When Struggling is Okay

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It’s no secret that our country loves superhero-themed movies. They are, time and time again, some of the highest grossing movies at the box office. These movies rake in billions of dollars world-wide time after time. Why do we have such a fascination with superhero stories?

There are probably endless answers to this question, however, when we examine most these superhero stories, we see a theme.

Some sort of out-of-the-ordinary event happens to a regular person (radioactive spider bites Peter Parker, the military does an experiment on Steve Rogers, Bruce Wayne’s parents are gunned down by a robber, etc.) and after the event, they do extraordinary things.

Part of what draws us en masse to these stories is that the heroes typically start out as normal people. These normal people struggle with being bullied (Peter Parker) or not having the right physicality to join the military. We identify with some of the struggles they have as normal people and as we follow the story, part of us wishes that we could conquer our struggles the way that they do. What we don’t realize, however, is that in our lives, and in our relationship with Christ, we are offered a similar choice that these superheroes are offered. Unfortunately, we typically miss it.

This weekend, we kicked off a new series, Heroic, in which we are going to talk about how we need to identify the villains in our lives in order to live the life God has for us.

We all struggle with something and our struggles are very real. However, if we simply accept the fact that we’re struggling, we’ll find ourselves stuck in a never-ending cycle of struggle. This is not how we were meant to live. This is not how we experience love, joy, and peace.

How do we solve this problem? What is the antidote? First, we must admit that the struggle is real. Everyone struggles, but not everyone admits it. Instead, we’d rather live hypocritically than authentically. Essentially, this is when you do everything you can to convince everyone around you that everything is alright and that you’re living a God-honoring life, even when you know that your secret practices reveal the opposite. Hypocrisy isn’t when you say one thing and do another. Instead, it is when you pretend to live one way and actually live another.

All of us know that we want to live God-honoring lives. We want God to produce the fruit of the spirit that he promises. For some reason, however, we find ourselves stuck in a rut. We want to do good things to honor God, but we find ourselves living a different way.

So what do we do? How do we fix this problem?

We have to know that however this problem manifests itself (whether it be lust, anger, greed, bitterness, idolatry, etc.), the sinful action in which we are engaging isn’t the real problem. As Ben said this past weekend,

The struggle is not the villain.

Just like the superheroes in some of our favorite movies, the mere fact that we are struggling with something is not the real issue. The real issue is something deeper. Like a runny nose is a symptom of a cold virus, our outward struggles are symptoms of a different virus.

How do we identify the real villain? If it’s not, ultimately, the struggle, then what is it?

Ben gave us a technique to help us identify our villains this past weekend: Ask why five times. When we know that we’re struggling – when there’s something we are doing that doesn’t align with our claimed faith – then we need to ask why five times. When we ask ourselves why, we are getting to the root of the issue. We are identifying the real villain.

Today, we’re going to take a look at two verses from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Often, we can read right through a passage and not take time to reflect on it. However, sometimes the answers to some of our deepest issues are contained in just a verse or two. Before you read these verses, take time to pray to God and ask him to bless the reading of his word.

Prayer: Father, help me to understand your word today. Give me the wisdom, humility, and intellect I need to take in the verses before me. Finally, help me to live them out today. I ask all of this in the name of Jesus, amen.


Galatians 5:16, 24

16So, I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.


What is Paul’s answer to our problem of living a sort of “double life?”

Though listed later, the first thing we need to do is found in verse 24. We are called to “nail the passions and desires of [our] sinful nature to [Jesus’] cross.”

We do this by bringing our villains to the light. When we ask why five times, we can identify the real villain, and once we do that, we can then bring it into the light. When this happens, the Holy Spirit produces the fruit we desire. He then guides us into a life that is consistent and non-hypocritical. The heroic choice we can make is to identify the villain.

In verse 16, he writes that we need to “let the Holy Spirit guide our lives.”

Let’s first start by having the Holy Spirit. Only believers in Jesus Christ have the Holy Spirit. We aren’t peaceful, patient, loving, merciful, or caring enough, because we aren’t letting the Holy Spirit produce these things. The life we’re pretending to live isn’t the life that we’re really living and we just feel stuck. This is why we need the Holy Spirit. It is his job to produce these things in our lives, it is our job to yield to him so that he can do his work. The first step in living the life that God wants for you is to know the struggle is real, so you can identify the real villain and bring it to the light.

To live the life God wants for you, you need to bring your villains to the light. What is a villain that you have been trying to hide?


Confession is a gift God gives us, but we have to use it. Is there someone you trust enough to confess your struggles? Confess them to God first and, if it helps, confide in one other person.


Prayer: God, you know my struggles. You know the weight that I’ve carried secretly. Please, help me to identify the real villains in my life and bring them to the light so that I can live the life you have for me. I ask all this in Jesus’ name, amen.

This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy is the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study. He has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people and for Christian Apologetics. He is married with two young children. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.

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2 replies
  1. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    Excellent post Andy, love your thought provoking articles. I love that the struggle is not the villain. Most often if we take the time to reflect and ask ourselves why, we get to the root cause. That’s scary, because it means we have to face our issues head on.

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