Struggling with Sins

Before I became a Catholic, though I have been attending Protestant churches, the concept of Sin doesn’t really bother me.
Of course I know that I have a sinful nature, and God is love and by His Grace & Mercy, He has forgiven our sins. Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice, and His death washed away our sins.

And that was at the intellectual level. At the head level, not the heart.

I continue in my sinful ways, with no guilt whatsoever. The devil was not interested in me, for I was already on his side.

Then came my baptism, and I remember clearly what Fr. Richards mentioned, that my Holiness is perfect only for that one second when the water touches my forehead. And after that one second, I am back to my sinful nature.

But something strange happened. The concept of Sin no longer lingers only at the head level. I have started to question; so if I am baptized, and the Holy Spirit is within me, why would I continue to sin?

And I enter into that first stage of struggle – Feeling Immense Guilt.
Because I now know Sin, and that Sin is bad, and I began to feel that I was not worthy. I felt ashamed. I cried out to the Lord. But what I didn’t know then was that the devil was at work – he turned me against God. I almost turned away from our Lord, because I was so shameful, and I felt I was not worthy.
Sin almost turned me away from God.

But the Holy Spirit within me wrestled with the devil continuously, as I pray and cry out to the Lord each day. I then realize that to turn away from God is to fall into the devil’s traps.
 I must recognize God’s Grace and Mercy, and how much He loves me, despite my sins.
I struggle still, for I am unable to pull myself out from sin.
The second stage of struggling, is when I bash myself for sinning. I used my mind and discipline to try to stop myself from sinning. I did it out of obligation and out of fear.

Our God is good and I am delighted and grateful that there is the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
I can go for confession of my sins, and I know God forgives my sins. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is for me to feel better. It is a human need. God doesn’t need my confession. The penance is for me to feel I have made myself right again before God – that I can be worthy to be in His presence once more.
This third stage of struggling let me realize that Sin is darkness. Whenever I sin, there will be dark patches growing over my body, covering the Light  from me, made in Jesus’s image. The more I sin, the darker I will become, and soon I will lose the Light of God.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a constant battle against Sin. Every time I go for confession, I will be able to scrub off some of these dark patches, and make myself brighter (and holier) in front of God.
I now realize that I can never be complete Light. My sinful nature means that there will always be dark patches. But the idea is not to eradicate all of these dark patches. The ultimate goal is to have more light, and it is a lifelong struggle.
And these dark patches are like diseases, or they can be imagined as cancer cells. Mutated genes that will spread. If I do not make effort to eradicate these dark patches, then they will spread. They will grow all over my body, and soon I will be in darkness.
I struggle with Sin still, but now I know I have the weapon to combat the devil.
Confession is so important, and it is so important to do it regularly.

My non-Catholic friend once asked me, what’s the point of going for Confession and then you continue to sin? Isn’t it a joke that your sins can be forgiven at a confession, and right after it you sin again>
I felt the same initially.
Now I know it is not. The starting point is I am a sinner. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is for me as a human being to feel better and to make amends and to be right & worthy again in front of God. Confession doesn’t protect me from sinning. But if I don’t go for confession, I can turn into complete darkness.
Confession is to be brutally honest with ourselves, to bare our souls in front of God, to be completely vulnerable. There will be no more secrets. I do not need to lead a double life, with secrets that I can never tell another soul. Confession does not make me become a saint. But it can prevent me from becoming the devil’s disciple.

Though I have the means to fight sin, I still struggle. For I know that my human mind is weak. I need the Holy Spirit, and I need prayers.
Yes, prayers.
If the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the shield against Sin, then Prayers is to spear to attack sin.
And I am grateful for those friends who have prayed for me. For I have seen how prayers work, and how prayers help me to finally stand up against sin and say “Lord God, I want to end this!”
This fourth stage of struggling gives me renewed Hope and Faith – that though I struggle still, I have the comfort of knowing that the Holy Spirit is indeed within me to be on my side, and I feel comforted.

But I cannot be complacent. For now I know that Sin is not just  human nature and struggle; there is this dimension of spiritual warfare that I have ignored or downplayed earlier on, because I didn’t have the concept.
Now I know that the devil is getting panicky, that when we want to turn to God and be in the Light, the devil will go all out to stop us from doing so.
Besides confession and prayers, I need one more thing in this fifth stage of struggle – God’s love.

God our Father loves me as His precious child.
I will, as any other child, do things to hurt him, and hurt our relationship.
But He will always forgive, and continue loving me.
I can turn away once, twice and even a  third time.
But I once I experience His Love, and understand the unconditional love and sacrifice He has made for me, my only response is to love Him back.
And Loving Him means not doing the things that will hurt Him.
So I no longer sin, not out of fear or obligations, but because it is the only right response to Someone who has loved me with His life.
That little I can do for Him is to stop sinning.

And by His Mercy and Grace, He has equipped me to fight against the devil.

I now know within my heart that I am a sinner, but I no longer feel alienated from God. It is scary to know that the devil is always lurking around and waiting to pound, but I feel secure with the Holy Spirit, and with my friends’ prayers.

It is going to be a lifelong struggle, but now I struggle without fear, and I am doing it out of Love.

Amen!

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