As I have struggled to know God, my sense of my own sinfulness has continually gotten in the way. I got angry easily, and I tried desperately to change that. I was afraid of myself. I was afraid I might hurt someone. I tried making a covenant with myself that I wouldn't become angry. I tried to keep from saying or doing anything hurtful, but still the anger remained, and what is in the heart comes out. So, I continually hurt those around me. And I continually hurt myself. Each time I became angry, guilt would attack me, and the guilt would feed my anger, because now I would be angry with myself. I couldn't find a way out.
I remember one day, four years ago, while I was looking again at my temper, I prayed desperately to God in my journal. I told Him that Paul was able to look at himself and say "I do what I don't want to do, and I don't do what I want to do," but I myself want to be angry. When someone hurts me or does something wrong, I want to be angry. I prayed, "Please help me, not because I want you to help me -- I still want to be angry, but instead help me because I desperately need you."
The next day, I was reading a book. I don't remember the book. In it was the verse, "There is no other name in Heaven or on Earth by which we must be saved." As I read, the verse became a song. "There is no other name in Heaven or on Earth by which we must be saved. There is no other name in Heaven or on Earth by which we must be saved. Halleluyah to the Lord above, Halleluyah to the God of love, Halleluyah, Halleluyah, Amen." I sang that song all day.
It was not until much later in the day that I realized that the song was a promise from God to me. A few years before, I had meditated upon Psalm 40:1-3.
.******. I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
.******. and he turned to me and heard my cry.
.******. He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
.******. out of the mud and the mire.
.******. He set my feet on solid ground
.******. and steadied me as I walked along.
.******. He has given me a new song to sing,
.******. a hymn of praise to our God.
.******. Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
.******. They will put their trust in the Lord.
Suddenly, I saw that in giving me a new song, God was making a promise to lift me from the mud and mire, to set my feet on solid ground, and to steady me as I walk along. The song became a promise to me, and a war song when I was discouraged.
God also kept me meditating on Romans 7. In both verses 17 and 20, Paul says that it is not he sinning, but sin at work in him. I had talked about this passage with others, but we couldn't see how saying it wasn't you sinning helped the situation. If you sin, you sin. How would it help to say you didn't do it? But Paul said it, so we can't just ignore it.
As I meditated, I came to sense that God was asking me to see that there are two things at work in me, but only one is me. I cannot claim both as myself. Either the sin is who I am, or righteousness is who I am. But if I see the sin as myself and ask God to take it away, I am basically praying, "Take it away, take it away, it's me, it's me." I had an image of a hero ready to take out the villain, but He couldn't because I was all tangled with the villain. We have to untangle our sense of self from the sin within us. As long as it is who we are, we will never be victorious. I can choose which is me.