…being helpless in some areas. Areas like:
- Technology. We have three remotes for our TV. Every time I try to use them, my husband has to spend a half hour undoing the damage.
- Noticing details. If you’d committed a crime, you’d be totally safe with me as a witness.
- Multitasking. I can carry on a cogent and meaningful conversation. I can boil water. Just not at the same time.
I figure God has allowed these shortcomings in my life to keep me humble. Also to make other, normal people feel better about themselves.
But I do mind…
…(very much) being helpless in one area: Sin. It doesn’t sit right with me that I feel helpless to overcome it when the Bible tells me otherwise. God’s Word reassures me that I can have victory over sin; Christ lives in me so nothing can master me; a Spirit-filled life will be characterized by love, joy, and peace.
It bothers me that I can’t stop sinning. If God’s Word is true about my ability to live righteously, why did I respond with lack of grace and hurt a dear friend last week? How is it that I succumbed to self-pity because my husband couldn’t read my mind? And who exactly was it that took over the wheel of my car when I swerved around that big truck and cut in front of it in a futile effort to beat the next red light? (That truck driver, as it turns out, was the chairman of our Elders. Thank you, Cal, for responding with lighthearted humor. And please forgive me again!)
I sin. Worse, a lot of my sins are repeats: Ungraciousness. Selfishness. Impatience.
I claim verses like Philippians 1:6 (He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it). Or 2 Corinthians 3:18 (as a Christian I’m being transformed little by little into the image of Christ). Yet sometimes these recurring patterns of sin make me wonder about myself. And they prompt me to ask:
Can I simply will myself out of sin?
A cursory reading of Romans 7 disproves that notion: “The willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.”
But there are some things I can do:
- I can admit my helplessness.
- I can be glad about my helplessness. It’s what drives me to my only Help, Jesus my Rescuer.
- I can resist the urge to minimize, marginalize, justify, or deflect the blame for my sin. I can bravely call it what it is, in all its ugliness.
- I can let God’s grace seep into my life, even the gross places.
- I can let His grace seep out onto others, even when I feel helpless in and of myself.
- I can trust that God won’t give up on me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my own sin these past few days, and I’ve been talking with Greg and with the friend I hurt. Here’s what the Lord has been showing me (partly through their insights):
Our hearts are like dirt. They can get packed down and hard. Impermeable. Unresponsive. Weed-riddled. We need the Holy Spirit to churn us up, dig some empty holes, and fill those empty places with the good nutrients of His grace. We need Him to place seedlings of patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control in the prepared soil. And then we need to wait while He brings the rain and the sun that will eventually cause those beautiful little plants to emerge and beautify their world.
This all sounds very picturesque. But how does it play out in our lives? Well, let me tell you some ways it played out in mine this past week:
- I went for long walks, confessing my sin to God and saying things like, “Help me.” Yeah, deep theological things like that.
- I prayed Sunday’s song lyrics from the bottom of my heart, even as I played the piano with the worship team: “Where sin runs deep, Your grace is more…”
- I let the hard truths of God’s Word through the sermon convict and encourage me: Sin is crouching at the door, but I do not have to give in to it (not if I let God work His grace into my heart).
- I determined to let His grace pour through me to others—through a weekend of marathon ministry and events—though I felt I had absolutely nothing to give.
Is it really that simple?
No, it’s not. I have a lifetime of being tilled and weeded ahead of me. It’s going to be excruciating at times. The bad news is I cannot make myself sinless. The good news is that the sinless Christ, the Great Gardener, is my righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). And He knows what He’s doing.
What reassures YOU?
What reassures YOU when you feel helpless about your sin? Will you share it with us, please?