The Struggle

Free to Struggle Recently, I joined two of my girlfriends, sweet sisters of the faith, around a table one evening at a nice restaurant. We sat there drinking our decaf coffee and eating delicious dessert. As the conversation was going along, I confided with them about an internal struggle that I have been having for a while now. I told them I was finding it difficult trying to navigate through figuring out how to do the right thing even when every thing inside of me was screaming differently.

Do you know what I am talking about? You know, those moments you face when you want to do the right thing – when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Maybe you can relate to one of the following:

-You desire to make the healthy food choices or to stay away from the foods that you know just make you feel ill, yet the instant desire for gratification seems more important at the moment…

-You know that your health is only going to decline if you don’t stop, but that cigarette you want to smoke is calling your name…

-You know that if you take that alcoholic drink it will only lead down a path of further destruction, yet you desire to calm your mood on this very stressful day…

-You know that your children are begging for your attention and you have given very little time to them lately, yet it just feels so much easier to let the electronics do its thing…

-You want to genuinely love this person and to take an action that you feel is pleasing to God, yet your disappointment in his or her actions are so heavy that your internal feelings are anything but loving…

-You know that gossiping is wrong and what Suzie says about Sally actually says more about Suzie than it does about Sally, yet you want to try to boost your own insecurity and jealousy so you want to speak anyways…

-You know that looking at those pictures or watching that movie puts images in your mind that are going to be hard to erase, yet the desire is so strong it seems to pull at you like a magnet…

-You know you need to step up and apologize, but your pride is so strong that it keeps you from taking that necessary step to heal the relationship…

-You know that telling the little white lie is wrong, but you feel that it would be so much easier than to just tell the truth…

-You know that you should stop working and go home to your spouse and children to spend some quality time, yet working those extra hours seems easier and less exhausting than going home…

-You know that getting outside to exercise will do the body good, yet being lazy and lying on the couch is so much more inviting…

-You know that He is waiting for you and taking even just 5 minutes to stop and pray can help mold the rest of your entire day, yet the business seems to overtake every single second…

-You know that you should spend more time reading your Bible, yet the pull of social media feels so much more interesting…

-You know that going to church on this Sunday morning would be the right thing to do, yet sleeping in, going to the sporting event, or getting caught up on work feels much more important…

The list could go on and on.

Life is hard, isn’t it? Doing the right thing can be so difficult sometimes. Yet the alternative only leads down a path of guilt and shame.

On a warm Sunday evening back in June 2005, my husband and I went to an evening church service. That night, the Pastor started his sermon with an opening line that went like this, “This summer, we will all find ourselves going on a trip. It is called a guilt trip.” Ten years later, I still remember that sermon and I knew that God was speaking directly to me through every single word. It profoundly impacted a decision I made later on that very night. While it wasn’t without pain, I realized that being stuck on the guilt trip of life is not somewhere that I had to keep going. Guilt wasn’t the lifelong companion that I thought was a consequence I had to take to my grave.

That same Pastor, during another sermon on a Sunday morning, made this comment, “If anyone of you knew the thoughts that would go through my mind, you would fire me on the spot.” Not a single person in the sanctuary moved and his honesty floored me. Yet, it was a statement that spoke such hope to my soul. It doesn’t matter who we are or where we are in life.   We are ALL sinful. We ALL struggle.

However, I believe it isn’t the struggle that makes us sinful people, but how we react to those struggles is what matters. Put guilt where guilt belongs, but don’t pack your bags and haul it with you because you find yourself struggling to seek to do the right thing.

As I told my girlfriends the other night, the only thing I have found that it really boils down to is seeking Christian council, praying to God for wisdom, and asking Him for the courage to respond when I feel the Spirit leading me to do the right thing. Left with my own strength, I am almost guaranteed to fulfill the desires of my flesh.

You know what? We are all going to fail and make mistakes, but in Christ, we are free to do that! There are days when we are going to make the wrong choices, we’ll feel the consequences, but we can stand back up and try again. We don’t have to rely on our performance in this life to earn us favor with God, for in Jesus, we already have it. That is what grace is all about.

The best part is, the Spirit that lives in us, the very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, we don’t have to struggle to be free from the guilt and shame that those mistakes can cause us. We are forgiven through what He has done for us.

I want to end with a song by Tenth Avenue North, “The Struggle”, and if you have a moment please listen to it. It nicely sums up what I am trying to say.

Friends, at the moment I find myself in a place of great struggle! But Hallelujah – I am free to struggle, but not struggling to be free.

Linked with #TellHisStory

7 thoughts on “The Struggle

  1. Not by our strength but Jesus’

    Grateful for identifying the difference between guilt and conviction. One keeps you stuck and the other moves you forward.

    Blessings to you!

    Amy

    Like

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