"For the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Last night and this morning, i've been feeling a battle going on between my spirit and my flesh. This verse keeps coming to my mind. In context, it's referring to our temptation to sin. We are to "keep watch and pray so that we don't fall into temptation." For the Spirit in us is willing (to do what God wants) but our flesh is weak (puts up a fight and struggles to do God's will).
Although this is true and my spirit will always be at war with my body to follow God instead of my own selfish and sinful desires (just like we all experience), right now I feel the meaning of this verse in a different context.
I was lying awake in bed wondering why I can't seem to do the very things I want to do and that I feel God calling me to do. This question sounds familiar...In Romans 7:15, Paul says, "I do not understand myself. For I want to do what is right, but I do not do it. Instead, I do what I hate." My thoughts exactly. He knows how I feel!
For example, I want a healthy and fit body. If you've read my other blog about biblically-based healthy living, then you know I have a struggle with food addiction. My spirit wants to follow God's will in this area of my life. I know that it's a sin and it causes distance between me and God. It also has harmful effects on my body. I want to be victorious over this struggle, I want to honor God with my body, and I want to experience the benefits of healthy eating and exercising- having the kind of body that I feel confident and comfortable in, that my husband finds attractive, and that is a good environment for child-bearing. As I've written about before in my other blog, it's not that I don't know how to make this happen. God gives us the tools we need to do his will. He won't call us to do something then leave us hanging. I've lost weight and been healthy before. Over the years, i've learned a lot about nutrition and working out because it's a major area of interest for me. I've researched what it is I need to do in order to shed excess fat and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The problem is, I don't usually want to do it. This morning, I felt really convicted that my body is winning the battle against my spirit. I follow the promptings of my flesh way more often than not. It finally hit me, I don't want to put forth the work!
Another example, I love to write and offer encouragement to other people. I want to help others who have been through similar experiences as me to find healing in a relationship with God. I want to share my story and write a book (actually I have 2-3 in mind). I've felt God calling me to do this since I was about 18 (that's 6 years now) but even more so since I quit my full-time job at a law firm and started staying at home. I've been blessed with a wonderful situation! I started to feel God calling me away from the path I was on for something different, something more, something that would advance His kingdom, impact others, and fulfill His purpose for my life. After about 8 months of wondering if I was crazy and waiting expectantly for God to open up the door for me to do this, I quit my job as a paralegal assistant (I was on my way to become a certified paralegal and, eventually, an attorney. It had been my career plan since I was in high school. That's why I got a degree in Political Science. Perfect prep for law school. Anyway, God's plans for us are usually very different from our own). It was a little scary and definitely not the norm for a girl from my generation. However, God worked everything out and continued to confirm for me that this was the right thing. My husband got a job with travel nursing that not only is fun and allows us to travel across the country, but also has enveloped what I was bringing in so I don't have to go back to work (yet, anyway). Basically, this is the best time for me to write and do what God's been calling me to do! I'm staying at home, taking care of our house, being a more suitable and available helper to my husband, spending more time in the Word and trying to prepare myself for motherhood in the next few years. It's been wonderful! An answer to my prayers (and my husband's) after reading "A Woman After God's Own Heart" and learning God's purpose for my life as a wife, mother, and Christ-follower. Since we arrived at our first assignment (which was about 2 1/2 months ago), i've felt God's calling to write even stronger than before. My spirit feels an urgency and passion to carry out his will and get started! But my flesh won't cooperate. Again, I think it's that I don' want to do the work..
