Never Give Up

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I don’t always write my posts and upload them in “real time.” Last week, for instance, “Welcome to Jerkville, Population Me” was written and posted a few days before it actually appeared. WordPress allows me to post in advance, and while I don’t always use that feature, if I find downtime in my schedule, I may write a post and have it load at a future date. (I’m doing that with this post, too.)

The “Jerkville” post had already been uploaded when I received a subject-less e-mail. At first I thought it was spam (always include a subject, folks), so I let it sit while I attended to other work.

When I eventually opened that e-mail, it contained a sad story of dire need by a stranger who was reaching out to me for help. Winston Churchill said it...Always skeptical, I verified the e-mailer’s story with some third-parties. Once verified, I called every resource I knew to find a way to help. I talked with many charitable organizations, dropped e-mails to large churches in the area of this person in need, spoke on the phone with probably two dozen people, but I still have not found help.

I remember reading a story on the Web about a woman who suffered a stroke (or some other vascular accident) while online, but was able to type out a request for help. A doctor, fortuitously online in this chat room, engaged her. He was able to call an EMT to her place. She lived because of that help.

About five years ago, I decided to join an online forum on a well-known Christian site. Within a few weeks, I got sucked into a vicious conversation about singleness and money. One poster on the forum was a single guy who didn’t make much money, but wanted to get married. Several commenters continued to beat this guy up about how no Christian woman in her right mind would want to marry a guy who barely made more than the minimum wage. I could not believe the nasty things said to this poor man by supposed brothers and sisters in Christ (though I sure can now). The guy tried to defend himself, and I came to his defense several times. His posts seemed to get more frantic with time, and his online assailants just would not ease up.

Eventually, after about a week or so of this, he left a cryptic message. A few hours later, he wrote in that forum that he was committing suicide.

I came to his posted confession later that evening. Horrified, I spent hours trying to contact the forum Webmaster and the company that ran the forum. Eventually, I got patched into a hotline and directed people to the post. The response? “Sorry sir, there’s nothing we can do.”

I have no idea if that man killed himself. (He never posted again, though his assailants did. But not once did they comment on what had happened in that forum.) All I know is that no one else seemed to care. He was just some quasi-anonymous soul. Just another person. There are six-point-something billion of us on the planet, give or take a few.

It’s the “give or take a few” people out there whom I grieve for.

In talking about the plight of my e-mailer with various charities and churches, you could hear the flatness coming through the handset speaker. Just another person in need. One more family looking for a handout. I spoke with a pastor of a church in that e-mailer’s area and he said, “You gotta understand. Everyone’s poor down here.”

I spoke with a few benevolence ministries housed in suburban megachurches in the region of that person in need. They all understood the need because they’d heard it a thousand times before. But they said they couldn’t help. You could almost see the heads hanging low on the other end of the phone.

The charities, too, had people answering the phone with voices marinated in weariness. “If we help in that way, sir, we’ll set a precedent and 1,500 people will be lined up here tomorrow asking for the same thing,” one broken charity coordinator said with a sigh.

My copy of Lloyd-Jones’s Spiritual Depression, Its Causes and Its Cure stared back at me from my bookshelf, and I felt so sorry for everyone involved: the person in need, the charities, the churches, and even myself. Those people who face that kind of bottomless need…well, I don’t know how they drag themselves into work everyday. Knock out one tough case and two spring up in its place, a perpetual hydra of people saying, “Can you help me? Please, you’re my last hope.”

Compassion fatigue.

I haven’t heard back from some of the resources I contacted. The optimist in me says I will, but the typical Dan suspects the worst. “The poor will always be with you,” the Lord said. I think that’s one of the saddest set of words spoken in the Bible.

Here’s some words with more hope:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
—Galatians 6:9-10

To the charity worker who lives every day knowing that the need is always greater than the resources, I say this: “Never give up.”

To the church minister who goes out every day into yet another home filled with more need than a dozen churches could manage, I say this: “Never give up.”

To other Christian bloggers out there who also receive needy e-mails, and who struggle immensely with that responsibility laid in their laps for no other reason than that they write Christ-filled words of light in a dark world, I say this: “Never give up.”

To you, if you’re a person in a crushing situation, a well of despair, that threatens to drown you and every person you hold dear, I say this: “Never give up.”

The great revivalist Leonard Ravenhill once said, “The only time you can really say that ‘Christ is all I need’ is when Christ is all you have.”

No matter who you are, no matter how tired, broken, or weary, no matter how empty your pantry, know this: when Christ is all you have, you have the greatest blessing of all.

If nothing else, take away another thought from Ravenhill: “We must do what we can do for God before He will give us the power to do what we can’t do.”

