Have you ever felt like giving up or giving in?
Life brings pressures overwhelming and hard to endure. Successes, sufferings, or a mix of both squeeze us in directions like walking through the proverbial "valley of the shadow of death." Shadow darkness brings a sense of loneliness accompanied by despairing thoughts and emotions that can be physically exhausting. Pressures then reside outside and inside us creating an intense gravitational pull to pursue the quickest solution to escape.
But the pull seems inescapable, and we either want to give up or give in. Giving up becomes a way to quit and walk away from something. Giving in stays and goes with the flow. Neither work out in the end as helpful and interestingly the domino effect happens when those around us begin to give in or give up, leaving us in a perpetual cycle.
Pressures are real. Pressure to find or keep a job. Pressures in business to make it financially with countless daily decisions like variables of cost, ratios of profit, shifting R.O.I.'s, insurance, customer preferences, area changes, employee conditions, growing government regulations and taxation, constant work hours, and family time or rest. Pressures happen in relationships like friendships, marriage, children or parents, and neighbors where one's bad decision ripples through and damages others. Pressures also occur throughout culture from politics to people's varying life beliefs that collide and invade. Pressures can be mere natural like health, disabilities, or even weather's destruction of a house, place of business, or people.
We either will give up and become careless of the world around us or give in by taking upon other people's values, regardless of them being good or bad. We are left to swing like a pendulum, back and forth, versus discovering stability and a strong foundation to rest and stand on. As the pendulum swings, time and generations come and go without addressing what creates the back and forth.
Families strain, break, split, and divide. Businesses struggle to earn customer trust and provide good service. Educational training increases to put child rearing on schools and homes become mere hotels with managers of parents with some there and some gone. Children are trained to be raised among strangers to then be called friends with values just as unstable as their own and millions enter their 20's and 30's with people asking, "What happened to this generation?"
Friendships are based on likings and preferences that change as much as the daily ocean tides. Neighborhoods are mere profit margins of equity instead of establishing relationships to love by helping, serving, protecting, and giving. Industries turn to legalized and legislated blackmail for when people are in pressured points of life they either pay or die. Therefore, people become so unknown, even purposefully unknown, that they are mere products for profit gain or assumed foes than potential friends to love.
Government becomes the key focus to fix all of our woes. People within departments and agencies then become trained for liability purposes and used as living saviors of all our cultural issues to return to their own homes with the cultures sins on them. Politics lives on as mere trojan horses for anyone's special interests and direction, and many times become modern day preachers of values leaving listeners trained to doubt and, many times, fear.
The list grows and goes on of the ripple effects in every area of life and people's solutions and conversations stagnate in the same muck versus getting out of it. No matter the amount of words on paper, it seems we continue to live a "death by a thousand paper cuts." Some solutions try to band aid the cuts and others try removing the paper. Each solution focuses back on the self (us, humanity, nature), and we never seem to find the solution to end it all leaving many in depression and despair to end their own lives or others.
"There's nothing new under the sun" as the older King Solomon states in scripture (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Solomon reminds us at the book's end, "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them'."
What if the pressures of life are not the issue but we are? What if finding solutions is paradoxically un-helpful? What if we continue to look for the right answers in the wrong places or people? What if the pressures merely squeeze out what's inside us and our culture revealing self-centered survival? And what if there's a bigger life stage and greater story happening? What if we are unable to escape the life pressures but we are to walk through the "valley of the shadow of death"? What if we are not to give up or give in but gain and gain a greater foundation and direction for life -- God.
It's difficult to walk alone through the valley but when someone is with us, we are more able to endure hence Psalm 23:4 says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Either we will trust him for who he is, does, wants, and says or we will look to him as yet another solution to our problems and use him to escape a valley, death, and fear. The latter makes us a god in our own right versus the former entrusting our lives to him to live and walk in a way he directs. In the end, we'd rather be with God through the pressures of death and fear than godless in a utopian world.
The greatest difficulty in trusting God, even getting beyond all skepticism and cynicism of his existence, is that he then rules and reigns our personal life, world, and universe. We then end up willing to give in to him, giving up on gaining from others, and gain him regardless of our life quality. Our convictions strengthen, conscience sensitive, and courage resolved to follow him wisely in life even among pressures. And like a two-sided coin, we become willing to live for him and the flip side become willing to die for him. So if we love our life, then God becomes a bother and obstacle versus the object of our trust.
If we are looking to live and gain from the world, we are following a hopeless hope. Many look for gain even gaining of money to be the solution for life, "If I had a million dollars I would be fine." This is why Paul instructs Timothy to pastor people away from the love of money, "But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world" (1 Timothy 6:6-7). When we gain God, we gain contentment and a life lived according to his desires (godliness) that squeezes us to humility and pours out love to Him and others.
If we need direction in life on, "What am I suppose to do? What am I suppose to believe?" Then we direct our attentive ears to listen to God for wisdom, which is life decisions being made out of the fear of the Lord. What's more valuable, a million dollars or wisdom? "For wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her" (Proverbs 8:11). Why is wisdom greater and more valuable than money or jewels? Because of the source of wisdom and the creator of the world for wisdom to play out -- God.
So, like the created sun is to the universe, God is the Creator who is the epicenter of all his creation and life -- including ours. Our life following him described as godliness is the mere moon absorbing and reflecting His goodness, grace, and good news of Christ Jesus (the gospel). Godliness does not mean perfection or sinlessness, but rather it means humbly living a life according to whom we believe in which is God. God is the one we value more important than life itself and interestingly enough trains us to value life of others and learning to live according to him -- the God of truth and love. Therefore, we don't give up or give in but gain.
Do we give up and become careless when countless people reject the gospel? No. Do we give in to people's self-serving epicenter and go with their flow? No. What do we do? Stress them to care? Force them to change? No.
We trust and gain God, which he then changes us to love regardless of the world around us. Relationships form united around him. Friendships endure and last a lifetime. Families enter struggles and sufferings just as they did with success -- together not hoarding themselves or protecting themselves but learning wisdom and how to decide on what to do next even if that means wait. Education turns away from the focus on the next big solution and training to that end; but rather, we begin to train according to God's end even if that mean's we lose friends, family, neighbors, finances, reputation, and even our own life ends. Church communities form as humbled people around him not looking for the next tradition or trend but are being transformed to be his living sacrifice in the world as the way to worship him (c.f. Romans 12:1-2).
The world and our own desires pressure us to place our worship and take our identity in anything else but God. Age, gender, sexuality, political bent, money, land, talent, power, tradition, trends, and so on. God walks us through each one of these by centralizing himself to our life and world. He determines truth and love. We find our identity in the God-man Christ Jesus and become recognized as Christians.
When God is our telos, we live, focus, make decisions, and train others to believe and do likewise. If not, we live among those that fight against him, leaving us in what Paul commands Timothy, "Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:12). This fight is different than the world's definition, and it is not quarreling but lovingly enduring people's rejection by confessing truth and loving others which is part of godliness.
God uses his word, the world, his people, and the living word, Jesus, to humble and draw people to trust him. He creates among his people a courage to fight against giving up and giving in in order to gain godliness that shares with others a mood of repentance for them to do likewise.
God inspires and produces great wisdom among pressured life. Look to him for guidance and hope since he truly is our living God and hope as Paul and Peter say, "For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe" and "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Peter 1:3).