The Gospel Turns the ‘Try Harder’ Mentality on Its Head

Our own strength is insufficient to carry us to places of greater faith

It’s that time of year again—New Year’s resolution time, that is. Just as soon as we finish packing up the lights and de-cluttering our houses from all the Christmas cheer, we’ve moved on to our next task: setting goals.

As we reflect on 2017, many of us naturally look for areas of improvement and ask the question: What could be better? Realistically, what we’re asking ourselves is this: What about me could be better? A year of examining ourselves in the mirror across a toothbrush each morning has no doubt left many us wishing that certain things were different.

In light of these longings, roughly 40% of Americans break out their journals and resolve each January to improve themselves once and for all. Some of us plan to read more and scroll through social media less. Others of us want to swap out the carton of ice cream we’ve been noshing on for some carrot sticks. Like a marketing agency of sorts, we aim to build a better personal brand so as to more effectively sell the ‘new and improved us’ to unsuspecting buyers.

The American economy, of course, eats all of this up like a left-over Christmas cookie. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on self-help books alone. Another $60 billion is spent in our nation by individuals trying to lose weight by means of gym memberships, weight-loss curriculums, and diet food products.

Unfortunately, after all the goal setting is said and done, only about 9% of Americans self-described as “successful” with the follow through. You know those gyms that everyone joined on January 1st? Well, 67% of those that purchased memberships never actually made use of them. Americans made promises, but few of them were actually kept. …

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