When You Want To Quit, But You Know You Can’t

by | Sep 17, 2013 | Uncategorized


I grew up wishing my life was different, almost every day of my childhood.

For years, the faces of my stuffed animals and dolls were my closest confidants, my most intimate companions bearing the weight of my grief wrapped around them. My feather pillow soaked with tears wooed me to sleep as I begged God for my Mother’s happiness.

There was evidence He was hearing my prayers, not illustrated by a change in the circumstances of her alcoholism, but in fragments of hope extended like a life raft, when despair threatened to drown the limits of my perspective.

The smell of fresh mowed grass trailing through spring’s open window, a gentle breeze blowing the curtains of my bedroom like skirts gracefully twirling on the dance floor, sun casting ambient light over shelves of books and trinkets, making them new all over again. Awakening from a nap to the fragrance of lemon Pledge; hints of longing for a clean slate, a fresh start, through the strokes of her dust cloth over wood.

These smells still remind me of hope.

Inhaling the fragrance of His goodness in sacramental oils of a Catholic mass remind me of routine weekend visits tucked between my grandparents on a hard pew in the early years of my adolescence. They wanted me there and I knew it.


On many days since, I’ve thought about taking my own life, though I knew I would never actually do it. If you were honest, perhaps you might admit to a fleeting moment or recurring thought of ending it all too. A time when you couldn’t bear the difference between life as you know it and the one you envision. The contrast so vivid pulling a spoon to your lips feels unbearable.

But then again, maybe you don’t carry the burden of the unkindness like so many of us do. Of not knowing how to love yourself.

I know, it feels more comfortable to earn love. But grace doesn’t have rules like that. It’s just there for your acceptance, a reception without any checklists or hoops to jump through.

You are loved for who you are, not for what you do.

I know this. Now I believe it.

I’ve heard stories of those looking for the nearest window ledge or bridge . . . and worse. Read the statistics about boys versus girls — for every 100 females between age 15-19 who commit suicide, there are 549 males with them.* It’s startling isn’t it? This kind of reality, how we are raising a generation of kids that don’t know how to truly love themselves; cultivating a culture of  hollow loneliness that is now an epidemic.

Trying to earn love by the way you look or what you achieve eventually leads to empty desperation. And believing you are the only one who feels that way – even more painful and untrue.

I’ve also heard stories about plans with a ledge or a bottle of pills being providentially thwarted. In most cases, it’s come from a simple text, a phone call, someone stopping to ask where the Coke machine is located in the building, a middle of the night cry from a child’s bedroom. All interruptions with the message:  I need you, you matter to me.


You know why I haven’t done it, given up and quit? I believe in Hope. And hope is something you aren’t born with, it’s learned through adversity.

People ask me the same question often – How did you turn out the way you did – meaning how did I overcome my circumstances and not let my circumstances overcome me.

I conquer despair not by making sense of my circumstances but believing in God’s plans for my future. Not trying harder, but letting go. I wake up to the smell of fresh cut grass with the realization that my expectations about life aren’t what matter, but what life expects from me matters most.

Two of my favorite people sitting in the pew saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. And my husband carries on their legacy.

Perhaps you’ll be the person interrupting someone’s fatal plans in search of a Coke machine somewhere new. I pray so.

And if you’re struggling with hopelessness, I want you to know you matter, the world needs you. I don’t have to know you intimately to know that is true because God hasn’t changed his mind about either of us. He has purpose and destiny blowing a gentle breeze through your open window, Light settles over old things and makes them new.

Hope, it carries you into the future when you can’t stand on your own. 

In October, I’m hosting a series based on The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown where I plan to unpack what loving yourself looks like practically. We’ll be diving into the deep end of wholehearted living. Join me for Redemptions Beauty Book Club and here in the comments?

Linking with Michelle, Laura, Jennifer and Emily.

*stats from Masterminds & Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Kelly Greer

    This hope you speak of…I too have received. So thankful for you Shelly..so thankful you choose hope.
    Hugs to you beautiful warrior!

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for your encouragement Kelly. I’m anxious to see where God takes you on your new journey.

  2. Lori Harris

    To always let go..This is my daily prayer. Love your heart Shelly and I love that you trust Christ with it. Thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m still learning how to let go Lori, perhaps we will always be in a posture of learning until we see Him face to face ya think?

