Like many other women, I can look you in the eye and carry on an intelligent conversation while overhearing two or three other conversations taking place around me. It’s a gift and a bother. My husband calls it eavesdropping. I call it paying attention.
We recently sat at a restaurant enjoying a pleasant buffet-style breakfast while on vacation. Our table overlooked tranquil Alaskan waters amid unusually blue skies and snow-crested mountain peaks. We chatted aimlessly about the day’s activities, neither of us in a rush to end the moment.
A middle-aged couple approached a nearby table and sat down, their breakfast plates between them. I couldn’t see the woman’s face or hear her muted words, but within seconds the man’s features grew tense.
“You know what?” He paused, then moved his plate aside with an air of resignation. “It’s just not worth it anymore.”
My heart winced. I knew he meant every word.
Within a matter of seconds, the couple left, their scarcely touched plates a testimony of their frustration with each other or life in general. I stared at their food, momentarily mourning the almost palatable sorrow. What had caused the couple to wave the white flag — to surrender to despair?
It’s doubtful they came to such a tragic place in their lives within an hour, a day, or even a week. It may have taken months, years, or decades before they reached the point where they would rather give up than try.
I believe that’s what happens when people walk away from their faith. It’s rarely an overnight decision. It’s a slowly deteriorating, day-by-day choice made by a person who doesn’t get what they expect or think is deserved. Disappointment follows, then despondency, and finally bitterness takes root, followed by It’s just not worth it anymore.
Maybe those who stray from the faith have lost a loved one before they deemed it was time. Maybe their health has gone downhill, and they question the fairness of it all. Maybe their finances are a constant struggle, and they wonder where the God of blessing is hiding. Maybe their spouse left them for someone else, and they blame God for not intervening.
But maybe . . .
If they dared believe God is good even when circumstances are not, they would find themselves in a place of unwavering faith, like the apostle Paul. Whether resting in a warm bed or shipwrecked on an island, he remained steadfast. Whether eating with friends or stoned by enemies, he remained true to God.
Whether he was abased or he abounded, Paul never once said, “It’s just not worth it anymore.” His life proved that persevering faith is not just about waving a hallelujah flag when times are great but walking through the hardships of life with an abiding trust in Jesus Christ.
Paul said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). What a beautiful testimony of perseverance in spite of trials and tribulations. Paul went on to offer this assurance to all believers: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all of them also that love his appearing” (v. 8).
I prayed for the distressed couple, and I trust God will stir their hearts to hope once again. That is the same prayer I have for those who are ready to give up on God, to take another path, or to return to the bondage from whence they came.
If ever anything was worth it, Jesus Christ is that one thing. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). He is reason enough to fight the good fight, reason enough to finish the race, and yes, He alone is reason enough to keep the faith.