1 Corinthians 10:13
The story is told of four high school boys who couldn’t resist the temptation to skip morning classes. Each had been smitten with a bad case of spring fever. After lunch they showed up at school and reported to the teacher that their car had a flat tire. Much to their relief, she smiled and said, “Well, you missed a quiz this morning, so take your seats and get out a pencil and paper.” Still smiling, she waited as they settled down and got ready for her questions. Then she said, “First question—which tire was flat?”
C.S. Lewis quote:
”A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is . . . A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means – the only complete realist.”
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to everyone.”
Our common experience. Shared humanity. We are not alone. So don’t think poorly of yourself because of your temptations. Don’t beat yourself up. Can you accept yourself as human and vulnerable, the same as others? Or do you make yourself out as worse off than anyone else. That is a mistake. Don’t do that. Thank God for allowing temptation to remind you that you are human, and imperfect. Quit fighting that. Accept it. Be glad to be reminded of it because that keeps us humble and aware of our need for grace. It helps us to listen to God’s voice and depend on our Good Shepherd. And that is good.
When we think of temptation we might think of food, booze, sex, drugs, pornography, stealing, etc. Yet, one of our most common temptations is the issue of control. Think of the Garden of Eden and the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “If you eat this fruit you will be like god…” Why do we always have to be in control? Our control is only an illusion, a myth. We are not in control. Why is it so hard to trust; to let go and let God be God?
“God is faithful. He will not let you be tested beyond your strength.”
You are never isolated and alone in your temptation in human terms. But also know you are not isolated and abandoned by God because of your temptation. God does not judge or condemn you because of your humanness and frailty! Jesus came into our world to deliver us from evil. We pray that in the Lord’s Prayer! That doesn’t mean we don’t experience temptation. It does give us hope that even though we are tempted there is a way out. First, God doesn’t give up on us when we fail and fall flat on our face. Forgiveness in Jesus is real! Second, God can use the temptation to teach us a little more about ourselves. Learn to listen.
Why are we tempted? Oftentimes temptations that we face—if we listen—help us to discover our brokenness and our insane attempts to heal ourselves through addictions and finding comfort in what become traps and snares. When we listen maybe we can discover the root of the temptation. Are we fleeing from inner pain and suffering? From being abandoned, rejected? From being inadequate, not okay?
Don’t run from the pain and suffering. Look beneath it and let it guide you to the Savior’s mercy and love. Jesus meets us where we are most broken and vulnerable. Discover mercy in the temptation. Discover God’s love and care for you as one of His children—a beloved child whom God desires to bless.
Finding mercy in temptation is also a way to find hope. Hope that you are okay, and that you will be okay. Our journey through Lent to the cross is not about finally measuring up. It is about discovering God’s mercy in Jesus. It is about discovering the hope that is defined by love—God’s love given us in Jesus.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.