Do you ever just get tired of yourself? Frustrated with the woman in the mirror? She is not who you want her to be. You glare and roll your eyes with a sigh.
This has been me lately.
I have never felt more connected with Paul, from the scripture, than in this moment. Comforted that he struggled as I do…
“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.” Romans 9:17-23 The Message
Do the same sins keep tripping you up? With all your heart, you try to get it right. You tell yourself “not again.” You tire of the cycle that spins you, wrings you out. Over and over.
I’ve been there. I plan. I set goals. I prioritize. I seek accountability. But inevitably, I fall flat on my face into a puddle of guilt and shame. My list of “need to’s” lies crumpled in the corner mocking me. You know that list?
- I need to spend more time with my kids.
- I need to drink more water.
- I need to have my neighbors over for dinner.
- I need to lose ten pounds.
- I need to call my dad more.
- I need to pray for my husband more.
- I need to clean my house.
- I need to read my Bible more.
- I need to save money.
- I need to stop eating cookies in my bed while watching Hallmark every night.
God whispered a message to me last summer that he sweetly reminded me of as I listened to my pastor husband teach on Sunday. I let it sit with me once more.
Until our need to turns into a want to, we will continue to live life as an unfulfilled good intention.
As I have shuffled through this week, feeling powerless and so tired of “me”, I have asked for God to show me my heart for what it is. I agree with all of those “need to” things. They’re all good. Yet, the only thing I do consistently in my life is drink coffee.
The cookie wins out over the spin bike. The game with my kids is just too much work at the end of the day. I grab the remote instead of my Bible. I call a friend instead of calling on my Redeemer. I can save money next month, but that sweater is only on clearance today…
But I need to exercise and I need to read my Bible. I need to play with my kids. I need to …
I asked God to show my heart, and He replied with a question:
“What do you want?”
Really. Each regular day, as you live and move and do your thing, what is it that you want?
Wrestling with His question exposed an ugly truth that was showing up in my life every day. I want comfort and happiness for myself.
My flesh, that part of me that will not be redeemed here on this earth, is the part of me that fights the truth and purpose of Jesus. It is the selfish, fearful, prideful part of me that I am fed up with today.
There is a glorious truth, however, that is a game changer. I am not just flesh, but spirit. My spirit has already been redeemed, and the Spirit of God has come to live in me to inspire and empower. When I connect with His Spirit and follow his lead, his desires become mine. Those are my deep desires. His.
My flesh wants what would make me feel good right now, but it’s all based on lies. The cookie and chic flick will not truly satisfy the ache of today. The disappointment, loneliness, hurt, or fear that I am trying to medicate can only be healed through Jesus.
See, my true, deep, Jesus-planted desire is healing. I’m tired, stressed, hurting, or struggling and I really want to be healed of that, but instead my flesh chooses something to numb the pain instead. I cover it up instead of exposing it to my Healer.
When something is hard, my flesh takes the easy way out, the low road. I have the power of Christ available to me when I draw near to him, yet I throw in the towel. Hard things require moment-by-moment petitions on our part for strength and endurance, but deep desires drive us to do what it takes to keep going. Think about a parent praying for healing for dying child. Unceasing prayers. Begging, pleading prayers. Recruiting others to pray.
How badly do I want the things of God, his desires? Enough to pray continually? Enough to ask a friend to pray for me? Am I connected to the heart of God or is my flesh ruling over me?
Do I want to be healthy?
Do I want to allow God to love my children through me?
Do I want to honor God in my marriage?
Do I want Jesus to change the lives of those who are hurting?
Do I want to know my redeemer more today than I did yesterday?
My list of “need to” must change to “want to” or I will continue to wake up with my face in that puddle of guilt.
So what do we do when we realize that we are living life in the flesh instead of the spirit? What do we do when we can’t keep the law we have created for ourselves. That’s what that list of “need to’s” is, a list of laws that try to obey. Like Paul said in Romans, “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!”
Paul writes in Galations, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Be led by the Spirit. Follow the Spirit. Know the Spirit. Be connected to the spirit. Fall on your face before the Spirit of God. Abide in Him.
It’s not complicated, but it’s not easy, and my flesh wants easy. Intimacy takes effort and work, but it’s in that connection with Christ where we connect with His desires and how we are empowered by His Spirit.
If you are in that place of defeat and shame, banging your head against the same wall over and over, maybe your flesh has got the best of you. Sweet friend, the only way out of that frustrating cycle is taking your mess to Jesus and seeking his healing and power. We are weak, but He is strong. That’s what we teach our little ones anyway.
I am quieting myself before him to hear His desires in my spirit today. What is it I really want? Could you do the same? What if you choose to live out of those desires? How would your life look different?
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4