I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. ~John 5:30
Our Lord understood that the will of the Father trumped everything else. It was always to be His will and not our own. Our focus and attention to doing the will of the Father is what brings us such sweet reward (peace, contentment, ease, and joy). However, when we do not follow or submit to the Lord's will for our lives (or in any particular situation), we often find that it tough-going. We find the road marked with great sorrow (suffering, hardship and a lack of satisfaction in our efforts). It is like choosing to lift a boulder instead of a pebble. Both are stone, but one requires great effort (and at times impossible strength). Often, we choose to follow the hard way, the way of our own will. We choose to do our own thing and refuse to submit to the Spirit's guiding influence.
I have done this so many times that I cannot even count them. I do not want to do this, but it happens so naturally for me. It is not as if I set out to purposely do my own thing, no not at all. It is just like Paul wrote in Romans 7:
"For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."
Yes, this is so true. What I do, I do not want to do. I want to do good, but my flesh chooses to do evil. No matter how I fix and focus my attention on the Good, it always seems that I end up doing the thing I know I shouldn't do. O, wretched man that I am!
It has to do with my flesh being sinful, and the very fact that while I am under Grace, I am still a sinner. I am still dealing with my wretched flesh, that flesh that was crucified with our Lord, and that flesh that still wages war with the Spirit of life who dwells with me. The Holy Spirit always cooperates with the will of the Father, and He wants us to cooperate with Him. In doing so, then we will do the will of the Father too.
The problem is, of course, that our spirit (the fleshly one), prefers to question the Holy Spirit, prefers to have the OPTION of choosing whether or obey or not to obey. The Holy Spirit is kind to us, and in knowing us so well, often allows us to choose our own way. We grieve Him when we choose our own way over His, but He does it anyway. Often, this is the only way we will learn to trust Him, to know that He really does know the right way to go.
I think of it this way. Suppose I am traveling through an unknown land. I have a destination in mind, I even have a map in hand (perhaps a compass too), but I am totally unfamiliar with the land I am going to travel. I can be confident in my own abilities, maybe even have much experience (trial and error) in walking through difficult spots (using my own brain and brawn to get me through the tough times). This land, however, is fraught with great enemies, great tribulations, and great trials. It is dangerous even to attempt a crossing, and by all accounts, cannot be done without the help of a knowledgeable guide.
This is our walk in Faith. This is exactly what we are attempting to do -- to get from where we are today to our resting place in eternity (to Heaven). We cannot do it on our own, and the Lord said we needed to wait for our Guide (our paraclete) to come and help us on our way. He is the person who knows the land well, can navigate us around those trials and even shelter us through the tribulation. Our guide book (the Bible) and our Compass (the Holy Spirit) are the two things we must rely on to make our journey successful.
Often we attempt the crossing on our own. We may rely on the Bible for instruction, but we head out without our Guide. It is like we take our Compass along, but never take it out of our pocket and use it. We simply choose to use our own senses, our own feelings, and even our own wits, to figure out where to go.
I have done this, and I still do it. I know better, because I also have walked in Faith, relying on my Guide to take me where He wants me to go. I have experienced both journeys, and the one (with Him in lead) is far superior to my own way of doing it. Yet, my flesh says "I can do this, I don't need you today." He sighs and says "Yes, you do." He knows what lays ahead, what traps or struggles are right around the bend. I walk on without Him, and find myself stuck in a pit or swamp or worse yet, facing a giant of an enemy. He says "Let me lead you out," and when I am faced with such terrible fear or anxiety or stress or even depression, I relent and ask for His help.
He is the Helper after all, and it is His job to help us. He wants to help us. He wants to lead and direct our lives. He wants us to learn to trust Him and follow Him. In obedience to His lead, He will help guide us around the worst things, and through those that we must go through (there will always be some paths that have to be walked). In our choosing own way, we simply are acting foolish and arrogant. We think we know best when in truth we cannot see anything beyond the end of our nose.
Oh, wretched man that I am!
How many times will I attempt to walk through these trials without you? How long will I suffer as the result of my own stubborn willfulness? When will I learn that your way is always best. When will I accept that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Guide, and the One who is here to Help me, knows the way to you and is ready to lead me on the path you have for me? I ask now that you will guide me and direct my steps. Lead me, O Holy One, so that I don't fall into terrible traps and get so lost that I am completely alone. I know you will never leave me, but so many times I find myself alone in a very dark place. Please keep my feet following right after you so that I can go where you go, and do the work you do. In Jesus Name, I pray. Amen.