St. Paul's Guidance for Internal Conflict

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"St. Paul's Guidance for Internal Conflict" by Allison Gingras (CatholicMom.com)

Photo via Pexels (2015), CC0 Public Domain. Text added by author in Canva.

What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” Romans 7:15

All plastic pumpkins filled with Halloween candy should have this verse TAPED on them! Despite gluten and dairy sensitivities, those little morsels of sugary goodness continue to beckon me from within their orange-hued haven.

Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

Should the blame go on gluttony? Perhaps the trouble comes from lack of self-control; a fruit of the Holy Spirit that often eludes me. Maybe it just my overall preference for chocolate, coconut and almonds over fruit. You know, because sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don’t.

It Is NOT Just the Candy

God’s laws and commandments are good. He does not impose them upon us out of an act of might or power; but from pure love. My duty as a mother includes teaching my children temperance and restraint. While Butterfingers and Smarties in and of themselves are not bad; let’s be honest they are down right tasty – I would not allow my 10-year-old daughter to gorge on several at time or eat even one at midnight. Our house rules set around the consumption of sweets is to protect her until she is able to make these healthy decisions on her own. The laws provided to us from God, likewise, serve to protect us from making harmful choices that threaten the health of our souls and may cause serious damage to our relationship to Him. Yet I still battle the lure of sin – be it an urge to gossip, judge others’ appearance or parenting, or keep a secret stash of Snickers from my family.

For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Romans 7:18-19

Spirit Willing, but the Flesh–Not So Much

The spirit is indeed often willing but the flesh – ah, the flesh is the weak link! Alas, candy does not stand alone in luring me to stumble. All food provides an occasion of temptation in the wrong portion. The tastier the dish, the harder for my flesh to resist a second or third helping. Unlike other areas of temptation, weakness or even addictions — food poses the seemingly-impossible task of overcoming because we can’t use the “cold turkey” method. The problem lies in NEEDING to eat food to live. Though eating a second helping is not sinful; it is still a behavior that I wish to overcome. It is just one of the many interior conflicts I face each day. So, is all lost? Will the flesh conquer me every time, and my Weight Watchers goal be forever beyond my reach?

Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin.” Romans 7:20-25

The Battle is Real

The ongoing conflict between good and evil, grace and sin, Twinkies and apricots will never end this side of heaven; yet that is not a cause for discouragement nor defeat. St. Paul, in what sometimes feels like a roundabout or repetitive manner, actually brings great hope in his letter to the Romans. He confirms that the battle is real and the flesh can be so incredibly weak. Additionally, St. Paul affirms it is not just our imagination that temptations become more frequent and even more intense as we choose and strive to live in accordance with God’s laws.

What Hope Do We Have?

An evening of great prayer and resolution to begin anew tomorrow after a day filled with moments of impatience with your children or shoving the last brownie in before the kids realize there is still enough left for them to split, or a gossip-laden phone conversation is met in the morning with a doubling of opportunities to fall into these same behaviors. The evil you had begged deliverance from seems to be intensifying instead of being removed: the kids are bickering more than ever; cookies and cakes seem to appear on your counter from thin air; and avoiding conversations about others begins to feel like a full-time job.

But….be of good heart! Stay the course; continue to pray for the grace to overcome and Jesus will deliver you. Jesus came to free the captives of sin. Yet still we will fall – our greatest desire to do what we ought will be beat by our human frailty. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ for the grace to persevere and yes, sometimes to even overcome.

Copyright 2016 Allison Gingras

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About Author

Allison Gingras, founder www.ReconciledToYou.com (RTY); and host of A Seeking Heart on Breadbox Media weekdays 10 am ET. Allison created the "Words with" daily devotional App Series: Words with Jesus and Words with Mary. Allison offers retreats and talks on: Forgiveness; Works of Mercy; Trust and JOY!

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