Trials of the Flesh
I “heart” chocolate. Virtually all day long, I battle a nagging inner voice whispering, “Get some chocolate. Now.”
Behold my unsuccessful strategies for taming my habit: Cold turkey. One ounce per day. Fake chocolate. Caffeine. Fruity water. Vitamins and minerals. Candy. Chocolate-scented candles. I can’t believe I’m revealing this, but I have even opened up a packet of Splenda—the sugar junkie’s methadone, and poured it directly on my tongue. Oh yeah, this habit is bad.
Yesterday I was jonesin’ for some no-bake chocolate oatmeal peanut butter cookies, my personal tipping point when it comes to chocolate bingeing. I can make these cookies in my sleep. And eat them in my sleep.
I worked my magic. Guess how many my husband and daughter ate? Zero. Guess how many I ate? Whatever you guessed, you’re wrong, because I ate more than you guessed.
The morning after a night like that isn’t pretty.
I promised myself that when I came home from work today, I would not eat the remaining three. Can I just say in my defense that if cookies could wink with a flirty come-on, these did. So I wolfed them down.
Obviously, I cannot have cocoa, peanut butter and oatmeal in my house simultaneously. So I pitched the cocoa into the trash and grieved over it like it was a grave.
In Romans 7, Paul expresses how remorseful I felt in that moment. In fact, he communicates the whole human condition precisely: “I know that my selfish desires won't let me do anything that is good. Even when I want to do right, I cannot. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong. What a miserable person I am!”
Although eating chocolate isn’t exactly a sin, my habit wields enough power over me to disrupt my life. God is concerned about our struggles because left unchecked, sin kills us, spirit and body. No loving father wants to see his children wither away or hit the wall at full speed.
Some people erroneously believe they must first clean up and straighten out their lives before God will be interested in them. But God is not stunned by our habits, weaknesses, and hang-ups. It’s all old news to him. First, he wants a relationship with us. Then, if destructive forces are compromising our lives, he will reveal them and help us say “no” to one thing in order to say “yes” to the ultimate good thing.
After his confession of moral impotence, Paul offers this hope, “Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me! If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won't be condemned. The Holy Spirit will give you life that comes from Christ Jesus and will set you free from sin and death.”
As long as I’m in this body, I will never be completely sinless. Sometimes I’m more successful than other times in battling my weaknesses. But when I find myself in yet another self-dug pit, knowing that a forgiving, compassionate Father wants to lift me up and dust me off gives me courage and hope for the next leg of my journey.
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