Here’s What to Do Instead of Striving

Susan Narjala   |   October 16, 2023 

As I walk past my kitchen, it calls my name. The “it” is an inconspicuous plastic container which, frustratingly enough, seems to know me pretty well. As I draw closer, it discerns that my knees get weaker and my self-control grows punier.

The box in question generously holds multiple pieces of candy that looked lost when their original bags were depleting. It is the final resting place for my sweet stash before it is consumed by yours truly. Here, dark chocolate peanut butter cups hang out with raspberry-filled Lindt truffles and salted caramels politely make room for coffee liqueur candies. The smorgasbord of sugary treats is intoxicating. But also infuriating. Because I can’t seem to say no to it.

My “stay away from processed sugar” goals from the morning seem to melt faster than ice cream on a sweltering summer afternoon.

I give in. One small piece. Okay, maybe two. Or three.

Tomorrow will be a better day, I promise myself. And quietly pray, “God, give me self-control.”

When it comes to the Fruit of the Spirit, the one attribute I most struggle with is self-discipline, especially when it comes to my seemingly insatiable sweet tooth.

If you need a quick refresher on the other fruit, here’s what Paul says in Galatians 5: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

While I can't say I produce a bountiful harvest of the other fruit, self-control is a significant struggle for me. Indiscipline often rears its head with the mocking refrain, “Gotcha again!”

But as I meditate on Scripture and look at creation, here’s what God laid on my heart: Trees don’t try.

Yup. That’s my “profound” somewhat-theological statement for today: Trees don’t try.

Trees don’t post their goals on Insta saying, “For the rest of the year, my goal is to produce 10 fruit a week.”

Trees don’t strive to win the “Most Fruitful of the Season” award. Trees don't stress about their productivity.

You know what they do instead?

They let themselves be nourished by the sunlight and the soil. They sink their roots deep into the ground to drink in the water. They yield to the gardener as they are pruned. They produce flowers which are then pollinated.

And then they bear fruit.

So what does this have to do with my sugar shenanigans?

Could it be that the fruit of self-discipline is cultivated less by striving in my own strength and more by yielding to God’s power?

I’m not saying that we simply cross our fingers and hope that we bear fruit. Fruit-bearing doesn’t just “happen”—it involves intentionality. But we are not called to be intentional about striving.

Of course, God has given us the wisdom to take practical steps. Goal-setting is good and important. In my particular case, I could create an environment conducive to self-discipline by simply not buying so much candy. But striving implies a dependence on self which manifests in stress—which results in more striving. And the cycle continues.

Instead of striving, we are called to be intentional about keeping in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5: 25).  The phrase “keep in step” is reminiscent of a dance. The Holy Spirit sets the rhythm and the pace, and we are to follow His lead.

He leads us into a life where our desires and thoughts are oriented toward God. He leads us into a newness of life where we long to please God rather than ourselves. He leads us into a closer relationship with God where we discover that He is always enough.

On my own, I may not be self-disciplined. But God's power within me rescues me from slavery to sin (even something seemingly inconsequential as needing a sugar "fix") and gives me the freedom to walk in self-control

Friend, I don’t know if I have completely crushed my candy cravings. And I don't know which fruit of the Spirit you may be yearning for. But like trees that bear good fruit, we don’t need to strive. Instead, we yield to the power of the Spirit, we depend on His light to grow, and we allow Him to lead us into a life of fullness and fruitfulness.


Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash


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When she's not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in Chennai, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humour in the everyday, and writes about it on on her blog,

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One comment on “Here’s What to Do Instead of Striving”

  1. Thank you, Susan, for this honest and beautiful post that serves as a reminder not to strive in my own strength, but to surrender to the power of the Spirit. Allow Him to lead us into a life of fullness and fruitfulness.

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