  3. kelli woodford

    “And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.” (Haruki Murakami)

    This is for you and for me and for anyone who has lived days they wished were different. This is what gives me hope when I still feel the stifle and the smother – that all the darkness I feel is merely within the cocoon of transformation.

    I know you get this. And I know that’s what you mean by letting go. Keep sharing the hope that you have, friend. Your story was written very much on purpose.

    • Shelly Miller

      You are truly a walking encyclopedia of quotes Kelli. I’m jealous that God gave you such a capacity of remembering. It’s astounding, really. I love that you get this and me, knowing that is actually as much hope to me as anything. I’m so very honored to be your friend.

  4. Leigh Kramer

    Oh, this. I wish I didn’t understand it so intimately but I do. It was almost 20 years ago and I’m grateful I couldn’t follow through. I’ve had to learn that I’m loved because of who I am but it’s a lesson worth learning. Grateful we’ve both grasped hope.

    On a side note, did you happen to catch Luke Harms’s post on A Deeper Family? Worth reading: http://deeperstory.com/your-story-worth-finishing/

    • Shelly Miller

      Leigh, I’ve loved seeing your bright smile in all your pictures on FB today. Makes my heart happy. And yes, I read his fabulous post last week on Deeper Story. His words along with some other things I happened to be reading at the same time got my mind thinking about all this.

  5. Kris Camealy

    And so tonight, as I read your heart here, I find grace in the community of honest women I call friends–you, who tells the truth, even if it stings, even if it’s less than shiny…I see Redemption’s stamp on you, glory reflected in the life you now live, in spite of the life you have overcome. He makes all things new, right? You live the resurrected life, Shelly. And it’s beautiful.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you Kris. I think its time to share about more than I ever have. It’s scary to be vulnerable but I know its what He is asking of me so I’m saying yes. And you? You make me teary with the way you champion me, truly.

  6. Jessica Smith Bolyard

    Hope. Yes…..hope. Believing in hope is sometimes the only thing that gets us up out of bed, or off the bathroom floor, or out the door. Hope. Hope in what can be and what could be if we just kept believing and kept taking one step…one step at a time toward whatever it is that is coming. I know the feelings you wrote about, all too well, in fact. And your words minister to me as a reminder that I’m not the only one. Thank you for choosing hope, and thank you for reminding me that it’s my daily choice, too.

    • Shelly Miller

      Despair actually means “to live apart from hope” so hope is essential for life. Without hope our soul loses the ability to function. I never realized how important it is until I started researching and reading about it.

      And your comment is an answer to prayer Jessica, I was trusting that this would be a place of empathy and encouragement for those who stop by.

  7. Karrilee Aggett

    Sweet friend – how I adore you… your willingness to be real and live honest and – well – just live, on the days that that may seem like the last thing you want to do! This? This I love: “But grace doesn’t have rules like that. It’s just there for your acceptance, a reception without any checklists or hoops to jump through.
    You are loved for who you are, not for what you do.” Amen! And we can know this – but it’s when we have a hard time FEELING the truth of it that we can lose sight… lose vision… lose hope. I may not know the pull to end it all – but I know the lack of follow through to think it is even possible to make a change – to BE any different… the passive giving up… both are dangerous and so much less than anything He has in mind for us! (Oh – and Brene? She is one of my favorites… I just finished Daring Greatly and am rechewing on several things… mostly – this week, as I am writing – I am chewing on the difference between fitting in, and belonging! Praise God – in Him… we Belong!

    So glad with trembling hands, and a trembling heart, you hit Publish!
    Just so glad!

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh, I hear the joy in your voice though this comment Karrilee and it is glorious. Thanks so much for your encouragement, I suspect it’s one of your gifts. Am I right?

  8. Amanda Johnston Hill

    So beautifully written, Shelly. xoxo

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you sweet Amanda. You have been on my mind daily and its so great to see you here. Love you!

  9. pastordt

    Shelly!! This is so powerful – thank you, thank you. Praying with you that those who need these words will find them. Lots of love to you this Monday night.

    • Shelly Miller

      That is my prayer Diana, that God will use it to bring hope to someone. Lots of love to you.

  10. Debbie Riall

    Beautifully done, Shelly. I know that was a difficult piece to write :

    • Shelly Miller

      It was harder to publish than to write actually. Thanks Debbie, for your kindness. It is not overlooked.

