This morning, I woke up and for just a moment, I was fine, until I remembered some bad news I received last night. I woke through the night, off and on, unable to sleep and a bit weepy. I don’t want to spend my morning being sad or shedding tears, though I know they will inevitably come at some points throughout today. I’m a crier and I know it. But one of my biggest struggles this morning is the fact that I feel frustrated and disappointed with my own frustration and disappointment.
I should be spiritually stronger than this, I think. Why is my heart housing seeds of discontent, fear, anxiety, and bitterness after all these years walking with the Lord? Why do I still have to battle my emotions in such a way that I keep them contained so I don’t lash out at my kids? And why do I keep sending myself invitations to a pity party when the last one I attended was such a downer?
It turns out, I’m in good company. And so are you if you have ever struggled with your sin nature. Take a look at Paul’s lament in Romans 7:14-25 (NIV):
“14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[b] a slave to the law of sin.”
Pastor and teacher, John MacArthur, calls this “real schizophrenia.” Here is Paul, a mature believer, warring against his flesh. Here I am, Amber Lia, facing a similar angst. Maybe you are too. It’s enough to throw our hands up in the air and call for a retreat.
But not so fast. You see, every mature believer will struggle with this. There is good news, however. The very fact that we struggle within our hearts and minds is not a sign that we are not Christ-followers or that we are making a shoddy mess of our relationships with the Lord. No, it’s the very opposite. The very fact that we CARE, that we WRESTLE, that we DESIRE to do good is proof that we are being renewed and sanctified and refined.
It's the person who cares none at all about the sin in their life that has something to worry about. The unredeemed have no longing to be more like Christ. That comes only through regeneration and being born again unto saving faith.
The solution to despair over this battle within is to take ahold of the wheel and turn a corner. We “put on” the new self, the new creature that we are in Christ. We continue to grow in godliness. And we realize that we will not be separated from our bodies of sin and death until we go to Heaven. Earthly life will present a spiritual waltz between the body of death and the new creation.
Practically speaking, today I must hold fast to the promises of God. Every time I’m prone to worry, I remember that God knows what I have need of. I focus on the fact that He promises to meet my needs. I cry out to Him instead of allowing despair. When I get exasperated by my impatience, I determine to take a deep breath, hold my tongue, and speak gently to my children. This is something I can do, if my heart is willing. When the tears threaten to brim, I must remind myself that my hope is in God Who is good and loves me. My eyes will look to my Savior and not to my shortcomings, nor my circumstances. Slowly, I can already feel the joy begin to seep into my heart again as I take up my armor and enter this day that began with such despondence.
Wrestle on good brother and sister. It's the battle itself that reveals your victory.