stressed-out-person[1]Most of us have probably said those words more than once in our lives. It may be that we wanted to quit our marriage, a job, a ministry we’ve been leading or serving in, or a relationship that’s difficult. How do we know when to quit and when to hang in there and persevere?

I’ve said those words numerous times. When I worked as a perfusionist running the heart lung machine in open heart surgery, I wanted to quit almost every week. I was tired of the stress, the long hours, the difficulty of the job, and sometimes the difficult relationships in the operating room. But God had me hang in there for 18 years, and then He directed me to quit that profession and move into the next chapter of my life.

As I look back at that season, I see how God used those challenging times to prepare me for what I’m doing now. Working in surgery helped me learn how to deal with harsh words, strong personalities, and long hours that go far beyond eight-hour days. Those years also taught me the value of teamwork. If we didn’t work as a team, the results for the patient would have been disastrous. I had to stay focused and commit wholeheartedly to what I was doing. Great lessons for life!

I’m glad I didn’t quit until God clearly led me to move on. I would have missed those years of preparation for the next chapter of my life. But how do we know when to quit and when to keep on in the midst of struggle, pain, and difficulty?

What does God’s Word say about it? Are there any clear-cut principles to guide us? God’s Word clearly directs us in some things, but in other situations, it’s not spelled out for us.

In my situation in surgery, there wasn’t anything specific in Scripture to guide me, so I had to wait on God to show me if and when He wanted me to quit. I found myself asking the question, “God, are you using these tough circumstances to direct me to get out of this situation, or are you wanting to use these difficult circumstances to build my character?”

Perhaps you’re wanting to quit something today and you’re asking the same question. I can’t give you a formula that will guide you as to when to quit and when to stay, but Proverbs 3:5-6 gives us great wisdom:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

If we seek His guidance and stay attentive to Him, He will lead us. If He wants us to stay in a hard situation, He will give us the strength to endure. If and when He’s ready for us to quit, He will make it clear as we are attentive to Him.

I’d love to hear your insight on this. How do you know when it’s time to quit or time to stay?