It’s right about this time of year—after the holidays, in middle of the winter, and into the New Year—that people begin to get discouraged. The post-holiday blues are a reality. It’s easy to feel beat-down and tired out. When this happens, you may be tempted to quit your church ministry position or volunteer role.
Now what do you do? Caught in the spiral of discouragement, and careening into a tailspin, you feel helpless. You want to quit because you can’t think of any alternative.
Before you do, think about this.
- Realize that the desire to quit is normal. Solomon wrote, “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). He wasn’t just talking about spring, summer, fall,. and winter. He had in mind the seasons of joy, seasons of grief, seasons of seeking, and seasons of losing. Everything has a season. Sometimes, we find ourself in a season of discouragement—”a time to weep” (Ecclesiastes 3:3, 7). A brief glance through the Psalms gives us a picture of spiritual leaders and kings alike succumbing to deep depression, a depression so low that they regretted ever being born. What lesson can we learn from this? In two words: it’s okay. Sorrow is not sinful. Thinking about quitting is not the unpardonable. Wanting to quit is normal. It’s a normal part of ministry. It’s a normal part of life. Realize, too, as the psalms convey, that depression is not a place to stay. It is from which we can look up, see God, and rejoice in Him.
- Step back and take perspective. When we feel the desire to quit, we are often focusing on a very narrow slice of life—our own, obviously. The fixation on our own affairs can blind us to the broader realities going on in the world. We live on a vast planet, full of billions of people. God is at work in the world today, even though the specific problems in your viewfinder may be in a deadlock. When you look up from what you’re working on, it can take some time for your eyes to come into focus. When they do, you’ll realize that there is a big world out there. God is present in the world. He is working. He will do the same for you.
- Take a break. It may not sound tough or spiritual, but it could be a lifesaver. Just take a break. If the specifics of your situation allow it, disengage yourself as much as possible from your responsibilities. You don’t necessarily need to take months of sabbatical (though that may be a good idea), but surely you can take a few weeks or a few days. Everyone needs to unplug and refresh for a while. When you’re teetering on the verge of quitting, this could be best practical way to stay in the game. Taking a break from your position is one of the best ways to gain perspective and expand your vision beyond your set of problems.
- Understand grace. Although most Christians give lip service to the idea of grace, we sometimes neglect the reality of grace. We can sing “amazing grace, how sweet the sound,” without fully realizing, “Wow. This is amazing grace! This is a sweet sound!” Grace, by its very definition, is not something we earn. It is unmerited. God is defined by grace (1 Peter 5:10). He delights in giving grace (James 4:6). There are no prerequisites for grace, just as there is no list of human qualifications for salvation. Before regeneration, we were dead and undeserving. In much the same way, grace for the Christian’s journey isn’t something we switch on when we need it. There is no faucet handle, or “on” button. God delights to give grace, as His children realize their frailty and brokenness (1 Peter 5:5). Do you need help? Are you wanting to give up and quit? “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
- Talk with God. Don’t neglect your must essential form of support during this time: God. Engaging with God is simple: 1) Listen to Him. 2) Speak with him. He has spoken in His word, and here is where you’ll hear what He wants you to hear. Start in the psalms, where you’ll gain comfort and assurance from God’s marvelous character. Work through the Gospels, where you’ll come face to face with God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. Read the book of Acts, and see how His fledgling church gained its foothold by the Spirit, and has now blossomed into a worldwide force. Speak with God. Tell Him about your discouragement, heartache, and sorrow. He will listen. He will understand. He will help.
You may still be ready to quit. And it may just be that quitting is exactly what you need to do. But in case quitting is not the next thing on your life’s agenda, take some time to think, to pray, and to gain a different perspective on things.