  11. Laura Lynn Brown

    I know what it’s like to think about giving up. Someone who helped me out of that dark tunnel told me, the day we met, “Hold the hope in front of you.” She was right, and so are you. There’s always a hint of light, and it grows when you walk toward it.

    • Shelly Miller

      It’s always there for the grasping, isn’t it Laura? We have to have it to move forward into the future. My heart goes out to those who feel empty and hopeless, that makes me so sad.

  12. Leigh Kay

    oh…oh my….
    thank you

  13. Patricia

    ” I don’t have to know you intimately to know that is true because God hasn’t changed his mind about either of us.”

    Ah, this line moved me to tears… I have known my own darkness, had my own moments of wanting it all to just stop…had days when the ordinary stuff of everyday life was just. too. much. Light is like grace when you know life without it. I understand this post and why you would want to push through the fear to publish it anyway…when you’ve been there, you don’t want anyone else to have to be there if you can help it. Peace and love to you, Shelly! Thank you for sharing something so personal and so powerful.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you for your candor Patricia. Sometimes empathy can be the most comforting, freeing piece of our journey for others. Peace to you today.

  14. soulstops

    Oh, Shelly,
    I can relate to those tear soaked pillows and wanting to end it all, but not, because of God…so glad you didn’t give up, and here you are giving others hope…cheering for you 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      Glad you didn’t give up either Dolly. Thank you for sharing this post and encouraging me here.

  15. Handsfull

    Sometimes I am astounded at the hope I find within myself. How can it be there? Where does it come from? There is something within me that just will. not. give. up. It’s not an emotional thing – my emotions have been very willing to give up, on several occasions… but this thing, hope, or whatever it is, picks me back up and keeps my feet moving, one after the other.
    Maybe it’s the grace of God… I don’t know, but I am so thankful for it! I literally would not be here, without it.

    • Shelly Miller

      I have to believe it’s the spirit of God within us that knows what our mind cannot begin to comprehend . . . this dogged determination and hope we find incomprehensible.

  16. Lynn Morrissey

    I”m reading memoir strands in this powerful post, Shelly!! They should go into “the book”! I have known the despair you cite….ten years of suicidal depression that didn’t result in an attempt to take my life, but the despondency was real, palpable, and terrible. I agree, that if you have hope–sometimes even just a thread, you can go on. Because I never actually tried to take my life, no one interrupted me in the act. That said, sometimes someone just offering a smile like a gift offering was enough to keep me here for yet one more day. I still struggle with deep depression, but nothing like that string of anguished years. It’s hard to know why God sends interruptions to some and not others. I knew a man who committed suicide two years ago on July 4th. I wrote a poem about him, because someone I loved was critical about him, and I needed to process that. She felt he was terribly selfish. But I don’t think you do somehthing like that unless you don’t have hope. I don’t think she walked in his shoes. With God, there is always hope, and he was a strong Christian. But sometimes, hope has to be spelled by someone reaching out and being Jesus with skin on. I don’t know if she ever really reached out to him. I’m glad your grandparents were such wonderful Jesus lovers. Like Him, they obviously loved *you* well too. I’m so glad God gave you hope, and now you are able to give it to others.
    God bless you, Shelly. You are changing lives by God’s grace.

    • Shelly Miller

      I know Lynn. I think some of what I wrote answers the question you posed to me in the email. I am formulating a response in my mind. So thankful for you, truly. Just knowing you are there is like the warm hug of hope to me.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Shelly, your sweet response moves me. I assure you I feel hugged as well!

  17. DeanneMoore

    Tried to comment and keep deleting…thank you, my friend. I may not know much about blogging, or writing, or social networking, but I know this…I am blessed because of you—not just you but the Life that has brought you through and to this place. You are a beautiful life, a beautiful friend. Thank you God for lifeboats…

    • Shelly Miller

      and umbrellas. Thank you Dea. I would’ve liked to have seen what you wrote before you deleted. Maybe for another conversation? Hugs to you my lovely friend.

  18. Leslie Durham


    I’m still here, reading and following along on this life journey. This was so awesome today. I really needed to hear this. Looking forward to the study in October. So excited to have a group to dig out the truths which Brene Brown shares.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for letting me know you are still here Leslie. We’ve been through a lot, you and I, since that day we met at a wedding haven’t we? Glad to have you along as a sojourner on this pilgrimage and look forward to what God will do next month through our time together with the book. I’ll be learning right along with everyone else, that’s the beauty of it.

