Sometimes temptation feels like it knows me in a deeply personal way, like an old friend come to help, like a lover familiar with all my ways offering comfort in a hard world.
What do you do when temptation feels right? When faithfulness to Christ feels foreign, flat, unfair, or simply too difficult?
There’s actually a lot you can do. But it’s important to know up front that rarely will any of it free you from suffering.
If you’re question is How do I say no to temptation and avoid suffering at the same time?, I don’t have an answer for you.
Reality is, suffering is a part of life in a fallen world, whether you choose to give in to temptation or resist it. As a friend of mine put it to me recently, the options aren’t suffering or freedom from suffering, the options are suffering or redemptive suffering.
This isn’t to say we’re meant to pursue suffering or bring it upon ourselves. Nor are we to walk into temptation. But it is to say, we can choose whether to open ourselves to God’s transformative, sanctifying work in temptation and suffering.
Temptation brings with it a kind of suffering. To say no to sin that seems to fit me so well, this is a form of suffering.
And with temptation come the same options: I can choose to shake my fist at God, insisting he’s being a miserable tyrant for refusing me what “should be mine.” Or I can submit myself and my desires to God, accepting that I am not my own and that he knows my frame better than I do, better than temptation does.
Where is the mercy of God in all of this? Where is the cross?
It is central to all of it. Mercy does not remove all temptation, it meets us in it. The cross of Christ does not remove all temptation or the suffering that comes with it, the cross unites us with him in our temptation and transforms us into his image through it.
Yes, there is reprieve in the battle. Life is not all resisting. God gives rest. But temptation will come. And if we’ll resist, suffering. And with suffering, the opportunity to unite with Christ’s suffering. And in this union, the opportunity to grow in Christlikeness.
Let us pray sin loses its luster to us, and that God’s will becomes all we desire. But while sin yet shines, as long as any part of our frame still reverberates with its song, let us humbly resist. In Christ’s name, with Christ’s body, in Christ’s power, for love of Christ.
Question: What helps you when you’re weary from the battle against temptation? Share your thoughts here.