Feb 28 | Breaking the Habit

We want God to deliver us from sin now. Right now! But the wisdom of the psalmist submits all desire for deliverance to God’s time.


When we are grappling with a sin, it is natural to want God to deliver us from it now. Right now! The wisdom of the psalmist, though, submits all desire for deliverance to God’s time: "At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of thy steadfast love answer me. With thy faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters." (Ps 69:13–14)

This willingness to wait for an “acceptable time” points to a crucial attitude for successful prayer, an attitude we often neglect in times of distress and need. All good prayer keeps God’s will steadily in its sights. We pray either to know his will, praise his will, or surrender to it in difficult times.  In the end, it all comes to the same thing: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” 

When people laboring under the burden of sinful habits reach a breaking point, where they’ve had enough, impatience to get rid of their vice is normal. But often God doesn’t seem to be in as much of a hurry. Does this seem strange? As we experience repeated falls, one step up and two steps back, the jagged edge of spiritual and moral progress perplexes us.

But God permits our return journey to him to be uneven for a very important reason. If we are honest, we might admit that our wish to be rid of a particular sin amounts to wanting to save ourselves from embarrassing or humiliating problems, so that we won’t feel ashamed of ourselves. Fair enough.

But the more important lesson in God’s eyes is that we learn to depend radically on a Savior, learning to trust him not simply more than ourselves, but instead of ourselves. This is just another way of saying that salvation comes by grace, not by our own strength. Didn’t St. Paul struggle with the very same phenomenon? Distressed by the persistence of a “thorn” in his flesh, he begged the Lord three times for deliverance. The Lord’s reply? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And St. Paul responds not with annoyance or resentment, but with the wisdom of a humbled sinner: “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12:9).

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