Friday, August 29, 2008

Suffering Temptation II

A week ago I wrote “Suffering Temptation,” and how not giving in to temptation produces suffering—something that even Jesus went through. The very next day, God gave me a very vivid example of that—and helped me see something in a way I hadn’t before.

Tom and I were driving home from a trip through Saskatchewan. The day promised to be long and, indeed, it took us 12 ½ hours to get home. I don’t know what triggered it but at some point near the beginning of the trip I began to think about Pearl. They weren’t nice, soft, cozy thoughts of simply being with her but very sexual and erotic.

Every temptation is a temptation because there is something about what is being offered that is wanted, desired, hungered for, and I wanted so much to give into these thoughts, soaking them into me and taking pleasure in her presence in my mind. And yet, my automatic response was to call out, in my mind, “Jesus!”

I so much want him more than any pleasure gained from Pearl, from anyone else or even from my thoughts, but the thoughts would not relent. They hammered on my mind incessantly, torturing me with their unwanted invitation. “God! Help me!” I cried, but still it went on.

Why was this happening? Why do I continue to struggle with such things? Where is the healing that I know God gave me? And then I thought about what I had written about suffering and temptation. That’s what was going on right now! The anguish, stress and turmoil that twisted my soul like the misshapen statue of Manitoba’s father, Lois Riel, as I huddled against the window hiding my tears from Tom, were the suffering I was experiencing because I refused to give in. I refused to allow my mind to dwell on what kept coming to it and so I suffered. If I had given in, I would have been enjoying myself—at least temporarily—but I wasn’t.

I found that an encouragement. The fact that I was hurting so much was an indication to me that I was not yielding to the temptations that were demanding my attention. I was refusing them. I didn’t need to feel guilty that these thoughts were coming to me because even Jesus was tempted. As this realization hit me, I was able to calm down. I took out my notebook with Bible memory code and began to recite the first several chapters of Matthew. That helped some. Later, it occurred to me that I could sing songs of praise and worship to God and when I did, I felt lifted into the heavens and into God’s arms. The pain was gone.

Your temptations may not be anything like mine but you are tempted. They grab you and shake you and beg for your indulgence and when you refuse, they kick and scream and pound you. It won’t always be easy to endure that pain; but if you do—if you embrace it, welcome it and move on through it—God will reward you and bless you in ways that the pleasures of sin can never provide.

God, thank you so much for who you are. Thank you for the freedom to obey you, for the freedom and strength to endure pain and suffering so that I can hold out for the greater thing that you have to offer. Thank you for the refining work that suffering does in my life and may I always be willing to endure pain, torment and suffering rather than turn from your will to mine.

No comments: