Pull it together. Suck it up. Grit your teeth. Keep your chin up. P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens). Clench your fists. Set your jaw.

So much of the advice we’re given from books and pastors and other Christians informs us that the way to make it through our day is to try harder—to pray, work, study, love, worship, believe, cry, and obey… harder. The harder the better. God deserves no less, right?

The problem is, trying harder has never been a spiritual principle God banks on.

In fact, God isn’t trying to harden us, he’s trying to soften us. Relax your jaw, unclench your fists, let it all hang out, drop your pretense. Hear God’s invitation: “Soften to me.” He’s not looking for hardened Christians. He’s looking for softies.

I know, it flies in the face of everything the world screams at us: Keep your guard up! Put up your dukes! Watch your back! But God is our defender, our rear guard. And that hardened posture actually keeps us from experiencing him like we could.

I’ve experienced this in the past few weeks. A softening.

Not that I’m soft all the time. But when I realize I’m not, I make a point of relaxing toward God – melting in his presence. No trying, no saving face. No defense. Softness. And the sense of God’s nearness, his tenderness, has been overwhelming. A peace floods my soul, and with the peace, a soft kind of joy.

And a strength, ironically. A strength that doesn’t depend on walls or grit or effort. It’s a strength dependent on God being strong for me. Strong in me.

Jesus said the poor in spirit would inherit the kingdom. Paul rejoiced in his weakness because he could literally sense the presence and power of God rest on him in his softness, in his weakness.

I think we would do well to remember that God won’t talk to a pretense. He has zero interest in our masks, our self effort, any of that. He wants us—naked, palms open, heart raw and expectant.

Soft.

Try it.