I Just Can’t Do It Alone!

You can’t live the Christian life on your own.

Does that surprise you?

Thousands of women try to live “a good Christian life”, constantly failing, consistently plagued by guilt. Why does the Christian life seem to work for everyone else, but not for me?  Why do I still struggle with the same things over and over and over again? 

For some, these thoughts result in feelings of condemnation and shame. Others shrug their shoulders and wonder “why even try to live like a Christian?”  Both responses, however, lead to the same result—a life lived distant from God. So what’s the solution?  If the Christian life can’t be lived on our own, who’s available to help us?  A pastor?  A spiritual mentor?  Both are certainly helpful, but they’re only human, with time constraints and responsibilities of their own. No matter how kindhearted or generous, they still can’t be available 24/7. So who can help?  Is there anyone?

Yes. The Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit was given to help us live the Christian life.

Which is a really, really good thing.

Several years ago our family planned a camping trip with a group of dear friends. On paper, the adventure sounded fun. Beach bonfires. Ocean view sunsets. I pictured myself lounging on the beach with a good book in my hand and my toes in the sand, while my children frolicked happily in the gentle ocean waves.

Our friends were upfront; it would be no luxury RV camping excursion. No, this was a pitch-a-tent-on-the-beach-campout, but still, our friends made it sound exciting. The minute we pulled into our campsite I knew it would be a looooong week. Yes, we had an ocean view—from a dirt hill, where the wind whipped our tent like Martha Stewart whips her meringue. One look at my three small children, and I quickly realized filth, dust and sand could seep into more crevices than I thought humanly possible.  With all the mess, cooking was a hassle. Sleeping was a hassle. Frankly, everything was a hassle.

And I had a crummy attitude.

Of course, I carefully concealed my stinky outlook. We were with friends, after all. So I put on a happy face and said all the right words. I tried to have a good attitude, I really did. But inside my soul was twisted in about 50 different ways, none of them good. My attitude was making me miserable. Everyone else seemed to be taking the situation in stride. What was wrong with me? I decided I needed to go on a run, clear my head, and get some perspective. As I jogged along the beach I began praying. “Lord, what’s the matter with me?  I’m a mess.”

And then I heard the faint little whisper. It was simply a reminder of God’s truth. “…The fruit of the Spirit is love.” Was I filled with love?  No way. “….and joy.”  Well, that one was definitely missing. “…And peace.”  I was experiencing anything but peace. “…and patience.” Are you kidding me? What about kindness, goodness, faithfulness or self-control? No, no, no and no.

No wonder I was miserable.

So what was the solution?  Did I make a commitment to do better, grit my teeth and will myself into a positive attitude?  I did not. I’d been trying that tactic all week, with no success. Instead, I acknowledged my crummy attitude to God, asked for forgiveness and yielded to the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life. “God, I can’t will my attitude into a good place, so I want to exchange my ways for yours” I prayed.

I finished my run and headed back to the filthy mess we called home for the week.

The tent was still a disaster. The kids still had dirt stains all over their faces and sand in their hair. The ground of was still hard and dust still whirled around our feet as we walked. Our food was dangerously close to becoming a health hazard and my husband hadn’t showered or shaved in days. But even in the midst of the chaos, my soul was at rest. I was no longer filled up with me. I was filled up with Him. When the Spirit fills our life, he produces his nature in ours.

We can never try hard enough to follow God or his ways and succeed. But God has given us his Spirit to enable us to follow him. The Spirit was given to help us do what we can never do on our own.

We just can’t live the Christian life on our own.  Thankfully, we don’t have to.

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