Why I Don’t Want to Try Harder

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It’s been at least a year since I’ve shared my favorite Henry Cloud quote. I first hung it up in my home office when we lived in North Carolina. Then, when we moved to Georgia, nearly three years ago, it was one of the first pieces of “art” that found a home on one of the walls in our new house.

I thought about it again this morning.  Here it is:

“What we need instead is a relational atmosphere of grace and truth, where we are not condemned, even in failure, and where we hear the truth that we can never become all that God intended just by trying harder. This kind of relationship continually inspires us to deepen our moment-by-moment dependence on God, rather than causing us to fix it for ourselves. It’s only through our connection with God that we receive the power to genuinely change.” ~ Dr. Henry Cloud

A portion of that quote came to mind again after reading another quote this morning from Kyle Strobel.

“If you want to bear good fruit you don’t simply try hard, as if fruit-bearing is an issue of sheer force. Instead, you establish a healthy connection with the tree ( Jn 15:4-5). This is more deeply relational than self-willing your life into order.” Formed for the Glory of God, pg 72.  He goes on to say a few pages later  “…our call is not to bear fruit but to abide in the vine.” (pg 77)

Can you see why this one quote prompted me to think about the other quote? Sometimes we default to “trying harder” when we see areas in our life that need growth or fixing.  But, personally, I know this doesn’t work. Trying harder does not have long-term sustainability. Instead, it’s “deeply relational.”

Let’s look at the verses Strobel references:  “Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” John 15: 4-5  

The “remaining in Christ” is the most crucial part.  Yet, here’s the catch.  It’s a challenge to remain unless we have a desire to remain. 

To go back to Henry Cloud’s last thought: “It’s only through our connection with God that we receive the power to genuinely change.”  I would also add that it’s only through our connection with God that we receive a desire to change or to grow.

I can’t help but think back on that season in my life when I struggled with an addiction to alcohol. I hate that I struggled with this but it did teach me an important life-long lesson. We are given the power and (equally important) the desire to make changes in our life when we humbly cling to Him and hold on for dear life.  During this season in my life, I learned that the power is useless if we first don’t have the desire or willingness in our hearts.

Desire must precede power.

During my struggle with addiction, that was actually the prayer I prayed over and over. “God change my heart… make your desires my desires.” Instead of me trying harder, I had to surrender my heart and give the Lord permission to come in and clean house.  And, a beautiful thing happened.  He answered my prayers in a mighty way. He blew me away.  And like the psalmist,  I can’t shut up about it.

“But I will hope continually
and will praise You more and more.
My mouth will tell about Your righteousness
and Your salvation all day long,
though I cannot sum them up.
 I come because of the mighty acts of the Lord God;
I will proclaim Your righteousness, Yours alone.”
Psalm 71: 14-16

My prayer for us today.

Lord, come fill us with a desire and a willingness to remain connected to You today. It is only through this connection that Your power is unleashed. And as we hold on to you for dear life, work on our hearts. Mold them and shape them into how You want them to look. Holy Spirit, help us to see our lives and our situations from Your perspective and through Your eyes. 

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