So please, please, please don’t ever give up.

19 thoughts on “Never Give Up

  1. Wolfgang Amadeus

    Sadly, there are many churches out there today, that practice Christianity in name only. They collect Tithes-for their building projects, and on occaision, do something worthwhile. I have belonged to churches like that. And, when I needed help- they helped me. I had to pay it back immediatly however- there was no concern, or kindness involved. That is why I left that church. Its a large community- an international community, and next to the Jewish church, one of the oldest. Incidently, they are one of the richest too. When I moved, and called the Archbishop, his staff had no time for me-not even enough to return the call. All I was doing, was asking about a church to go to- and where the parish was. I never heard from anyone, not even the local Priest. I think its sad when a church that mighty, cannot even answer the call of a new parishioner. So- I have left that church. For almost all my life, I have participated, practiced, worked, served in this religeon. I was even a consencrated minister. In my heart, I have no desire to go back. Even in the city I lived in before, the Cathedral I served and worked in, turned people who needed help away- daily. I saw it with my own eyes. It would make you cry, yet- they could purchase an antique organ from France, install it, and proceed to remodel the Cathedral- without even blinking their eyes- and the poor- populated the street to the point, that the city itself didn’t know what to do.

    Christians only in name..not in practice. They don’t even like each other in this particular church.

    The church I am involved with now, cares about people- as one of its rules, its cornerstone, it helps the brother or sister in need. They have Welfare farms all around the world. They teach providential fundamentals to their congregants,and they use the tithes appropriately. They also have training programmes for those whom need it- and you don’t have to be a practitioner in order to take it. They practice service, without thanks or fee, and are there if they are needed. Another thing they have, is a Warehouse, for those whom need food, relief for those who need it, is available. This is just a part of what it is- its living the ideals of our heavenly father- which means far more to me, than all the rituals of the Tridentine Rite combined. As a minister, I was taught- love thy neighbor- now I am really learning it. Life is better..

    cheers!
    Wolfgang

    • Wolfgang,

      Walking the talk makes all the difference in the world. What’s most difficult is we must learn to say, “Mine!” There is no “mine” in the Kingdom of God. It is all His. And what is His that is given to us is meant to be shared.

      • Wolfgang Amadeus

        Dan,

        It is all His, and as his children, we must learn to share it. That is the crux of it. Worship and Love are a Key ingredient, as is perfecting ourselves in the Lords eyes. A big part of that perfection is learning how to get along, Love one another, follow his precepts, and share.

        Up until recently, I thought I had that. I was only foolling myself. Now I know that I am slowly learning it- eating the pablum by the spoonfull, and starving for more.

        Walking the talk does make all the difference in the world, but sometimes, its very hard. Thanks to our Saviors love and affection, and perhaps a bit of humour, we are able to endure that walk a little bit easier.

        The Evil one puts hurdles in our path- and thankfully, our Savior takes them away.

        Cheers!
        Wolfgang

  2. Cheryl

    God Bless YOU Dan ! Your labor in the Lord is not unseen by Him. I believe when His saints are moved by compassion to help there is some kind of ripple effect that starts towards that person in need. It doesn’t stop with you.. Be encouraged !

    I like the efforts of Christian Community Development and John Perkins work. Smaller churches in rural areas might be helped to attend one of their conferences or two to get some ideas.
    I have worked in public and human services my whole life. It can be tough I know.

      • Elizabeth

        What help do they need? If it’s monetary, you could always set up a paypal fund for them. If it’s expertise or other assistance they need, maybe there’s another way we could all help? I know you put out a call for people in a specific regional area, but it’s awfully hard for any of us to help when all we hear is that there’s someone in trouble that you haven’t been able to help.

      • Cheryl

        Suicidal ideation as you know is a cry for help. They all should be taken seriously. Chances are good the person you tried to help has done that before. Prayer in all honesty is the best move as God has already been using resources to try to reach this man .If he is a christian there is proably someone who knows of his depression. Regarding the single part …(as I speak personally) extended singleness can be very painful. SI secondary to depression for a biblical counselor might indicate an idol in his heart towards it. Not easy to talk about and in a crisis definately NOT something you should say.

        If it’s really still troubling you God may show you the outcome. Suicide prevention hotlines can be found through any operator. I work in an ED. I frequently have pt’s who attempt this. Most are not successful but their actions does start the ball rolling in them getting help.
        You did the right thing.

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  4. David Riggins

    “The poor you will always have with you” is a painful saying, and the way in which it was said; as a broken and contrite woman was washing the feet of her Savior with expensive perfume, and being roundly criticized for wasting money, brings to light something of how God sees the roots of poverty. But it also has some odd points, little pieces of a puzzle that fill out our understanding of our God.

