January 2018 revised in October 2022


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.

Romans 7:17-20


I had always thought I was such a good person, doing my best to serve God. Obeying his leading. Writing prayers in my journal. Loving others in the way God taught me to love. All in all, I thought I followed Jesus quite well. I did not think of myself as a particularly bad person.

And yet, sometimes I do some pretty bad things that I wish I could take back.

I had always thought that when you did something wrong, you knew what you were doing. But the scary thing is, so often you don’t realize it. Then, before you know it, the damage is done, and you’ve hurt someone, or you’ve humiliated yourself. You’re left wondering if there’s any good left in you at all.

Often, I use my mental health problems as an excuse. “It was nothing I could have helped,” I might think. “It’s not my fault, only a symptom of my illness.” It might be.

I know it was in my case last week when I wrote something I probably should not have. But I was impulsive and would not listen when someone who loves me tried to stop me.

Many times I’ve said that having a diagnosis of mental illness is no reason to be ashamed. And I still believe it isn’t. However, mental health problems do sometime make you do inappropriate things you’re later ashamed of. It’s not the illness in itself, but what the illness causes you to do. You make mistakes you’re not aware of until later. And then the feeling of shame sets in.

Why do we have such a struggle? Paul tells us in verse 17: it is “no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” Wrongdoing happened in Paul’s life and it happens for every one of us. As long as we live, the struggle will go on. We try to live up to what we know God wants us to be, but find we have little control.

The apostle Paul, a most godly man, admits to the struggle he has within himself. We can look to Paul’s admission and take it as our example for the first step we need to take. The people who are made better by the power of God are those who are not ashamed to admit their weaknesses, failures, and struggles.

Our struggles with wrongdoings don’t mean we are bad. In fact, as we struggle, we will find ourselves turning to God more than we otherwise would, leaving our self-reliance behind. We will realize what it means to trust in God and God alone.