“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:15,18, ESV).
Do you often feel this way? Join the club.
Paul’s Damascene conversion didn’t guarantee a test-free life. In addition to the fires of persecution that sought to destroy his ministry, he was doubtlessly troubled by doubt, confusion and discouragement as he tried to establish the church. The pressure was intense, I’m sure; some days everything must’ve felt upside down. In his writings, he was up front about his frequent inability to align his knowledge of what is right with his behavior.
What an astonishing gift Paul left behind for us! In bluntly laying out the discord within himself, he revealed how our honesty before God and one another is the path to healing. “I’m just going to tell you flat out,” he says, “It’s a daily war in there. You’re going to continually face walls within yourself that you thought you had scaled; attitudes and impulses you were sure had been eradicated; spiritual confusion you thought you had sorted out. You must know that this is the way of the believer! We are redeemed, yet we still work and walk in this world. Our faith will be tested, refined, deepened. These tests will mature you in ways you can’t imagine. You’ll be stretched far out of your comfort zone and taken into spiritual places you didn’t know existed.”
Paul doesn’t stop there. In chapter eight, he continues to encourage an ambitious faith; and, as always, he points us right back to the immutable power of the Holy Spirit. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do” (Romans 8:3). He emphasizes how our helplessness is the means by which we walk in power. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba Father!’” (Romans 8:15).
Don’t let your failures and inner turmoil pull you down! Follow Paul’s example and use each stumble to propel you forward. God delights in our questions and understands our weakness. Let your vulnerability be your comfort and fuel for a robust spiritual journey.