Struggling with Sin
While I know Satan messes with me and is at least a partial cause of my struggles in life, I’ve learned that I do a pretty good job all on my own of making life more difficult than it needs to be. My tendancy to catastrophize along with an often overactive imagination trip me up, create barriers, and distract me far more often than I like to admit.
As Romans 7:14-25 describes, and I certainly all too often relate to this all too well, we all struggle with sin. I hope you’ll read the entire passage but consider for now just one verse and see if it sounds familiar.
“When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.” (Romans 7:19)
Can you relate? Do you sometimes feel, like Paul and me, helpless in your ability to do what’s right? Does the misery of this domination by sin sometimes feel impossible to overcome?
Sin’s Power is Broken
No matter where you are in your walk as a Christian, you’ll go through periods where you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. Distraction – whether from the world, Satan, or your own mind – can take your focus off Jesus and put it on yourself and your circumstances. Instead of feeling hopeless and like we’re spinning our wheels, though, we can instead embrace the essential truth that sin’s power is broken.
In Romans 6:2, Paul asks, “Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” He tells us that we have new lives, and our old, sinful selves were crucified with Christ, thus breaking sin’s hold on us. As a result, we have the freedom to obey God. If you believe you can’t change because sin has too big of a hold on you, you’re believing a lie.
What Controls You?
If you’re a born again Christian, you are no longer condemned. God destroyed sin’s control over you, and you are now free to follow the Spirit’s leading. So, how do we actually see that truth realized in our lives? Start by asking yourself, “What controls me? What do I think about?”
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8)
In other words, your focus determines your reality. Where you let your thoughts dwell matters. You may not always be able to control the thoughts that come into your mind – though how and with whom you spend your time does affect this to a great extent – but you can do something about where you allow your thoughts to dwell.
Having a few approaches for controlling where my thoughts dwell is immensely helpful. Here are the ones I use most often.
- Have a “go to” verse. Mine is Isaiah 43:18-19. It reminds me that God is always working in my life, and he’s always outdoing himself. Quoting this verse gets my focus off myself and back on him. Find a verse that encourages as well as motivates you to readjust your focus.
- Have safe outlets. Write in a journal, then burn it if you’re not comfortable leaving your words for wandering eyes. Or, talk to another Christian. The key is to have a way to get the thoughts bumping around in your head into the open and to release them. Of course, prayer is the safest outlet, and anything else should be in addition to this habit.
- Distract yourself. I’m a big believer in distraction after you’ve dealt with an issue. If you’ve checked yourself against God’s word and you’ve prayed about it and sought godly counsel, distraction can help keep your thoughts from dwelling in the wrong place. Exercise. Play games. Socialize with other Christians. Nap. Listen to Christian music. Meditate. Healthy distraction gives your mind time and space to relax and heal, which is essential for overcoming long-held thought patterns and habits.
Romans 6-8 has so much more to say on this topic of overcoming sin and living life in the Spirit, and I encourage you to let your thoughts dwell there for a good, long while, especially if you need reminded that God destroyed sin’s control over you and that you are now controlled by the Spirit of God.
“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as he raised Christ from the dead, he will give life to your mortal body by the same Spirit living within you.” (Romans 8:11)