Habit trackers. Life Coaches. Inspiring memes. Diet bets. Ten days to better…whatever. We’re all trying to do more things better, faster, easier, cleaner, stricter, and prettier than ever before. If there’s a short-cut to perfection, we’ll take it, but at the very least we’ll take the 10-step plan that guarantees, at the very least, we’ll be different than we are now.
None of us are immune from the innate belief that something is not right with our bodies, our minds, our sleep, our diet, our marriage, or more. We know, from our very first cry, something is not right and most of life, if we’re honest, will be spent trying to find a fix. Most of us won’t admit it though. Instead we spiritualize our earnest attempts to be better, talk about caring for the body as temple, good marriages as picture of the gospel, or healthy habits as a reflection of faithfulness. There is nothing wrong with desiring what is wrong to be righted, but can we be honest about the root of our desire and the methods we take to meet them?
A year ago I watched the Netflix documentary on the life-coach Tony Robbins, I am Not Your Guru. I wept at the end of it. We are hard-wired to upright what has fallen, salve what is wounded, and see justice where there is brokenness. There is something inspiring about seeing realization play across the faces of those who’ve felt stuck or hurt beyond healing. Christians should delight in light, however fractional it comes, and I couldn’t help but hope the best for those people. But I simultaneously lamented the broken system at work in the message of the gurus, leaders, and writers who offer inspiring stories and the promise that if only you do XYZ then life will be different for you.
Scripture doesn’t only promise us that life will be full of temptation, persecution, the lust of the flesh and eyes, and the boastful pride of life (I John 2:16), it also shows us the stories of man after man and woman after woman for whom things went really, really, really badly. The kind of bad that inspiring memes and habit trackers cannot fix. There’s no surgery for the kind of pressing disappointment we’ll endure. No amount of coaching that delivers us from monthly bills or disappointing sex in marriage. No 10-step plan for kids whose deepest need is the light of Christ shone in them and not just behavior management.
In this life we will have trouble and our incessant bookmarking of blogs or reading of bestsellers each promising a way to win friends and influence people, or whatever brand they’re selling, will only serve to show us the discrepancy of where we are and what we’ll never be. God has not called us to love the bodies we want to have, but the bodies we do have. He has not called us to desire the marriages we do not have, but to be faithful within the marriage we do have. He has not called us to stock up for the bills we might someday have, but to steward the finances we do have. He has not called us to settle for a 10-step plan to anything, but to abide in Christ as He abides in us.
In this life we will have trouble. No bestseller from a cool Instagram mom or weekend conference with a man who says he’s not your guru—but really, kinda, sorta is—will alleviate the trouble of living in a world groaning for full redemption. When we feel the pangs of the world we live in, instead of running to water that doesn’t satisfy, empty wells, and broken cisterns, drink deep from the Living Water. Then go live in the body you have, with the singleness you have, with the marriage you have, with the kids you have, with the finances you have—faithfully offering all of it back to the one who awaits with perfection for you.