One day I was musing over the thought that, as well as finances would allow, most people are pretty well prepared for many of the unpleasant things that might happen in the future. There is fire insurance in case we have a fire, car insurance in case we have an accident, health insurance in case someone has a sickness or injury that puts them into the hospital, even life insurance to help out in case of the death of the bread winner.
Now, we’re not sitting around waiting for any of those things to happen right now. We don’t know that we’ll ever face any of those things in our lifetime. But insurance is just a provision made ahead of time so that you’re better prepared when you face one of those tragedies. Without it, any one of those circumstances might leave you financially devastated.
I thought, “I wish I could sell marriage insurance, so folks could be guaranteed that their marriage would never break up, or child-training insurance, to guard against our children turning away from all we’ve taught them and wrecking their lives in sin once they’re grown. What about friendship insurance, to prevent your closest companions from someday turning against you and breaking your heart. Or maybe...?”
Well, you see the direction in which my thoughts were wandering, anyway. It occurred to me that one of the greatest concerns in my life is that I’ll quit. Quit the ministry. Quit living for God. Quit on my marriage and my children. All around me, I’ve seen people throwing in the towel and leaving pain and devastation in their wake, and I don’t want to join them, not now or 50 years from now.
I’m not talking about bad people, or people who had bad motives, or unspiritual, uncharactered Christians. Over the years many folks who I’ve admired and looked to for example and teaching have now turned aside, and I’m sure that some of them were, at one time, stronger and more dedicated Christians than me. I know myself too well to think that I’m above falling into the same traps that have wrecked these dear folks. Not for one minute do I intend to be critical or judgmental of someone who has already quit, yet I would like to learn from their mistakes and guard against them in my own life. But how do you protect yourself against quitting?
Now, when do you buy an insurance policy? Do you wait until tragedy strikes? Or until you are sure that trouble is on the way? No, insurance is a preparation that you make in fair weather because you know that someday a storm may come. If I’m going to fortify my ‘stick-to-it-ivity’ and be prepared to weather the storms without sinking to the bottom, then I’m going to have to make some preparations and provisions against quitting during a time when quitting is the furthest thing from my mind. So here’s a few thoughts that make up my ‘rough-draft’ in hope that you’ll be able to perfect the idea, and it will be a strength and encouragement to you somewhere down the road when you most need it.
1. Realize and admit that you WILL be tempted to quit.
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32) A person must be either very conceited or very naive if they think they’ll never face the heartbreak and discouragement that have brought others to their lowest ebb and prompted them to quit on God. I know that I’m not any more spiritual, and I’m certain that I’m not as strong as Moses, or Elijah, or Jeremiah, or Jonah, or Peter. Yet all of these good servants of God came to a point where they wanted to quit. One of the best defenses against the temptation to quit is to anticipate it, so that it will not be nearly as surprising or as painful.
2. Realize why you’re tempted to quit.
In one way, the devil’s onslaught can be an encouragement. The devil is not fighting the folks who are doing nothing. He wants to ruin those who are doing the most damage to his plans. I’m convinced that Satan works harder to destroy the marriages of fundamental, soulwinning preachers and their wives than just about anyone else in the world. He spends all of his time and energy trying to stir up strife and ill-will in a separated, soulwinning church while many liberal churches seem to be peaceful. If the devil attacks you with discouragement, then you must be doing something right. Be sure and give him the credit he deserves, instead of thinking it’s all your husband, your friend, your preacher or your mother.
As ladies, we may as well admit that we’ve got the added problem of roller-coaster emotions to cope with. We need to admit to ourselves that sometimes the problem is not with us or with anyone else, but its just the fact that we’re faced with many more ups-and-downs in our feelings and moods than men have to deal with. When it’s appropriate, don’t hesitate to relegate the blame to that fact instead of blaming everything and everybody else around you.
3. Be prepared with some special verses and Bible illustrations that will bolster your resolve to keep on keeping on.
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9) “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not... But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;” (II Corinthians 4:1, 7-10) You’ll find a gold mine of encouragement when you start digging it out of the Bible.
I also know of some books and sermons that have been especially encouraging to me in the past, and I often refer to those in memory, and sometimes even go hunting them up to let them encourage me all over again. A sermon that was preached by Dr. Bob Kelley about the importance of what you say to yourself is one that God used at a crucial time in my life, and the Lord has used the points of that message time after time to get me thinking on the right track again. Dr. Hyles preached a message on a wounded spirit, and I needed the instruction that it gave me. The Holy Spirit was saying, “See, there... what did I tell you!”
There are songs that mean something special to me. I have gotten through some trying days to the tune of ‘Day By Day’ or ‘My Faith Has Found A Resting Place’. There are messages I’ve written for the paper in years gone by about the encouraging things that God has taught me from His word, and I find myself re-reading those precious lessons again. Those verses and books and sermons and songs are all things I count on for ‘insurance’.
