The late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, was known for telling preachers DON’T QUIT! Hyles even wrote a poem on the subject:
When the cup is turned to wormwood,
And the wormwood turns to gall;
When your walking turns to stumbling,
And the stumbling to a fall;
When you’ve climbed above the mountains,
Yet the Alps rise rough and tall;
When the path ahead is crooked,
And the road’s too rough to tread;
When the best upon the table
Is replaced by sorrow’s bread;
When you’ve crossed some troubled waters,
Yet a Marah’s just ahead; (Exodus 15;16)
When the vultures have descended
And disturbed your downy nest;
When sweet fruit has changed to thistle,
While the thorns disturb your rest;
When a deep to deep is calling,
And when failure seems your best;
When the Lord has cleansed the table;
Then He takes away the fat;
And the best wine has been taken,
Till you find an empty vat;
When another fills the throne room
Where once you proudly sat;
When your health is feeling sickly,
And the medicine tastes bad;
When your fellowship is lonely,
And your happiness is sad;
When your warmth is getting colder,
And in clouds your sunshine’s clad;
When you find your wins are losses,
And that all your gains are lacks;
When ill things never come alone,
And your troubles run in packs;
When your soul is bruised and battered
From the Tempter’s fierce attacks;
Be not weary in well doing,
For due seasons bring the grain;
He who on the Lord hath waited
Shall never run in vain;
The just man falleth seven times,
Yet riseth up again;
I heard Jack Hyles many times implore preachers to never, ever quit. Dr. Tom Malone, chancellor of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college I attended in the 1970s, Midwestern Baptist College, frequently reminded students that God never blesses quitters. Students who dropped out of school were excoriated and labeled quitters — men who would never, ever be blessed by God. When my wife and I left Midwestern before graduating, a friend of ours told us, “You will never amount to anything for God. God doesn’t use quitters.” Polly and I went on to spend twenty-five years in the ministry. Our friend? He graduated but never spent one day in the ministry.
Certainly having a bulldog never-quit spirit can lead men and women to do great things. Life can be hard, and successfully making it through this life often requires us to fight and refuse to give in. However, when DON’T QUIT becomes the proverbial tail that wags the dog, it can result in people hanging on when they really should be letting go.
I learned that it is okay to quit (walk away from) toxic churches. I learned that it is okay to stop helping people who are sponges that suck the life out of all who come their way. Not everyone deserves my love, compassion, care, and kindness. I have found that it is better to walk away than let people ruin my life.
I have learned that it is okay to give in and give up. Realists understand the lay of life’s topography and refuse to let the demands of wishful thinking cause unnecessary physical and psychological pain. I know first-hand how hard it can be to quit doing things. Chronic pain and illness have forced me to quit doing a number of things. DON’T QUIT still taunts me, but I no longer let it force me to do things I can no longer do. Just this past weekend, I dismantled my office, knowing that I will never sit in my office chair again for any length of time. Too painful, thanks to the herniated discs in my back, a torn labrum in my shoulder, and widespread arthritis and muscle pain. I now do all of my writing for this site on the couch or in a recliner. I shed a few tears as yet another aspect of my life went by the wayside, but it was time. It’s been eighteen months since I used the computer in my office. No amount of wishing was going to restore that which has been lost. Time to metaphorically turn off the lights and lock the door.
Quitting is not failure. It is the admission that I can no longer do something. Quitting is me being honest with myself and not letting the demands of others control what I do with my short life. Several years ago, I wanted to learn woodworking. I foolishly invested several thousand dollars in equipment that went unused. Try as I might, I was unable, because of my physical limitations, to do what I wanted to do. I had no other choice but to quit. I have whittled my life down to three things I greatly value: family, photography, and writing. And photography might be on the cutting board soon. I struggle to hang on, knowing that if I let go of these things, what is left?
I know I am losing the battle against pain, illness, and time. I wonder, what more will I have to quit doing? I have given up so much, yet my body cares not. It continues to demand that I quit, quit, quit until nothing is left. I continue to fight, holding on to the few things I can still do (safely and skillfully). I know, thanks to osteoarthritis, that there will likely come a day when I can no longer write. Even now, my hands, arms, and shoulders scream in pain as I write. I ignore the screams, but I do know that someday I will be forced to give up. I know that the ravages of arthritis and fibromyalgia will one day force me to use a wheelchair all the time. For now, I push back — often stupidly so — refusing to admit that I am a broken-down old man. Will there come a day when I stop pushing? Maybe. Time will tell. All I know to do, for now, is to accept, adjust, and move foward.
Do you suffer from chronic pain or illness? How have you adjusted to your new reality? Please share your experiences in the comment section.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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A lot of poker players have gone broke following that advice. Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run – Kenny Rogers —
I prefer Teddy Roosevelt:
Do what you can,
With what you have,
Where you are.
Doesn’t look like quitting… looks like continuing to share thoughtful insight in ways that reach even more than ever, answering unique needs. Thank you; Salute’!!!
I commented on a Facebook political post that when your candidate loses the primary, supporting the primary winner might become a defensive action in the general election. You will not get everything you wanted. You may not get most of what you wanted. But if your politics align at least somewhat with the person who beat your candidate, and they don’t align at all with the other general election contender, you can either throw in the towel or you can fight a good retreat, voting for the person who best supports you (even if best isn’t all that good), and wait to fight again another day.
Similarly, as I have become somewhat disabled, I have had to give up a lot of things I used to do. For awhile I’ve been fighting a retreat. But that isn’t the same as quitting. I’ve had to train myself to have new interests, and either accept what is too difficult to do now or find another way of doing it. And it seems to me Bruce, that both with your physical difficulties and your mental/emotional well-being, you have fought a good retreat. In some ways you have achieved great victories; being able to walk away from toxic religion is a pretty big one, though it surely felt like a retreat at the time. Learning to focus your care where it’s most needed — your family — was another pretty big victory.
Almost six years later, I see what I wrote back in 2016, and I can’t find fault with it. I’m still coming to terms with my disability, still spending too much time weighing what I “should” be able to do against what I can do. Bruce, it sounds like you’re still fighting the good retreat, too.
I call to mind a pseudo-quote–he probably never said it quite like this, though his writings support it–of pagan Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
Let us all live noble lives; as the often justly-maligned Richard Dawkins writes (he got this right): “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?”
Bruce, you are lucky, I’m lucky, everyone who reads this is lucky. We do the best we can with what we have in any given moment, and accept that what we can envision is far greater than what our efforts can achieve. That’s part of being human. Live a noble life, and know that you have done enough.
Sometimes quitting gives us better focus. Hang in there as much as you can! We appreciate you!
W. C. Fields:
If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then give up. No sense making a damned fool of yourself over it.”