Universally beloved for his heart towards the hurting, his emotional anecdotes and actionable advice, Pastor Max Lucado has made waves in the Christian space since the 1980s. His first book was published in 1985 and he became Teaching Minister of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas in 1988. Now, having written almost 100 books, Lucado has a way of helping millions of the lost and broken feel seen, heard and loved through his words and God’s promises. Self-proclaimed writer of “books for people who don’t read books,” each of Lucado’s guides serve as a resource for the heartbroken and hopeless. The latest book by Max Lucado, God Never Gives Up on You: What Jacob’s Story Teaches Us About Grace, Mercy, and God’s Relentless Love, details the story of Jacob — who was known for wrestling with God (Genesis 32:24-29) and tricking his brother out of his birthright so he could receive a double portion of his father’s inheritance (Genesis 25:29-34). Yet, God still used Jacob in amazing ways, despite his selfishness, deceit and trickery.
Lucado teaches that Jacob’s life is proof that God is after the strugglers, fumblers and underachievers — in essence, if God can rely on Jacob to further His kingdom, He can use any and every one of us too — even with our imperfections. “God Never Gives Up on You is a book for those of us who are part saint and part scoundrel,” Max Lucado tells Woman’s World. “We mean well, but we don’t always do well. We have breakthroughs and breakdowns, often in the same hour. We need no reminder of our failures, but we could always use a refresher course on God’s perfect plan to use imperfect people to do great things.”
In an intimate interview, Woman’s World chatted with Max Lucado about how we can trust God to show up amidst our greatest anxieties, how God invites us into His heart — no matter how many mistakes we’ve made. And most importantly, how God restores hope and never gives up on any of us.
Woman’s World: With everything we have to deal with these days do you find that more people are feeling hopeless?
Max Lucado: So many of us are feeling this way. It’s no coincidence the suicide rate is the highest it’s been since World War II. This is more than just wanting to give up on your job or your hobby or an interest you once had. It’s about giving up on life itself, and it’s tragic. But finding hope again is possible, I have felt that despair myself, I have been there myself.
[Editor’s note: September is Suicide Awareness Month—if you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or feelings, please call 988 to speak with the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline]
WW: What are you seeing on the “front lines” of your community? What are people telling you about their worries or fears?
Max Lucado: It can feel like God gives up on us because anxiety and depression are two of the most common feelings in the world, and they’re reaching epic proportions because of our perceived lack of control. As a pastor, when I talk to folks, they’re very worried, very anxious about the future because they feel like things out of their hands.
It reminds me of how years ago, I was boarding a plane when I recognized the pilot. He was a very, very experienced former Navy fighter pilot. About 20 to 30 minutes into the flight, we started experiencing bad turbulence. I heard people gasping and a lot of the passengers were afraid. It was then that I noticed something: I wasn’t anxious. That’s because I knew the pilot — I knew how capable and experienced he was and that we were in good hands.
That’s where faith comes in: The more we know God, the better off we are, because when “turbulence” happens in life, even if we may feel like giving up at first, we know we’ll get through it.
WW: What if we have trouble finding faith…or it feels elusive?
Max Lucado: Everyone comes to faith in a different fashion — from finding it in the middle of a crisis to discovering it in a favorite Bible verse to having a conversation late one night at a bar and being talked off a ledge by a stranger. I would suggest first finding someone you trust, from a neighbor to a friend, and ask them how they found their faith. That’s a great place to stat, but the truth is when you begin to look for it, God can show us glimmers of hope in the most surprising and unexpected places.
WW: I love the idea of discovering hope in hidden or surprising places. Can you tell me about why you chose Jacob as your subject of God Never Gives Up on You?
Max Lucado: Jacob, the grandson of Abraham in the Old Testament, is quite the character. I wanted to write about him not because he was great, but because he was a scoundrel. He ends up with two wives and he gets into trouble his entire life.
Jacob is the “every person” and makes mistake after mistake — yet God never gives up on him, just as He will never give up on you or me or anyone else. When you look back on your life at all the times you thought your world was collapsing, focus on how you overcame those challenges. It may have felt next to impossible, but how did you get back on your feet?
Looking back, you’ll always find evidence of God’s mercy and kindness. I know in my life, it was more than just me that pulled me out of the hole — it was a higher power. Faith is so important, because it defines whether you throw in the towel or stay in the game.
WW: Can you tell me about a time when you felt like throwing in the towel, but persevered?
Max Lucado: Proof that God never gives up on us is that I’m a converted drunk. In my early 20s, I was hiding it and pretending I wasn’t doing anything bad. I changed my ways but it’s so hard to move forward when you do things you regret and I grappled with that. But I finally told myself, “If God has forgiven me, why can’t I forgive myself? If God doesn’t beat me up, why should I beat myself up?” Self-forgiveness is being kind to yourself while accepting that you screwed up.
I was just telling this to a guy who lives with a spirit of sadness because he cheated on his wife. It’s important that he acknowledge what he did was wrong, and, at the same time, that it’s in the past. That’s why self-forgiveness is key — it says what we did was bad, but we are not bad. There’s a reason the windshield is bigger than the rear-view mirror: The future is bigger than the past.
WW: How can relationships help us rediscover hope?
Max Lucado: Social bonds are huge. [When I was struggling with alcohol], what I needed was someone to tell me not to hide it and resort to secrecy, but to resort to honesty. God knows what we’re doing, there are no secrets from Him, but it helps to bring it all to the light. When you’re struggling, find someone who has been where you are — be it a trusted friend, pastor or therapist — and ask them how they got through it.
WW: Research shows prayer reduces stress and loneliness and can even help us recover from illness faster. What do you say to people who struggle with praying or don’t know where to begin?
Max Lucado: When someone says, ‘Well, I don’t believe in God. How can I pray?’” I say, “Try it anyway and see what happens — what have you got to lose?” Even if you don’t think there’s anyone listening, just talk. It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it. The simple act of opening up and expressing what’s in your heart will make you feel lighter, more confident and more hopeful. God is just waiting for you to reach out and you may be surprised in all the amazing ways He responds.
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