I Promise I’ll Stop
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Every time I used pills, I promised myself it was the last time. Consumed by guilt as the high wore off, I’d sink into this remorseful, shameful state where I’d clench my fists, swearing off drugs forever. I’ve made up my mind once and for all. I’m done using. I’d pray, asking God for self-control . . . but I’d change absolutely nothing. I knew that I was supposed to rely on God and that was my idea of faith – to ask God for self-control and then decide I was done. It never worked.
After failing a thousand times, I heard others say that I was trying too hard. What I needed was to stop trying. Just let go and let God. But that was just another way of doing absolutely nothing. Through my struggle, God was trying to teach me faith and obedience and doing nothing just wasn’t helpful.
In today’s passage, Paul spoke of his own struggle (we’re not told what it was) which he repeatedly asked God to remove. God refused to do so, telling Paul that he was using that struggle to keep Paul dependent on him. If Paul had been made perfect, he would have become prideful. It was only in his weakness that he could learn faith and obedience. To Paul though, depending on God didn’t mean doing nothing. Rather, it meant embracing radical change, doing whatever it took to kill the old life while following the new one.
What does this mean for you and me? It means that when we’re struggling with a self-destructive behavior, whether it’s drugs, pornography, inappropriate relationships, greed, anger, pride, or gluttony, we don’t change by relying on self-control. When we just decide not to do it, we’ve changed nothing, which is a plan doomed to failure. If we truly desire transformation, we must daily take our struggle to God, asking him what we must do. Then we must do it.
For some of us, this may mean treatment. For others of us, it may mean counseling, confession, cutting certain people out of our lives, getting rid of the smart phone we use for pornography, getting involved in an accountability group, or radically changing behavior patterns. None of these things are easy. No one wants to go to treatment. So, unfortunately many of us will do nothing and simply continue to fail repeatedly. If we truly desire growth and transformation, we must daily take our struggle to God, allowing him to use it to teach us faith and obedience.