Friday, 17 February 2017

My Love Affair with Effort & Why We Must Break Up


Effort is a bit of a strange guy. At first he seems so... right. He tells you, “You don’t have to be perfect!” and you breathe a sigh of relief.

Now you can just relax and be you. What could be better?

But then he adds, “You just need to try. And try hard!” 

That doesn’t seem so bad. As a matter of fact, it feels pretty good. The more you try, the better you feel. You feel accomplished and fulfilled.

And when you don’t succeed, you think well, at least I tried my best.

Yep, effort seems like a really nice guy.

But as you get closer, you begin to see his problems. All relationships have problems, you say, we’ll work it out. But these are some pretty serious problems... problems that have the potential to steal your joy... problems that have caused me to reconsider my commitment to effort.

Let me show you what I mean.

I’ve been with effort a long time, and over the years I’ve noticed something - my love affair with him has the dangerous potential to twist all my relationships into performance-based traps.

My relationship with me:

Oh, I can get really tough on myself. Am I trying hard enough? Am I lazing around too much? Do I deserve this break? Did I do enough? You know how it goes... us ‘work ‘til we drop’ women. That’s effort, alright; he pushes me to the max, and then wouldn’t even let me enjoy some downtime. You can’t stop now he says, there’s more to be done.

It took me a while to realize what he was doing. Chiding me when I rested, manipulating me into believing that rest is something I should earn rather than a sweet command from my Father intended for my good.

My relationship with others:

And it doesn’t stop with me. Without even realizing it, I check to see if others are as in love with effort as I am. So if this is what it looks like when I work hard, I look at some poor, unsuspecting soul, and if perhaps he’s doing it differently to me, I might just assume he doesn’t share the same commitment to effort as me.

Effort and I, we sit up on that pedestal... that critical seat of judgment, and together we muse - perhaps he needs to try harder.

Even when I'm serving others, effort pushes grace right out of the way, tries to twist my motivation and then steal all the glory. 

Yep, this love affair with effort has been going on a long time and it has caused some serious damage between my loved ones and me.

But as grave as that is, that’s not even the greatest threat.

My relationship with God:

You see effort crossed the line when he tried to take the place of God, my true First Love. And what’s even more tragic is I almost let him. As a matter of fact, it is a daily battle to keep effort in his place.

You see effort, kept restrained, is quite a nice chap to have around. He encourages you to work hard to reach your goals... to put your ‘heart and soul’ into whatever you put your hands or mind to. He helps you motivate others to do their best. Why, he even supports your intentionality in spending time with God, your intended First Love.

But he is sneaky, and while I'm praying to my Father, he is whispering to me - trying to convince me that somehow my deliverance (from whatever trial I'm experiencing) depends on 'our' self-sufficiency rather than on the supernatural workings of God. Imagine, trying to limit my expectations of God. 

Yep, if you’re not careful, he creeps up and up in importance until... well, until he becomes the one you worship.

So we’re breaking up... effort and I. We can be friends, but the love affair ends here. I’m loosening the chains he has on me.

He can’t convince me that my love affair with him is evidence of a successful Christian life.

He can’t convince me that I must deliver at a high level for God’s acceptance and approval.

He won’t make me believe that my effort is somehow better than that of someone else... or worse.

I will not agree with him and allow myself to be enslaved by others’ approval of my efforts.

No, effort will no longer be permitted to steal my joy. You see, I’ve been with effort long enough to know that no matter how you try, you can’t find what you’re looking for with him.

No, my friend, only God through Jesus Christ, can give me... give you that joy that we seek.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re searching for God, a new believer or a seasoned Christian effort has a way of getting at us all. Perhaps it has something to do with our pride, that deadly sin that infects us all. The faulty belief that we can somehow improve our standing with God by our own efforts as if what Christ did for us was not enough.

No, make no mistake, slow dancing with effort is dangerous, He undermines and steals our joy – the very gift of God that Christ died to give us.

It is for freedom, that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Oh, the joy of being free!

