How to Keep Going When You Want to Give up

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There have been times that I have been discouraged in writing and ministry. Times when I doubted if I had an impact on anyone or spoke to anyone with my words.

A year or so ago, I went through an interval where I felt spiritually depleted. Pregnant with our third child, I wasn’t feeling so hot physically. Our house was for sale and wasn’t selling. Our financial circumstances had taken a turn for the worse when my husband accepted a new job (and a pay cut for the first year). We were in transition looking for a new church and attending one where we knew hardly anyone. I was overwhelmed and distracted by my situation and didn’t think I could keep up with blogging.

In this state of mind, I went to church one Sunday. There was a point in the service where the pastor paused and asked us to close our eyes and pray individually about whatever we wanted to talk to the Lord about. As I shut my eyes, I didn’t utter a word out loud but let a torrent of anguished words escape inside. I told God what I really thought — how tired and hopeless I felt.

Immediately, a vivid picture of a window with four panes of glass popped in my mind. The sky behind the panes was brilliant blue with wispy clouds and bright light streaming through. For whatever reason, I got the impression in that moment that the picture was this blog — that it was a window into God. That people could see who God was and learn His secrets by reading the writing here. This was not because of any extraordinary ability on my part or on the part of other writers here (although we certainly have some talented ladies on our team), but because we simply share the lessons God is teaching us.

I was so moved by God’s answer to me, I felt the heavy burden of despair lift. I walked out of church in awe. God knew just the thing I needed in the moment to continue on in writing.

Perhaps in this moment, as you are reading this, you find yourself in a challenging circumstance that feels heavy. Maybe the medical diagnosis just came in that has you feeling dejected. Maybe the marital problems keep escalating and don’t improve no matter how much you pray. Maybe the wayward child that doesn’t respond to discipline keeps having troubles at school. Life can throw us challenges that we don’t always feel equipped to handle. Thankfully, we have a God who is always a step ahead of us and can rescue us or comfort us in our worst life events.

Hagar: A Woman Who Needed God’s Help and Encouragement

A woman who knew much about being in the hard places of life was Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant. She was given by Sarah to Abraham to conceive a child when Sarah remained barren. However, when she did get pregnant by Abraham, problems cropped up between Sarah and Hagar.

Hagar began taking pride in her pregnancy and putting on airs; Sarah, in return, began mistreating Hagar. In desperation, Hagar fled to the desert. And God met her there. We pick up the story in Genesis 16:7-14 where an angel of the Lord shows up to Hagar and the following events transpire:

And he [the angel] said, ‘Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?’ ‘I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,’ she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel added, ‘I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.’ The angel of the Lord also said to her: ‘You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of you misery … She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’ That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi [‘well of the Living One who sees me’]; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

It’s important to note how God reacts to this situation in which Hagar felt desperate, beyond help:

God tells Her He knows about her situation. Notice, the angel tells Hagar to name her child “Ishmael” — which means “God hears” — and then goes on to say that God has “heard of [her] misery” (v. 11). What I love about this is that God takes the approach of a father and lets Hager know that He is aware of her painful situation.

Sometimes when we are in adverse circumstances or treated badly, it helps so much to have someone notice and say, “I know what you are going through.” It helps especially to hear God say that! We may feel like God doesn’t care about us, but we need to know that God is versed in everything we are experiencing and can step in at any point He chooses.

He gives her hope to cling to in the midst of challenging circumstances. God tells Hagar to go back and submit to her mistress. Clearly, even though both Hagar and Sarah are at fault for how they treated each other, God tells Hagar to be the one to go and patch things up (most likely with an apology). And, unfortunately, that is often the case. We want so badly at times for God to fix it and make it work the way we want, but while God is capable of doing that, He chooses to solve it the way He determines — in a way consistent with His precepts and character.

However, while Hagar may have been disappointed that she had to return back to Sarah, God gives her hope she can cling to. He tells her that she is having a son, and this son will have many descendants. I believe that God does this because He knew that she would need something encouraging to cling to not only in the moment, but in the days ahead — when she had to go back to the difficult situation she left.

And he does the same with us. There are times when we will reach the end (in our minds) when our situation is such that we will say, “I’ve had it God. I can’t take it anymore. I want to quit.” And God — like He did with Hagar — will speak to us through a sermon, through a friend — maybe directly to us, letting us know that He sees us and that we shouldn’t give up. Because He knows us so intimately, He will give us just what we need to continue going — to keep on when everything in us wants to give up.

Trusting God in Our Difficult Circumstance

I don’t know why God allows the circumstances He does or why certain events happen the way they do, but I know this: there is only One who can give us the resilience and resolve to get through life’s injustices and trials and have the courage to continue on.

In a past sermon, Rick Warren stresses this: When we want to give up, we need to tell it to God. We need to get all those bad emotions out. We need to tell Him we’re angry. That we’re hurt. That we want to die even. He’s OK with our tough emotions. He listens, and He offers comfort and hope in the midst of our difficulty.

And Warren recommends something else. There are some questions we just need to put in what he calls the “Why God? File.” There are some questions we will never know the answers to. Why is this happening to me? Why did I have to be the one to go through this?

