Am I the only one who said, “I would never do that,” only to find myself one day doing (or saying) the very thing I vowed I wouldn’t? How about this: you’ve given up an unhealthy habit or behavior. You’ve resolved to never engage in it again. You don’t for a long period of time.
Then one day you do. You can’t explain exactly how you got to that point. You’re probably disgusted and disappointed in yourself. You feel ashamed and embarrassed. It’s a terrible, humbling moment.
I had such a moment recently, which prompted me to write this piece. There was an unhealthy behavior I had struggled with for decades. A year or so ago, I believed I had it conquered. It no longer took effort to avoid engaging in it. The thought of it didn’t even cross my mind anymore. It was never going to bring me down again.
Except it did.
One day, a day not unlike the hundreds before or after it, I found myself lured into partaking in that unhealthy act again.
You may be wondering what is my struggle? What is this harmful thing I’m involved with? I’m not going to share that here. Not because I’m afraid of what people might think, but rather because if anyone reads this and doesn’t have the same struggle, they may feel exempt from the point I’m trying to make.
My personal struggle is merely an example of a greater problem.
The larger issue here is how fallible we are as human beings. We are capable of anything. Under the right circumstances, we can act nobly and selflessly. Under the wrong set of circumstances, we’re liable to do something terrible and awful. In some situations, we can be brave and courageous. In others we can be weak and cowardly.
In my case, as a Christian, we are often preached to about how God is greater than any of our problems. He’s the answer. (And He is, by the way.) So, when we mess up, as I did the other day, we can immediately feel condemnation and guilt. We may ask ourselves, If I love Jesus, how could I do something so stupid? What is wrong with me? Why after all this time did I slip? Was I not reading my Bible enough or spending enough time in prayer? What happened?
Spoiler alert: God is not surprised.
As I’ve written before, God is not surprised by anything we do. There has never been a time where He leapt up from His throne in amazement, turned to His Son and said, “What the??? Did you see that? I was not expecting that.” Nope. Doesn’t happen because He’s all-knowing, all-seeing and all that.
I’m not suggesting we completely dismiss our mistakes or sins. Absolutely not. We should take a careful look at ourselves, ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and His help to show us how we became vulnerable in that moment. Were our defenses down? Were we trying to escape a painful situation? Were we just tired of waiting?
That last one is a biggie for me if I’m being honest. The Bible says how God’s timing is not like ours. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. (Making you look that verse up for yourself. This is blog #71, after all.) I, like most people, have hopes and dreams I’ve been waiting to see come to fruition for a long time. I get impatient. Then I find myself wanting to disconnect, distract myself.
Therein lies the danger.
As I let my mind wander, it can lead me to unhealthy situations. It starts out innocently enough: binge watching a show I like or scrolling through social media. Little by little, however, I become more checked out. I’m less interested in reading the Bible or praying or listening to Christian music. My flesh begins to crave more of the disconnection, more of the distraction.
Until I finally give in to a temptation that hasn’t been able to tempt me for over a year.
So, what should we do when what we said we’d never do we went and did?
Would it help to know that even one of the greatest figures in the Bible (Paul) voiced this same struggle? Don’t believe me? Great. Check this out. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)
First, I take comfort in knowing this man whom God inspired to write a huge portion of the New Testament, who played a vital part in building many churches and helping lead many to Christ, wrestled with the same issues. You’ll notice he doesn’t name his struggles. The point isn’t what they were, the point is that they were.
This was a man who spent far more time praying, fasting, studying than I ever have. Yet he’s saying what I say many times too. I love Jesus. I want to live a life that pleases God. Why do I keep doing things I know do not please Him?
The simple truth is because we’re human. It is in our nature, but God overcame our basic, lower nature. His Holy Spirit helps us recognize a better way, a higher calling.
If we slip does that mean we’ve lost our way?
As I stated earlier, God is not surprised. He saw the temptation before we did. And He already prepared a way out for us.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
If I reflect on the events of the day leading up to my mistake, I can see subtle ways the Holy Spirit was trying to redirect me. I simply ignored the promptings. I made a choice. I’m responsible for my decision. Perhaps I did lose my way a little. I definitely lost focus on what really matters.
I close by confessing I may engage in this or another unhealthy behavior again. I pray I won’t. I pray the next time temptation rears its ugly head I heed the warnings, finding the way out God has already prepared for me. I am not so prideful to believe I can do it by myself.
I don’t desire to ever do it again. But I learned to never say never. And I can rest knowing God will never ever stop loving me and you.
Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you.