A couple of months ago, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck made headlines when he announced he would be retiring from professional football. The news came as a shock to the sports community as the 29 year-old Luck stepped down, seemingly having many more years left in the tank by NFL standards. “I’m going to retire, this is not an easy decision. This is the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me. I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game. The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football.” (Quote taken from https://www.oregonlive.com/nfl/2019/08/indianapolis-colts-andrew-luck-announces-retirement.html).
As surprising as the news was, the varied responses flowing in were just as shocking and revealing. Tweets poured in on social media:
Wow!!! Andrew luck retiring!!! Just Wow!!!
Retiring cause rehabbing is “too hard” is the most millennial thing ever.
This is unreal. Guy threw 39 TD last year. Is one of only 9 players ever to throw 40+ TDs in single season. Stunner.
In retiring, I have Andrew Luck giving up $58.1 million in future money.
Of course as news cycles go, the headlines quickly faded over time and people moved on. But the whole story left an impact on me and still does. It left me with a lingering question, a question that I think is valid for many of us, especially Christians: When is it ok to quit? I believe we wrestle with the idea of quitting throughout our lives. Often we view quitting as failure and an inability to achieve. In some cases, this may be true. But what if there are times when it truly is ok to quit something? What if even quitting is healthy and the best thing we can do for our souls?
Today’s blog is an outline of some things that I believe require serious contemplation. Those considering where they are at in life and what goals are left to achieve can take note. These thoughts are in no way comprehensive. But I believe they are a part of the process and even in my own life, I’ve gone through some of these.
Let’s dig in with the backdrop of answering the question, “When is it OK to quit?”
1. To Take Care Of Yourself
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19,20
In the busy, frenetic pace of American life, one thing we are good at is burning the candle at both ends. We often hear about people suffering from burnout while trying to maintain a lifestyle that is unrealistic. While I was in vocational ministry, I saw and heard of several of these cases. The office of pastor is often a place ripe for burnout; a vocation that almost never slows down and the balance of home life vs. work life is tricky at times. I know that ministry is not the only place that this happens. Many career-oriented men and women find themselves in unhealthy patterns leading to illness, emotional despondency, and an overall lack of hope.
As believers, I see a different standard outlined in Scripture. A standard that says we must take care of our bodies and recognize that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to get too much into healthy life choices! But you probably already know some of the ones you need to make in order to restore some of that balance. Better diet. More sleep. Exercise. Less screen time/social media. All things that take care of the physical in order to be better equipped for life. Sometimes quitting something (a job, a relationship, a habit) can be the best thing you can do for yourself. (For further reading, see my blog Dear Worn Out & Weary).
2. When Your Identity In Something Is Unhealthy
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we talk a lot about identity here. Just last month, I published a blog on this very topic (Dear Insecure). When we take something important in our lives (our job, a relationship, our material possessions) and make them greater than Christ, we immediately have a problem. As a man, I will humbly submit that for men the natural tendency is to find our identity through what we do. What job do I go to Monday-Friday? That is what defines me. The problem is, just like Mr. Luck, we can get to a place where we don’t like who we are based upon what we do. That place is eye-opening and if we do some honest self-evaluation, we can make good changes. Positive steps that are God-honoring.
Where most of us fall down in this area is that we keep charging ahead hoping and wishing for things to get better, even though the future in something looks bleak. We hope that after 30 years at a dead-end job we’ll at least get our retirement. We hope that the money we accumulate will bring happiness at some point. But those things are short-sighted and bring only a temporary salve to a long-term problem. When we choose to quit something because our identity in it has become unhealthy, we are doing one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Although that thing may not be inherently wrong, it can become an idol and bigger than Christ in our lives. It’s OK to quit at that point!
3. When God Is Beginning A New Season
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18,19
This last point could be the subject of its own blog. It really is worth noting that seasons come and go and sometimes it’s simply OK to quit because God is moving you into something new. I realize a lot of fear can go into this type of decision. I’ve been there! It’s not easy to let go of something that you’ve worked hard at and have attained some level of consistency doing. That predictability and stability over time feels comfortable. It feels good. And we find ourselves craving those things the older we get because we like to settle into patterns and rhythms of life that make sense.
But I know a little bit about the God we serve and His nature. He doesn’t always follow a straight line. He doesn’t necessarily care about the 401K and retirement plan. The beachfront property. The gold Rolex (do they even give those out anymore?). No, He’s more concerned about 2 things: One is your heart. And the other is His Kingdom. Wherever you are at, it’s OK to ask “God is this still where you want me? Am I making the most of the days I have on this Earth?” If He’s moving you into a new season, great. Don’t be afraid of what’s ahead because He’s already there. He’s ahead of you and making a path…a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert (Isaiah 43:19).
If I could tell Andrew Luck one thing, it would be to say that I respect him for making a difficult decision. It wasn’t a popular one for sure. But it was one that he made knowing it would be the best thing he could do for himself. No regrets. If I can translate that thinking over to Christianity, it is this: It’s often actually a good thing to quit at times. Quit that habit that is unhealthy. Quit the job that burns you out and only brings stress. Quit the unhealthy relationship that is one-sided and depletes your joy. Quit all of it.
And then start. Start making good habits — both physically and spiritually (Bible reading, prayer, fellowship with other Christians). Start pressing into what God has for you to do in this new season. Start depending more upon Him and less upon yourself. Start really looking at priorities and making the most of the time you are alive. Quitting something might be the best thing you could ever do for yourself. Don’t look at it as failure. See it as success and allow God to get the glory all along the way!
I’d love to hear from you. If you are wrestling with anything mentioned here and just need a listening ear or someone to pray for you, please reach out.