Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Paradox Of Christian Effort: Stop Trying

"Many things—such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly—are done worst when we try hardest to do them." C.S. Lewis, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature    

Last night I had trouble falling asleep.  I stared at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity.  Then it happened...I began to worry about falling asleep.  And the vicious cycle began...  Ever notice it is the same with trying to love someone?  A friend does something to annoy you, yet you note that you are annoyed and chastise yourself for not being loving. What happens the next time your friend does something that is even remotely annoying? It is like it is magnified ten times!  Living "righteously" or becoming a "good Christian" is exactly the same.  When we try to "grow" in Christ, we begin to rely on our own abilities and strength, thereby directly nullifying any "righteousness."

As Christians, we try too hard. In fact, we fail as Christians whenever we attempt to do something under our own power and strength.  It is the human condition, yet it is odd. We have available to us the power and strength from the Creator of all, yet we try and do things under our own strength. I am no different. I struggle with this daily.  There is a paradox here, however, because just when you think you have successfully mastered the art of relying on God, you have fallen back into the trap.  This is why Jesus said that we need to die to self daily.  We must be constantly vigilant, but in being vigilant, we fall back into the trap of self-reliance again.

The Christian way is simply (I say simply because though the idea is easy, it is very difficult indeed) to continually get out of the way so that we can be a conduit of God's power and love and glory.  The same applies for growth as a Christian. The harder we try to grow, the less we are growing. We need to allow growth to happen to us.

As John the Baptist said, "I must decrease so that He can increase."  That is the Christian way.


  1. When I used to teach vocational stewardship for college students, we would stop to make the point that WE are not "integrating" faith and life. God already created all things to be "integrated". We are just called to live out our calling faithfully according to that design. Just live in Christ and be aware that it will impact every area of life.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I've been trying to understand how best to talk about Christianity not being about trying harder, doing more things, or any other sort of human measurement we come up with. I was searching to find out someone who had summarized that point well and lo and behold I came across your posting from one of my favorite authors. There are many paradoxes of Christianity, this one is very important. Thank you.