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Try Harder or Draw Near
by Marcy Lytle

I’d say the title of this article is how I lived a good part of my life…trying harder.  I always tried harder to make good grades because my brother was a genius, and when I stepped into a classroom a few years after he did, the teachers expected a lot.  I tried harder to be a good example at church where my dad was pastor so he’d look good and our family wouldn’t be shamed.  That then transferred over to trying harder with God, to give and do and do some more, so good things would be mine.  Trying harder is something a lot of us do, and it’s not a bad thing unless…the reason behind why we try so hard is because we don’t feel accepted or loved if we fail.

Sitting at church a few weeks ago, a one-liner spoken by the preacher stuck with me and I recorded it on my phone.

You can try harder or draw near

I remember several years ago now when I first began to experience grace.  I had been carrying that backpack full of all the things I’d tried harder at, only to find it was super heavy and stuff was starting to fall out of ripped seams and bulging pockets.  We weren’t made to carry heavy loads.  We often think of heavy loads as life’s events that cause angst and worry and fear.  And yes, those are awfully heavy. But the load of trying harder might be the heaviest of all, because we think we “must” do better, perform perfectly, check off all the lists…and we never measure up…no matter how hard we try.  So when my backpack started to rip apart, I was lost as to where to go or what to do.

We had always given (calculated and measured to the penny) and I thought this ensured no financial failure, but here we were steeped in debt and losing a home.  I had always read at least a few verses nightly so I could say I’d read the bible, and feel good about myself that I had obeyed.  I followed the rules at home except when they were impossible and even then I found a way to sort of follow, without lying.  Years of trying harder began to take a toll, and my little world around me began to crumble one brick at a time.

I sat in a room with a friend/counselor and poured out my heart to him as I told him of what was happening and he said,


“Sounds like you’re about to experience grace.”

Drawing near to Jesus is supposed to be so easy, and yet we make it so hard.

Jesus often scolded the religious leaders of his time for paying so much attention to the rules of the law that they neglected the things of the heart.  I too thought my heart was connected to what I did.  But when those two things severed, I found myself floundering and wondering what was true, what was real, what did I have if all of my trying harder failed?

I heard a little voice ask me if all I knew was Jesus, that he died for me and lives now, so I can live, would that be enough?

And over the years I’ve begun ever so slowly to draw near instead of try harder.  Oh, my default is to try harder when I’m tired or I’m weak, because it was so much of part of who I was.  But when I stop and just draw near to the One that loves me, formed me, made me and invites me close…all of that performance falls away and I sit and weep in joy at this God that wants me close.

Are you trying harder to make life work, get a raise, be a perfect parent, please those around you…only to fall into bed exhausted night after night?

Draw near. 


Yes, read the word but read it to learn more about this One that loves you so much.  And yes, give with joy, not coercion.  And most of all live and observe creation and love others and rest… He said he’d carry all the burdens that weigh us down and that includes the burden of trying harder.


ENCOURAGEMENT - may 2023 - simple truths - draw near_edited.jpg
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