Question: Trying Hard To Be A Better Christian, But I’m Stuck


Anonymous asked:

Why is it that I want to get better, I want to be unstuck from where I am, but I don’t do what I should do? If I really wanted to experientially know and serve God, I’d at least try. But I don’t. How to I really learn to WANT something desperately? Resolve in my heart that I want it? People keep saying resolve in your heart to follow God but I don’t know how to want something that badly no matter how much I’ve suffered and no matter how much good I know He is. No one seems to understand.

 

So a long, long time ago (in a galaxy called here) was a dude who had the same problem, and he wrote about this struggle in a letter that we now call the Book of Romans, in Chapter 7, which says,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. … For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

I almost want to yell, “SURPRISE %@$#^&!!”

That was Apostle Paul, who was probably the holiest dude of his time but fully acknowledged that he struggled like crazy. 

I’m not trying to be cute here.  Paul was describing the entire dang human condition.

Hang with me a bit longer.  In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about his “thorn,” some crazy affliction that he doesn’t ever name, which God didn’t take away.  This is Paul, who by the way could revive dead people and also heal the sick by his shadow or handkerchief, and he couldn’t heal himself.  It was something so drastic that it probably caused others to doubt God, but Paul writes,

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


The truth is: You can NOT do this on your own.

There’s no willpower, no personal resolve, no inner-strength, no part of your flesh will ever get to the place where you can say, “I made it.”

Maybe not the pep talk you were hoping for.



The Christian life is the very opposite of “trying harder.”  The Christian says, “I can’t do this — but God can, and He does.”

I’m sure your friends had good intentions when they said, “Resolve in your heart to follow Him.”  Because yes, effort is okay and effort is not legalism.  But you need to know that your struggle is the whole human story: everyone feels the gap between who they are and who they want to be. 

Paul and Peter and David and Mary and Martha and Esther and Ruth have all been there: they all struggled with the uncomfortable tension of not making it, and so will you and I.

The world has all kinds of weird ways to close that gap — wealth, religion, status, drugs, sex, thrills, and Viagra — but the Christian faith says Jesus already closed the gap for you.  That’s largely the point of his cross and resurrection.  He’s come to run alongside you, step by step, with every provision, full of love and gentleness and wisdom and discipline and truth.  It will still be an everyday struggle, but you won’t be waging this war alone.

Forget performance.  Forget “trying harder.”  When God says you’re in, you’re in — just as much as your parents are your parents and could never be otherwise, God calls you His.  You’re adopted in.  No Christian “tries” to be His.  It’s based on Jesus, not on you.  This truth alone can move you forward.

All you need is need, and God will tell you as He told Paul: My grace is sufficient for you.

 

So, dear friend: you’re in the right place.  Even the fact you’re asking your question is awesome.  If everyone was as honest as you, they’d be in a way better place too. Come to God with it: tell Him you feel far away, that you don’t know how to do this, that you don’t even want Him, that you don’t care. 

Tell Him you just can’t and He can.  You’d be surprised how liberating this is, how much freedom there is in just laying all that down, and how much His grace will explode your dry cracked desert with rushing new life.  You’ll be able to interrupt your morbid introspection with the power of the God who loves you.  I know it won’t be easy, I know it will sound trite and corny some days: but it’s no less true. 

Preach that Good News to yourself, even and especially when you don’t feel like it.

See, at the end of Romans 7, Paul interrupts his own self-pity and suddenly remembers: Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

And then there was Romans 8, one of the best chapters ever.  Get on that.  It’s okay if you don’t feel it today: some days will be Romans 7, and others will be Romans 8.  Be thankful for both.


— J.S.

10 thoughts on “Question: Trying Hard To Be A Better Christian, But I’m Stuck

  1. Great question! I’ve been contemplating with the concept of wanting to want God more for a few years. It’s the topic of my book that may get published some day. The first chapter is on my blog. I hope whoever posed this question will find it helpful. Joon, I think you nailed it by noting that this is a defining aspect of our Christian struggle.

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      1. Very quick preview: It’s not fair that I love cookies (bad) and hate tomatoes (healthy). I didn’t choose to love cookies and I wish I didn’t. Why didn’t God program my desires to love tomatoes instead? It doesn’t seem fair.

        Jesus called himself the “good” shepherd (John 10:11, 14). This word can also be translated “attractive”. This means that Jesus wants us to be attracted to him like sheep that follow their shepherd to pasture because that’s where their deepest desires are realized (hence the name of my blog, “Pasture-ized”).

        If he wants us to be attracted to him then that must be possible for us. My book is to help people figure out how based on God’s Word.

        I’m not contradicting years of understanding on this passage, just drawing out additional meaning that could help with people struggling with a lack of passion for Jesus.

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          1. Oooooh. I’ll send another chapter to you as an attachment to a fb message. I’d love to hear your thoughts when we meet in June.

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  2. A lot of people who are real and authentic about the process of following God will probably completely understand exactly what you’re saying. For me, knowing who I am outside of who others expect me to be is what allowed me to understand God from a new perspective. Sometimes we get conditioned with a perspective by perfectly well-meaning people, but God wants to come to us in other ways that are individually for us as people. Self discovery was a part of the key to helping my “want to wants” to turn in to real desires. Sometimes that takes a lot of courage and work, but God will bring the right people in to help you if you’re persistent. Just my thoughts on the matter.

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    1. Definitely. I think some of the rigid structures built today can be helpful, but church history has shown repeatedly that most of our predecessors came to faith in different contexts, almost completely varied from each other. Since we live in such a tight shrinkwrap of time, it’s hard to see. I hope we can all help with discovering Christ in our unique individual ways through God’s unchanging Word.

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  3. Wow. This is me exactly right now. Feeling stuck and there’s a part in me that doesn’t really want it enough. I’m just mostly at the internet all day and playing video games but I want to be a better me, to impart a truth from God that He has placed in me and wills for me to do, and to love others. But, not knowing how to get there and I just know that I am unprepared. It can be frustrating.

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