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Author Kyle Idleman’s Latest Book a Battle Cry to Not ‘Give Up’

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

Have you ever said hello to someone and the automatic response has been, “Good”, “Fine”, or “Can’t complain”?  While many of these people are being legitimately honest in their response and genuinely feel that way, there is a pretty good chance that behind those simple words could be a person who is anything but good, fine, or any other positive quip that comes to mind. 

Perhaps your child is fighting a life-threatening disease, or you just lost your job.  You are depressed, uncertain in your marriage, or your aging parent is losing the battle with dementia.  Whatever the case, there is always the temptation to just … give … up.

Author Kyle Idleman believes that faith can give you the confidence and courage to keep going despite the circumstances.  In his latest book, Don’t Give Up, he encourages readers to find the breakthrough to better days that God has for you.

I recently spoke to Idleman about the things that weigh people down the most, what a person needs to do when everything feels out of synch, and what we can learn on the topic from some very prominent figures in the Bible.

Why is the topic of not giving up so timely?  It seems this is something that has been around for generations?

The “don’t give up” phrase can sound a little bit cliché to people, perhaps a little bit trite. But the reason is we use it a lot and we need to hear it a lot. My goal was to route the need for Don't Give Up into something deeper than just wishful thinking or a cliché. To route it in a deep faith, it's certainly a very biblical concept. I think the timeliness of it is appropriate for our culture. I was reading an article from Psychology Today about the resiliency among college students that is just becoming less and less. I think that's not just true of college students. I think resiliency is an issue. Anytime we are more concerned about our immediate happiness, I think it's going to be tempting to give up. This can often describe us as a culture. Anytime we're isolated it's going to be easier to give up. We are increasingly isolated. While it's always been an important message, I do think it is especially needed in our world today.

What is the ingredient(s) that a person needs to get up, dust themselves off, and keep going?  What is the secret sauce?

I think that faith is the biggest ingredient. You can find some perseverance and endurance through positive thinking and through reinforcing yourself. There's some ways that that can help you endure, but eventually that gets exposed. So, you put your confidence in yourself, and then life has a way of revealing that this is not adequate. When we're most tempted to give up, it's because we don't believe that the path we're on is leading somewhere good. It’s like putting together a puzzle when we don't have the picture on the box in front of us. We don't see how the pieces fit together. Faith is believing in something we cannot see. It's believing that God sees some things we don't. That God knows what we do and that He has a picture even if it doesn't match our own. So, I'm going to stick with this puzzle. It's confidence that I can keep moving because this is leading somewhere even if I don't know what the destination is. That's what faith is. 

You devote a great deal of focus in Don’t Give Up to the New Testament book of Hebrews. You take a deep dive into Hebrews 12:1 that says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.”  In modern day terms, what is a ‘cloud of witnesses’?

People who have run their race, they've endured and persevered and now they are watching you run the race that is marked out for you. There's something very encouraging and inspiring about that. If you're running a long race, let's say a marathon, there's a couple of places along the race that you're going to be tired or you're going to struggle. You're going to tell maybe a family member or friend, ‘Hey, can you stand here? And then you know when I run by, that's when I'm going to need some encouragement.’ And so with the ‘cloud of witnesses,’ the idea would be that these are those who are encouraging us, that their stories are speaking strength into our story and where we need it the most.

Staying in Scripture, what can we learn about God by examining the life of Jacob? From Scripture, we know that he was the son of Isaac and Rebecca, the grandson of Abraham and Sarah, and the younger twin brother of Esau.  He also had 12 sons, one of whom was Joseph.

Jacob was always on the run. He gets himself into some pretty difficult situations. And whenever he does, he just runs to the next situation. But eventually, he finds himself in a place where there's trouble in front of him and there's trouble behind him, and there's nowhere left to run. Instead of giving up, there's this scene in Scripture where we read that he wrestles with an angel of the Lord and he grabs hold of the angel and refuses to let go until he is blessed. I love that image because it shows that Jacob, instead of running, he was ready. He was ready to wrestle. And then the angel of the Lord blessed him by giving him the name Israel. The idea is that sometimes we struggle and we wrestle. Then we discover God's blessing on the other side, but it isn't without getting some scars. It doesn't end without a limp. I think that's important because I talk to people often who endured something really difficult. I wouldn't want to go through it again, but they, they can see now from where they are. They discovered a deeper blessing for having gone through it. And so it hurts. There's still some scars that they bear but they can also see how God redeemed and how they discovered him in deeper ways. 

In practical terms, what does a person need to do when everything feels out of synch, discombobulated, when God’s timing just doesn’t feel right? 

You should ask for help. I think a lot of times people give up without ever asking anyone to help them. And quite often there are those God has put in our lives that are more than willing to help us carry your burden, but we don't ask for it. When you ask someone for help, a lot of times you'll hear a story of how they've endured or of how God helped them through a similar circumstance. You will feel encouraged and inspired by somebody else's testimony of God's faithfulness. You're not going to do this alone. You're going to recognize that this is a cry to share your burden, not only with God but with some other people. 

That’s good advice. What are the things that most often weigh us down and cause us to want to give up? How do we cut them loose? 

There are plenty of people who are mentally determined to persevere and not give up. But it's really hard to keep going back. In my book, I talk about a few of those weights that I see as common. One of them is anxiety. Anxiety makes it hard to run the race that's marked out for us. The Bible tells us in I Peter 5:7 to cast all our anxiety on God because He cares for us. One of the ways I teach people to do this is to change the way they pray. For example, oftentimes when we pray, we spend our prayers talking to God about our anxieties. God hears all the weight I'm carrying. He hears all the trouble I have and the struggles I'm dealing with. 

You see in the Psalms with David, and he does this regularly, he begins by telling God about his anxieties. Then there's this shift and he starts telling his anxieties about God. That's a really significant change in how we pray. Sometimes I think people pray and they end up feeling more weighed down and more anxious because they've spent the entire time telling God how difficult life is and doing nothing but thinking about their challenging situation. If you can shift your language, if you can begin to talk to God about your troubles then something begins to happen in your heart. You begin to rediscover that confidence, which leads to courage. 

After people have read, Don’t Give Up, as an author, what is the one thing you would like them to take away from this book?  What is your greatest hope for the book? 

I got a Facebook message yesterday and someone had read the book. They said, ‘God's timing is incredibly perfect. After reading this book today, I chose not to file for divorce and end my marriage. Thank you God.’ It's those types of testimonies and stories that made me want to write the book to begin with. I would like people to personally find the faith and the courage to take at least one more step, to go one at least one more day. And just learn to fix their eyes on Jesus to find the strength that they don't have themselves. 

Watch a book trailer for Don't Give Up:

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