4. Make God some promises about finishing what He has for you to do.
No matter what you’re doing, if you have a tentative attitude about it, you’re destined to quit sooner or later, and it will probably be sooner. Promise God, “Lord, I will not quit!” Whatever He has given you to do, make some promises about it. The Lord has given us a ministry that requires being on the road at times and being separated at other times. Some days things go pretty smooth... and then there are other days! God has given us the privilege to have a Revival Fires! and the opportunity to see it be a blessing and encouragement to countless people.
There are many, many blessings, yet I’d be dishonest if I said I’ve never been tempted to quit. My service to God requires me to deal with a different set of responsibilities and people than yours does, and vice-versa. If you’re in any type of ministry, you’ll get disgruntled and upset with people, often the very people that you’re suppose to be teaching and helping. But promise God that no matter what happens, you won’t quit, and when you’re tempted to quit, that promise will be a reminder and a motivator to stick it out.
Over the years I’ve made and re-made many promises to the Lord, and every time the devil has whispered, “Quit,” the Lord has reminded me about them. One that I particularly remember was made outside a little motel in Batesville, Arkansas with my 3 month old baby in her little seat beside me. God brings that instance to my mind very often. I’ve found it especially important to make promises to God concerning my relationships and ministry to others, especially my husband and children. That way, if I feel I’ve been wronged, I’m reminded that I’ve promised to do right as a wife or mother, and made that promise to God. Sometimes I can say, “Lord, I’m doing this for you,” even if it takes a while for me to be able to be what I ought to be for the sake of that person alone.
5. Guard your weaknesses and times of temptation.
Everyone has heard it said that one of the most likely times to face discouragement is right after a great victory in your life, and that is so true. Because we’ve been warned about that over and over, we’re usually on our guard at those vulnerable times, and maybe even adjust our schedule to better cope with it. But that’s not the only situation that consistently brings discouragement or fatigue or bitterness or any of the countless other things that lead to quitting.
You can probably think of certain holidays or events that usually leave you drained and despondent. You can probably spout off the names of several people who are not the best influence on your spiritual state. Whether it’s prompted by sickness, or the Christmas season, or spring fever, or the most exciting day of your life, or a visit from your least favorite in-law, you can prepare yourself to fight off the temptation to quit.
6. Adjust your philosophy to admit that it’s better to fail than to quit.
I have to admit that this was not one of the easier points for me. I was the one in high school who, if I didn’t get an A, didn’t care if I got an F. I’ve learned over the years that the fear of failure can keep you from ever starting, and if you are going to do something for God with your life, you’ll have to take some chances with the attitude that ‘Failure is the only means by which you can start over more intelligently.’ I really do think that sometimes people are faced with a situation where they think others will view them or their ministry as a failure, so instead they quit. Yet if I get my eyes on God’s perspective of my life, it’s much more honorable to ‘fail’ while trying to do something right, than to quit in my endeavors to serve the Lord. I think God honors that kind of attitude.
7. Surround yourself with encouragement.
Being a poet of sorts, I find poetry especially encouraging and uplifting when I’m in need of it. I have several poems scribbled into my Bible margins and hanging on the wall around my work area. I’ve written some poems like “Don’t Worry Robin” that are encouraging, not because they’re so good, but because they’re so real to me and the circumstances that prompted me to write them are still vivid in my memory. There are many little notes from my girls, and special little gifts and cards from my husband tacked up all over where I can see them.
I count these little scraps of paper and cards and notes and reminders as some of the most crucial components of my plan of protection. From where I sit right now I can see many of these, as well as a little vase that says, “You’re very special to me,” and a coloring book picture of a secretary slumped over a typewriter complete with “Dear Mom --- I love you” written in crayon across the top. Maybe that’s not the kind of thing that is a breath of fresh air to you when you’re smothering in discouragement, but whatever is, keep it available.
8. Laugh so you won’t cry, or cry if you must.
A friend of mine once gave me a card that pictures a gorilla with bubble gum stringing from mouth to hands to feet and simply says, “Stick to it!” Thank you, I will! I enjoy funny little things like that, and often a chance to laugh at your plight is all you need to get that mountainous burden back down to mole-hill size where it belongs. My mom sent me two little posters that I especially like. One with a bursting file cabinet, overflowing trash can, phone receiver hanging off and lots of stray paper says, “I’m over-worked and under-slept.” The other says, “I try to take one day at a time... but lately I’ve been attacked by several days at once!” One of my favorites is a picture of two fear-stricken fish swimming in a blender with their eye on the plug in the electric socket, and says, “I can’t stand the tension in here!”
