How To Keep Going When You Feel Like Giving Up
Have you ever felt like giving up?
You know, the time when no one showed up to your youth group; or when that fight kicked off; or when your senior leaders said ‘no’ to your big vision; when all your key team members stepped down at once; when the amount of work seemed insurmountable and overwhelming; or when no matter what you tried the kids in your children’s ministry just would not listen. Whatever it was, it left you wondering, ‘what’s the point? I can’t do this anymore!’
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OK, so let me rephrase the question… when was the last time you felt like giving up?
Because though I don’t know who will pick up this article, I am confident that we all share this one thing in common: we have each gone through moments where the thought of quitting was a much more attractive proposition than the thought of pressing on! We have all been through times when we felt like giving up.
With that said, I am equally confident of this: at the end of our lives, we won’t remember the things that came easy; we’ll remember the things that came hard. And if I have learnt one thing from the years of following Jesus, it’s that the greatest things in life are always the ones that cost us the most.
For that reason, the leaders who make the biggest impact are not necessarily the ones who are the most gifted, but the ones who are the most resilient! As the author of Hebrews reminds us, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Heb. 10:36) Perseverance precedes the promise! Could it be that the purposes of God for your life are on the other side of the wall you just hit?
“You need to persevere.” But how?
In 2013 I ran the London Marathon. In preparation, I was advised to spend a week before the race “carb-loading.” The idea is to store up a reserve of glycogen in your muscles so that when your strength has gone and your energy is depleted, your body has a reserve it can call upon to help you to keep moving when you feel like giving up.
Youth and children’s ministry is very much a marathon! And if we are to persevere we need to apply a similar principle: to store up a reserve - not of carbohydrate - but of truth! “Truth loading” is about creating a catalogue, in writing, of the promises of God over our lives. These could be truths from Scripture, specific prophetic words that have been spoken over you, moments where you have seen God move in and through you, the key times when you heard the call of God over your life, so that when the time comes that you feel like throwing in the towel, you have a reserve that you can go back to and call upon to give you the strength to persevere.
Ray Edman once said, “never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light,” which is true, but much easier to do if you have stored up what God told you in the light so you can call upon it when the darkness comes.
The easiest thing to do when we feel like giving up is to fixate on all the things that are bad about our situation. If we’re not careful, we can become consumed by self-pity, and the deeper into that hole we go, the dimmer the light of hope becomes. And hope is the fuel that leadership runs on. When the leader loses hope, they forfeit their capacity to lead.
Gratitude is the weapon that pushes back against the forces of self-pity. Gratitude is like a war cry in difficulty that declares, “I will not be consumed!” But let me be clear, cultivating an attitude of gratitude isn’t about pretending nothing is bad, it’s about choosing to focus on what is good. It’s about choosing to get up each morning and count your blessings, to remind yourself of the goodness of God, and in doing so, hold on to hope.
Rightly Measure Success
Part of the reason that we find ourselves on the edge of giving up is that we have a misappropriated metric for measuring success. Who no one shows up, or the fight kicks off, or the vision gets shut down, or no one listens to our talk, we equate that to failure. We can handle feeling like a failure once or twice, but over time our inner-narrative changes from “I failed” to, “I am a failure.” And that’s when we give up.
But let me give you a new (Biblical) way to measure success: Did you do what God asked you to do and did you give it everything you’ve got? If the answer is ‘yes,’ congratulations, you’re a success, and God can use you….
I once heard Mike Pilavachi say it like this: “God can use a failure, he can't use a quitter. Get up, keep going. Don't give up. Perseverance is the missing gift in today's church.”
The author of Hebrews instructs us that if we ever feel like giving up, to remember what Jesus endured on our behalf, and take heart: “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb. 12:1-3)
If you find yourself in a moment where you feel like giving up, remember Jesus, who has already run the race and overcome, who persevered and made it across the finishing line – and let that thought be the central motivation for you to persevere.
If you feel like giving up, remember that Jesus didn't give up on you, even though it cost him everything. So please, don't give up now. Don’t back down. Keep going! Because what you are doing is important. So fix your eyes on Jesus and finish the race he marked out for you.
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