Are you ever frustrated with the progress, or rather, lack of progress you make in your life? It’s tiring sometimes to look at the things you know you need to fix in your life and realize that you’ve been working on them for a long time – only to find that you’ve hardly improved.
Those are the moments when it feels pointless to keep trying. If I can work this long at something and still not improve at it, it’s a waste of time. I’m useless. I just can’t do it.
When we have these moments over and over again, it’s clear that something in our method to change isn’t working. If we can’t manage to change after long periods of trying, maybe it’s a sign that there’s something else we need to realize, something else that needs to change.
We need to take a good hard look at how we try to change. Our methods, goals, mindsets, all of it. And then we need to ask ourselves one essential question:
Am I trying to change without God’s help?
Christ’s Offer to You
Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ suffered in Gethsemane, died on the cross, and was resurrected. He did this for you and for me, with no thought of Himself, just love and a desire to please our Father in Heaven.
Two thousand years – and we still don’t understand how to fully use this incredible gift He gave us.
I think, for me, it’s a little scary to realize that Christ paid the price of my sins completely. That He also ensured that I could escape the inherited condition of death. That He went further than that and experienced everything I’ve ever felt, thought, feared, and more. It’s so much to take in, and I don’t always know what to do with it all.
Luckily, it’s actually more simple than it seems.
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, my struggles really boil down to one choice – letting Christ’s grace help me, change me, and free me, or refusing His aid and attempting to do it on my own. (Spoiler alert: I can’t do it on my own. None of us can. If we refuse Christ’s help, we’re refusing to change.)
But that choice, to accept Christ or not, seems so simple. Too simple. Of course, there are various things we need to do in our lives to show Christ that we do accept His help and will continue to do so (it isn’t a one-time choice and you’re good to go, it’s a continual and daily choice that’s shown through consistent efforts), but ultimately, everything we do comes back to that question.
Elder David A. Bednar recently posted on Instagram about this topic. He said,
The Atonement of Jesus Christ can both cleanse us from sin and strengthen us to do things that are difficult, such as overcoming anger. It is not simply a matter of deciding, “Through my own determination, I am going to overcome.” We all need the grace made possible through the Savior’s Atonement to act in faith, change, and become better.David A. Bednar, Instagram, 16 August 2019
There’s really no question as to whether or not we need the Atonement of Christ to change our hearts, habits, and hopes. We do need Christ. We need His love and support. We rely on Him. He is the one:
…who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another…Mosiah 2:21
With Christ, we can make changes in our lives. It may not be easy, but relying on Him makes it unquestionably possible. This might seem like a simple solution – and it is. We believe, trust, and rely on Christ, and He helps us overcome our struggles, sins, challenges, and human natures.
Remember, it’s simple. So simple that we just make the same choice over and over. But simple doesn’t always mean easy, so expect that there will still be challenges ahead and growth expected.
How to Accept Christ’s Atonement
We talk a lot about using or accepting Christ’s Atonement, but we don’t always talk about how to do that. It is a decision, first and foremost, but when we truly make that decision, we also demonstrate that choice by what we do each day.
Christ sacrificed for us, so it follows that we need to sacrifice as well if we want to change and become like Him.
Of course, we can’t sacrifice the way Christ did. That would be pointless anyway because He already made that sacrifice.
So our sacrifice is different, more personal. Christ asks us to sacrifice our sins. We have to be willing to let go of our vices. If we aren’t willing to sacrifice, then we can’t change because Christ can’t help us until we choose to let Him. He will not force us to change.
I’m not going to go too deep on this here, but if you want to learn more about this, see my article from a few weeks ago, “Christ’s Sacrifice and Ours.”
Sincerity is a huge part of accepting Christ’s Atonement because it is what pushes us to follow through with the commandments God gives us. It’s what the scriptures call “real intent.”
It’s entirely possible to want to follow Christ and not want to as well. This split desire takes us to stagnation, and we end up doing nothing. Real intent brings us to the point of taking action, making a decision, and following through with what we chose.
Real intent, or sincerity, could be considered the opposite of hypocrisy. Compare, for example the apostle Peter to the Pharisees and Sadducees of Christ’s time. Peter was not perfect. He struggled with the gospel at times, but his intent was real. Peter always stuck with Christ in the end, always tried to learn and be better, and always relied on Christ.
On the other hand, the Pharisees and Sadducees had all the appearance of righteousness, but when the Messiah they claimed to be waiting for came to them, they rejected Him. They cared less about the doctrine they taught than about their positions and power.
Sincerely seeking Christ means being willing to do as He asks, when it’s simple and when it’s challenging. It means appearances don’t matter so long as you are following Christ. It means struggling and facing imperfections, like Peter, but immediately turning back to Christ to receive His help and make things right with Him.
Like Peter, we are imperfect. But Peter was great about learning and asking questions when he was confused or uncertain about what Christ was teaching. And he was open to revelation from the Holy Spirit after Christ returned to our Father in Heaven.
We should learn from Peter’s desire to learn. We can study the scriptures, ask questions, and spend time conversing with our God as we seek to follow Him and change.
Study can also spur our change forward, helping us understand principles better so we can better apply them. After all, if we don’t understand a principle, doctrine, or commandment, how can we live it fully and correctly?
There are other ways we can show Christ that we love Him and follow Him (see 8 Ways to Show Your Love for Christ), but sacrifice, sincerity, and study will all form the most important base we need to exercise faith in Christ.
This week let’s ask ourselves the question, “Am I trying to change without God’s help?” and candidly answer ourselves. We can strengthen our relationship with Christ by accepting His help in our lives.