  19. Megan Willome

    I don’t think I’ll ever smell lemon Pledge the same way again.

  20. SimplyDarlene

    It’s interesting how I forgot about sticking my finger down my throat to bring back that which I didn’t really want to swallow all those years ago. Instead of a kind-hearted phone call or note, I’m thankful that my ma showed some anger over something I had said. I needed to know I was seen and heard – that was enough. And then some 18 years later I met God.

    Thank you for this piece, I’m sure it’s a rough place to re-visit. May God comfort you as you shine His light.


    • Shelly Miller

      Darlene, your comment is sobering. Thankful you met Christ those years ago, so very thankful. What would we do without Him?

  21. Laura Boggess

    Oh, Shelly. Sometimes you just speak my heart. Having to breathe deep here. So grateful for grace. It’s blowing me away again this week.

    • Shelly Miller

      You do the same for me Laura. I think we are kindred in many ways. Thankful with you for the riches of grace pouring out in abundance.

  22. Paula

    Don’t think any of us ever knew the magnitude or even “what early life sad experiences” you had suffered. I am so glad that you are able to write about those feelings today and help others along the way. It is with such honesty that you reveal, in such an intimate way, your reflections on “your” life……maybe the best word is powerful. I have always known your value and loved you; but there is never a substitute for feeling love from the ones that should have loved you most. Thank God for giving you the hope you have always needed and that you have not given up along the way, so the rest of us can have the joy of loving YOU today

    • Shelly Miller

      Love you Paula, you are an important reason for that hope in my life. I will always be thankful for the sacrifice you made for me during those hard years. That time with you in that little apartment was the threshold for healing to begin.

  23. Linda@Creekside

    We are nothing, we go nowhere without hope. His hope. Thank you, Shelly, for taking us to Him, for reminding us of where our strength comes from. This is a priceless gift.

    • Shelly Miller

      Some people find themselves holding on to the frayed end of hope about to let go. Praying for hope to be restored in those who need it most today. Thanks Linda.

  24. Rick Dawson

    I was once one of those males – and I lost track of the times the thoughts intruded. I also lived with parental alcoholism (both). Still here – scarred but salved by the savior – glad to see you are too 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      Lovely to meet you Rick. Thankful for redemption, aren’t you?

      • Rick Dawson

        You, ma’am, have a gift of understatement 🙂

  25. Litfuse

    Love this. Good, good stuff.

  26. Shelly Wildman

    Shelly, this is so, so beautiful. Thank you for writing it. I’ve had fleeting moments, brief, but also know about the deep sadness of childhood. To this day I struggle to believe that I am loved just because I am. It’s frustrating, to be honest. Earning it is so much easier than resting in it.

    • Shelly Miller

      It is frustrating Shelly, I get that, oh yes I do. I’m in the process of discovering what that looks like, pressing past my fears and embracing vulnerability for the sake of wholeness. Can I tell you something? It’s hard work and I don’t get it right most days, but the realization is the first step and I’m trusting God for the outcome. Thank you for being here.

  27. rachel lee

    i’m reading this, and i’m honestly stunned by the amount of power and bravery you spilled for us to read. you have such a beautiful heart, it blows me away. you are indeed a gorgeous, brave, Jesus-laden soul.

    love to you, dear friend.

    • Shelly Miller

      I was shaking when I hit publish Rachel Lee, but I want to be brave. I do.

  28. Alabamabelle

    Shelly your blogs always bring new insight to what I have felt or am going through at the moment. You were always so kind to me at TVC I loved working for you on occasion when you needed help. despair I hate to say is something that I am very familiar with even now. I thought that taking my daughter and moving away from domestic violence that was my life… that my life would be easier, better.. but it hasn’t and I struggle every morning just to get out of bed and go to work. I have often thought that my daughter would be better off with someone else someone who could afford to buy groceries on a regular basis, and just the normal teenage things I would like to do for her. But I can’t. sometimes I feel foolish to think positive that it’s got to get better… because after 3 yrs it hasn’t.. I want to believe that God has something for me here in this world… other than to give birth to 2 incredible children… one of whom is in Wisconsin in Seminary now… God wouldnt’ have allowed me to be born just to bring life to him would he? I have an abundance of hope. if you have time.. I would love to email you and just talk… I could use a friend… in the mean time i’ll keep on keeping on… I’m like the energizer bunny.. LOL

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