Why Trying Harder Simply Won’t Work

After an unintentional blogging sabbatical due to lack of internet, I am back.  I have been in the process of writing some very practical tips and worksheets for intentional living, but I feel as though I must break from that for just a bit and just share some encouragement for the journey.

It is so hard to find the balance between doing what God has called us to do and yet not doing it in our own strength or for our own self-righteousness. I find myself constantly pulled back into the trap of lies that my home has to be perfect at all times–not only for anyone who might step through the door, but for my family and especially for myself–I cannot think straight if the house is not spotless and all my household “wheels” are oiled and running smoothly without so much as a squeak!  This is a slippery slope in which I have allowed myself to become entrenched this last couple of weeks.  My eyes have strayed from the purpose of why I desire to keep an orderly home and I have become enslaved to the process and ultimate goal of perfection and order. This results in being constantly overwhelmed, discontent, and ultimately feeling like a total failure in every aspect. Ugh, what an icky place to be!

I wanted to share this in particular for two reasons. One, because I know I am not alone in this! Every wife and mom I ever talk to feels like this! Two, because I want to preach truth to myself as well as my other mama friends who are feeling bogged down with despair over the magnitude of their responsibility.

Three particular messages have refreshed my heart in this area over the last week.  Unfortunately, I have not been meditating on them enough to penetrate my heart, so I write them out in hopes that I can get it through my head and into my heart and into my actions!

My cousin sent me a quote by Mark Chanski that has been playing in the back of my head all week. It has been such an encouragement in moments where I am simply so weary of serving and feeling like at the end of the day, there is still a mountain of things to do.

“She needs to gain and maintain the deep conviction of the glory, honor, and notability of selfless service. This she finds at the foot of the cross, looking up to the One who earned for Himself ‘the name which is above every name’ (Phil. 2:9), by ’emptying Himself, taking the form of a bondservant’ (2:7), humbling ‘Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (2:8). There she beholds her Savior who mopped up the damning vomit of her own sin with the precious sponge of His perfect life and atoning death. The love of Christ constrains and compels her to press on (2 Cor. 5:14). The Spirit of Christ empowers her.” – Mark Chanski

I am such a task-oriented person. I love lists and checking things off my list.  I grow very, very discouraged when I cannot do this, and I also find I struggle with being faithful in the things I cannot check off a list.  My sanctification, becoming more like Christ, is one of those things I cannot check and say “done!”  This doesn’t mean I won’t still try, though.  Our human nature craves the satisfaction of accomplishment, and so we try to create for ourselves lists to become more sanctified.  We know, for instance, that our obedience ought to be motivated out of love for Christ, but the way we think we accomplish that is by working harder at it.

In her book, Comforts from the Cross, Elyse Fitzpatrick writes “Okay, I’ve got the ‘love God’ part down, so now I need to concentrate on being more and more obedient to prove it.  It’s right there I fail to get the emphasis right.  I gloss over the motivating role that love plays and focus in on what I need to do instead.  But…the key to a godly life is not more and more self-generated effort.  How then do I cultivate the sincerity of love that motivates obedience? by focusing more intently on his love for me then on my love for him, more on his obedience than mine, more on his faitfulness than mine, more on his strengths than mine.”

If left to ourselves, we will fail every time. We will strive harder and only fail harder.  But Christ, our advocate and savior, did all things well.  Instead of focusing on ourselves and our efforts, we are to look to him and what he accomplished in our stead. This and only this will motivate towards sanctifying obedience and victory over our flesh.

We were not saved from our sin to be further enslaved to our flesh and our emotions.  Yet that is how I have felt the last couple of weeks.  All of my emotions have been mixed up, confused, and full of lies and discouragement.  They have pulled my eyes off the cross and onto my own accomplishments.  I have found myself failing time and time again in loving my husband, caring for my son, and running my household.  The temptation is to make a list of all the ways in which I need to sanctify myself! Elyse Fitzpatrick again, “What I think I need are more rules to live by.  Give me a pen and a sticky pad, and I can get my life together.” Oh, how tempting this is when I am feeling defeated in my pursuit of keeping my home and raising my son! I want to make lists, stick to them, and then feel really good about myself as I look about at others.

“Just a smidgeon of works-righteousness, just a drop of minor law keeping (so that we’re sure we’re covering all our bases), will poison our entire soul. Works-righteousness will enslave us…it comes cloaked in something akin to genuine goodness. I know that I don’t have to get straight As, or have people over every night, or wash my car every weekend, bu I think it shows that I’m really serious about pleasing God and not like other people who take their salvation for granted. We smile conceitedly when we think that we’re just a bit better than others.” (Comforts from the Cross)

Keeping an orderly home is an honorable pursuit.  Disciplining and loving our children is pleasing to God.  Opening our home to strangers is obedient to God’s commands.  However each of these good things can be motivated by wrong desires.  I find my temptation is to do these things for my own gratification, or to impress others, or to puff my own pride up so I can look on others with a sense of superiority.  These are all awful traps to fall into.  I must guard my heart with the truth of the gospel when I am tempted with these sins.  I preach to myself what Christ accomplished at the cross and how he is our example of selfless service when I am weary of the drudgery.  When my heart is tempted with pride, I remind myself that I am nothing without Christ. When I want to live in light of my changing emotions, I remind myself that Christ died to set me free from the enslavement of living on a whim. It never satisfies anyway.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Nana on May 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Amen and Amen. That’s all I can say.


  2. Thanks for sharing this. So helpful and such a fight to cling to the truth that Christ’s work is a finished one, not something we need to add to! Glad to know we’re all in this together…


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