Why Trying Really Hard and Failing Is the Only Way to Succeed

I want to take a brief pause from the devotional-commentary and talk about something really important for Christians. In light of the fall of man, the subsequent increasing sinfulness of humanity, and the coming announcement of the flood in our study in Genesis we can get a little discouraged.

Because we know in our hearts we aren’t much better. If you are honest, you might think “I bet God is sorry about me too.”

In C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, he talks about what he calls the two levels of faith. The first level using your reason to come to the point where you decide to believe that Christianity is true. The second level of faith is holding on to what you know is true despite the emotional moods which rise against it (as opposed to true rational obstacles which must be tackled).

Then he talks about failure. And how until you have really tried and failed, you really know nothing about the second level of faith. And he means this can’t just be something you talk about theoretically, it must be experienced. You must give it your all to follow Christ, only to find out how much you suck at it. Until you finally find that by “letting go…and trusting God” you will finally be able to “grow up” and become more like Christ.

It’s worth quoting for you at length:

Now I must turn to faith in the second or higher sense: and this is the most difficult thing I have tackled yet. I want to approach it by going back to the subject of Humility. You may remember I said that the first step towards humility was to realise that one is proud. I want to add now that the next step is to make some serious attempt to practise the Christian virtues. A week is not enough. Things often go swimmingly for the first week. Try six weeks. By that time, having, as far as one can see, fallen back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never found out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means –the complete realist.

Now we cannot, in that sense, discover our failure to keep God’s law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing). Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good…

All this trying leads up to the vital moment which you turn to God and say, ‘You must do this. I can’t’ (Lewis, 141-142, 146). 

You must do this Jesus, I can’t. That is true faith, and it comes through humility.

4 responses to “Why Trying Really Hard and Failing Is the Only Way to Succeed

  1. Thank you for sharing. These words have been at the back of my head, but I could never yet put these thoughts out so well. God bless.

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