The Harder You Try, the Worse It Gets
Beloved in Christ,
In recent years, I have become a big fan of the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky. They are long, complex, and demanding reads, of course, but I recently heard someone say the main point of all the thousands of pages of his fiction is this: the harder you try, the worse it gets. Dostoevsky was a deeply committed follower of Jesus, and this core principle is just one of the ways his work holds up a Christian vision of the world and our lives.
Human sin is rooted in human pride, the idea that we can do it for ourselves, by ourselves, without depending on God or anyone else. Faith is less about believing certain things to be true, and more about learning how to rely more fully on God and one another.
One of the best teachers I have found for this is my daily practice of centering prayer. For someone with my disposition, it’s excruciating. In centering prayer, when a thought, a feeling, a noise, or a bodily sensation emerges, you simply don’t do anything about it. You sit with it, breathe into it, and watch it. When we practice the active art of doing nothing over and over and over, we slowly start to learn how to surf a little on the waves of life, rather than wearing ourselves down trying to beat them back.
The challenges in the world and in the church are legion. But Dostoevsky was right. We won’t fix the world and the church by simply trying harder. And in fact, trying harder is part of the problem. But neither are we called to just give up and sit on the sidelines. The world and the church will be saved by God and God alone. Our job is to yoke our lives to God’s living power, moment by moment by moment, so that what we do flows from that source, not our own limited wells. So instead of trying harder this week, try leaning more fully on the God who always surrounds you, embraces you, holds you, and longs, with you, to set the whole world free.
Grace and peace,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya