A couple weeks ago, I came down with this nasty flu that is sweeping the nation. It's been over two weeks, but I am still dealing with the effects of it. There's a battle that's raged in my body during those weeks, and I was wiped out by a virus I couldn't see that had invaded my body. It wiped me out. I am exhausted from the internal battle, at times wondering if I was going to survive it! The worst part about it was the isolation from my family as I was quarantined in my bedroom like a leper.
In Romans 7:15-25, Paul writes about his personal struggle and weakness, confessing he was being torn in two directions as though there were two very powerful forces trying to pull him apart. Like Paul, you and I are maddeningly flawed. We struggle with the battle between our old and new selves, and we are saints and sinners at the same time. We can relate to Paul's struggle, because his struggle is our struggle.
Paul teaches us some important things about this struggle between our old and new natures. Here are some things to consider:
1] Intense struggle is a part of the normal Christian life. If you struggle between your old and new self, you are normal. Sometimes we get flattened by the struggle in the same way I was flattened by the flu. Sin is like a soul flu. It's a battle that wipes us out. We can't see where it came from, and sometimes we think we're gonna die. We feel the isolation. Yes, we struggle, but it is a part of the normal Christian life.
2] Despair is necessary. We can hear Paul's despair: "What a wretched man I am!" But we have to despair over our struggle with sin. Until we hate our sin, we will not turn from it. Until we reach the end of ourselves, we will not walk away from it. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said these words: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." These are the people who are humbled by their nature and are dependent upon God. We need to allow our weakness and struggle with sin to drive us straight to God.
3] A lack of despair should concern us. Let me explain what I mean. In 1 John 1:8, we're told that we are deceived and without God's truth if we think we are without sin. If we don't feel the sting of our sin, then our conscience is not under Christ's influence. When we don't agonize over our own sin, we won't turn to Jesus. If you feel the sting of your struggle, that's a sign of health.
4] Jesus frees us from this struggle. Paul asked in Romans 7:24, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" I asked that question a lot when I was bedbound with this flu! It's Jesus that delivers us from this struggle. Read Romans 8:1-2 and memorize it! It will set you free.
We need to learn from our past so we don't return to it. We need to meditate on God's Word to marinate in God's truth and grace and to be equipped to do God's will. And we need to walk in the Spirit, the Spirit who helps us in our weakness. Yes, the struggle is real! We feel powerless and weak at times, but our deliverance from this wilderness comes from Jesus, the One who rescues us from this body of death.