Because there are some questions that will eat us alive if we keep asking them. I don’t think it’s wrong to ask God “Why?” — but if we are asking and asking, and He hasn’t answered, maybe it’s time to file that why away. Maybe we won’t know this side of eternity.

Hagar decides to file her why questions away. She accepts her situation, however unfair, and puts her trust in God, saying, “You are the God who sees me, I have now seen the One who sees me.” She trusts His judgment and goes back to her mistress. Trusts even though her situation didn’t go the way she hoped. Trusts because not only is He the God who sees and hears — He is the God who knows.

What situation are you struggling with today? Have you brought it to God? There is no situation that is too far out of God’s reach. The same God who showed up to Hagar in the desert is available to you today. Share with us in the comments!

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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An Anchor in Illness

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Recent stories in the news have brought individuals to the forefront that have chosen to die on their own terms. My last post focused on Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old terminal cancer patient, who decided to take her life this past weekend rather than suffer with the pain of cancer.

In similar form, Robin Williams surprised everyone with his suicide a few months ago. In contrast to Maynard, Williams did not announce his decision to the public beforehand but instead went quietly into his room, armed with a belt, and never came out again. His widow cited that Williams’ depression over a Parkinson’s diagnosis had contributed to his suicide.

Although their methods were different, both Maynard and Williams had one thing in common: They wanted a say in their final moments. Death looked more appealing to them than a finale that involved uncertainty and a loss of control over their bodies.

The Stress of Illness

Illness is tough. I haven’t battled anything as monumental as a cancer or Parkinson’s diagnosis, but I have to admit that even my relatively small struggles to get my health back after my recent miscarriage and hospitalization added to my stress and depression. Even though I had been promised a full recovery after three months, I still felt pretty discouraged when I looked at the healthy, happy people around me, and I felt confined to the four walls of my house because a quick trip to the grocery store inspired my heart to race and my head to throb.

I couldn’t remember dates and names very well because my hemoglobin levels had dipped so low that my head was in a constant fog. Following my son around the playground for an hour made me tired enough to be in bed all afternoon. In addition, I felt a sting when family members didn’t exactly rush to my aid or even remember to check up on me. I felt very alone.

My husband reminded me that at least I had an end in sight, but what if I had been told that I didn’t have a chance of recovery? As I was pondering the effect of my own health situation, I felt the Lord speak to me about the hope He gives us to combat the challenges of illness.

Perhaps these truths will be of encouragement to you as well in whatever situation you find yourself in:

1. His hope is an anchor for the soul.

I love these words from Hebrews 6:18 that are now a line in a popular Hillsong worship song. His hope literally “anchors” us when we feel the worry and strain of what is happening in our body and feel that our emotions are getting carried away. A verse I felt really spoke to me after my miscarriage was Romans 14:8: “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” We can rest in health or illness because we can trust Him as the author and finisher of our life.

2. Another source of comfort for us is that we have access to the God of the universe.

The greatest physician of all, the Creator who formed our body. One of the benefits of being a Christian is that He heals all of our diseases (Psalm 103:3). He doesn’t guarantee a healing, and I don’t understand why some get healing and some do not; however, we have the hope that we can approach Him and ask for that healing.

3. Even if we do not receive healing in the way we want, we can trust in the fact that all suffering has to go through Him first.

If it His will that we do not get a complete healing, as believers, we can know that He will walk through the illness with us. He will provide comfort for us and strength along the way.

When I was on my way to the hospital because I was having symptoms that I suspected were that of a pregnancy loss, I felt the sun shining on me through the car window, and I felt the most wonderful sense of peace. I kept hearing the words in my head, “You can let this go. You can let this pregnancy go.” I just felt this sense of strength girding me up on all sides, even though I was in the midst of the crisis of losing my baby.

Once we made it to the hospital, I continued to feel a supernatural calm. When I was waiting to go into surgery after learning I was having a miscarriage, a wonderful woman from my church who just happened to be working in the operating room that night popped her head in and prayed for me before the surgery. I felt that God had sent her to my side to further ease me through the process.

And, again, when I was released and the horrible reality of what had happened had washed over me, I felt literally that the dark, bottomless hole in my soul I had fallen into was sewn up by a master surgeon.

This is not to say that I did not experience grief or pain — because I did and am still processing through that — but I had a wonderful help in the midst of my crisis.

4. Lastly, we have the hope that our trials and suffering are temporary.

I get so caught up in trying to have perfect circumstances, but that is not what the Bible tells me is the reality for this life. The Bible assures us that we can expect trials and suffering (John 16:33) but to “take heart” and not be thrown off by difficulty. Another “anchor” for us in our suffering is that we have hope that all of this present trouble will pass away. It encourages us to know that while our physical body is deteriorating, our spirit is ever being renewed — and we will experience the perfect circumstances we desire when this life is over. The longing we feel for this is normal; all of creation longs for it too (Romans 8:22).

Conclusion:

Illness is stressful and hard. It changes the dynamics of relationships and can be a heavy burden to bear. There is nothing easy about losing physical capabilities and having to rely on others to take care of us. However, God’s desire is not for us to succumb to worry or fear but instead rest in Him — the hope that “anchors” us in our trials.

*Updated November 18, 2017.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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