I went to Amazon the other day and punched in the keyword “effortless”. I came back with 7000 hits. I skimmed through them and found all kinds of things. Effortless forgiveness. Effortless bread making. Effortless energy healing. Effortless wealth–that one showed up many times in many varieties. Effortless change. Effortless Living. (Which might be possible, but I think the result isn’t a life I would be proud of…) I think it’s safe to say we are drawn to the idea that a thing we want can be done easily if we just find the right formula.
I looked those up because it’s the new year, and I always start the new year pondering change and goals. I cling to the hope that this year I will be better, do better, accomplish more… And then reality hits. Any change I want takes work. Nothing worth doing is effortless. Think about things that really ARE effortless. Eating too much junk food. Procrastinating. Getting frustrated. The list goes on. Almost everything that I don’t want to do, things that I don’t want to define my life–those are effortless. How frustrating is THAT? And the things that matter? They take work. Always.
Jesus says in Luke 13:24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (emphasis mine)
This isn’t the only spot where we are told to put effort into something. Paul, Peter, and the writer of Hebrews tell us to ‘make every effort to’: do what leads to peace, keep the unity of the Spirit, enter God’s rest, be holy, remember your calling, remember the Word, add to your faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and to be spotless, blameless, and at peace with God.
I admit I lingered over the effortless books. I want things to come easily. I am sucked into that promise even though I know it’s not true. A life well lived takes effort. Entering the Door, finding peace, living the life Jesus wants for me–effort.
So I walk into the new year ready to get my hands dirty. I will wrestle. I will labor. Some days I am weary and don’t really want to dream and hope and work, but God says I never do it alone. That’s the real promise–not that Jesus’ Spirit makes life effortless, but that he bears my burdens and carries me forward on good and bad days, that the effort I expend will always result in growth and life.