Sometimes a break with someone who’s a lot of fun, if rather crazy, can be just the antidote needed to fight off a bad case of end-of-my-rope fever. Anything to help me lighten up and laugh a little is much appreciated at a time like that.
But there are times when you just have to cry, and when that time comes, don’t mistake it for the end of the world. Just have a good cry, pray about it, and go on. That may be the best thing you can do.
9. Remember why you started in the first place.
Starting is the exact opposite of quitting, right? When you started, what was your purpose, your motivation, your aim? If you’re despairing over your marriage, stop and think over those sweet and exciting times that prompted you to promise, ‘for better or for worse’. What were some of the things that thrilled your heart then? Somewhere under all the rush and routine, the same two people still exist who were so much in love back then, and so determined make each other happy.
I have many friends who are home schooling. That is one of the most rewarding as well as one of the most taxing endeavors you’ll ever undertake. On a day that’s less-than-ideal, it’s helpful to think back to those baby days when I thanked the Lord continually for allowing me to have a part in bringing up His servants, and resolved to pay the price to protect them from the world, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
When your spirits are lagging over your ministry for the Lord, and people have used you and mistreated you, and things are not moving along as quickly or smoothly as they should, it’s time to refocus your attention back to where it use to be. Remember when you thought it would be the most thrilling thing in the world if God could use YOU? Back when any little thing you could do for the Lord was a sheer delight? Why are you entertaining the idea of quitting? Did God hurt you, or was it just people? If God has never done you any wrong, why would you quit on Him? Because our service to God often centers around serving people for God, we can get needlessly out of sorts if we’re not careful. If you quit, it won’t be nearly so hurtful to the people who’ve hurt you as it will be to the Savior who bought you with His blood.
10. List God’s promises, claim them, and fight to stay positive.
Every promise in the Book IS mine. “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32) “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21) “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:57-58)
11. Count your blessings, then demand a recount.
I never get tired of talking over and thinking over the many, many answers to prayer we’ve seen in our ministry. During the first year of our marriage I kept a list in my Bible of blessings and answers to prayer, and I still marvel every time I read over it. They say that, “Contentment is the art of enjoying what you have.” If I get my eyes off of what I don’t have and on what I do have, things will brighten up. If I stop spending all my time and energy stewing over the things that have gone awry, and stop to think about all the wonderful things that haven’t, I won’t be nearly so discouraged. The Bible often rehearses the past miracles and victories of God’s people, which ought to remind us that we need the same kind of encouragement.
“Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.”
12. Have an ‘in case of emergency’ plan.
I have a friend in West Virginia. I’ve often told her, “You’re one of the few friends who, if I were in prison for murder, I know you’d be standing at my cell swearing I didn’t do it.” I don’t get to see her very often, but she’s a true, dear friend and I love her. I’ve said to myself many times, “If I ever HAVE to talk to someone, I know I could call her.” Do you know how many times I’ve called her to pour out my woes. Zero! Just knowing that I could has always been enough.
Mrs. Joe Boyd told me of a time when her mother was gravely ill and she was as low as she’d been in many years. Brother Boyd had told her, “If you ever really need me, you just let me know, and I promise I’ll come home.” Out of more than 40 years, that was the one time that she collected on that promise, and knowing that he would come if she asked was often comfort in itself.
I guess everybody could have a plan to use ‘in case of emergency.’ We may never come to that point, but knowing that there would be a relief in sight if we did is a great comfort. When Elijah faced the deepest valley of his life, God thought it important enough to send an angel to care for his needs. There is always an answer, whether it’s a simple, visible solution like a phone call, or a miracle that only God can perform. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (I Corinthians 10:13) You never have to quit.
Not long ago I spent some time over pizza with three young preachers’ wives whose husbands recently graduated from Bible college. Before the conversation was over, one of them asked, “What is one main word of advice you would give to a young preacher’s wife?” I’m sure they were expecting something much more dramatic than my answer. I said, “That’s easy. Just do what God wants you to do, do it ‘as unto the Lord’ and don’t ever quit. The times will come when that’s all the advice you can handle, and if you do quit, no other advice will be of any value.”
If you’re facing discouragement, and the devil’s been suggesting that you just quit, I trust that I’ve thrown you the life-preserver you need. Just don’t quit!
I hope, rather, that you’re reading this without any inkling of discontentment or discouragement to mar your joy in serving God. I assure you that you can expect many more blessings than trials. It’s just that our human nature tends to magnify the trials when they come, and let them hide all the blessings from view.
Insurance is that provision you make for stormy weather when the sky is clear and the water is calm. So let these ideas be the first installment in your policy of ‘Quitting Insurance,’ and tuck them away where they can be found when they’re needed. And Just Don’t Quit!
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
And the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low, and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit!
Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint to the clouds of doubt
You never can tell how close you are --
It may be near when it seems afar.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit.
It’s when things go wrong that
you must not quit!