The Harder I Try

Erik Cooper —  September 11, 2013 — 1 Comment

I’ll be honest, I temporarily lost my mind.

Eight hours earlier, I was preaching about the transformational grace and mercy of Jesus Christ to a few hundred new friends at Seymour First Nazarene Church. By that evening though, extreme fatigue (and the emotion of a Colts near second-half meltdown) combined with the incessant bickering of my three (loving) offspring to create a potent potion. I morphed into Señor Grumpy Pants. (For the record, that’s not the kind of transformation I’ve been touting).

I knew it. I could feel it coming on. But my inability to control my inner angst spilled full-force into the backseat of the car, right alongside the icy beverage my 8-year-old son had stubbornly insisted on bringing home from grandma’s house. It went everywhere (and so did my claim to sanity).

Add this to the list of not-so-noble moments my kids will share with their therapists someday.

I had just spent the morning proclaiming how much the Gospel has been changing me! How can I be such a dichotomy?


After watching (one of) my daughters have a strikingly similar meltdown the very next evening (after all, I’d given her such a great example the night before), I found myself laying on the bed next to her talking about the brokenness we had both so instinctively displayed.

“How do we fix these things in our lives? How do we draw from a different well? How can we respond to the stresses, the fatigue, and the irritations of each day in a more God-honoring way? By berating ourselves to change? By more strenuous moral striving? By digging deeper into the depths of our own self-will?”

Galatians says the “Fruit of the Spirit” is love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But the harder I try, the more I seem to get quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, and other less-desirable yields. Why? I think the simple answer is this:

That’s the only kind of fruit I am capable of growing on my own.

The reason I get “rotten fruit” is because I can’t grow Gospel fruit. It doesn’t originate in me. Yet I spend so much time drawing from my own (in)ability to get it right. Looking inside myself for the answer. I can plant, fertilize, water, tend the soil – but only God can make good seed grow.

“Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?”

–Galatians 3:5-6 MSG

Trying to sprout seeds without looking to the only One that can make a good seed grow will always end in frustration (and rotten fruit). Instead of redoubling our efforts, what if we doubled-down on our trust the Seed Grower? 

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