How to Know When to Walk Away
Whether it's a relationship or a job, knowing when to quit and how to do it well makes all the difference.
“I don’t think we should stay together anymore. God is leading me in another direction.”
This is the line I’ve used on multiple occasions to end a relationship. I might as well have gone all the way and included, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
I knew I needed to end the relationship. Too much of me wasn’t into it anymore. But I didn’t know how to say that without being a jerk, so I used the “God card”—blaming the break-up on Him instead of me. That way, if she had a gun, she could shoot it at God instead of me.
Here’s the reality: I didn’t know how to end well. When I have thoughts and desires for something new, they’re difficult to deal with. When I sense that somehow God is orchestrating these desires for something new, I find it hard to decipher what exactly God is trying to accomplish.
This convoluted mess of thoughts is where many of us sense we need to make a change, and we often end up doing stupid things like breaking up with a girlfriend using the “God card.” Even more often, we choose to hold onto everything we’re already doing, while still pursuing this new thing.
It’s amazing that we wonder why God isn’t doing anything new. Our lives are too full.
We continue to fill up our lives until everything begins to fall apart. In the end, we question the God who supposedly gave us these desires for something new: “It was His fault I wanted something new, and now it’s His fault my life is a mess,” or so we say to ourselves.
You cannot change the circumstances and situations of your life unless you’re willing to quit something. At some point, quitting something is the only solution. There comes a point when you need to reshuffle the deck in order for the most important things to be given top priority. You’re able to do plenty of things with your life, but many of them have nothing to do with what God made you for.
So, if you need to let go of a few things, how can you get a sense for when it’s time to quit something? I believe a few key components must be in place in order for you to feel confident God is leading you to make a transition.
First, where has God given you gifts and passions? If something isn’t life giving it’s probably because it doesn’t match up with who you are.
Second, what do those close to you have to say? You need to have prophetic voices in your life to speak truth that you likely don’t want to hear. Their thoughts and opinions matter because God is using them to speak to you.
Third, is this about change or transition? We equate these together, but change is only circumstantial, whereas transition is something going on within you. Change is painting the walls a new color, but transition is knowing you need to move to a new house.
If you’ve gone through these steps well and still sense God leading in a new direction, then it’s time to look at making a change by quitting something. Often what you need to quit isn’t anything bad. It could be a healthy relationship or friendship. It could be volunteering for an organization deserving of your help. No transition, whether healthy or unhealthy, is ever as easy as you’d like it to be.
Often what’s overlooked in all this is whether sticking something out, even something difficult, is what God desires. It’s easy to fill your life with good things, and it’s easy to quit hard things, but going through something hard is often what God has placed before you. Imagine Paul writing the book of Colossians explaining to Christians that they should quit hard things instead of finding joy in them (Colossians 1:23). It’s not the easy things that will change your life.
Moreover, God can call us away from seemingly good and life-giving things with little explanation. Obedience is more difficult when God pulls you away from this good thing. Even good things get in the way of the most important things.
The truth is, it’s easy to use the “God card.” When it comes to quitting. “God told me to” is the easiest cop-out, but it’s often true. God will often lead you away from some things so you can do what He made you to do. But using God to get out of something you’re unsure of is not what quitting well looks like. God wants you to engage the struggle of discerning where He is leading.
Transition and change are a lot more difficult than following a few simple steps. It takes knowing yourself and checking your heart and mind to see what’s going on underneath the surface. Don’t just go with the flow—engage with the God who is trying to lead you into the way everlasting.
What do you need to quit doing in order to start doing what you’re supposed to be doing? What does God need to prune away from your life so you can begin living into what He has set before you?