Following God is one of those things. Sometimes being a Christian is downright exhausting. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes we American Christians mistakenly believe that it should be easy for us since we don't face much in the way of direct persecution, but being a Christian will always be hard, even if we live in a community full of other Christians. When we invest in God's work, our hearts will hurt when we see people suffering. We will cry when we want to do more than our resources will allow. We will be frustrated when there aren't enough hours in the day or enough volunteers to help with important work or enough ideas to solve every problem. It might feel tempting sometimes to give up, to say we don't care, to argue that the things that are going wrong aren't our problem.
It is true that all of God's workers need a little rest sometimes. Jesus went off by himself to pray on occasion, and the apostles must have put their feet up from time to time after a long day's work. But they didn't exit God's kingdom or leave their paths when they took a rest. They didn't throw up their hands and say, "I quit!" or decide that it just wasn't worth it anymore. If they had, their stories might have gone differently.
God charges each on of us with two things: love him and love our neighbors. God leads each of us on a personalized mission to fulfill those two commandments in a way that utilizes the gifts and spirit He gave each of us. But Satan doesn't want us to follow God's plan, so the number one thing he can do to stop us is convince us to give up. Here are a few of the lies he uses to try to do that:
- Something else is more important. So God wants me to give to those in need—what about my retirement savings? So God wants me to spend time supporting other people in my community—what about how I want to spend my time? So God wants me to stand up for marginalized people—what if that destroys my precious popularity? So God wants me to leave everything behind and follow Him—what if I don't want to? We may find ourselves tempted to give up on God's plan so that we can pursue our own plans instead, but nothing we can devise will be of any lasting help to us if we shut out God.
- I can't make a difference anyway. The problems of the world seem so big and we seem so small. We may not feel smart, talented, our powerful enough to make a real difference, but that's exactly why our participation is so essential. None of us can change the world alone, so it only works if we all work together. The more of us there are, the better work we can do. Every act of love counts. Every time any one of us helps someone else, we empower that person to make a difference too. We feed off each others' faith, and we all grow in God's spirit together. Every person makes a difference.
- The world is nothing but pain, and I just want out. Sometimes we may feel like nobody loves us, that the world is a dark place, that there is no hope that things could get better. We stop working for the future because we don't believe that it holds any promise. We become depressed or bitter. Some of us may even attempt suicide. We don't just want to give up on God, we want to give up on life. We don't want to hurt anymore. But God is good, God is love, and He is moving through the world and in our lives even when we cannot feel Him. God loves us. Our brothers and sisters in Christ love us. There is a lot of violence and pain in the world, but there is also love and kindness and hope. There is the promise of a future in heaven if we can only persevere to the end, and there is also the promise that the Spirit will sustain us along the way and will heal our pain and sorrow little by little.
- I'm a screw-up, so I'd just mess it up. Well, yes, you will—but then God will fix it. Nobody but Jesus was perfect. All of us move both forward and backward on our faith journeys. We will do some really helpful things and we will also make mistakes. God will use all of our earnest efforts to create something good. Nobody is a total screw-up. God made all of us with special qualities and talents, and He imbued us all with the potential to do good in this world. So what if you've done a lot of bad in the past? That doesn't inhibit your ability to work for good in the future. God will stick with you, so stick with God.
I want to end with a link that a friend shared with me this week when I was hurting and I felt like giving up. I hope it touches you like it did me: "You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)" by Josh Groban