I have been thinking a lot about my own struggles and conversations I have had with friends about either their struggles with sin or someone they love's struggle. What I find often is that we are all wired very differently. One person may struggle with anxiety over relationship issues while another struggles with anger. My daily struggles with sin are very different than my husband's. Yet somehow, we have more compassion towards those with the same struggle. We do this because we understand it. But when someone has a different issue, we tend to not understand and have the mentality of "well, just stop it".
Paul said this in Romans 7:14-16 (NLT) "So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all to human, a sin to slave. I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good."
This is powerful. Paul was a great man of faith. He endured great persecution to further the Christian faith. Yet with all of his faith, he still struggled with sin. We wonder often why a person can repent of their sin, yet fall into the same patterns all over again. Like Paul, I believe that often times they want to do what is right. Yet there is a weakness in their flesh, it is their struggle, and they find themselves again doing what they hate.
I have been their all too often. I get caught up in a conversation that ends up making me feel "icky" at the end because I realize it has turned to gossip. Why didn't I stop myself or remove myself from the situation? I've seen it before, I know the signs, yet there I was again. I have seen friends who struggle with anger. They lose it, blow it with a loved one, repent, understand their sin, and fall back into the same thing again down the road. To those it effects and to ourselves, it can become weary. Like Paul, we find ourselves asking why do I do what I hate?? I want to do what is right, but I don't. The why seems to be simple. We have a sin nature. And each of us has our shortcomings. None of us is without sin, not one. And this effects us all in different ways.
There is good news though in feeling as Paul did. He said in verse 16 "...But if I know what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good". The Bible said that Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. The law is there to guide us. We can't love the Lord our God with all our heart soul and mind and love our neighbors as ourselves if we have nothing to hold that standard to. The law is there to help us know how to love God, what He expects and how to love others. The fact that we are torn like Paul, that we do hate our own sin is a positive sign. It means we agree with God's Word. It means we are sorry. It means we can ask forgiveness and work towards restoration with others.
Understanding this helps me to have compassion towards others in their struggles. There are times, especially with those I am closest to, that I want to yell "stop it!". I don't get it. It's not my struggle. I cannot understand why it is so difficult just to turn things around. But in that moment, God continues to remind me that while that may not be my struggle, I have my own. And try as I might, without God working in my life, I will fall back into the same patterns and find myself doing what I hate. We need to be patient with others, as God is with us. Pray for them, realize you too are a sinner, love them (which may mean calling them out at times), encourage them and forgive them.
Below is a youtube link for the skit I mentioned. It will give you a chuckle. Enjoy!