What do you do when you struggle between knowing the right thing to do, but not wanting to do it? How do you move past the point where you allow your fleshly desires to be fulfilled, even though this is something you should have let die a long time ago? How do you say no when all you want to do is say yes? What do you do when the yes is so strong that you know praying about it won’t help? Not because prayer doesn’t work, but because you know prayer does work, so you don’t do it. How do you stop wanting something that you know is not good for you? How do you walk away from something that you don’t want to let go? How do you place your spiritual understanding and know how above your fleshly desires? I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul when he wrote about this in Romans 7. I really love how The Message translates this text:
” ‘I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?’ Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” (Romans 7:14-25)
Paul described this struggle between our flesh and our spirit perfectly, which is encouraging only in that we know we’re not alone, but knowing this to be a common issue doesn’t help with knowing the solution. Yes, as he indicated, Christ is the solution. Knowing that and believing that, however, doesn’t really help with real world application because the question remains: What do we do?
I’m feeling this struggle so much right now. I believe the answer is in Romans 8 so I’ll start meditating on that, but I’d also appreciate your prayers.