We often hold on to something—whether it’s a relationship that we know isn’t pleasing to God, or a job or task that we’ve outgrown—for longer than we need to.
Perhaps it feels impossible and wrong to quit. We’re wired to think along these lines: “Quitters never win”, “Don’t give up”—so much so that when we think about giving up or quitting, it often brings on a lot of guilt and self-doubt. So we persevere and plod along, even when it’s leading us nowhere.
While the Bible does say a lot about not giving up (Luke 18:1, 2 Cor 4:1, Gal 6:9, Heb 12:3), it is often in relation to seeking God and what He desires, not about stubbornly holding on to a job, a relationship, or a habit out of pride or fear.
As Ecclesiastes 3:3 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” As with all things we face in life, discerning when to quit or let go of something requires us to reflect on our motivations and exercise our God-given wisdom as we journey toward maturity and Christlikeness.
John Piper wisely described it this way: “Sometimes quitting signifies a weakness of character or a weakness of faith in God’s provision. At other times, quitting may signify strength of character and strength of faith in God.”
Here are three pointers to help us decide whether it’s time to let go:
1. It’s making us more vulnerable to sin
This might seem like an obvious one, but sin has its ways of sneaking into our lives unnoticed, masking itself as “normal” and “justified” actions.
Does working on a particular project/field or working with certain people entail setting aside, or even going against, our conscience and what the Bible teaches us (e.g., being cutthroat, putting up a façade, not telling the whole truth)?
What about a significant other or friend who cajoles us to stretch our physical or moral boundaries? Or any obsessive habit that has made its way into our daily routine (e.g., watching Netflix or playing video games for long stretches of time)?
Even if we won’t necessarily give in to sin, does the pursuit repeatedly place us in vulnerable scenarios? Does it suppress our appetite for what is good and godly?
Even as Jesus sends us into the world to be witnesses for Him (John 17:18), we are also reminded in many other instances (Prov 22:3, 5; 2 Tim 2:22; 1 Pet 5:8) that we are to guard ourselves from evil and temptation.
So if there’s something in your life that’s causing you to turn away from God and towards sin, then maybe it’s time to let it go.
2. We’re being held back by excessive fears
Maybe you sense that your time in a workplace or ministry, or even a relationship, is drawing to a close. But the thought of giving it up and moving on to something else paralyses you.
Perhaps you’re afraid that giving up will:
- make things uncomfortable or unpleasant for you
“If I quit this job, my next job may not be as cushy or pay as much; I might have to adjust my lifestyle and live with less.”
- make others think poorly of you
“If I leave, everyone will think I’m stupid, even if they don’t really know what’s going on.”
- diminish your self-worth or make you feel empty
“If I break up with him/her, then I’d be alone.”
Many of these fears may seem logical, but beneath our rationalising, it could simply be a lack of trust in God’s provision, an unwillingness to move out of our comfort zones, or a deep fear of losing something we hold dear.
If we find ourselves in such a position, we need to examine our fears with what God has to say (Matt 6:25-34, John 14:27, Phil 4:6-7, 2 Tim 1:7), and let our fear of God—recognising and joyfully submitting to His power—surpass any other fear (Rom 8:31).
3. It’s distorting who God made us to be
I love this job and I will do anything to keep it, even if it chips away at my dignity or consumes all the other areas of my life.
I love this person and I will do anything to keep him/her in my life, even if I have to change who I am just to meet that person’s needs/expectations.
It can be really hard to give up something we love, especially if it’s not obviously immoral or unhealthy. Sometimes it’s not the object or the person that’s the problem, but how we relate to them, because of how consumed we become. If we look around, it’s not hard to find people who are so caught up with their work that they end up neglecting their relationships and even their health; or those who find a significant other and suddenly become a completely different person, forgetting all the other people in their life.
Rather than going by what the world says about being ourselves and doing what we love, we need to see and love ourselves the way God sees and loves us (Psalm 139:13-14, Luke 12:7, Matt 22:39, Eph 5:28-29, 1 John 3:1). Rather than frantically chasing one love after another, we need to go back to our first love (Rev 2:4-5), who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8).
Wherever you are right now, whatever your circumstances may be, it is our prayer and hope that Jesus will always be your greatest treasure and reward (Matthew 6:21):
“ . . . may the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
that you may know the hope to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,
and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Eph 1:18-19)