What do you do when you want to give up?
Are you tired of trying again and again, finding that all of your effort appears to be wasted and that everything is getting harder instead of easier? Have you done a lot and only gotten a little result?
A lot of people, Christians and non-believers alike, struggle to succeed. Ironically, we sometimes struggle the most when we are trying to do something we want to do. This blog post was written to those of you who are thinking of giving up on your dream, passion, or that goal that continues to elude you.
The desert is a cruel place, a lonely place, and not for the weak. Sometimes you end up there because you take a wrong turn, and other times you’re forced to go through it because there’s no other way. All you can see around you is an endless ocean of sand - no signs, no roads, and no one else to carry the load when you can’t go on anymore.
Like a real desert, there are times in life when we go around in circles, unable to find our way out of a difficult place. Times like these look bleak, and we aren’t sure which way to go, or that any of the paths ahead will lead us to the Promised Land.
If someone asks me about my life, I could impress them. In fact, I used to be pretty good at making people think I was happy when I wanted to give up and fall off the face of the earth. Of course, if they cared to try, they could see through the smoke after a while. I can’t remember when exactly, but one day, I finally quit worrying about what people think. And though I don’t remember when, I do know why.
There comes a time when what you stand for and what you’re trying to do mean more than what anyone else thinks. At the end of the day, you have to look yourself in the mirror and like what you see. If you spend your time trying to be what others think you should be, you’ll want to avoid the mirror altogether.
Today, I’m comfortable with being transparent even though I’m still in the desert. This day looks like most other days—hot, dry, and no water in sight. I don’t feel sorry for myself, though I haven’t always been able to say that. I’ve grown accustomed to this place, and though I still hate it with a passion, I appreciate what I’ve learned here.
Anytime you set out to do something difficult or out of the ordinary, you’ll be tested. And you would expect that, wouldn’t you? After all, if something is difficult or out of the ordinary, it means that not everyone can - or will - do it.
It also means there will come a time when you doubt that you should ever have attempted to do it at all. Telling yourself that you’re going to do something is one thing—doing it is another.
Sometimes we go through a desert in life because we don’t have a choice. I think we could all agree that someone diagnosed with cancer certainly didn’t choose it, nor did the person who lost a loved-one in a car accident. Likewise, the victim of corporate downsizing or a cheating spouse didn’t choose to be where they are. Life just took a bad turn for them and put them there.
But what if you actually choose to walk in the desert? What if you decide to walk through it because you know that’s the only way to get where you want to go?
Maybe you’re trying to start a business or pursue a dream job, or trying to lose the weight you’ve been struggling to lose your whole life. Maybe you’ve adopted a rebellious foster child or have volunteered to lead a group of people for a worthy cause.
The list is endless, but there are times when we aren’t forced into the desert, but choose to walk in it. When things start going against you, getting tougher than you could have imagined, do you ever wonder if you’ve made a mistake?
There’s enough positive motivation around us to last a lifetime. You can read all the inspiring quotes and books you want and take all the you-can-do-it-too seminars out there and still fail. Those things can encourage you, but you still have to do the hard part.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with motivation or inspiration; this blog is in the same vein. I think we need them as a reminder that others have felt our pain and can relate to what we’re going through.
But when you’re thirsty, positive motivation won’t quench that desire for water. Only water can do that. But as a long time resident of the desert, I can tell you that water doesn’t just appear. You have to look for it.
How am I going to do it?
I’ve asked myself that question on those days when the sun was really hot and I wasn’t sure I could go on. But that’s when I reach down deep into the well of my soul and remind myself why I chose to walk here. What other people think doesn’t matter—it’s what I think of myself that does.
More importantly, I ask God to give me peace about where I am and why I’m here. If I had the guts to step into the desert, then I’ve got the guts to come out of it. If you think about it, do you really have a choice?
Sure, you could quit, but that isn’t the question.
The question is: should you quit?
I don’t think so. I think if you believed enough to start the walk, then it’s worth finishing the walk. Being exhausted doesn’t mean you made a bad decision.
I’ve been here a long time, and I can tell you that soon after pushing through the doubt, water turns up. It isn’t always a lot, but it’s enough to get you to the next oasis. Do that enough, and you may get out of the desert sooner than you thought.