Keep on Keeping On
By Maria Fontaine
Are you going through a rough time right now with a lot of battles—feeling unchallenged, unfulfilled, overloaded, unappreciated, or burned out? Are you beginning to feel that you’re going to cave in under the pressure and the strain of the battles? What can you do when you just feel like giving up, or you’re discouraged and really struggling? I think if I could sum it up in one phrase, it would be “Hold on!” I know that sounds simplistic, but it’s the truth.
Take the apostle Paul, for example; he had to hold on through a lot. Talk about ups and downs, Paul really went through it!—From being looked upon with skepticism by his own brethren, to being booed out of cities where he tried to witness—persecuted, whipped, jailed, physically afflicted, nearly stoned to death!
Now maybe you don’t feel like that relates so much to you, since that was 2,000 years ago. But just like you, there were times when Paul, as great a man of God as he was, was pretty discouraged and felt like giving up. On one occasion he wrote, “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.” (2 Corinthians 1:8) That sounds like he hit a pretty low ebb, doesn’t it?
There may have been times when you’ve “despaired even of life,” as Paul did. I’m sure that all of us have gone through deep discouragement at one time or another, or we will at some point in this life. Maybe you’re going through something like that right now, and have been for a long time. Sometimes it helps to think about how Paul and many other men and women of God went through similar things.
But here’s the important part: Despite Paul’s trials and tribulations—both in the form of outward persecution and in the form of inward despair, discouragement, and doubt—he held on, declaring that, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)
Now that’s a good one for us to remember: “None of these things move me.” In other words, “I’m going to keep holding on no matter what happens.” That’s the kind of determination that kept Paul going, so that even though he was “perplexed,” he was “not in despair.” (2 Corinthians 4:8)
And don’t worry if you think you’re not strong enough to hold on, because you don’t have to be strong in yourself. Your strength will come from the Lord. (See Psalm 46:1, 18:1–2, 121:1) All you have to do is put your will on the Lord’s side and want to hold on, and then He’ll give you the strength to keep holding on even when you don’t think you can anymore.
Maybe you think Paul in the Bible couldn’t really understand what you personally go through and the battles that you experience, since he didn’t have the exact same ones, and the conditions back then were completely different. Well, all that counsel from the Bible still applies to you just as much as it did to whoever it was originally written to. Not only can we hang on and make it through these battles and trials, but we can turn them around and use them to our advantage—or actually, let the Lord use them to His advantage.
We can’t always prevent the battles and difficult periods that we go through; sometimes that’s just life, and the Lord even allows these things for various reasons. It could be a test of our faith; it could be to make us stronger and teach us to hold on to the Lord; it could be to get us desperate with Him so that we’ll depend more on Him and less on ourselves; it could be to help us pray for others; or it could be to help us understand others better so that we can in turn comfort them when they go through it.
There are all kinds of reasons the Lord allows battles to happen. Sometimes He deliberately allows us to have trials because He wants to teach us something; other times it’s an attack of the Devil which the Lord allows in order to get us to exercise our spiritual fighting skills; still other times it’s brought on by the Enemy’s inroads into our lives that we’ve allowed due to disobedience or not following the Lord as closely as we should.
There are some difficult situations we can prevent by being more obedient to the Lord and more full of His Word, spending time with Him and hearing His voice. But others we can’t prevent; they just happen. It’s just part of life that the Lord allows us to experience. But even in those situations we can use it for good, and it’s a precious gift.
You don’t often think of a prolonged trial where you feel like you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death as a precious gift, do you? Well, it doesn’t look like or seem to be a precious gift to start with, but if you get desperate, call out to the Lord, and hold on to Him, then you’ll be blessed with a stronger link with Jesus and a deeper relationship with Him. You will have learned to trust because you will have “dwelt in the depths of the sea” and “descended into hell” and found that the Lord’s Spirit was still there with you. (Psalm 139:7–11)
Nobody that made a difference in this world ever got anywhere by giving up. So if you want to get somewhere in your life and for the Lord, then don’t give up. If you feel like throwing in the towel, remember that the Lord may just be testing you and trying you in order to make you better gold. You’ve probably often heard the quote, “God only uses broken men and women—no others will do.” You really want to be used of the Lord, but when the breakings come, it’s hard to recognize them as being part of God’s plan to make you what you need to be in order for the Lord to use you. So when they do come, take it as part of the Lord’s polishing process.
You might not feel like you have the strength to keep going, but the good news is that you don’t have to have the strength for it. Because if you call out to the Lord, He will hold you. All you have to do is put your will on His side. All you have to do is to say, “No, I’m not going to let go and sink into the mud”—and the Lord will do the rest. He will come through for you! You win the victory by not giving up!
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