When to Hold ‘Em & When to Fold ‘Em


How’s your poker face? I am pretty good at bluffing in certain games, but the “game of life” takes more than a bluff to end up with a winning hand.

A framed embroidery wall picture which hangs in our guest bedroom reads: “Life is a balance between holding on and letting go”. And this balance is not always easy to maintain. Sometimes we need to hang-in-there when we feel like quitting, and other times we need to let-go when we just don’t want to give-up.

There is an old song recorded by Kenny Rogers called The Gambler; the chorus says:

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, Know when to fold ‘em

Know when to walk away, Know when to run.

You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.

There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

To “give-up” or to “hang-on”?  can play like a mental Ping-Pong game in the brain, until we get direction to bring us to a decision, and peace to keep us there. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

We recently visited an elderly woman in a nursing home, who had been in hospice for a few days. She had not eaten or taken in liquids during that time. When we entered her room, we expected to see an IV in her arm, but there was none. She was awakened by a nurse so that we could visit and pray for her. She breathed open-mouthed and her lips and tongue were very dry. Her eyes were fixed on whatever or whoever was directly in her line of sight.

Because she had asked not to be kept alive if her mind and body began to fail, she was not hooked up to an IV. When the nurse moved her head to adjust her pillow, the patient gave a little cry, so we know she could feel pain.

It was very difficult to see this once energetic old saint in such a condition. A few years back she had been my once-a-week prayer partner, meeting with me at the church office, and afterward sending out postcards to the specific families or individuals for whom we had prayed; she included words of encouragement and a Scripture on each card.

I have heard several reports of elderly people who seemed to be on their way out, who were merely dehydrated.  Even though my elderly friend had asked not to be kept alive artificially, everything in me wanted to hook-up an IV line and hydrate her frail little body to see if she would regain “presence” like the others had. But there is a time when you have to fold ‘em.

Not that I would want to keep anyone alive indefinitely – but I hesitate to surrender people to death, which the Scripture refers to as an enemy:

1 Corinthians 15:26 – “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

Life is important to protect – the right to life is a God-given right. That’s why I cannot accept the philosophy of some religious or political ideologies in which suicide that results in the deaths of other people (so called “enemies”) is to be glorified or rewarded. Also, I cannot support cultural mores which permit destruction of unborn life. No god worth following would ask his followers to arbitrarily destroy life – neither their own lives, nor the lives of innocents who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In such a culture of death, God continually calls us to life. The fragrance of Christ is the perfume of life that never loses its scent. Jesus came to conquer death. Maybe that’s why we fight to hold-on to life and not to give-in to disease, death, and the killing of the innocent. You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em.

However, fighting to hold on to what appears to be “life” is what keeps many people from entering into real Spirit-breathed life. We have met many people during our lifetime who have held-on to death, mistaking it for life; who, when they finally gave-up and died to self, discovered that they had not really been alive at all, until they received the life of Christ. When the hand you’ve been playing is continually a losing one, it’s time to get out of that game. Know when to fold ‘em; discover what’s really worth holding onto.

When it comes to the battle against evil forces in the unseen world, we need to suit-up in the spiritual armor, submit to God, resist the devil and learn to stand – stay in the game and hold the line.  We also need to recognize a bluff and to say to the enemy of our soul, “Game’s over.” Because when it comes to spiritual war games, Jesus has dealt us the winning hand.

Are you holding on to the a hand that will keep you from experiencing life, or are you letting go and allowing God to take over your game? You’ve got to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

©2012, Marcy Alves

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About Marcy

I love my Father-God. Together we are walking through a season of my life where I am standing with him against cancer. He is my strength and trust. As one of his daughters, my passion is to share his love with others in practical, everyday illustrations and insights.

Posted on March 7, 2012, in Christian Growth, Follow Me, My Journey, Reflections, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I really like your writing, Marcy. This post made me think of my mother who was in a similar condition. She passed on to the Lord two years ago. She showed us all how it is done, how to find that balance toward surrendering to the inevitable and fighting for life. My mother lived a very good and long life. She learned how to hold ’em in a very tough situation, but also how to fold ’em when the dealin’ was done. Thanks.

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