Wednesday, April 18, 2001

"The Spirit is willing, but the Flesh, well, it just won’t cooperate"

It grabbed by the throat, threw me up against the wall, slammed me to the floor and pinned me to the carpet. And every time I tried to get up it did it again. At least that's the way it felt.

"I can’t believe how BAD I feel," was my slogan for the past week. I’d had colds before but this… It must have been what folks around these parts call "The Flu." Growing up in southwest Ohio, "the flu" always meant a stomach virus that lasted about 24 hours. When we moved to Pennsylvania people talked about "The Flu." A monster that gave you a fever, congestion, total body aches, a cough that never ends and a complete case exhaustion. I stuck my foot in my mouth a few times before I caught on. "Those stomach cramps are awful," I would say as people looked at me like I was speaking French.

But in all these years I never personally caught "The Flu" my ownself. Frankly I thought people who caught the flu and stayed in bed were wimps. "I’ve had stuff like that before," I’d say to myself. "Just take some Alka-Seltzer cold medicine and push through it. It's not that big of a deal." Then last week I got "The Flu" my ownself. It was not a pretty sight.

I took some cold medicine and TRIED to push through it… and found myself sitting at the kitchen table, head in hands entirely unable to function. I’d get up for a couple hours and end right back in bed. It felt like a 50 pound weight was lying on my chest. And a couple more were tied to my feet and hands. No energy. No appetite. No mind. Powerless and helpless. (Now you think I’m the wimp, don’t you?)

One of the worst parts was the cough. My mouth is still numb from living on cough drops. Every muscle in my body still aches from gut wrenching hacking fits. Cough suppressants didn’t help. All the concoctions people recommended didn’t help. Nothing helped. I sat on the couch in the middle of the night thinking, "It’s just mind over matter. I can stop coughing and get some sleep. I will not cough. I will not cough. I will not cough." And I would cough. Loud and long. Powerless and helpless. The spirit was willing but the flesh, well, it just would not cooperate.

I’m getting better. It is taking a long time, but I’m getting better. I must be one of those old folks that need a yearly flu shot.

We all need a reminder once in a while about our powerlessness. We fool ourselves into thinking that we are in control, that we have our destinies in our hands. We look around at other people, believing they are wimps because they can’t just push through their problems. Then one day we hit it. ALL OF US DO. We run headlong into some wall that we cannot push through. We try everything we know and concoctions that others recommend. Nothing works. We will ourselves to overcome it. It’s just mind over matter, we tell ourselves. And nothing works. The spirit is willing but the flesh is powerless.

That is because we are human, not God. We were not meant to be able to handle everything. We were meant to depend on the One who can. When we depend on ourselves, the wall always wins. When we depend on God, He always wins with us in His arms. May not look like it for a while. But there has never been a wall that can beat God. (Remember the cross?)

You’d think we’d have this figured out by now. Jesus was very clear when He said "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5 (NIV) Jesus let us know point blank we are powerless and helpless without Him. But then comes the good news: But God also told us through the Apostle Paul, "for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power." Philippians 4:13 (TLB) There is nothing we cannot handle relying on God’s strength instead of ours.

So what are the walls you’re beating your head against?

Sin? You know the drill we use, "I will not do that. I will not do that. I will not do that." And you do that. Why? We are powerless and hopeless relying on ourselves. But powerful and winners when we rely on God’s strength and way out. "for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power."

Problems? "They are just too big. They are going to destroy me!" Sure. No question about it as long as we rely on our own strength. Doesn’t have to be that way. "for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power."

Relationships? Of course they are hard. God told us they would be as soon as our ancestors bit into the forbidden fruit. But destroy us? Nah. Look at Philippians 4:13 again, "for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.". There are no exceptions, not even for hard relationships.

Are you beginning to see it? If the spirit is willing and we recognize that the flesh is powerless and we rely on God instead, then we can face ANYTHING and make it through victoriously.

So what are you going to do? Wait until you’ve worn all the hair off of your head beating it against that wall you’re looking at? Or let God handle it? It will still be a tough road, but you’ll make it to the other side in God’s way and in God’s time.

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