The start of this year has me thinking about goals and the gospel. I’m one of those weirdos who loves to assess what needs to change and sets goals for myself.
The problem is my knee-jerk strategy is to just try harder.
In most cases, this strategy is a form of insanity as the saying goes. I “do the same thing over and over, expecting different results.” It doesn’t work, no matter how hard I try.
Rather than listing off the silly ways I’ve tried harder and failed in my own journey, today’s blog post is about a few things I’ve learned over the years when targeting areas of struggle.
1. Start by admitting defeat.
I, alone, am not enough to conquer my bad habits and sin patterns! If I simply try harder to stop a behavior, my heart does not change. Ultimately, this is the “bad news” of the gospel. I need a Savior to rescue me from…myself. Hallelujah. This “bad news” means we were never supposed to do this on our own!
The beauty in admitting defeat (i.e. I can’t do this in my own strength) is the freedom that comes with it. This form of surrender puts the burden to “always get it right” off of me. It’s the opportunity to admit: “I can’t change all by myself. I need Jesus.”
Suggestion: Why not chat about an area you need to “admit defeat and embrace your need for Jesus” with a close friend or family member? There is power and freedom in sharing our struggles with those we can trust and those who also need Jesus! We are better when we grow together.
2. I must get to the root.
When I accept my need for God, I free myself from playing the savior. I also create space to look deep inside and ask the hard questions.
-Why do I go to __________ for comfort?
-Why do I __________ when I’m angry or stressed?
-Why do I numb myself with __________ when I’ve had a bad day?
-Why do I reward myself with __________ when I think I deserve it?
Often the struggle has a deeper root than I realize. I act out because of loneliness, fear, rejection, anger, etc. It is much more challenging to change and find freedom without getting to the root of the issue. Praise God for the Holy Spirit. He is the “spirit of truth” (John 15:26) and will guide us toward repentance and grace.
Suggestion: Can’t spot the root of the struggle you want to conquer? Ask a close friend or a family member. Engage in an open dialogue where you allow someone else to ask you questions about your struggle. Processing with a trusted friend is a great way that God helps us grow!
3. Embrace grace.
The good news of the gospel is that I am loved no matter what I’ve done or will do (even if you were raised in church and should know better). I am not my sin or my struggle. Trying harder doesn’t work because I’m relying on my own strength. However, embracing God’s grace is a powerful antidote to my “try harder” style of religion. As I embrace His grace and love, I receive the healing I need and the power to obey from a place of gratitude instead of a place of obligation.
Suggestion: As you take steps to change and grow, allow God’s grace to free you from your performance-driven strategies. Chat regularly with a friend or family member about this area of struggle. Allow a friend to challenge your view of grace when you stumble AND when you don’t!
May each of us grow in grace this year and embrace the gospel message. There is more for us to see, experience and do this year. May we find more freedom in Christ than ever before!