Green thumbs I don’t have. Nor do I claim a love for gardening even in the most generic sense, but I’ve still made some observations to pass along. (You don’t have to be a credentialed airline pilot to observe that jets fly fast and high, do you?)
Some parts of the country have endured severe rains and flooding, but we’ve had little rain in our area. Lawns are brown, parched flowers are panting, and real gardeners labor to keep plants from giving up the ghost. Weeds, on the other hand, have been faring very well.
That’s the crazy thing – you can do everything possible to nurture flowerbeds or cultivate a thick, green lawn, and your efforts might still go for naught. Nothing works. But weeds, those pesky, pernicious, problematic misfits of nature, need no help. They grow regardless of temperature, moisture or other conditions. Killing or even containing them is a full-time job.
The other day hydrangeas in front of our house were wondering, “When is summer over?” and other greenery was clearly in the throes of a hydration crisis. That is, except for the weeds – which I don’t recall planting. They seemed unfazed by the dryness. I yanked up as many as I could spot, but when I looked back, more had already sprung up.
Habits are kind of like that. Good habits – such as working diligently; exhibiting patience; speaking with kindness; being generous; striving to remain healthy both physically and mentally; or being a compassionate, understanding spouse or parent – all take energy and determination. But behavioral “weeds” – bad habits – require no effort to grow.
When was the last time you saw a parent telling a child, “Now, Honey, here is how you become angry and fly off the handle uncontrollably”? Or a wife instructing her husband, “Let me show you how to become insensitive and uncaring toward me”? No one ever said, “I am now going to do everything in my power to become an alcoholic,” or “I think becoming addicted to Internet porn would be a good idea.” The “weeds” of negative, even destructive habits or behaviors appear and take root without any planning on our part.
Why does it seem that when presented with the alternative of good habits or bad, we have a natural bent toward things detrimental for ourselves and others?
The Bible offers some answers, even if we don’t like to hear them. Romans 3:23 tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Confirming that wasn’t some sort of misprint in the original writings, Romans 3:10-12 declares, “There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understandings, no one who seeks God. All have turned away…there is no one who does good, not even one.” To state it another way, we all have more than our share of bad habits and unhealthy behavior – and they’re awfully hard to overcome.
So what’s the solution? Do we simply ignore or even deny our failings, what the Scriptures term “sins”? Or should we offer the excuse, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace,” and accept wrong behavior as our everyday default setting?
Not at all. Like weeds, bad habits and unproductive behavior can be overcome, but only with great resolve and perseverance. And just as we can apply weed killer to destroy unwelcome plants, God promises the necessary resources to dispense with spiritual weeds.
Jesus said, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Along the same lines, the apostle Paul pointed out – drawing from personal experience – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). To triumph over our “weeds,” we need Jesus’ power.
This doesn’t mean we sit back passively and wait for God to “clean up our act.” We carry responsibility in the process, too. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices…. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2).
The first step toward recovery for an addict of any kind is recognizing there’s a problem. Our first step spiritually must be acknowledging and confessing we have a sin problem. Once we’ve done that, we can prayerfully ask God to empower us to overcome our sins, to extricate the “weeds” infesting our lives. Then we resist temptation, seeking to replace bad habits with good ones.