I tried really hard to be Christian. It didn't work.Please allow me to offer two responses, a short one and a longer one.
I only wanted to say that being a Christian is not about "trying really hard" to be a Christian. After all, the more one tries to be good, the more one will inevitably fail to be good, since we are finite, imperfect, immoral creatures.
Rather, the change must come from within. That's why the Bible tells us that Christians are "a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). It's like Pinocchio trying to be a real boy. Try as he might, he can't be a real boy. He can't do what real boys do. The only way he can become a real boy is if he is miraculously changed into a real boy. Likewise with the Christian. One must be changed by the grace and power of God in Jesus Christ and transformed from a dead sinner into a living saint.
On the other hand, realising that no matter how hard you try you will fail may be the first step to realising you are a sinner. And realising you are a sinner, truly realising it, is all that's required to become a Christian. For the Christian is one who simply but genuinely cries out, "Have mercy on me, God, a sinner!" And a broken and contrite heart, God will not despise.
What you said resonated somewhat with me because I used to think somewhere along these lines as well.
I grew up Roman Catholic, and tried to be "good," at least as best as I knew how and as best as the Catholic Church told me how, since I reckoned they had the inside-track on "goodness" at the time. But I inevitably failed. Of course, the Catholic Church also teaches that everyone is a sinner, no one is perfect, and so on, so in a sense of course we are expected fail. What then could I do? I suppose to ask for forgiveness in confession and then to keep trying.
However, after a while, I noticed as you probably noticed that it's simply a cycle. A cycle of trying and failing, of failing and trying, and on and on and on. There was no end in sight.
Frankly, it became so terribly frustrating, I wanted to tear my hair out, to put it mildly. So, what else could I do? I gave it all up for a life of, shall we say, debauchery! Which, by the way, was probably tame by most comparisons, but coming from a guilt-inducing Catholic Church background, I thought I was being perfectly foul.
In other words, I rebelled against what I thought was "Christianity."
Still, a few years down the road, try as I might, I couldn't shake certain thoughts. Not merely because of what the Catholic Church had taught me, or because of my upbringing, or what not - these things I could explain away psychologically or emotionally or whatever else, after all - but simply because I began to read the Bible for myself (which I had oddly enough never honestly read for myself when I was a youth, despite my family owning one).
What was presented to me in the Bible was in some ways similar to what the Catholic Church taught me, but in other ways worlds apart. Of course, there's God, Jesus Christ, the apostles, etc. But at the same time, I noticed something else entirely different.
For one, Jesus Christ took to task the religious leaders of his day. He called them horrible things, things which would cause a person to be banned in any normal chat room or internet forum, for instance. This took me aback. I had thought Jesus Christ was supposed to be "loving" and "forgiving," but now I discover him making judgemental pronouncement and talking about things such as hell and eternal condemnation more than any other character in the Bible!
Also, I had thought that someone was a Christian, essentially, if someone believed in Jesus Christ. Then I realised that demons believe in Jesus Christ. Satan believes in Jesus Christ, too, according to the Bible. In fact, assuming the Bible is true, they believe in the reality of who Jesus Christ is far more than any Christian does or can, simply because they have seen him and some have talked with him face to face! So mere "belief" in Jesus Christ does not make one a Christian unless one is willing to include Satan and demons as Christian.
And whilst reading another chapter or two in the Bible, I noticed that Jesus Christ doesn't commend giving to the poor, or offering public prayers, or fasting. No, not at all, although one would think he would. Instead, what he commends is the "hiddenness" of these things. The fact that they're done in secret.
Yet, I thought Christianity was about doing good deeds, of loving one's neighbor, of being charitable, and so forth. I thought it was about the Golden Rule. And I thought giving to the poor, uttering holy prayers to God, and fasting and depriving one's body for the sake of spirituality would be good things, not bad things. So why does Jesus Christ tell his disciples not to do these things, except in private, except in secret, except where no one can see, and no recognition or reward is given? Wouldn't he want Christians to do good deeds in front of people, so everyone can witness what this entire Christianity business is all about in the first place?
That's when I realised that this would only be true if Jesus Christ wanted Christianity to be a predominantly external affair. Instead, it seemed, what Jesus Christ cares about is not the external affair, but the internal affair. Not what people see, but what God sees. Not what people do, but who people are. That is, he doesn't seem to care for these externalities unless they are accompanied by internal realities. They are only "good deeds" if they first originate from within, not if they are done to somehow bring more spirituality from the outside in. In other words, good deeds such as giving to the poor, praying, and fasting must be the result of a person genuinely wanting to do these things before God and not for any other motive. It's the inside that counts.
And that's when things began to coalesce for me. First, Jesus Christ was a far different figure than the one I originally had in mind as a youth. If we are to believe the words recorded in the Bible about him, he seems completely arrogant and egotistical, a certifiable megalomaniac, because of all his judgemental pronouncements and worse. Yet at the same time he's known for having lived a loving life, a life of sacrifice, healing people of all sorts of diseases, going about doing good, not having done anything wrong, but tender as a lamb. How do we square these things with one another? As far as I can see, the only way is to believe what the Bible teaches about him: he is God in the flesh, Lord and Saviour, come to save his people from their sins.
Secondly, being a Christian was not about merely believing in Jesus Christ. It was not about believing truths about him. One can believe truths about him, just as demons and devils do, but not be a true Christian.
No, being a Christian is about the third and final point I want to make: an internal change. Being a Christian is about, first, realising that one can never do enough or "try really hard" to become a Christian. It is not something we can accomplish on our own strength or by our own design. For we can never do enough. We can never try hard enough. The harder we try to be good, the more we will fail to be good. And we will always fail to be good for, indeed, we are finite, imperfect, and immoral beings.
No, being a Christian is about something which occurs on the inside rather than something we try to do on the outside. And that "something" is something which God alone can do in us when we realise we can do nothing in or of or for ourselves at all. That "something" is no less than taking a heart of stone - a heart which is pulled downwards towards sin because of its "stoniness," because of its dead weight - and replacing it with a heart of flesh - a heart which is alive with life, a heart which pumps life into the rest of the body, a heart which longs to lift itself with praise to God simply for being alive! Being a Christian is no less than being raised from the dead, because Jesus Christ was first raised from the dead, after having died for the sins of his people on the cross.
And the only prerequisite is that we must realise we are dead. We are dead in our sin. We must realise who we are and where we stand before a holy God. We must realise we are sinners, that is, that we have done wrong, gone against that which is good and right, that we have lived lives without God and on our own, that we have shaken our fists in God's face, and cried out with Frank Sinatra, "I did it my way!" We must realise we are evil rebels against God Most High.
Personally, I knew that I had gone astray from God. And not merely astray, but I wanted to live my life without God and without rules, except my own, to live by my own lights, and by however I felt - although I hated it when others did the same, when what they wanted conflicted with what I wanted (such as when it's somehow well and good for me to gossip and say mean, cruel things about someone, but it's absolutely beastly when they do the same to me!) - and in short, I just wanted everyone to leave me alone so long as I could do what I pleased. I wanted to stay dead, buried, and forgotten, so long as I would be allowed to rot in my self-made crypt.
But God had mercy on me and opened my eyes. Through the Bible, he showed me that I was proud and that my life was full of lies. And I cried out, "Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner!" And he heard my cry and rescued me.
So here I am.