How to Know When to Quit
What if the answer you have long awaited is No? How do you know when to quit? This happened to a stranger I met on an airplane once. She and I had attended the same conference in which the final speaker had posed the question, “What is God saying to you in your ministry right now?” The options were “Yes, No, and Not Now.”
It’s the kind of question you ponder with prayer along with seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. I even want confirmation from the Word of God for discerning how He might be directing. For me, that season was a go, but the person in the seat next to me received a distinct No. She was flying home in that revelation, unsure what to do with it all.
I loved this woman immediately because it’s not every day you encounter someone so attuned to the voice of God over their life that they pay hundreds of dollars to run in the direction of the hope-filled “yes” only to receive a “no” and truly receive it. She knew it was a No as deeply as I knew mine to be a Yes. And she accepted it–willing and ready to move on with it as God’s will for her life.
Sometimes you know the answer to your dilemma is No. The answer lines up with everything else God is showing you and He leads you in a different direction. The door is closed.
Other times you and I can receive a Yes as strongly as my airplane buddy received her no, and experience doors slamming shut in every direction. Even the windows close off the daylight. And it feels as if you got it all wrong. All you want to do is quit.
But should you?
I have been on this particular roller coaster ride more than once. My work in ministry is often a lonely and discouraging pursuit without a paycheck. (You read that correctly. All the money received goes directly into the ministry account, from speaking events to book sales, to digital downloads. You name it. It does not belong to me.) And the last couple of years brought closed doors, boarded up windows, and arrived at the end of a lonely, desolate road. I received no’s when I hoped for yes’s. And I began to ask myself if it’s time to quit.
How do you know when to quit?
I have learned my decision about when to quit cannot be based on my feelings.
Neither can it be determined by my success thus far.
Instead, I take my rejected self to the Lord. The first thing I do is pray. I lay the whole situation out and remind Him of the instruction I believed He gave. Not in an accusatory manner, but like Jacob, who reminds God of the promise to bring him back to the promised land and be with him now that 400 men are coming against him and the situation looks dire (Genesis 32:9-12). Then I ask Him to speak–to reveal Himself and what He wants for my life because my reality is fighting to take over my faith in what I cannot see.
Did I mishear Him? Have I been mistaken this whole time — running after something that was always a No, too blind and unwilling to receive it. Did I go too slowly having missed my opportunity? Maybe I didn’t pray right or take the correct steps in the process? It’s ugly–but for the battle to be won, I lay it out bare.
Secondly, I wait.
And in the waiting, I seek. More often than not, it is through this seeking that the answer comes. Not through a person or strikes of lightning, but the unchanging, timeless Word of God.
I was so afraid I had missed my Yes. That I blew it — that somehow I didn’t work fast enough, pray hard enough, seek out the right people–enough, have enough good ideas, or that I just waiting too long to move out so that He gave my work to someone else.
So I did what I am encouraging you to do. I waiting. I continued to seek His face to know if the no’s, the closed doors, the barred windows, and all the discouragement was the culmination of helping me see that it is time to quit — or not.
Shortly into the waiting, I read 1 Samuel 15:29. It was just where I was in my Bible. I didn’t go looking for it. But it arrived, perfectly preserved for my need when I needed it.
He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.
There is was. The underlying fear God was not afraid to address. Just because it hasn’t worked out as I planned and the end results are not all gumdrops and candy canes doesn’t mean His Yes was really a No, or that my best efforts were not good enough. He’ll pass and pick another.
All of the no’s and try again’s–setbacks and derailments mean nothing as long as His Yes still stands.
Friend, if God has given you a Yes about something in your life that looks and feels as if the smartest thing to do is quit–
DON’T DO IT!
At least, not until you work through the process.
Your God is not in the business of keeping you in confusion, doubt, and failure. If the answer is No — embrace what lies ahead like my airplane buddy who went on toward fruitful ministry in the years that followed. But if the answer is Yes — in the midst of No’s and roadblocks, let Him confirm His faithfulness to you through His Word. Ether way, Believe His Word to you today. And keep making spiritual progress.
For His Glory,
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