    The bottle had to be broken.
    The man who protested the loudest was a thief and traitor.
    Christ blessed the woman, saying that what she had done would be remembered as long as the Word was preached.
    Money was not the issue, what was done for Christ was.

    Which leads me to the words of Keith Green:

    “The only difference between the sheep and the goats, according to the scriptures, is what they did and didn’t do”

    “Never give up” extends to everyone who calls Christ Lord, not because we are gifted in certain areas, but because we are recievers of a gift, our life, that we are called upon to break and wash the feet of our Lord with. He resides in a struggling family who you avoid, in the drug dealer threatening your peace, in the jobless woman who calls your pastor, in the adulterer across the street.

    • David,

      Your analysis of the encounter between Jesus and the poor woman who anointed Him is dead on. I just don’t know how to get people stirred up to help. So many of us are either burned out of helping, have gone into a cocoon, or both.

      I sit here today knowing I did everything I thought to do and could not help my e-mailer. Yes, I could send the entire lump sum of money they need, but that doesn’t resolve the issue of not having a job to bring in money to meet next month’s need. That’s the real issue. Nor am I in a position to really give money anyway considering our circumstances right now. I don’t want to give up. I just don’t know what else to do. Yes, pray. I know that. That’s been done. But I sat in church yesterday and heard our pastor quote from 1st John on how we can’t truly call ourselves Christians if we don’t help our brothers in need, and it struck me that this passage is oft repeated yet so many fail to take it to heart. Like I said, I stood in some multi-million dollar homes last week and I thought how some have and some never will, and never the twain will meet. But why does it have to be that way? That’s not the model you see in the early Church.

  5. Money was not the issue, what was done for Christ was.

    very precisely put, David Riggins. That verse of Scripture is probably one of the most misused of our time. The way I see it now, Christ was simply reminding his hearers about the Ecclesiastes 3 passage about there being “a time for everything. My understanding is that Jesus justifies Mary’s action as appropriate for the specific occasion and for someone to bring the subject of “taking care of the poor was completely irrelevant. (In the case of Judas, we are clearly told it went beyond irrelevance to hypocrisy).

    Jesus was saying in effect “do not confuse issues, the time to look after the poor is ALWAYS because they are always here with you”. Somehow we have managed to read it as “no matter what you do, there will always be poor people so do not worry about it” That is a travesty.

    I also started thinking about Keith Green when I read Dan’s post today. I watched a documentary on his life at the weekend; taking people into his home with all their “luggage”, giving away his records free so the Gospel will be freely given….. Puts me to shame but challenges me to radically alter my present comfortable, take little or no risk position.

    Dan Edelen, thanks for sharing this.

    • Yeah, Robbo, it is a travesty that we translate that passage the way we do and just write off the poor. They are real people. We can’t forget that. They’re never less than I am in the eyes of God simply because they possess fewer material goods than I do. How we ever got to thinking that way is so sad.

  6. eliyah

    His people should never have to BEG for bread. Basically that is what the ‘church’ encourages its congregants to do.
    The lesson that Father wants all of His children to learn is that HE ALONE will provide. He just brought us out of being in the wilderness for 4 years and it is exactly what He means it to be….a time of testing. He allowed us to go hungry, He allowed us to wear the same garments, never purchasing new ones, He allowed us to not go for help to any ‘church’, or gov’t program. He allowed His people to look the other way. He put DEAF ears on most of His people so that when they did hear of all the CRUCIFIXION that we were going through they would pretend that they didn’t hear. He allowed eyes to be blinded to our circumstances. Yes our wonderful FATHER did all of that to us. And you know what?? I am SO GRATEFUL that He did. The lesson that one learns when going on to SONSHIP is this……..He corrects and disciplines His children……but ohhhhh for HIS SONS He purges, scourges, prunes and beats. Jesus is our PATTERN, He learned obedience through suffering. How I rejoice that He has counted me and my family worthy to learn this same lesson. The momentary afflictions do not even compare to the WEIGHT OF GLORY that all of His sons will INHERIT.
    Only the overcomers will rule and reign.
    To all those who are being refined in the fire, just know that you have been counted WORTHY and that He will never leave you or forsake you my beloved brother or sister.
    Shalom

    • Eliyah,

      I’m not sure that what you experienced is less about your own testing as it is a failed test of God’s Church. The Church is supposed to take care of its own; the Bible makes this crystal clear. No one is supposed to go through what you went through. God distinctly commands that we not let what happened to you happen. He placed His Spirit in us so that WE would do the work while He receives the glory. That doesn’t appear to be what happened in your case and that’s shameful.

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