Trek 2008 - Don't Give Up, Give In
Trek 2008 – Don’t Give Up, Give In
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. NIV
Until this journey, I’d never thought of people who have “given up” as prodigal sons. In fact, I’d probably have said they were lost sheep because they seemed depressed, discouraged, and dejected or a lost coin because often circumstances that made them give up were not of their own making.
I no longer think that is the case. I believe people who have given up are prodigal sons. Lost sheep are going about their everyday business, look up, and realize they are lost. The shepherd goes after them and they run to him gratefully. Lost coins sit longing to be found. People who have given up, may be “thirsty” and feeling like they live in a “dry and weary land” but they are no longer calling out to God. They know they’ve given up, have decided to give up, there is usually nothing anyone can say or suggest that will change their course. All the father can do is wait for them to return home.
I meet many people who have given up. I spent hours with a couple distraught about the choices their son has made. I understood and shared some of my experiences with my son David. Over the course of the conversation, it seemed as if the father had given up on God.
He said, “I prayed and prayed for my son and God did nothing.” This disappointed father no longer went to church with his wife and admitted he didn’t pray much anymore.
I shared with him a few of my spiritual discoveries about God allowing my son free will and how I came to terms with it spiritually. I talked about how the story of Job teaches us about loss. I made a couple of suggestions, which he committed to taking. They were not suggestions to help his son. They were suggestions to help him. I know those suggestions would work because the Bible says it and I’ve experienced them in my own life. If this man really has given up, he mostly likely won’t take them. I pray he hasn’t given up completely.
I meet people who have given up on their marriage. Some are leaving the relationship entirely. Others are staying in the marriage but have given up on having any kind of meaningful relationship. They too have stories, which would curl your hair. Once they decide to stop trying, they ignore suggestions that may help.
So many people have given up on church. Like in marriage, some leave the relationship entirely and others continue to fill a pew but sit like an emotional bump on a log. Their shocking stories are full of drama, bitterness, and hopelessness. Once they’ve given up, nothing can bring them back until they “unmake” the decision to give up.
When I visited a hospital this week, I met a man who had given up. When I walked in, he was sitting in a chair in a hospital gown. His feet, knees, and legs were exposed and they were purple from his toes to just under his knees. I had to wait to see him because he was with a physical therapist.
When I walked in, he said, “Whatever you want, I’m not going to do it. I’m done with everything.”
“You sound discouraged,” I said.
“I’m sure you’re a nice person but I’m done. You can leave now,” he said.
“I’m not here to work on your body. I’ll leave that to the doctors and God. It is hard when our bodies wear out. I’m here to pray for you,” I said.
“I’m even done with that,” this cantankerous old man said. “Don’t bother.”
I laughed and he looked up. I told him, “I’m not done with prayer and I want to pray for you. May I?”
“Do what you want,” he said. He did close his eyes during the prayer but if I admit that, you'll know I peeked.
I prayed for his comfort, soul, and acceptance of his body. During the course of the prayer, I offered the plan of salvation. I could tell he was listening but his stony expression never changed.
So why do I think people that have given up are prodigals and not lost sheep or a lost coin? I think it because when you offer suggestions, they answer with the words, “Yes but…” When you offer suggestions to lost sheep, they grab hold and follow. A lost coin is thrilled when someone finds them. The only way to help a prodigal is to wait until their dire circumstances make them want to come running home.
So what do I say to someone who has given up? I might tell them they are prodigal sons and God is waiting for them to come home. That gets their attention because they think I should feel sorry for them. I explain the difference between compassion and pity and point out the damage self pity does.
I might tell them I’m going to pray for them. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have on behalf of a prodigal but even that won’t work if the prodigal refuses help. God is polite and honors free will.
I often suggest they read the book of Job. I’ve heard some sad tales but none as sad as Job’s. If they are familiar with the book of Job, they sheepishly admit that their circumstances are not as bad as Job’s.
My plea to them is to give in instead of giving up. There is a good chance that if they could have changed their circumstances, they already would have found a way. The only other hope is acceptance and surrender.
When we give in, we find serenity. We surrender our earthly circumstances to God and accept what we cannot change. We find the courage to change what we can. If asked, God will grant us the wisdom to know the difference between what we can change and what we have to accept.
When we give in, we develop a heavenly perspective about earthly circumstances and stop being surprised by and whining about troubling earthly circumstances.
When we give in instead of giving up, we stop pouting with life and find things to be happy about.
When we give in, we begin to see how our circumstances can help others and by helping others, we find love and acceptance ourselves.
When we give in, we cry out, “God, you are my God.” Giving up is hopelessness. Giving in is hope.
Cheryle M. Touchton is the Director of Pocket Full of Change Ministries. For more information or to schedule a speaker for an event, go to www.pocketfullofchange.org or call Gail Golden at 904 316-5462.
This ministry exists because people like you are called to help fund the work of the kingdom. To help keep the Pocket Full of Quarters Lady on the road as a traveling missionary, send your tax deductible contribution to Pocket Full of Change Ministries, POB 51205, Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32240.
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