Why Can’t I Stop?
Romans 7:15,19 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
Why can the alcoholic not put down the bottle? Why does the heroin addict keep inserting the needle? Is it just a lack of self-control? Why does the angry father continue to scream at his wife and children? Why can the food addict not stop over-eating? Why can the porn addict not shut off the computer?
We all know that our defective desires can and will lead to painful consequences. Ours is not a knowledge problem. It is a behavioral problem. Something in us is broken. It can be nothing short of pathologic for the one suffering from diabetes, hypertension and obesity to continue to eat donuts. It can only be described as diseased behavior to continue to pop pills, knowing the destructive consequences to self, family, and career.
It has different manifestations in all of us, but make no mistake, we all have a disease called the flesh nature which comes with a full complement of defects. To be sure, we have constructive traits as well, but that is not what I am referring to here. I am addressing the fact that we can all identify with Paul when he says, I do not understand my own actions, I keep doing the things I do not want to do. I want to do right, but then I do wrong. What is wrong with me?
What is wrong with me, is that I have this disease called the flesh nature. Again, it has different manifestations. We all have defective desires which we pursue, despite knowing the pain we may cause ourselves. The consequences of each affliction are not identical. My drug use has very different consequences than your greed, anger, gluttony, lust, bitterness, gossiping or need for affirmation. Not all defects are equal but they are all expressions of our disease.
This disease seems to have a mind of us own, continually dragging our attentions away from that which we want to be. Every dieter knows this feeling. We want to eat right, but right now, we just want pizza. We know we will regret it later, but we still surrender to instant gratification.
This is not an excuse for bad behavior. The fact that I have this diseased flesh does not relieve me of liability. I may not be responsible for the hand I was dealt but only I am responsible for how I play that hand. I may not have chosen a predisposition to use pills, but I alone bear the responsibility for indulging in my defect or seeking recovery. Acknowledging my disease is not justification, it is merely an indictment of my nature. Recognizing it is just being honest about my desperate condition.
Our condition is indeed desperate according to Paul. Our flesh is, in fact, at war with our spirit, taking us captive, and causing us to hate our own behavior. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death (v. 24)?
We know Paul’s anguish. We are all too familiar with our continual appetite for destruction. Is there any hope then for our condition? That is for tomorrow.