Today’s post is an excerpt from my good friend Stacey Thacker’s new book, Is Jesus Worth It: Igniting Your Faith When You Feel Like Quitting. Stacey’s had a hard couple of years. From the loss of her father, to a child with a chronic illness, and—most recently—walking through the hospitalization and recovery of her husband’s sudden, unexplained cardiac arrest.
So, yeah, I think she might have a thing or two to say about experiencing the goodness of God — in spite of our circumstances.
Stacey is a born encourager. For years, I’ve watched God use her Scripture-filled words of wisdom to bring clarity and courage to women, propelling us toward the everyday purposes and dreams God has for us. I typically get to see Stacey once a year. We catch lunch at Panera when I’m in town and I always leave encouraged to keep following Jesus and equipped to follow that call. Reading her books are almost as good as sitting across the table from her at Panera. Please read this post and consider diving into this new book! I know you will leave encouraged and equipped, too.
Don’t miss the giveaway at the end of the post!
My pastor usually starts reminding us in November that January is coming and he wants us to be ready. You see, every year he asks us to pray and seek God’s heart on a word to frame our upcoming year.
Sometimes I pray and wait for weeks before the Lord brings a word to me. Not this year. I knew straightaway what the Lord was speaking to my heart. But in toddler-like fashion I was busy putting my fingers in my ears, saying, “I can’t hear you, God” and singing, “Blah, blah, blah.” Mature, right? I can be. May I tell you what truly sealed the deal for me? It was Elisabeth Elliot. She was featured on a podcast marking the sixtieth anniversary of her first husband’s martyrdom. Jim Elliot and four other missionaries gave their lives while serving the Auca Indians of Ecuador in 1956. Their faith (and quite frankly, hers) has inspired countless believers all over the world to serve the Lord whole-heartedly. They said, “Jesus is worth it,” and it cost them everything.
Elisabeth Elliot passed away in 2015, so the podcast was a recording of a talk originally given at a conference held by Campus Crusade for Christ to a stadium full of college students in 1983. Yes, that’s right. God used a talk from KC83 (as it was known) to bring the final word on my word for this year. Her topic was on “endurance,” and this quote was what gripped my heart from the beginning. She said, “If it’s God’s will that you want more than anything else in the world, it’s going to mean endurance.”
I knew it. In that moment I knew God was calling my year to be about endurance. I had a feeling it wasn’t a great sign of what was to come. I truly wanted to choose another word. I pleaded with God. He didn’t budge one inch.
By the third week of February I was a mess. It started with me dropping a dozen eggs on the cold tile floor of my kitchen. The rest of the week pretty much followed suit. And I must admit I felt just as broken as those eggs. I had planned on this being a tough week. My daughter was scheduled for a brutal test on Thursday that required an entire day of preparation. She fasted. So did I. By evening we were both tired, hungry, and cranky. She was facing another phase of prep that required her to drink something she was dead set against, and it wasn’t going well. My husband came home and sent the other girls and me to Chick-Fil-A, telling me to eat something. My fasting wasn’t doing any of us any good.
I wrestled too. Here we were being reminded once again through this new series of tests that we might never be able to fix it. How do you look your girl in the eyes and tell her all the treatment, all the pills, all the food she has had to pass on, and all the tests have not proven helpful? She was only nine years old at the time. It breaks you. It broke me. And honestly, I just sat down and wept.
There I sat, trying to make peace with it all. I did my best not to lose heart. And I knew what I was supposed to do. I knew he was present with us. I knew he would hold us no matter what I was feeling. I knew this, because the last time I was here his faithfulness was not void. And the time before that time it was also true. But all those things being true didn’t make it any easier. Do you sense a theme with endurance? Easy is not part of its vocabulary.
Over the next couple of months our family went through some of the most intense times of our lives. The longer it wore on, the more endurance I felt I needed. Like a runner in a marathon, I was longing to see the finish line that didn’t seem to be anywhere in sight. What God offered me instead, in his perfect timing, was a bit of refreshment. Only it wasn’t a cup of Gatorade or a well-timed PowerBar. It was hope from his Word found on the pages of Hebrews chapter 12.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.(Hebrews 12:1-3)
See, the Hebrew readers were weary in every way. They were losing heart fast. Some translations of this verse say they were “fainthearted,” which means “cowardly, depressed, and yielding to fear.” Does it sound a little bit like you? I guarantee you, when I read that description my heart tugged a bit. Being fainthearted is not a small thing. It can sideline the best of runners. The writer of Hebrews knew it was time to call them upward and onward. It wasn’t time to quit; it was time to run. But running wasn’t necessarily going to be easy or comfortable.
I think what the writer of Hebrews was saying, and what Elisabeth Elliot was getting at as well, is that if you are going to follow Jesus you need to decide ahead of time to keep going when it gets rough. Quitting is not on the table. Enduring faith is marked by a wholehearted endeavor to run hard after Jesus. No matter what.
When have you experienced the presence of God holding you as you endure? What situation are you currently experiencing that you must chose to keep running? Share with us in the comments an
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Stacey Thacker is a wife and the mother of four girls. She is a Bible teacher with a passion to connect with women and encourage them in their walks with God. Her books include Hope for the Weary Mom, Fresh Out of Amazing, and Is Jesus Worth It?). You can find her blogging at staceythacker.com and hanging out on Instagram and Twitter @staceythacker usually with a cup of coffee in her hand.