Lately, God keeps telling me “Don’t Give Up on…..” It has been about different people, different circumstances, but the same message….“Don’t Give up on Them.” I won’t go into the personal details on the who’s and what’s of my personal stories because that is irrelevant. But, this message is something I feel compelled to share.
Humans are imperfect, and imperfections in those around us usually disappoints at one time or another. We look at someone we care about and we may be disappointed about some of their recent choices, about the lack of fruit their lives are producing, or that they seem hopeless or dying on the inside. And sometimes our own humanness wants to give up and move onto something that is more alive or life giving. Sometimes we may feel the relationship just isn’t worth the energy or time.
But is that what Jesus taught? No. Jesus taught to not give up on others. He rose the dead to life. He made the blind see. He created an opportunity for every repentant sinner to have forgiveness and freedom. He did not give up.
God gave me a beautiful illustration of this recently in a lemon tree. My tree is one of my favorite things in my garden. I asked for it as a Mother’s Day present a few years ago because it was a gift that could keep giving. Homegrown lemons are amazing! And this girl loves her lemon water! However, we unfortunately do not live in a climate where the lemon tree can be planted in the ground, making the lemon tree require a little extra work. Our winters get cold, too cold for the tree. So I have the tree planted in a very large pot and we roll it in and out of the garage every night in the winter when the temperatures go below freezing. This winter was particularly tough on my tree, though. It’s leaves started to turn brown and spotty and we feared the worst….my lemon tree was dying. No more beautiful blossoms, and no more homegrown lemons.
Despite those around me telling me it was dying, that it was beyond hope, I did not give up on it. I gave my lemon tree some extra loving care, fertilizer stakes, fresh soil, coffee grinds, lots of sunshine, extra water and some friendship with the pretty marigolds I planted with it. And I gave it time. I knew that healing and growth took time. (Instant gratification is something our society craves these days. It seems we simply are not willing to wait for anything anymore. But that is another sermon/blog for another day!)
A few weeks later, my lemon tree looks like a new tree. It has vibrant green leaves, beautiful white and pink blossoms, and the first fruits beginning to grow. The time and energy WERE worth it!
So, take a moment and think about those in your life. Is there someone, maybe a close friend or relative, or maybe just a neighbor or an acquaintance that has suffered through a hard season? Are they showing signs of distress? Have they stopped bearing fruit? Maybe, just maybe, God has placed you in their life for such a time as this. Maybe you are the one who needs to offer them a little extra love? Maybe offer them some Living Water and Light? And most importantly, maybe then you need to just give them time to heal? Just like the picture of my lemon tree, even though it is now healing and producing fruit, it still has some scars from its hard season. Expecting immediate healing would be unreasonable of me as a gardener to my tree, and to us as friends to the hurting. Giving grace during the healing process is what Jesus models for us and so we should extend to others.
Psalm 92:12-14 NIV says, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.”
Psalm 31:24 MSG says, “Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect God to get here soon.”
I pray you will flourish and continue to bear fruit in your old age. I pray people choose not to give up on you when you are hurting. And I pray that we will all have enough courage to not give up on those around us, but point them to God so they can begin to thrive again.