I’m so thankful for grace and for the truth I’m learning more and more – ‘We cannot be truly happy unless God’s acceptance of us is totally based on Christ.’ (

My friend, ‘if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall’, hold firm to the hope that Christ came to give us, the freedom that comes from relying solely on His righteousness, and let’s keep effort in its rightful place.

What about you?

Take a close look at your intentions.
Have you been hoodwinked by effort?
Or are you happily resting on God's grace alone?
I'd love if you'd drop me a line to let me know 
how you handle effort's ploys?

Blessings to you, my friend,


  1. Oh that effort is quite the sneaky guy. All along I was thinking that I was the one in relationship with him. He's quite the two-timer! Haha!
    I loved your writing and how you built us up to this story, Carlie. Plus your graphics are spot on. But most of all, I really appreciate how you call out our sin for what it is -- misplaced idols trying to take the place of God in our lives. Our eyes are wide open to the devil's schemes! Thank you, Carlie.

    1. Can you imagine, Marv. I suspect he wines and dines many a gal. (smile) But hopefully we are all wise to his schemes. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. I LOVE that you see how it's a ploy of our enemy to feel like we have to do do do, earn earn earn all the time. And I love even more that you choose to share that experience with us Carlie. Your blog post and title are lovely! :) xoxo

    1. Thanks, Nicki! Your kind words of encouragement are really appreciated.

  3. Hi from your neighbor at Fresh-Market-Friday. Boy, can I relate! We can so easily talk ourselves into doing more or less. We become so attached to the high we can get from accomplishments or from comfort. Thank you for sharing this great reminder of where our attachment needs to lie. May your soul be refreshed as you walk with Christ yielded to His will. His truth sets us free from all bondage in this life. Sweet Blessings to you.

    1. Oh, thank you, Cheryl! What a sweet blessing you give to me. Thanks for visiting, my friend! Blessings to you!

  4. Such a creative way to explain this. Yes! Effort is so sneaky and subversive as a temptation to idolatry and sin. And the consequences of a love affair with effort are so very real. Thanks for sharing this wisdom today!

    1. Thanks, Bethany! Yes, whenever I think I have a handle on effort, he pops right back up in his sneaky way.

  5. Such an excellent post! It is so true that we get so attached to our efforts. So grateful our God frees us and calls us to dance with Him alone, effortlessly! Blessings!

    1. I hope and pray that I'll always choose to dance with Him alone, Joanne. Effortlessly...oh the joy! Thanks for the kind words.

  6. I so identify with this, Carlie. I still struggle with it sometimes, but God is so patient with me. Thanks be unto Him for His unconditional love and free grace! Blessings to you!

    1. I am always so amazed at God's patience with me, Trudy. If I were Him, I would have given up on me already. :) Sooo grateful for His love and grace that I can never earn or lose.

  7. Thank you for this- the struggle is real! So glad that Jesus is perfect and because of His completed work on the cross, we can rest in and respond to His Love (no need to try and earn's a gift).

    1. A gift! Incredible, right? Rest in Him and respond to His love... beautiful summary of our live's purpose. Thanks, Katie!

  8. I absolutely love this post! I have been trapped by effort much too often. Thank you for painting such a clear picture if its pitfalls. I'm so glad you linked up with us at <a href=">Encouraging Word Wednesday</a> this week!

    1. So glad you liked the post and that you can relate with my struggle. It was a pleasure to link up at Encouraging Word Wednesday!

  9. Both the message of this post and allegorical style of delivery totally fascinated me. Will share this as widely as I can. More grace in Jesus' name.

    1. Thanks, Edith! I'm so encouraged by your kind words. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Wow! Thanks to Carlie for this wonderful write up. She just allegorically painted the picture of how we always gear in all our best to adapt and feel relax thereby letting other things go most especially our first and ever love (God). Yes, this is a gospel truth. We so much cherish material things; always striving to grow bigger and better in life. To our frail minds, we think its very right to love effort as such to fit in not asking the question of what happens next. Of course, your efforts can get trapped or crash thereby living you in a state of disarray. Kudos to Carlie��

    1. Yes, Chekwube, too often we get our priorities mixed up; it is a constant struggle, but victory is ours through Christ. Thanks for visiting and for your kind words.


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