In the film Facing the Giants, Coach Grant Taylor tries to turn a losing football team at a private Christian school into a winning football team by teaching them the principle of giving God glory in every aspect of their lives. One of the leaders on his team is a young defensive player named Brock. Brock's biggest failing is that he always wants to quit when he gets tired. In order to teach Brock a little bit about perception, he has Brock do bear crawls, blindfolded, with a teammate on his back. Coach Taylor tells Brock that he wants him to go 20 yards, but since Brock cannot see how far he has gone, Taylor pushed him the entire length of the football field. This lesson about enduring when you are tired serves Brock well when, in the climactic game, a very tired Brock manages to hold the defense together for one last stop, giving his team a chance to win.
At times, trying to live a good life can make you feel like Brock. You've given everything you have to give, you've worn yourself out serving God and helping people, and you just don't think you can go any farther. You're tired. You want to quit, to throw in the towel, declare that you are done trying to do the right thing all the time, trying to serve, trying to give. You're just done. Maybe, after a break, you can start up again. Maybe when you've had a chance to recover your strength you can go back for more. You just need a chance to stop, to not worry about doing the right thing or being the right person or serving.
Now, I'm not talking about general exhaustion here. I'm not talking about the kind of exhaustion where you haven't gotten enough sleep and you've worked extra hours and you are physically drained. I'm talking about spiritual exhaustion, the kind where you have given everything of yourself that you have to give and there is nothing left. Your emotions are spent, you have no more compassion left in the reservoir, no more patience left for people who mistreat you and take advantage of you, no more cheeks you can turn, no more self-control you can exert. You're ready to quit doing good. You can't do it anymore. You don't have the energy and it's not worth it anyway. That kind of spiritual exhaustion.
If you have ever been in that spot, like I have been, Paul has something to say. "We must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don't give up" (Galatians 6:9, HCSB). "Sure, Paul, that's easier said than done," I can hear someone responding right now. "Do you know how long I've been doing this? Do you know how much I've given?" But if you know what Paul went through for the cause of Christ, then you know Paul is giving us more than empty platitudes. Paul describes his own experiences like this:
Five times I received 39 lashes from Jews. Three times I was beaten with rods by the Romans. Once I was stoned by my enemies. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea. On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the open country, dangers on the sea, and dangers among false brothers; labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing (2 Corinthians 11:25-27, HCSB).
Paul isn't telling us to pretend we don't get frustrated or weary. He isn't telling us that we have to put on a brave face and lie about how we feel. He is simply saying, "Don't give up." Put one foot in front of the other. Keep pushing forward. Keep giving and working, even when it doesn't look like it's paying off because "we will reap at the proper time, if we don't give up." We never know when it will happen. We never know what it will look like. But if we hang in there and keep living this life, it will be worth it. Don't give up.