When You’ve Reached the Quitting Place
I write this post through the lens of my own struggle, but you might read it through the lens of marriage, infertility, depression, unemployment, or chronic illness. Perhaps you live with a spouse you don’t trust, or share your home with a person you’ve grown to resent. Maybe you long to escape your vocation, your circumstances, or yourself, but there’s just no way out.
Whatever the catalyst, you’re weary. You’ve fought hard to overcome this battle. You’ve sought help, implemented strategies, and lain awake scouring every synapse for solutions. You’ve done some things right, a lot of things wrong, and you have no idea which way the scales tip.
You’ve begged, wept, and pleaded through prayer with your face pressed into the carpet, only to rise still shackled with doubt. You feel like you’re playing a perpetual game of Sorry! – just when you think you’re gaining ground, a roll of the dice bumps you back to the beginning, erasing all progress.
You’re weary, and you see nothing but failure – especially within yourself.
The Quitting Place
One day, you find yourself at the bottom. “I have nothing left,” you say, but it’s not the freeing surrender you crave. It’s not an “I’m empty, Lord, fill me,” kind of life-gaining brokenness. This is a quitting place. What you really mean is, “I’m out. I give up. It’s over.”
You want to turn back time and undo decisions you’ve made, or redo them with 20/20 hindsight. But you can’t. You’re stuck. And you’re done.
But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Being done isn’t an option. It’s as if you’re chained to a treadmill, walking with a broken leg. No chance to stop and heal, only continual pressure on an already injured limb.
You feel hypothermic. You’ve grown weary of walking, and all you want is rest. To stop moving means death – of a relationship, a dream, a way of life – but you’re so very weary. You’re not sure you have a choice.
This weariness, when you’re ready to close your eyes and accept defeat – it’s not a stopping point, it’s just another fork in the road. You do have a choice. It’s time to choose a direction.
You plant your feet, try to wait it out, but life is pressing in behind you. You can’t stall long.
Finally, you look up. Both paths are dark, neither inviting. The sign above one reads, “Harder.” The other, “Softer.”
You’re already hard, so you lean that direction. It would be easier, wouldn’t it? To give in to self-pity, discouragement, resentment, and regret? To wallow in the unfairness of dreams crushed and hopes trampled?
But you hesitate, because you know being hard doesn’t bring you peace. It makes you feel justified, but it doesn’t make you feel right. There’s a difference.
Yet, to choose “Softer” will mean pain of a different sort – dying to yourself again and again and again. And you can no longer envision a destination worthy of that kind of sacrifice.
But this is a turning point, for better or worse. Which choice will you make?
It was Thursday. I was done.
I sent an S.O.S. text to a friend: “The darkness seems inescapable and insurmountable. And after three years of struggling against it I am so, so tired.”
I stood at the fork in the road and planted my feet. Not another step. I couldn’t do it. Hypothermic or not, I would lay down and close my eyes, and no one was going to stop me.
My friend texted back. “I know you’re tired. I’m holding your arms up.”
My resolve weakened as I thought of Moses on the hill, staff outstretched over the battling armies below. As long as he held the staff high, God gave his people victory. When the staff lowered, the opposing army gained ground.
“But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.” Exodus 17:12
My arms were weary, the sun overhead far from going down.
I took a breath and looked up at the fork in the road. Who would hold my arms on the path to Harder?
I took a tentative step toward Softer.
The Truth About Turning Points
Turning points are romanticized. Making the right choice doesn’t mean you wake up the next morning to happy sunshine and inner peace. Things will likely get worse long before they get better.
Some days you take one step forward and two steps back. A great day is one in which you took two steps forward and only one step back.
Turning points are also repetitive. You have to choose them over and over and over again. Sometimes daily. Sometimes by the minute.
Change takes time. Growth produces pain. Healing requires a miracle. I am impatient with this process. When the end goal is so far away, it’s hard to see anything but the vast distance yet to cover. And yet, turning points are pinpoints:
Today: I tried. That’s a victory.
Today: I asked for help. That’s a victory.
Today: I showed love. That’s a victory.
Small victories, piled atop one another over time, add up to changed lives.
When you’re weary, hope isn’t as far away as it feels. It lives in not giving up, in taking one more step, in being willing to be made willing. It lives in any heart laid broken at God’s feet.
I preach this to myself, friends. Knowing the truth and believing it are two very different things. It would be easier to end this post in cynicism than to steer it toward hope. But that’s the choice we face when we’re weary – to despair, or to hold onto truth, even if truth sounds like platitude.
God is bigger.
God is better.
God is mine, and I am His.
On these truths I will place my hope.
With these truths I will sound the battle cry once more.
Will you join me?
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
“But that’s the choice we face when we’re weary – to despair, or to hold onto truth, even if truth sounds like platitude.” I love this. I was having a moment last week, tottering between harder and softer, and my daughter started singing the Veggie Tales song: “I know my God’s the biggest. And He’s watching over me.” So simple and yet the truth of it pummeled me, left me breathless. Thank you for this post, Alison. You continue to be in my prayers.
Thank you, Anna. My children are often the means by which God pulls me back. Last Thursday (the Thursday mentioned in this post) Annabell came to me in the laundry room. “Mommy, you seem like you’re miserable. Can I pray for you?” What?!? She’s nine. That was a divine arrow straight to my heart. Between my friend’s text and my little girl, I made it through and He gave me His new mercies for the next morning, and the next, and the next. 🙂
Beautiful!!! Annabell reminds me so much of my six-year-old. There are times when I am humbled by how it is so obvious God has chosen him to be part of his brothers’ healing (even when I’m not sure I can go on). Thank you so much for sharing this!!!
Isn’t it amazing how he gives us these little helpers? I love it. Thanks for fighting the good fight with me. 🙂
Weary, yeah, I know it. Thank you for the reminder that we don’t walk alone in our weariness. That story about Moses is one of my favorites. Have you heard the Andrew Peterson song “Hold Up My Arms”? It’s an older one, and it’s about marriage, but it’s so moving. And we aren’t all weak and weary at the same time, which is good encouragement to find our strengths and support others in their weaknesses, too.
And I know you worry about how your daughter will react if she ever reads and knows how you were feeling. All I can say is that if you’re available to her to talk through it and answer her questions, even the hard ones, then it’ll be okay. My parents were teenagers when they married and I always felt bad that they “had” to get married because of me. But 36 years later, they’re still together, and I never knew anything but love from my family. Still, I thought I was worthless, and that had nothing to do with what anyone said. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I could even voice that my parents and find out what it was like from their perspective. My mom doesn’t feel like she missed out on life because she was young enough to enjoy it with us.
Okay, enough of my therapy. 🙂 Just wanted to offer that as encouragement that whether you say it or write it or not, she might have those doubts/negative reactions anyway. Sometimes you have to do what you need to do. (And I think you and Jen Hatmaker need to meet and talk. Can I come along for the ride?) 🙂
I never thought of it from that perspective, Lisa. Thank you for sharing something so personal. It’s amazing to think of the threads that weave together to make us who we are today, with our unique bundles of talent, strength, and insecurity. Thank God He knows our deepest places, because I’m not sure we always do! 🙂
“Being willing to be made willing” A wonderful way to put it. And something we all wrestle with from time to time.
Glad you were willing! And give me a call (or text) if you need someone to help lift your weary hands someday.
That phrase was another gem from my friend Allie, the aforementioned recipient of my S.O.S. text. It has become my prayer – that I would be willing to be made willing. Thank you so much for your encouragement and support, Lisa. Don’t be surprised if I take you up on the offer. 🙂