April 24, 2019
When You Tell Yourself, “I Can’t Help Myself”
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness”(2 Peter 1:3 NIV).
Friend to Friend
Jennifer stood in front of the mirror staring at the overweight woman looking back at her. Just two years ago she’d lost 120 pounds, and now 80 of them were back. I can’t keep this weight off, she thought. I know what I’m supposed to do, but I just can’t do it. I’m always going to be fat. I’m just going to accept it and quit trying. What’s so bad about being fat anyway? I just can’t help myself.
Rachel loved Travis, she really did. Though they were both Christians, they found themselves staring at the ceiling in her bedroom after a night of passion that led to a morning of regret. We’ve tried to remain pure, she mused, but we love each other so much. It’s just natural to feel this passionately about the person you love. Once we start kissing, we can’t stop. But I know it’s wrong. I feel sick to my stomach every time we have sex. I just can’t help myself.
Martha could hear her six-year-old son crying in the next room. She was crying too. Her words of anger yelled at the top of her lungs just moments before bounced off the walls of their home. Oh, God, Martha prayed, why can’t I control my anger? Why can’t I control the words that come out of my mouth? I’m destroying my family with them. I’ve tried to control my tongue, but the hateful words come out anyway. What’s wrong with me? I just can’t help myself.
Maybe you’ve found yourself saying these same five words: “I just can’t help myself.” Or maybe you’ve given up and said, “That’s just the way I am.” If you have, you’ve been telling yourself a lie.
Yes, maybe you can’t help yourself by yourself. But, guess what. The power of the Holy Spirit working in you can. The key is, we must cooperate. The Bible says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). The one thing He won’t do is force you or me to change anything. He has given us the dangerous gift of free will, but also the power of the Holy Spirit to follow through.
Paul was a man who knew what it was like to struggle with the lie of “I can’t help myself.” Listen to what he wrote to the Romans:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Romans 7:15-24)
Paul was a mess and he knew it. I’ve been right there with him, haven’t you? I’ve known I needed to exercise, but taken a nap instead. I’ve known I needed to talk to the woman beside me in the airplane, but opened a book and read. I’ve known I should give my husband grace, but given him the cold shoulder and turned my back to him in bed. What a mess. In each case, I could have made a different choice, but I chose not to.
How do we move past the lie of “I can’t help myself?” Paul was so excited to tell us the answer to that question that he couldn’t even wait until Romans 8, but blurted it out at the end of chapter 7. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” he cried. And then came the answer: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25). Exclamation marks all around!
“I can’t help myself?” Don’t believe a word of it. God has given you everything you need to make right choices through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, sometimes I feel like I can’t help myself. Thank You for the reminder that my mind can overrule my feelings—that Your truth trumps the devil’s lies. Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Go back and read Romans 7. Notice how many times Paul uses the pronouns me, myself, and I.
Now read Romans 8. What difference do you see when he focuses on Jesus’ power rather than his lack of it?
More from the Girlfriends
Do the voices in your head tell you that you are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or just not enough, period? If so, it’s time to stop listening to the lies that sabotage your confidence and start embracing the truth of your true identity in Christ. It’s time to overcome the lies of the enemy with the promises of God.
Enough: Silencing the Lies that Steal Your Confidenceexposes the lies that keep you bogged down in guilt, shame, and insecurity. By recognizing the lies, rejecting the lies, and replacing the lies with truth, you’ll be able to:
- silence the voice inside that whispers you’re not good enough
- accept God’s grace and no longer allow past failures to define you or confine you
- be preloaded with the truth to fight insecurities
- walk in the surefooted confidence of God’s unconditional love
Originally published Wednesday, 24 April 2019.