About three years ago, I was travelling a lot for work. Okay, maybe for some people it wasn’t a ton, but for a guy who rarely leaves town for work it was quite a bit. Due to a project I was working on at the time, I wound up being away from my family for the majority of two and a half weeks (I had a day or two in between where I was able to come home).
Now, I’m a guy who can handle alone time. When I go to conferences and I have a hotel room all to myself, it’s pretty spectacular. I go to the movies without any accompaniment and never feel bad about it. Quiet is my friend. But even so, there are times when being alone is unhealthy for me. Especially when I’m away from my loved ones for significant periods of time. During those seasons, I can get pretty sad-sacky, and caught up in focusing on where I’m not, instead of where I am.
But it’s not just long periods of time away from my wild and wonderful family that can do this. Waiting for something for a really long time can contribute to the same kinds of feelings. For example, when we were trying to sell our home for eleven months, it was hard to enjoy that time. I found I had to fight to not feel defeated every time a deal fell through (of which there were at least two). In those days, I was weak and tired. I was wondering if perhaps we had made a mistake in trying to sell the house—or worse, we’d be stuck with it for eternity.
And then there’s the frustration that comes from dealing with the continued presence of sin. When I snap at my kids. When I act like a selfish doofus. When I insist on my own way, instead of putting the needs of others ahead of my own. There’s a weariness that comes from the pursuit of Christ and the fight against sin.
I was reminded of this on Sunday as our pastor preached through Romans 7:14-25, and encouraged us to see these verses as a reflection of Paul’s present—and our own. That throughout our lives, we are going to face real temptation. And more than that, we are going to succumb at times, doing what we actually hate because of the lingering effects of sin in our lives. That we will be, at times, so driven to despair over our sin that we will cry out, “Who will save me from this body of death?”
When times like these come, it’s no wonder I find so much encouragement in these words from Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
Do you feel your will is weak? Do you feel your energy is low? He will come to you; he will strengthen and energize your feeble will; he will enable you to resist temptation. He will take you above the obstacles and difficulties, he will empower you—that is what he has promised to do. He is life, and he will awaken you to life and a knowledge of God and fill you with his power. He will lead you along the journey so that, whatever your circumstances, you will be able to say with the apostle Paul, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound. . . . I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:11–13). A branch that is in the vine and experiencing the power of the living Christ is alive with life itself.1
Where we are weak, Christ is strong for us. Where we are tempted to sin, he will enable us to resist. Who will save us from this body of death? Jesus. If that’s not encouraging, I don’t know what is.