Religion says: Try Harder. Jesus says: Trust Me.

The power of these simple words struck me the first time I read them. Isn’t the tension between these two strategies exactly the place where we get stuck? Many of us believe that God is somehow involved in this journey to a life of meaning, purpose and joy, but it is sometimes difficult to figure out just exactly who does what in that process.

  • If all things are possible with God, why does it still feel so hard sometimes?
  • If it is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring transformation, redemption and new life, when exactly will that be accomplished?
  • If God promises to complete the good work begun in each one of us, why do we continually find ourselves wallowing in defeat over the same old issues?
  • What exactly does transformation look like and will I even recognize it if and when it occurs?
  • If we are saved by faith alone, why do we have to be good?
  • If faith without works is dead, what is so amazing about grace?

What part of this renewal and transformation process is God’s job? And what part is mine?

My understanding of this is still unfolding, but here is what is making sense to me right now. For me, this distinction is the key:

I am responsible for the process and God is responsible for the results.

I must participate in my own transformation by saying Yes to God. If I want a life of meaning, purpose and joya life that contributes to bringing about God’s Kingdom here on eartha life that God uses to bless other peoplea life that is characterized more often by victory over my own selfish naturethen I have to intentionally choose this path Every Single Day.

Here is what that process looks like for me:

Show up–Many days, it would be much easier to just live my life on automatic pilot, reacting and responding to whatever life throws my way. However, if I want to participate in God’s work in my life, I have to show up in the spaces and places where change has happened before.God shows up when I pray, when I study scripture or read other books that feed my spirit. When I journal, when I spend time with other believers, when I worship with my church family and when I give of myself in acts of service, I am making myself available to meet with God. As I keep showing up in those places, I know God will meet me there. These disciplines do not bring about the transformation in and of themselves nor make me good or righteous or holy. These disciplines put me in the place and space where I meet up with God and he starts to gradually rub off on me.

Cultivate gratitude– Gratitude is all about the heart. Gratitude changes my heart and makes me more teachable.As I remember to acknowledge God in a heart attitude of thankfulness, I see God at work more often. I know God is always at work all around me. But when I start to look for occasions to catch Godat work for the purpose of saying thank you, I am amazed at the ways in which my eyes are opened. Godwas there all the time!

Get over myself –This one might not apply to everyone, but I personally need to be careful not to spend too much time navel gazing. I can get so engrossed in my own journey of personal transformation and self-improvement that I completely miss the point. While we all need a healthy self-awareness and a plan for personal growth and development, too much focus on me is just thattoo much focus on me. If I believe that God is doing the transforming work in my life, then I need to relax and let God do His work. I need to continue showing up, continue saying thank you and quit taking my spiritual temperature every minute like a monastic hypochondriac. Life is too short to spend the journey wringing my hands. I’m a mess, but I am a beautiful mess and a masterpiece to be uncovered.

Trust the process–When I was working with teenagers and their parents back in my counseling days, I was known for this phrase. “Trust the process” was my personal and professional mantra as I traveled the path of recovery with these families whom I loved. “Trust the process” is a reminder to be patient and trust that we don’t always see changes until they are in the rear view mirror. God is still in the business of working miracles and his favorite place for miracles is in the human heart. If I believe, and I do, that you are a work in progressa masterpiece to be uncovered and a miracle in the makingthen why not claim the same thing for myself? “Trust the process” says that if I keep showing up, saying thank you and maintaining my sense of humor about my own humanity, I can trust God to take care of the rest. Scripture promises that Godwon’t ever, ever, ever give up on us.

So, do we need to try harder? Yes. And also no.

  • I have to try harder to show up in the spaces where God works: prayer, study, worship, fellowship and service.
  • I have to try harder to say thank you when I catch God at work.
  • I have to try harder to love myself enough to get over myself.
  • I also have to try harder to trust the process and know that these practices are enough. I don’t have to DO anything else.

I do NOT have to try harder to be good or holy or righteous or worthy or loved. Those things are way above my pay grade. Those things are God’s job. And Godalready says Yes.

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