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What It Means When Your Flesh Is Weak

As we journey away from unwanted behaviors, sexual or otherwise, it can often feel like our bodies are opposed to change. 

  • We want to eat healthy, but our mouths water even though our stomachs are full.
  • We want to exercise, but our bodies feel too tired.
  • We want to be faithful to our spouse but our bodies feel aroused by the sight of someone else.
  • We want to remain calm, but anger seems to pulse through our veins.
  • We want to see whole people, but our eyes keep lusting at body parts.
  • We want to stop getting drunk, but our bodies feel so insecure without alcohol.
  • We want to keep our minds on God, but our brains stray all day long.

The Flesh is Weak

This rift between what we want and what it feels our bodies want can leave us discouraged and confused. We relate with Jesus’s words in Gethsemane: “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

But here’s where a deadly confusion can set in. In fact, did you catch the problem with what I just wrote?

I wrote that there’s a difference between what “we” want and what “our bodies” want, and I followed it up with a Scripture reference to make my point. But Jesus’s words in Matthew 26:41 do not fully support what I wrote. Why?

Because we are our bodies.

Is there a rift between our spirits and our bodies? Yes, I believe there is. Sin and death have left the human race dis-integrated so that, to paraphrase Paul’s words, we do not do what we want to do (Romans 7:15). But the human body is not something foreign that the human spirit has to fend off. Rather, God created the human self as both spirit and body, a fusion-of-sorts, making one whole.

So Jesus didn’t come to further the rift between spirit and body, but to bridge it, to heal it. To make each one of us one whole again.

Through this lens, we can now see Jesus’ words in Gethsemane more clearly. What Jesus was lamenting was not that humans have a body, but that the human body is insufficient (“weak”) to be able to support the spirit as it is meant to.

So how are we to respond when our bodies pull in one direction while our spirits pull in another? Not by turning against our bodies, but by turning to God with our bodies, or better yet, turning to God as our bodies—creatures comprised of not just a willing spirit but a weak body.

The Spirit is Willing but the Flesh is Weak

This lines up with what Jesus instructed His disciples. He did not say to them, “Damn those bodies of yours that keep falling asleep!” nor “Damn this body of Mine that trembles at the thought of being stripped, beaten, scourged, and crucified.” No, Jesus told them to, “watch and pray.”

This is precisely what He Himself was doing in the Garden. He was bringing Himself—spirit and body—fully, transparently before the Father, asking if there might be another way, and presenting His trembling flesh to God’s will. He was presenting His body as a sacrifice for our bodies. What was the final outcome? The death and resurrection of His body (and ours)!

So as you experience within your body desires for those old things or behaviors you are trying to leave behind, don’t turn on your body. Rather, present your body (yourself!) just as you are—trembling, tempted, weary, or raging—to the One who became embodied, suffered, died, and was raised bodily, for your body.

As oxygen fills your lungs and brings life to your cells, invite His Holy Spirit to fill your body and give new life to your bodily members (see Romans 8:9-11; 12:1).

In what area of your life has your body seemed more enemy than ally? How might it change things to practice seeing your body as the you Jesus came in the flesh to save? Leave a comment below.

For you,
Josh

Want to hear more this week? Check out the latest Becoming Whole podcast; Damn These Eyes.

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