The contrast between the flesh and the spirit has never been more real to me than in this present season of life. In the Christian world, we hear this language a lot. The flesh and the spirit are often evaluated side by side, always revealing a stark contrast. Most often, the context is in that of our flesh being weak, and our spirit being strong. Maybe the phrase, “Say no to your flesh!” rings a bell.
We are taught to deny our flesh and obey the spirit of God inside us. Time after time, the Word of God makes reference to the weakness of the flesh. The problem, for me, has been my inability to comprehend what this looks like in action. Also, if I am honest, I think that I, like many others, have thought about this in a very close minded way, placing the concept of spirit and flesh into the very small box of completely obvious sins.
Although it is crucial for us to deny these apparent and seemingly larger sins, my personal experience has been that the less obvious and more hidden sins are the ones taking their toll on my emotions, day by day. These sins- fear, doubt, restlessness, and all their friends- find their way into my heart and mind, leading me into sin. To sin is to trespass, or to fall off path. Essentially, it is a wandering away from the truth of God.
For the flesh, it is a natural to move in that direction, away from the ways of God, while the spirit, on the other hand, is resisting that desire to wander, and longing to draw close to the heart of God.
In my life, it looks a little something like this:
The flesh fears, while the spirit leaps.
The flesh runs into, or away from, while the spirit rests.
The flesh doubts, while the spirit believes.
I can only imagine it is similar to what David expressed on multiple occasions in the Psalms, as he cried out for his soul to hope in God and align with the Spirit.
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
His heart and spirit knew that his soul, his very flesh, was out of alignment with the ways of God. Even in knowing this, he struggled with it time and time again. To put it simply- the struggle was real.
The flesh literally drives us away from the very heart of God, away from the fruit of the Spirit, and the tension of that tug is ever present, until the moment in which the Perfect One will return.
Meditating on this reality stirs the depths of my heart, and provokes the question, “How do we say no to the flesh and allow the Spirit to lead?”
I don’t have a cool list of twenty-five ways to deny the flesh and choose the spirit. What I do have is my own very raw and real experience, which is one of choosing intimacy with God on a daily basis. As David said so beautifully, “I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” He knew that he was weak by his own accord, but that the help of the Father was the very thing that would sustain him. He didn’t choose to give up or give in, as we so often do when we are fighting for victory, yet the struggle continues. Instead, he chose to draw near to God, and praise Him for the help of His presence.
So when my flesh fears, I will draw near to God, for He is the wind that catches my sail. He takes hold of my Spirit, and together we leap.
When my flesh runs, I will draw near to God, for He is the peace that calms the raging storms of my heart. He takes hold of my Spirit and together we rest.
And when my flesh doubts, I will draw near to God, for He is the truth that anchors my very being. He takes hold of my Spirit, and helps me to believe.