What To Do When You Want To Give Up

What is it that you regret in your life? Maybe an opportunity you passed up? Maybe words you said in anger? Maybe the extra helping of Oreo Cheesecake at the 4th of July cookout you attended (yeah… I’m just going to fess up to that one)?

I regret the times in my life when I gave up too soon; the times when I threw in the towel because things got too hard and the excitement of a new adventure wore off. Those are the moments in my life that I look back on and wonder what would have happened if I had pushed past whatever discomfort I was experiencing. What “wins” have I missed out on because I gave up?

I regret those times when I failed simply because I forfeit.

This year I have set out to run my first half marathon with Team World Vision. I am aiming to raise $2500 in order to supply 50 children with a lifetime of clean water.

Today I wanted to quit. For a variety of reasons it’s been difficult to press on, whether it’s been a conflict registering for the race itself, personal injury, or otherwise frustrating circumstances I wanted to say, “Forget it. This just isn’t for me.”

I’ve made it my aim over the last few years to slow down on the decision making process when there are strong emotions involved. I’ve tried to stop and allow myself to feel the emotions without reacting to them. It’s definitely a work in progress, but progress has been made. When I have felt the monster of defeat and discouragement rear its ugly head I have given myself the space to feel those emotions, but then I pull back, breathe, and ask God for wisdom.

You know what I’ve found? God is speaking to us, and He wants to show us the way of life and wisdom. He wants to lead us often more than we want to follow Him. If we stop and ask for His breath of discernment through His Word (The Bible), and His Holy Spirit in us then we can determine a course of action that is not led by fickle emotions, but is led by a strong, faithful, and good God.

So today I did just that. I felt the weight of defeat, and the strong desire to quit. I allowed myself to feel the feelings, but I refused to make a decision in the middle of them. I opened my Bible, and listened to worship music. I took some time to think through a few things so that I could make a wise decision in the midst of raw emotions:

  1. Who Is God? What is His proven character?
  2. Who has He called me to be?
  3. Why did I initially set out to reach my goals?

As I dug into God’s word and prayed,  Esther chapter 4 came to mind. Esther is positioned to be the deliverer of the Jews from a recently passed law that ordered their death and annihilation (no pressure, right?). Esther had her doubts about her role. She was scared, and she wanted out. Her calling was weighty, and there was much at stake. She wrote a letter to her adoptive father, Mordecai, about her feelings. His response was direct, to say the least:

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 13-14)

Mordecai calls Esther to the carpet, lays out the consequences of her backing down, and then reminds her of her royal position. It was no accident that she was where she was, and it was up to her to step forward and own it. She would be the one to experience loss if she quit.

But she didn’t quit. She felt the emotions, she sought counsel, she prayed, and then she obeyed. Feelings and all, she stepped out to finish what she was called to do. She rescued the Jews through wise obedience and follow through.

I want to be like that. I want to punch fear in the face and press on, one foot in front of the other, continuing to do each “next right thing” all the way to victory.

So what is it in your life that you are discouraged by? What is hard right now? What do you want to quit? Is it a job? Or your weight loss goal? Or that dream you’ve been trying to run down? Maybe it’s your marriage? Or maybe it’s a bad habit you’ve been trying to break, but can’t seem to get a handle on?

Dear friend, don’t give up! Keep going!

Feel the feelings, but don’t act out of them. Stop. Pray. Read God’s Word. Listen. Seek counsel. And keep your eyes open.

One foot in front of the other, one moment at a time. Your story is being written, and you are in the dark, hard parts. But just past the pain is victory if you press on.

I’m with you in the trenches. Let’s soldier on, fight for noble good, and press on together.

I leave you with a favorite passage from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: 

Sam: It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.

Run Hard. Love Strong.


What To Do When You’re Stuck In Life

I love my husband. One of my favorite things about him is his ability to keep going through adverse circumstances with focus and consistency. He feels discouraged sometimes like any of us, but you would never know it. He’s a “one foot in front of the other” kind of guy, and he is dependably steady.

I, on the other hand, can be a hot mess of emotional decision making (can I get a witness?) If I’m in a bad mood, by golly my husband is going to know about it, even if I can put on a pretty face for those outside of my house.

If I feel discouraged or defeated I can easily fall victim to quitting because of bad belief systems, poor self-talk, or otherwise discouraged feelings.

I’m a writer and a speaker. I also happen to be training for my first half-marathon. I’m fairly certain that the phrases, “Running is dumb; writing is stupid,” came out of my mouth more than once last week (sorry, Adam. I didn’t mean it. You already know that though.)

My husband is good for me. He challenges me in a way that I need to be challenged. It’s irritating how right he is most of the time (ha).

Adam says something to me on a regular basis when I’m not sure what to do next, whether it’s figuring out how to best structure a day’s to-do’s, or whether it’s monumental, life-changing decision making: “Do the next right thing.”

After being married to Adam for going on 8 years I now hear his voice in my head anytime I feel discouraged or stuck: “Do the next right thing.”

The next. right. thing.

When I don’t know what to do, when I’ve lost vision for the moment, the day, or the season of life, when I’ve lost vision, or feel discouraged by the goal(s) I have, what is the very next right thing?

Saturday morning at 6:15am the last thing I wanted to do was get up and run 5 miles. But as my husband snoozed on next to me, I once again heard his (loving, irritating, but oh-so-right) voice in my head, “Do the next right thing.” In that moment the next right thing was defying my feelings, and choosing to lace up my shoes.

I have never regretted following that advice. I’ve often regretted ignoring it.

Sometimes we use the phrase “don’t just go through the motions.” I agree that we don’t want to coast through life going through motions, or being disconnected from passion. But there are times when going through the motions is exactly what we need to do. Our hearts and feelings can so quickly deceive us, and we convince ourselves to do what our hearts tell us to do, when wisdom says to choose–not feel, choose–the next right thing.

We don’t have to know every step. We don’t have to give up. We simply need to show up, and choose the next words, the next attitudes, the next actions that are right, and then after that take the next right step, and so forth.

Next time you feel stuck–whether it’s stuck in a bad mood (ah hem…totally me on Saturday), stuck in reaching your goals, or stuck any where else in your life…what is your next right step?