Should and Could but Don’t
There’s so much information available telling us what we should be doing and how we could be improving our lives. Just take a look at the self-help books currently on shelves, virtual or otherwise, not to mention the many Internet resources dedicated to the task.
With all these resources telling us what we could and should do, self-improvement can seem impossible. Even when we find ways we actually want to change and techniques that would work, we still often just don’t do them.
Why? Too much work. The pain of staying where we are still isn’t bigger than the pain of changing. Or, maybe you’ve taken some of the advice and implemented change. After a while, though, you find yourself back to your old habits and way of thinking.
This happens with Scripture too. We read it. We know what we should do, but we don’t do it. Paul describes this struggle well.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:15-19)
Refocus Your Identity
If I dwell on how much I should do and could do but don’t do, I get overwhelmed. Discouragement usually follows. Eventually, I simply feel like a failure.
For many, the solution involves just not thinking about it. Just don’t consider the changes you should and could make. Stay ignorant. Stay conveniently confused. Stay too busy.
My personality doesn’t generally allow for this. It prefers ruminating about how much I haven’t done and then succumbing to depression and defeat.
Whatever your tendency, be sure of this. If you never do any of what you should or could do, you’re accepted, secure, and significant. Even if you somehow managed to do all of what you think you should or could do, you’re not any more or less accepted, secure, and significant.
When you accepted Christ as Savior and made him Lord of your life, you were fully justified — declared righteous — at that moment. Your Identity In Christ is secure. Nothing else you can or think you should do will make you any more accepted, secure, and significant than you were at that moment. With that realization comes an amazing peace.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
Refocus on Jesus
That doesn’t mean we can ignore how we should and could improve. It does change our motivation for doing so, though. With that motivation change comes a refocus on progress toward perfection — on progressive sanctification.
“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
This is the process of spiritual growth. In general, it involves letting the Holy Spirit work change in us and then doing our part to live out that change.
“Train yourself to be godly.” (1 Timothy 4:7)
Even that process can seem overwhelming at times. But that’s usually when we focus on ourselves; at least, that’s my continual struggle. In fact, the only way I’ve been able to maintain consistency in living the fact that I am accepted, secure, and significant is by focusing on Christ.
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Today as I again struggle with feeling out of balance and out of sync, I am reminded yet again that I am still accepted, secure, and significant. Instead of letting depression or anxiety or defeat take over again, I remember my secure position and turn once more back toward the reason it exists.