One of my favorite Bible characters is David; his heartfelt prayers to God are always so real and honest. But one of the profound passages in the Bible that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand-up has to be the apostle Paul’s when he shares his honest struggle with sin in Romans 7.
Like Paul in the book of Romans, I think anyone on a weight-loss journey can identify with his frustration with sin and its power to take us captive and enslave us. Like Paul, we are all too familiar with the feelings of utterly despising our actions and resenting ourselves for our powerlessness and feelings of hopelessness.
We know that hopeless feeling when we set out to eat one piece of cake and before we know it the entire cake is gone. Or we vow to cut down on our carbohydrate consumption and end up eating enough breads and pasta to feed an entire football team. How could you not want to do something so badly, and end up doing the exact thing you don’t want to do?
Well, that’s the apostle Paul’s lament in Romans 7:15-25. This scripture gives us great insight into why we do the things we do and also provides us the ONLY solution to stop this insanity. Paul’s lament goes like this:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Romans 7:15-25
As Paul wrestles with these conflicting desires, there is a lot to learn here about how we as Christians should manage our weight-loss or any other sin. In case you’re wondering if being overweight is a sin, a better question is to ask yourself is: ‘Does my weight create a wedge between me and God?’ ‘Does it rob me of my peace?’ ‘Does it often consume my thoughts?’ ‘Does it weaken my testimony?’ The degree to which you answer yes to this question should give you a gauge to measure if your struggle with your weight is sinful or just an area of weakness in your life. For me, being overweight itself is not a sin but the mindsets and negative habits associated with it are often sinful. (This is another topic I will explore in a future post).
Regardless of how you would classify it, here are some lessons we can learn from Paul that can help us to manage our weight:
1. Understand the impact and the weight of sin
Paul uses terms like slave to sin, sin waging war against the law of his mind, and a prisoner of the law of sin. These are pretty harsh words he uses to communicate just how sinister sin is. When we can understand the weight of it, then we will not treat it lightly and side-step sin. We will give sin its due respect and do whatever is necessary to win the war against it and reclaim our freedom.
Sin keeps a wedge between us and God. It makes us feel burdened and heavy and makes us feel unworthy and undeserving of receiving Gods love. God has called us heirs … yet we feel so powerless. That’s the weight of sin.
2. Take responsibility for your actions
Paul teaches us a great lesson about taking responsibility. He does it in a way that does not leave him feeling like he is unworthy or useless (like we sometimes feel because of our sin). He is very careful to distinguish that it’s the sin dwelling in him—in his flesh more specifically—and not he himself that is sinning. In other words, it’s his flesh that is causing him to sin and not his sense of self. He is a sinner because of the that so he does not beat himself up, but rather acknowledges that it’s the sin that dwells in his flesh. He acknowledges that sin no longer rules in us, but it does survive in us and rears its ugly head whenever it wants.
When we sabotage our weight-loss plan, it’s easy to blame circumstances or even other people. Blaming and excuse-making only focus on the problem; but taking responsibility, focuses on the solution. As Paul gets to the end of his lament, we see that even though he is totally frustrated by his sin, he finishes focusing on a solution to the problem instead of wallowing in his despair and hopelessness.
The next time you experience a set-back, acknowledge it and turn it over to the only one capable and strong enough to handle each and every one of your problems.
3. Be transparent before God
We often act like we can hide from God. We mess up and refuse to go to Him because sometimes we want what we want when we want it and don’t want to be stopped. If we were to go to God then we could not ‘have our cake and eat it too’. But whether we go to him or not, he knows our disobedience. Here’s the good news, he understands. He’s not standing in judgment waiting to punish us, and he’s not shaking his head stunned and shocked by our disobedience. His desire is to love us to wholeness if we allow him. He wants to strengthen us, and equip and restore our brokenness, but it takes humility on our part to go to Him.
This entire passage is a demonstration of Paul’s humility before God. He acknowledged his lack of understanding with this human condition. He also acknowledges his disgust with sin and his feelings of powerlessness.
4. Understand the only way out of our sin
Paul’s lament ends with the only possible solution for himself and for all of us. In Romans 7:25 he says, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
He restates this point in a few other scriptures that should provide us with great comfort:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9; and “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
Paul teaches us that we can experience victory over sin but only when we yield ourselves to the only One who can see us through. Lay all of our burdens down and trust that God will strengthen us when we call on him.