Here are 3 possible reasons for why God keeps allowing you to struggle with a reoccurring sin.
1. God May Allow You to Keep Struggling with a Reoccurring Sin to Point Out a Deeper Issue That You Are Not Yet Aware Of
According to Proverbs 20:5, the human heart is like deep waters and it takes wisdom and insight to draw out what is lying beneath the surface. Sometimes we have a deeper heart issue than we are aware of and God is allowing this reoccurring sin to occur to highlight the deeper issue we have.
Our sinful actions are never the root issue. Sin is always a symptom of our hearts condition. When our heart is healthy and walking with God, we sin less and less the closer we are to Jesus. But when our heart is drifting from Christ or we have a wounded part of our heart that is running to sin for comfort, we will sin more and more. As John Owen wrote in his book, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers:
That God does sometimes leave even those of his own under the perplexing power at least of some lust or sin, to correct them for former sins, negligence, and folly, I no way doubt . . . Examine your heart and ways. What was the state and condition of your soul before you fell into the entanglement of that sin which now you so complain of? Have you been negligent in duties? Have you lived inordinately to yourself? Is there the guilt of any great sin lying upon you unrepented of? A new sin may be permitted, as well as a new affliction sent, to bring an old sin to remembrance.”
It’s possible this reoccurring sin is actually pointing back to something even older than this struggle you have been dealing with for so long. Ask God what is behind this reoccurring sin. Is it a fear of abandonment, a lack of love, a desire to ease the guilt of a sin you committed years ago?
Pray Isaiah 63:17, “O Lord, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.” Ask God to draw out the deep places in your heart (Proverbs 20:5) that may be the true reason for why you are still struggling with this reoccurring sin.
2. God May Allow You to Keep Struggling with This Reoccurring Sin If You Are Relying on the Power of Fear Rather than the Power of God’s Love for Deliverance
Our motive for why we are trying to stop this reoccurring sin will directly affect our ability to do this or not. The fear of punishment, in the long run, is not a powerful enough source to sustain our warfare against the allure of sin. As John Owen also wrote in his book, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers:
Such a man [who] opposes nothing to the seduction of sin and lust in his heart but fear of shame among men or hell from God, is sufficiently resolved to do the sin if there were no punishment attending it; which, what it differs from living in the practice of sin, I know not . . . now if a man be so under the power of his lust that he has nothing but law to oppose it with, if he cannot fight against it with the gospel weapons, but deals with it altogether with hell and judgement, which are the proper arms of the law, it is most evident that sin has possessed itself of his will and affections to a very great prevalency and conquest. Such a person has cast off, as to the particular [sin] spoken of, the conduct of renewing grace and is kept from ruin only by restraining grace; and so far is he fallen from grace and returned under the power of the law.”
Restraining grace is the reason our world has not completely destroyed itself. The fear of our civil laws and the conscience God has put in the heart of every human, saved or not, allows this world to go on. But renewing grace is the gift that Christians have received through the gospel. Now we can choose to act morally not only out of fear of punishment but rather out of our love for God and people.
When Joseph was being tempted by Potiphar’s wife, he focused most on his relationship with God, not the fear of punishment. In Genesis 39:9, he states, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 2 Corinthians 5:14 (NIV) says, “For Christ’s love compels us . . .” 2 Corinthians 6:18 states, “I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” And then the next verse, 2 Corinthians 7:1, says, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” The promises of God’s fatherly love must be our motive for obedience, not just the fear of punishment. 1 John 4:17-19 explains:
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”
The power of fear is not as strong as the power of love. If you are trying to resist this reoccurring sin out of fear rather than out of the power of Christ’s love for you, you will keep struggling. Our relationship with God and his love for us must be the motivation for our warfare against sin.
3. God’s Final Solution Is Not Your Perfect Obedience. God’s Final Solution Was Christ’s Perfect Obedience
When it comes down to it, the main reason God allows us to still struggle with sin is because the gospel is not based upon our behavior but Christ’s. Yes, God wants us to obey. Yes, God wants us to love him. But our salvation is not based upon our obedience. Rather, we are saved because Jesus was obedient, even to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). Our obedience is now the result of our salvation by grace. Our salvation is not the result of our obedience.
One day you and I will never struggle with sin ever again. In the meantime, no matter how many times we fail, God commands us to keep repenting, keep fighting, and to keep depending on his grace alone for salvation.
As 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NIV) states, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”