The Root of the Problem (Part 14): Difficult Circumstances

The Root of the Problem: Why We Sin & How We Can Overcome

Excuses are often made for sin on account of the difficult circumstances in one’s life. These excuses may be made by individuals for themselves or by others on their behalf.

  • He stole – but he was poor.
  • He has a drinking problem – but his parents were alcoholics.
  • He committed murder – but he was abused as a child.

These are just a few examples. The list is endless. Sin is regularly excused because of one’s situation. We cannot have this mindset. Sin that is excused later becomes expected and then eventually becomes accepted.

While we certainly recognize that some circumstances that an individual may have to go through are tragic, they do not excuse sin. No matter what a person’s life is like, sin is sin and must be put away.

Teaching that difficult circumstances are no excuse for sin does not make one insensitive about the plight of others. It does not indicate a lack of concern for those with a troubled life. “But you don’t know what my life is like!” That may be true. (Then again, you don’t know what my life is like either – it works both ways.) But we do know what the word of God says.

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:11-13).

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

We are to put away sin. If we fail to do so, we will receive the wages that are due us for our sin. There is no exception to this on account of our circumstances.

Just How Bad Is Your Life?

If we consider a few examples, we see individuals who are commended to us for overcoming sin despite their difficult circumstances. Maybe you have had tragedy in your life. Maybe you have various hardships. Compare the difficulties in your life to these examples. These individuals, in spite of their difficult circumstances, did not justify sin. They overcame sin.

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:6-9).

Joseph was in Egypt after being sold by his brothers. He was now a slave alone in a foreign land. In this type of situation, we might expect one to be vulnerable to temptation. The momentary sin could serve as a distraction from the sorrow over one’s circumstances. But Joseph did not give in. He remained strong and refused to give in to temptation.

We also have the example of Job, a man who was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1). He had been so richly blessed with children and possessions that he was called “the greatest of all the men of the east” (Job 1:3). But all of this was quickly taken away from him. His children and possessions were lost. All he was left with was his health. But he did not use this series of unexpected events as an excuse to go off into sin.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” (Job 1:20-22).

After this, Job lost his health. Then his wife turned against him.

Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:9-10).

With all that Job had to endure – losing his possessions, his children, and his health – his wife then turned against him. More than anyone else, one’s spouse should be a source of comfort and encouragement in dark times. Job’s wife did not provide this for him. Yet in all of this, he did not sin.

Then we have our greatest example – Jesus Christ. He left heaven to come to earth and live among men. While here He was rejected by His people, deserted by His friends, and suffered a torturous death that was reserved for the vilest of criminals. Even so, He did not commit a sin.

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:21-24).

Even while facing the severe difficulties of the cross, Jesus did not sin. Peter tells us that He is our example. Jesus endured all of these things to do more than just forgive us of our sins. He died on the cross “so that we might die to sin.” We need to overcome sin as followers of Christ. We find encouragement in the Scriptures that whatever our circumstances, we can overcome sin.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Sometimes life is hard. Maybe you are having to endure hardships that are greater than those of the people you know. But one thing is clear: no matter what your circumstances might be, you can overcome temptation when it comes. Do not use your situation as an excuse. Rise above your difficulties and put away sin.


Trials, adversity, and suffering can cause one to become weak and more susceptible to temptation. Even if you face difficult circumstances, do not back down in the fight against sin. Remember the example of others who remained faithful despite their difficulties. Also remember the divine promise: in every temptation, there will be a way of escape. You just have to take it.

This material is taken from the book, The Root of the Problem: Why We Sin & How We Can Overcome, published by Gospel Armory, © 2010.

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