I knew for a long time what I wanted to be when I grew up. But once I got to college, I began questioning my plan.
I took courses in the field of my dream career, and I hated them. They bored me. They confused me. And I struggled to do well (according to my high standards) in the most basic of the basics during my freshman year.
But one class excited me. One class set my heart on fire. One class made me want to walk right out and start on the assignment.
I was good at it, almost like I was made for it.
If my major opposed another, this was the one. Mine encouraged memorization. The other meditation. Mine studied facts. The other studied ideas. Mine did calculations and experiments. The other imagined and created.
For some reason, I felt compelled to do this other thing. I didn’t get a word from God. I didn’t see a vision. I just felt it in my spirit (where the Holy Spirit dwells).
I changed my major—only to change it back a few months later.
I didn’t want to give up on what I said I would accomplish. For many years, I’d boasted in it. I didn’t want to disappoint those who cheered me on. How much time and money they’d invested in it! And I wanted to prove I could do it. Would others think I was unqualified or too scared to try?
Turns out, I was too scared to give up. I feared man and their response to my decision more than I feared God and his prompting in my conscience. I should’ve given up, but I didn’t.
Sometimes We Should Give Up
Our culture hears things like this quote from Rachel Hollis in her uber-popular book Girl, Wash Your Face:
Don’t tell me you don’t have it in you to want something more for your life. Don’t tell me you have to give up because it’s difficult. This is life or death too. This is the difference between living a life you always dreamed of or sitting alongside the death of the person you were meant to become.
But when God tells us to give up our dreams, we should give them up.
The person with the most loyal character may be the one who never gives up no matter the cost. But their loyalty may be to something other than God as supreme. A person who is first loyal to God, will find God requiring them to give up at times in order to follow his leading.
Thus, I find this aspect of “never giving up” unbiblical.
The disciples gave up their vocations and status to follow Jesus when he commanded them. The rich young ruler did not. We’re also told to “put away with” (or give up) sins like envy, malice, greed, etc., and to put on love, kindness, and generosity. Is the thing we’re pursuing worth the continual fight against certain sins?
Maybe. Maybe not.
I don’t have a specific answer to what we should pursue or not pursue—what we should continue in or lay aside. It will vary person to person. But I know we should seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33). We should approve what is excellent (Phil.1:10). And we should lay aside what weighs us down in the race of faith—what takes our eyes off of Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).
It’s okay for us to give up if we give up in faithful surrender to Christ.
The One Thing We Must Persevere In
While the Bible doesn’t say “never give up” in the way the world means it (in pursuit of self-worth), it does encourage us to “never give up” in our fight for faith. We must persevere, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of it (Hebrews 12:2).
James 1:12-14 says those who endure will receive the crown of life. Hebrews 4:11 tells us to strive to enter God’s rest. Later in chapter 12:1, the author tells us to run with endurance the race set before us. Revelation gives hope to “the one who conquers” (3:21). It’s clear we must strive to the end in faith and never give up.
Yet we’re free from the burden of what we achieve on earth—whether we become the person we dreamed of being or not.
Today I often think back to the day I changed my major to what I felt God wanted me to do—only to change it back to what I thought I was supposed to do. I remember how three years later he confirmed my plan was not his. After all the hours of rigorous study to prove I could do it, to show I wouldn’t give up when it got hard, it didn’t work out. It wasn’t God’s plan.
This time I obeyed him by no longer pursuing it when the first door shut. I fought pride in my heart and gave up this dream as I had grown to fear God more than man.
Years later, God prompted me again to do the craft I would’ve gotten experience in and credentials for if I’d majored in it. I made a wrong decision, but God brought me back to it. And that’s grace.
If something is his will, he will accomplish it—even if he has to bring us full circle to do it—even when at first we don’t give up on something we should. When we persevere in faith, we will eventually line up with his will. It may be the death of the person we dreamed of becoming, but we will become who God created us to be.