Last example, as some of the women I know are starting to get pregnant and become mothers (and because I read a lot of other women's blogs who are moms and blog about motherhood) it's got me thinking about my future children. As Elizabeth George suggests in her book, it's wise to start preparing yourself for motherhood in advance (whether that's 9 months or 9 years of prep). I can see why that would be beneficial and I agree with her considering I worked to prepare myself for marriage 4 years before I got married (3 of those years were before I knew my husband). What kind of prep am I talking about? Well, I know you can never be completely ready for a phase in life (much of what we learn we develop by experience), but you can study parts of God's Word that relate to this subject to prepare your heart, mind, body and soul for what's to come. After all, the Bible is our greatest tool for living. God gave it to us as a helpful guide to navigate everything we encounter in life. I think of it like studying for an exam in school. By looking at the syllabus, you know when you're about to be tested on a chapter. If you're wise and want to do a good job, you'll prepare yourself ahead of time for that test by studying. Well, I view monumental changes in life, such as marriage and parenting, as chapters that i'm going to be tested on and I want to do well! I can prepare myself for these experiences by studying God's Word and praying to him to prepare me for all the new changes, responsibilities, challenges, difficulties, ups and downs, pros and cons of the next thing i'm about to go through. I can also research other women's experiences and start praying for my future children. When I started college at the age of 19, I read "Lady in Waiting," "Authentic Beauty," "When God Writes Your Love Story," and "Passion & Purity" that Fall of my freshman year. These books started to prepare my heart and mind for marriage. I researched scriptures in the Bible that addressed marriage (such as Proverbs 31, Song of Solomon, Hebrews 13, and Ephesians 5), studied the wedding vows and covenant I would be making with my future husband and God, read other helpful books such as "First 90 Days of Marriage," "Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts," and "Love and Respect." I also started praying for my future husband.
Well now, I feel like I need to start preparing myself in these similar ways for motherhood. God's put it on my heart to memorize and understand more scripture so that I can pass it on to my children and train them in the Word. How can I raise them to know all the stories and lessons of the Bible if I don't? How can I instill in them a love for learning his Word and spending time with God in prayer if I don't do it that often? Will we really start family worship and devotional time when kids come along if we don't do it as husband and wife now? Not to mention, i'll need to have as much of God's Word stored in my heart as I can so that when there are trials, when we're super busy and i'm overwhelmed, I have it to lean on for strength, comfort and direction. That's what I do now in marriage thanks to all my time of study beforehand (though I still learn ways to strengthen my marriage as we go). So what's the problem? I'm still not doing it! Day after day, i'm convicted to spend more time in the Word and memorize scripture (hide it in my heart (Psalm 119:11). I'd like to read the whole Bible from start to finish in chronological order to gain a better, more broad understanding of it. I'd like to have all the parables memorized. I'd like to have the wisdom of Proverbs sayings so that I can use it to teach my children. Yet, I often choose to ignore that calling by my spirit and do something else instead, even if it's something good like cleaning the house or preparing dinner. Why? Because I don't feel like doing the work.
This all comes down to wanting the benefits of God's will in my life without having to put in the hard labor and make the sacrifices it requires. As Joyce Meyer has said, "You can't be envious of what someone else has if you're not willing to put forth the same amount of effort that they did to get it." You can't be jealous of someone else's healthy physique, debt-free living, success at work, stable and happy marriage, or strong relationship with their kids if you're not willing to work hard for it like they did. She's admitted before that when she first felt God's calling to build a large, world-wide ministry and teach people God's Word, she just wanted God to make it happen. She didn't know just how much work that would take on her part, even though it was God's will for her in his grand purpose for furthering his kingdom. Nor did she feel like doing it at first. But after years of putting in the time and effort it takes to build and lead a ministry, she's experience the fruits of her labor (And isn't it wonderful that whenever we work for the Lord, we do not labor in vain?! 1 Corinthians 15:58).
So not only has God convicted me that I need to deny my flesh and listen to the Spirit in me, but he's reminded me that the woman of noble character in Proverbs 31 was a hard worker (verses 13-27). If I want to be like her and experience the same benefits as her, then I need to be willing to put forth the effort. If I want to see God's purpose for me become a reality in all these areas of my life, then I have to meet him half way and do my part of the work. Although these things can start to feel like too much for us (and as it all starts to overwhelm me), I also feel God comforting me through 2 Corinthians 12:10. Though my flesh is weak and easily overcome by hardship, God is strong. By his grace, he provides us with the divine power we need to carry out his will and follow the Holy Spirit.