When you’re thinking about giving up
“So we’re not giving up.” 2 Corinthians 4:16A MSG
“Quitting never makes anything easer.” – Admiral William H. Mcraven, U.S. Navy Seals
Growing up on the family farm in Clearbrook, B.C., a most despised chore during spring was collecting large rocks out of mom’s huge garden. I am convinced that her garden produced an annual crop of sizeable stones for us Gunther boys to harvest before we planted the multitude of vegetable seeds on hand. Under mom’s watchful eye, we plucked rock after rock, placing them in small metal pails and then carrying them to the tractor bucket at the edge of the garden where we off loaded our ‘harvest.’ It was mundane repetitive labour that never seemed to end. My mom sensed when we were on the verge of quitting and rallied us by saying, “Just one more pail. Just one more pail.” In response, we kept on keeping on, rock after rock, pail after pail. Eventually, the seemingly impossible work (from a young boy’s perspective) was completed, and the aches forgotten. The lesson mom taught me all those years ago in the garden was not lost on me. Today, when tasked with something seemingly impossible and I want to throw in the towel, I hear mom’s voice telling me, “Just one more pail. Just one more pail.”
The place was New Orleans, the date September 7, 1892, and the occasion a much anticipated boxing match between an undefeated heavy weight champion John L. Sullivan, nicknamed the Boston Strong Boy, and a relatively unknown brawler named Gentlemen James John “Jim” Corbett. The fisticuff took place in front of 10,000 raucous spectators. The match went on round after round with each tough hard hitting fighter landing powerful blows upon their opponent’s body. Finally, in the 21st round Corbett landed a smashing left-hand hook to Sullivan’s jaw and the bloody contest was over. Corbett’s fighting style landed him the title Father of Modern Boxing. Corbett was later recorded as saying, “You become a champion by fighting one more round. When things are tough, you fight one more round.”
In 2019, Nepali mountaineer Nirmal Nimsdair Purja began a quest he called Project Possible, the climbing of the world’s fourteen 8000 metre plus mountain peaks in seven months. The only other alpinist to achieve climbing these fourteen peaks was Reinhold Messner and it took him sixteen years! Purja’s quest included ascending mountains in Nepal, China, Pakistan and Tibet with names like Everest, K2, Nangaparbatt and Makalu. His adventure was recorded in the documentary 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible. Watching Purja in this film ascend these massive peaks was nothing short of stunning. He seemed to have the stamina of ten men and the determination of a hundred. His constant mantras included: “Giving up is not in the blood,” and “Don’t be afraid to dream big.” Watching him face fierce winds, frigid temperatures, lack of oxygen, dizzying heights and grueling exhaustion was
spellbinding. No matter what challenge he faced, he simply took one more step towards the summit, and then another, and another, and another, and eventually he rested at the peak. Purja accomplished a seemingly impossible feat.
“God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life we overcome. The strain is the strength.” Oswals Chambers, Author, My Utmost for His Highest
“Every difficult task that comes across your path – every one that you would rather not do. That will take the most effort, cause the most pain, and be the greatest struggle – brings a blessing.” – L.B. Cowman, Author, Streams in the Desert
“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9b NIV). He was over 500 years old when the call of God came to him, to build an ark of cypress wood 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. This mammoth building project had a purpose, to save human and animal life from a catastrophic flood. Biblical commentators estimate the build took upwards of 75 years to complete. We are told little about the culture of the time other than “great wickedness” abounded. We can only speculate the response of Noah’s community to his testimony that God had called him to build an ark in order to save human and animal life from a great flood. What would you think if someone told you that today? The amazing thing is that no matter what challenges Noah faced – scarce resources, opposition, doubt or fatigue – he fastened plank after plank on the frame of the ark until it was ready to carry life above the waters.
Stone by stone the wall of Jerusalem, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., was being rebuilt under the capable godly leadership of Nehemiah. It was 446 B.C. and for 140 years the physical protection of the formerly exiled Jews was nothing but rubble. They were exposed and vulnerable to any and all who would plot to bring them harm. Their recently built temple was also susceptible to destruction by enemies. The citizens of Jerusalem felt disgraced and ashamed as they gazed upon the ruins of their stone bulwark. Nehemiah called this reconstruction “the great work,” a resurrection of tangible security ordained by God himself (Nehemiah 6:3,16). He rallied skilled and unskilled labourers, men, women, young and old in the face of foreign agitators, internal squabbles, and organizational complications. He had every reason not to continue and simply return to his comfortable day job in the Persian court under Artaxerxes. However, Nehemiah laid one more stone, and another, and another, eventually rebuilding the Jerusalem wall in 52 days. One more pail. One more round. One more step. One more plank. One more stone. One more. As a disciple of Jesus, I am convinced that I will be called to remove ‘rocks’ so that something new can be sown. I will be called to fight battles – spiritual or otherwise – so that peace or justice can prevail. I will be called to ascend impossible ‘massifs’ to advance the gospel. I will be called to construct a means by which another might be saved from impending personal destruction. I will be called to rebuild and restore broken hopes so that joy can return. My prayer is that when the rocks seem endless, the body feels exhausted, the mountain screams “I’m unassailable,” the project over- whelms me or the wall looks too broken, I will appeal to the Lord for strength to make just one more effort, spend one more day, give it one more attempt. I will remember the words of Paul to the churches in the province of Galatia: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).