Sometimes I just make myself so mad! I start my day full of confidence that I will be self-disciplined and within hours I’m telling God, “I’m sorry” again. It could be about anything. It could be that I say I’m not going to snuggle back under my covers once my kids get on the bus. “Today, I’m going to use that hour before hubby gets up to get some cleaning done.” That’s my resolve when the alarm clock goes off. But by the time they get on the bus, I’m so worn down from settling arguments and the rush of getting them out the door that I say, “I’m too tired, I’m goin’ back to bed.” Then, when I get up an hour later, I’m mad at myself for going back to bed and wasting that hour.
Or, it could be what I eat. I’m gluten-intolerant and I know that eating gluten makes me feel sick, sluggish and head-achy. But some days, the temptation to eat what everyone else is eating (read: pizza) is so great that I tell myself, “Eh, a little bit won’t really affect me,” and I dig in. Then, when I start feeling icky, I want to kick myself! What is wrong with me? Why do I do the things I don’t want to do?
If I could change just one thing about myself, this would be it. How bout you? Do you struggle with this too? The thing is, I know God forgives me when I screw up…whether it’s a big or little thing. But the enemy uses these things in my life to separate me from God. That’s where the real problem comes in. If I’m feeling guilty for making stupid choices, rather than go right to God and ask him to forgive and help me, I walk around feeling like a failure and living in defeat. I begin to listen to the voice in my head that says, “You will never conquer this. You will always be undisciplined so you should just give up and not try. God must be so tired of you by now!”
But all that is a lie. I shouldn’t listen to it. I have conquered things in my life. I have grown more disciplined over time. If I look honestly, I can see how God has helped me in the area of self-discipline and know he will continue to help me. No, I can’t do it on my own, but with his help, I can do anything he wants me to do. Because the thing is, God is a way better parent than I am and I know that even though my kids make the same mistakes over and over, I don’t stop loving them. If I don’t give up on them, certainly he hasn’t given up on me. He wants me to lean on him and use his strength when my own falters.
I don’t know about you, but I take great comfort in the fact that one of the greatest pillars of the faith, Paul himself, struggled with this. We are not alone. Think about that! “Saint Paul” struggled with this. He wrote 13 books of the Bible and yet in Romans 7 he writes (the Message paraphrase):
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.
I love that line, “I can will it, but I can’t do it.” So true. But this is one reason that I know I need Jesus’s transforming power in my life. I know that I need his help to be the person I want to be. If the enemy of my soul can keep me feeling guilty about my stupid little decisions, he can keep me from seeking help from the only one who can really change me. But I’m not going to buy into his lies. Instead I’m going to run straight to the arms of the one who loves me. I’m going to say I’m sorry as many times as I need to and I’m going to trust him to give me strength.
Paul says in Philippians 4:12-13: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
How about you? Could you use some of his strength today? Stop listening to the accuser and remember today that you are a child of the King! I’ve been listening to a song today that really speaks to me. It’s called, “You Love Me Anyway” by Sidewalk Prophets. To see and hear it on YouTube (with lyrics) click here.