I don’t know what day it will be for you. No one does. But there’s coming a day—it might even be today—when you’ll feel like giving up.
I’m not talking about a momentary feeling, a hazy sense of discouragement, a wisp of doubt and trepidation. I’m talking about full-blown disillusion—the wholesale evaporation of hope.
I don’t know what you’ll feel like giving up, and why you’ll feel like giving it up. It might be a responsibility, or a cause, or even your life. But I know you’ll face this feeling at some point—at many points—along life’s journey. I know you’ll face this feeling because the world in which you live is the same as mine.
Maybe you’re mothering three tiny humans, and the slog is endless, and you feel even worse for calling it a slog, because you really do love these precious little ones God’s given you. But you’re beyond exhausted, and you can’t see the end of it, and no one else can see that you’re in the middle of it.
Maybe you’re in a death match with chronic pain, the kind of pain that sucks the life out of every conversation, every birthday, every family dinner, every old hobby, every attempt to rediscover a little joy in life. It doesn’t end, it can’t end, and it won’t end, so the end is now all you want.
Maybe sin has overtaken you—a pleasure has become a choice, the choice a habit, the habit a lifestyle, and the lifestyle a ruthless bondage. Repentance meant that your downhill course became an uphill battle, and even here in the foothills you already feel like going back to Egypt.
Maybe depression has got you in a stranglehold, and no matter how many Psalms you read or prescriptions you take or counselors you pay, the darkness will not lift. It’s not that you can’t imagine a sunrise anymore; you can’t even picture a moonlit night.
Or maybe you’re just trying to do the right thing in a situation that’s all wrong, and your efforts long ago became a marathon in the mountains. The mission can’t get any better, but the battle can’t get any worse. You can’t give up, because it’s the most noble thing you’ve ever done, but you can’t keep going, because this noble thing is utterly undoable.
If this is you—or when it becomes you—there are a few things I’d like you to remember. And if you’ve been remembering them already, then I’d like to water the wilting plant of hope for just one more day.
I hope you know that you live in a broken world. In this cursed garden, the earth does not bear its fruit without a battle (Genesis 3:17–19). Knowing this doesn’t anesthetize the pain. But at least you know.
In a fallen world, doing the right thing can be especially hard. Whether that thing is integrity or repentance or faithfulness or peacemaking or contentment or endurance, or any of the exquisite combinations God requires of us along the way, it’s often just hard. The difficulty of doing what’s right is never an excuse, but the challenge is real.
Of course, amidst the difficulty, you must also remember that you’re not the only one. You’re not the only one flashing a plastic smile, the only one feeling guilty because you feel hopeless, the only one teetering on the precipice of despair, the only one who pulls thorns and thistles from frozen tundra with bare hands for minimum wage each day.
More importantly, you don’t have to be alone. I know it seems like it, but that’s part of the lie. Don’t believe it. You don’t need lies complicating your situation any more than a man with a burden needs a blindfold. Others are ready to come alongside you on the thorny trail, no matter what you tell yourself (Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 5:15–16). So don’t struggle or suffer in silence, a self-isolating decision that’s just as harmful as it is common.
Because you can change. Even if your circumstances can’t change much, you can change and grow and mature. Not that all strugglers or sufferers need to confess something or make a radical change or turn away from a specific attitude or habit or series of choices. But over time, hardships do tempt us to respond sinfully. And of course, sometimes our hardships are created by our own sin. So if you do need to change in some way, remember that God is kind, and wants to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4). And remember that when you confess sin of any kind, whatever it may be, he is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).
Changing you in some way, whether through explicit change or a more subtle kind of growth, is certainly part of God’s plan. Either way, God has a purpose. I wouldn’t dare register a specific guess at what he’s doing in your life. But I know he’s always intentional, and his intentionality is fueled by love (Genesis 50:20).
One of God’s intentions—in every trial—is that we learn something (usually many things). So I have no doubt that you’re learning a lot, even though you might feel like you’re not learning a thing. Even if you’re unlearning some things, that’s a start. At the very least, God’s following his standard blueprint for cultivating a more compassionate heart in one of his saints. Because suffering is the first assignment in the school of sympathy.
The best way to learn and grow and persevere, though, is not by isolating yourself, but by asking for help. Because help is always available. God doesn’t relate to you in a silo, with you at the bottom and him at the top and everyone else in their own privatized silos sealed off from each other. God relates to us in a family, where he’s the all-wise Father and we’re brothers and sisters helping each other all along the way. So if you’re feeling like giving up, I hope and pray and plead that you’ll ask for help.
Because light is undefeated against darkness. Darkness never ultimately wins. So there’s always hope, even when yours seems to have expired. Because if the resurrection means anything—and I’ll bet on tomorrow’s sunrise that it does—it means that all those in whom the resurrection power of Christ resides have an invincible power radiating within them. And that’s a reason to get up in the morning.