy of the king, and God made him a beloved monarch. Moses' story didn't end with Pharaoh's first rebuff, and David's tale wasn't over when he fled Saul's palace. More was coming. Every Christian has been promised a victory through Jesus Christ. All of our efforts to follow God and make a difference in the lives of those around us, even if they seem feeble now, will be strengthened by the very power of God. Everything may seem really difficult today, but eventually we will have victory.

God is with me in everything I do, even now, but there is a caveat. God can't really add any strength to my efforts if I don't make any. God supports me, but I must choose to act. If I give up, how can God turn me into a victor? If I choose to walk away from an important endeavor, I will be slamming the door in God's face, essentially telling Him that I don't trust Him enough to keep trying. I will be saying that I believe defeat to be inevitable and writing off the chance of a miracle. Sometimes I do have to cut my losses, I know, but not on the really important stuff. If I believe that God is calling me to do something, then I believe that He will provide a way for me to do it. It might be messy, but in the end it will work out. My faith is based on the conviction that even when my faith itself fails, God will not. Reminding myself of this restores my faith when I feel weak.

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