When God Gives Up

When God gives up

God’s patience and longsuffering are some of the qualities I appreciate most about Him. He works and waits so patiently to draw sinful and resistant people to Himself. He picks us up a thousand times when we fall. He forgives us when we confess the same sin repeatedly.

But we can’t presume upon Him. We can’t put Him off, either for salvation or for obedience, for ever. We can’t expect Him to just wait in the wings until we get good and ready to come to Him.

God was patient with Israel’s complaining and unbelief when He first brought them out of Egypt. They had been captive slaves for 400 years. Surrounded by paganism, they probably had not been taught much about God and His ways. But after seeing His power displayed in the plagues, at the Red Sea, in providing for water and food in the middle of a desert, more of them should have started trusting Him. He even forgave them when they built a golden calf and worshiped it instead of Him.

But finally, when they refused to go into the promised land even with reassurances that God would help them conquer, that was enough. God deemed that they would wander around the wilderness for forty years until that generation died off. Then their children would be able to enter in.

God still loved them and worked with them. But they forfeited their opportunity to enter into their rest.

But my people did not listen to my voice;
    Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
    to follow their own counsels.
Oh, that my people would listen to me,
    that Israel would walk in my ways!
Psalm 81:11-13

It’s sad to think that disobedience and unbelief could be so costly for God’s people. But it’s even scarier for those who refuse to believe on Him at all.

In Romans 1, Paul tells about God’s wrath against ungodly and unrighteous people who:

  • suppress the truth (v. 18)
  • did not honor God as God, even though evidence of “his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (vv. 19-21)
  • did not give thanks to him (v. 21)
  • “became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (v. 21)
  • “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (v. 22) and “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (v. 25)

Three times in the next few verses, we’re told God gave them up.

  • “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (v. 24)
  • “God gave them up to dishonorable passions” (v. 26)
  • “God gave them up to a debased mind” (v. 28)

This commentary says these were degrees: God gave them up (or over, some translations say) bit by bit until they ended up with a debased mind. That debased mind led to “all manner of unrighteousness,” which Paul expands on in the rest of the passage.

C. S. Lewis has said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.'” (from The Great Divorce). When we insist on our own way long enough, God lets us have it. And the results are never good.

Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel
    and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
    and have their fill of their own devices. Proverbs 1:29-31

Because God is longsuffering, He doesn’t usually give people up at the first rejection. But at some point, the door of opportunity will be closed. We don’t know how much time we have. It’s wise not to wait. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

It’s also not wise to put off obedience or the next step of faith God wants us to take.

When I have been reluctant to obey God at some point, I’ve had to confess my unwillingness and ask Him to help me be willing. One person said, “I’m willing to be made willing.”

When I have felt my heart wasn’t right and my will was being stubborn, I’ve prayed with Jeremiah, “Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned” (Lamentations 5:21, KJV) and with the psalmist, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6).

The psalmist and the writer of Hebrews used Israel’s disobedience to plead, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:6-11; Hebrews 3:7-8, 15). May our hearts always be pliable in His hands.

if you hear His voice do not harden your heart

(Sharing with Sunday Scripture Blessings, Scripture and a Snapshot, Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)

27 thoughts on “When God Gives Up

  1. This post was inspired by a sermon of Adrian Rogers on the radio program Love Worth Finding on BBN Radio. I heard just a few minutes of it one morning where Dr. Rogers spoke of the three times in Romans 1 where the phrase “God gave them up” occurred. Though I have read this passage a number of times, I had only remembered one of those instances.

  2. So many times in my walk, I’ve given up on God! But, in His grace, He has shown me mercy. The years and maturity have taught me to not give in to unbelief, but to believe all things, even the painful ones, work together for the good. He is faithful and just. Lord, help up to trust you always.

  3. Praying for those with ears that hear but don’t understand and eyes that see to read but don’t understand what they read! Praying that the lost hearts will waken and hear the call to return home! You write: “He works and waits so patiently to draw sinful and resistant people to Himself.” What a loving Father we have, a merciful God who pursues the lost!

  4. Like you, I have prayed many times that God will do what it takes to make me willing to do things HIs way. It’s terrifying to think of God giving someone up — or, on a related topic, hardening their heart (I’m thinking of Pharaoh here).

  5. We should all be so thankful for God’s patience and mercy to us, in giving us many opportunities to hear him and obey. And it must break his heart, in a sense, when any of us reject him over and over until it’s too late and he does “give up”. I’m another one that often needs to pray that God would make me willing to obey him when I know I should but I just don’t want to, and I’m very thankful that God listens to those prayers.

  6. I’m definitely grateful for God’s patience but it is also important to remember that if we insist on going our own way he will let us and the consequences won’t be good. I like how the CS Lewis quote puts it.

  7. Praying that when the hard comes and I don’t want to forgive – praying that I do not harden my heart but gentle it to compassion and love as He would have me love and forgive! I am thankful He is patient to shepherd me when I balk!

  8. Beautiful post, Barbara. I know I have also prayed to God to make my heart “willing to be willing”. I think it is human nature to think we know best. Something we must guard against. We have limited human knowledge of events. God has the eternal view. It’s good to be reminded.

  9. Barbara, this so hits home. I was thinking of the Israelites last week and how they could just not make the jump to trust God and obey him. And so in the end he did give up on them and took their children into the promised land. They left Egypt physically, but could not mentally. May we learn from them. Yes, to praying for a willing heart and being open to change.

  10. Barbara, it is so hard to think of God giving up on us. May I respond quickly to His correction and leading for I would never want to live a day without Him in my life.

  11. I am beyond thankful for God’s patience with me when I am hard-headed. Though I know He’s patient, I also know He will move to stronger measures if I continue in my stubbornness (read disobedience). There comes a time when we must choose to obey Him, to trust Him, or it becomes sin not to.

  12. I was just teaching Nehemiah 9 where the people pray their history of unfaithfulness back to God in the longest prayer in the OT–and always God responded in faithfulness.
    But in the end, his answer to the heart that says, “My will be done” will, alas, be, “As you wish.”

  13. This is so sobering, Barbara Lee, “Three times in the next few verses, we’re told God gave them up. ‘God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity’ (v. 24) ‘God gave them up to dishonorable passions’ (v. 26) ‘God gave them up to a debased mind’ (v. 28)”

    I join with you in prayer, “May our hearts always be pliable in Your hands.”

  14. “Soboring” is the word that came to my mind too, Barbara. This process you describe seems to be happening more and more lately, at least from my human viewpoint. Like you, my prayer is that I will always be willing to be willing to be obedient to God voice.

  15. Pingback: April Reflections | Stray Thoughts

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