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Don’t give up on Jesus
Amber Albee Swenson
by Amber Albee Swenson
January 23, 2023

We are three weeks into the new year, so maybe you, like me, have already started writing the correct year on important documents.

How’s the new year/new you angle going? Are you still going to the gym, eating healthy, and staying off social media? Or did you give up?

We give up on a lot of things. It’s not the gym’s fault that we spent the last half or three fourths or, if we’re honest, 11 months of 2022 being less active than we should have. January 3 we trudge to the gym and attempt a workout meant for someone in the Special Forces. And then, unable to breathe or persevere, we go home defeated and sore and decide we hate the gym.

We throw out all the junk food, starve ourselves with lettuce and a banana, and decide eating healthy isn’t for us. Is it the banana’s fault?

I’m guessing you’re still on social media, or you probably wouldn’t be reading this. But have you set and kept the limits you set, opting for a book or time in the Word instead of three full hours of screen time each evening? Do you, like me, sometimes utter, “I hate fill-in-the-app’s-name” because you sometimes have a hard time practicing self-control?

No one gets treated as unfairly as Jesus. To many people, his name is nothing more than a curse. I can’t think of another worldly deity whose name is used that way. What has Jesus done to illicit such hate in speaking his name?

And how many of us have prayed earnestly for something good only to get a hard no for an answer? How easy it is in those moments to think, “God doesn’t love me. Guess I won’t bother doing that again.”

We are so quick to run to God when we need him but run away from him when we think we have things under control. We open our Bibles randomly to a book like Ezekiel, read a couple chapters, and then decide it is incomprehensible. We shut the Bible in irritation, deciding once again, that is a dead end.

There’s a better way (just like there’s a better way to ease into more cardio and strength training, and there’s a better way to adjust your diet for optimal nutrition without thinking you may die of starvation).

There’s no wrong way to start reading the Bible, but there may be ways that are easier. If you aren’t afraid of walking into a church, a good place to start is a Bible study led by someone who knows and loves the Bible. Often, they start with context and historical facts, an understanding of who the author of that particular book of the Bible was and the reason for writing. Sometimes they answer the questions you have, and more than likely, they’re willing to talk about the questions they didn’t think of but you did.

If you know the Bible but it’s been a while, maybe start with Jesus. This year I’m working my way slowly through the gospels. I’m paying attention to details. I’m praying for revelation and forgiveness, and I’m soaking in all Jesus was and is.

Who doesn’t need more love in their life? Who doesn’t want someone who can cut through ideologies and world events and remind us of truth? Who doesn’t need the constant reminder that this—the here and now of life on this earth—isn’t all there is?

I need Jesus every day. Every time I get even a shred of an idea that I’ve got things under control, I wind up facedown on the ground.

It’s not Jesus’ fault I end up there. It’s mine.

But Jesus is the friend who shows up every time with an outstretched hand and enough love to cover my oops and my pride and my sin.

I’m learning (again and again and again) to turn to (not from) him. He’s the answer, not the problem.

Don’t give up on Jesus. He’s never given up on you.