Friday, July 10, 2009

Temptation, Guilt, and the Awesome Power of God

I've been wrestling with this nagging temptation for quite some time. By wrestling with, I don't mean the struggle of not succumbing to the temptation, the struggle not to sin, but merely the struggle of having the temptation in the first place, and of wanting it gone. Over the past few months I've felt just about every possible feeling of guilt as a result of having this temptation: I can't believe this; I thought I was passed this; this is so terrible, if people only knew, they'd think I wasn't even a Christian; I am such a horrible person; I'm obviously straying from God; try as I might to draw on his presence, I have failed. What a failure I am.

Somehow, I believed that if I kept earnestly praying for God to remove the temptation, He most assuredly would, and as long as the temptation was still there, it was an obvious sign that I didn't truly want it gone. Some part of me was failing to give this over to God. And so, in distress, I continued to pray - and felt guilty all the while. The odd thing was, the more I turned to God, the more the temptation seemed to show it's ugly face. To me, this was utterly confusing, and left me feeling frustrated and powerless.

The other day I was in the car on my way to do an errand, when a harmless bit of everyday life triggered the temptation and BAM! This huge overbearing cloud of guilt and confusion suffocated me once again. I cried out to God, and out of desperation started reciting the first verse that came to mind concerning temptation: 1Corinthians 10:13 "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 that you may be able to endure it. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is ... " I repeated it over and over, all the while wondering why my "memory cards" entitle this verse "Assurance of Victory," and yet, I was feeling everything but victorious.

Finally, in the midst of my frantic speech (fully out-loud, by-the-way. I'm hoping people assumed I was just one of those bad drivers talking on a speaker phone in traffic, rather than a nut-case shouting into thin air), the "still small voice" managed to reach me through my hysteria. "Is temptation a sin?" I stopped: Wait... Think about it... No, of course not. The very verse I was reciting does not even assure that God will completely remove temptation for those who ask. It assures God's power to keep us from sin as a result of temptation. After all, Jesus himself was tempted. To have temptation is NOT a sin. To act on it is - and THAT is what God promises to save us from when we draw on Him. The still small voice was suddenly louder, "Are you afraid you might act on this temptation, Bronwyn?" The question itself seemed almost ridiculous. "No way!" I confidently proclaimed. Suddenly, it seemed as though victory was mine, even in the midst of temptation. The cloud of guilt was lifted from me by the powerful hand of God. I was sure, if it weren't for my seat belt, that I would float right off my seat.

It's funny how this revelation was no big news to my intellectual self, and yet, somehow, I had allowed Satan to make me feel guilty for having temptation, as if Satan himself was the cause of my temptation, and that merely having it would keep me from God's presence. In reality, I think God allows us to have temptation in order to draw us closer to himself. The only thing Satan had the power to contribute (and the ultimate cause of my frustration and spiritual repression) was the guilt - and, at that moment, God empowered me to take that from Satan as well. Praise God!

As I thanked God for breaking me free, and as I celebrated the fact that my temptation could be used by God to draw me deeper into His presence, I was reminded of a song by one of my favourite Christian music artists, Rich Mullins. It's called Hold Me Jesus, and he wrote it after facing some pretty serious temptation when visiting the Red Light district of Amsterdam. I sang it to God, loving the fact that I could so well identify with another Christian whom I so deeply respect.

Eventually, I got to where I was going, completed my errand, and returned to my car for the drive home. I was still "floating". On the way home other thoughts of daily life started to occupy my brain, but I wasn't ready to leave the spiritual mountain top yet. Determined to stay focused, I turned my radio to Praise 106.5 - which, if you know me well, you would know is a VERY bizarre thing for me to do. Even when desiring worship music, I generally loathe that station, but anyway - I turned the volume up just in time to hear the radio announcer say, "This is Rich Mullins." I recognised the intro right away. It was Hold Me Jesus. I almost had to pull over, as I could barely see through the tears streaming down my face. It wasn't as if I needed more confirmation, but God, in His infinite love, decided to bless me with it anyway. And so, I just HAD to share this experience, as it was too overwhelming to keep to myself.

So there you have it. I am a Christian currently experiencing a great spiritual high while in the midst of nagging temptation, and I am a crazy nut-case who shouts Bible verses on repeat and sobs while driving her car.

Love to all.

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