We all know crash diets don’t work. But we can be so tempted by the possibility of quick results that we just can’t help ourselves every now and again. Or maybe it’s desperation that drives us into a frenzied season of carb-free, extended sessions on the treadmill. Initially, it seems like everything’s working as planned – pounds come off, energy levels increase and clothes fit better.
Then some friends invite you to join them at the hot new pizza place in town. You spend the whole drive there meditating on, “I’m only getting a salad.” But six slices of pizza later you decide to skip the gym for the evening. Then the following day is busy and you grab a venti sugar laden something. By the end of the week, you’ve gained a pound. It’s depressing.
Especially when we do the same thing spiritually.
After a season of sin, despair or distance from God, we resolve to get our act together spiritually. We start making vows, promises and commitments: wake up at 4am, pray for three hours, listen to a podcast a day, never miss church, lead one person a day to the Lord and go on the next mission trip offered. We permanently renounce lust, pride, anger, bitterness, fear and greed. We even vow to start making our bed and keeping up with the laundry – all part of the new and improved version of ourselves.
And then we fall. And start the cycle again.
Don’t get me wrong – repentance is a good thing.(Ps. 51) It’s a neglected thing in the church. In some ways, we’ve gotten so good at pivoting to the grace of the gospel that we fail to take stock of the horror of our sin. There’s everything right with seeing how far we’ve fallen and turning back to the Father who loves us.
But the journey to spiritual health is a long and winding road. It’s going to take sustained energy, resilience in the face of setbacks and patience with ourselves. Becoming more like Jesus is a marathon, not a sprit. The path to spiritual health is one of small daily decisions repeated for weeks, months and years.
Please don’t misunderstand me – this isn’t an invitation to complacency. Fight sin. Embrace Jesus. Read the Bible. Pray. Serve. But fight for the long term transformation over the short term mirage.
Long term transformation comes through the constant renewing of our minds in Scripture (Romans 12:2) and increasing reliance on the Spirit of God. You’ll know you’re on the path to a healthy, sustainable relationship with Jesus when the road ahead is both beautiful and intimidating. When we see all that Jesus is inviting us into, we want to follow Him. At the same time, we realize we’re totally inadequate for all He’s leading us into. We need His grace, His power, His Spirit to carry us.
Real health and lasting change comes in that moment of awe inspired surrender. Don’t look for shortcuts around that moment. Embrace it and allow Jesus to meet you there.