When Working Harder Isn’t Working

Is your Christian walk hard driven or delight directed? When first homeschooling years ago, I attended some Greg Harris workshops and purchased his books, and that is when I first came across the concept of “delight directed“. I immediately liked the idea, but how removed it was from anything in my actual experience!  It is a lesson that has taken so many years for God to illuminate in my mind. Somewhat late for my career as a homeschool teacher for my children, but not so late as to be lost on me altogether.

For one thing, my pastor , in his sermons of late, has been using the contrasting examples of those Christians that are working hard at their faith… determined with teeth-gritting will and those Christians who are delighting in God, resting in His grace. ( I hope my paraphrasing hasn’t botched the concept).  The problem with those hard working ones is their lack of joy and the weariness from carrying all those heavy burdens. Trying hard to be good and holy is very burdensome. So burdensome that the Lord says to lay it down, and contrasts that with His burden, its characteristic that it is light. We can carry our faith and good works lightly. What a revelation.

I am now trying to allow that in my life: to let my faith work me, and not me working my faith. Old ways die hard… but they really do need to die if the new life is to thrive. I can’t have it both ways, and neither can you or anyone else.

So while we like to hold onto the seeming holiness of flagellating ourselves with how we don’t love God enough, we don’t pray enough, we don’t attend to our Bible study as we should…. and the list never truly ends, does it? we could be delight directed by taking our rest in the Lord beside the still waters, in the green pastures…giving thanks for all things and rejoicing always. Is this a Pollyanna illusion that denies the sufferings of life? No, it is the reality of understanding that life holds both great opportunity for joy and unavoidable times of grievous suffering , but neither in entirety. It does not make us more holy to refuse the blessing , goodness and pleasure that God has for us, just as it is a folly to refuse the teaching of sufferings. Accepting both at His hand gives recognition of His Sovereignty.

And hidden within the parable of the prodigal son and his straight arrow brother is the parallel of the question that Jesus asked Simon: “Which do you believe loves more? the one who is forgiven much, or the one forgiven less?”  The son who was hard driven to be virtuous, somehow had missed the heart of his father…even though he enjoyed the security of the house- he did not partake of its joy and blessings…yet they were his. And the prodigal? He learned and through him his brother also was taught that the blessings are his not for what he has done or not done, but because the Father loved them both. What hard lessons the prodigal went through! But both he and his brother learned some very important things about the Father’s love and what is really important in life.

Do you feel like you are barely making it, holding onto your faith with white knuckled grip? Maybe it is time to find out what some of those old hymn writers were taking about when they penned “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”.

2 thoughts on “When Working Harder Isn’t Working”

  1. It’s hard to come to a point when you realize that even the “good” things you do can get between you and God. It’s harder just to rest in Him and his finished work. But much better in the long run.

    Good post, Ilona.

  2. Thanks Brian; I am a first-born and always seemed to have the idea that everything just needed a “try harder” effort. Only the Lord can give us balance, but we can take our spiritual temperature by checking our peace and joy levels. Over responsibility and that “white-knuckled” faith had taken its toll on both- it truly was too much of a good thing!

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