Chronic back pain has had a way of teaching me spiritual truth to live by. When it’s severe and takes away your sleep and your mobility, or when the back surgeon says, “Don’t call me until, and when you say, ‘Uncle!‘” then let’s hope we learn something of lasting importance. So, here I am again at 4:00 AM in the morning, this time watching beside the bed of my beloved Julia who’s suffering excruciating back and leg pain when she tries to get up. We’re praying, of course, and believing, that God will see us through this latest trial and into healing. But in the meantime, we’re learning…
For instance, did you know that in recovery, the moment you feel a twinge in your back, that’s precisely the moment to stop shoveling snow or bending over to do the weeding? Oh, if only I had enough sense to stop then, stretch out, and rest, before returning to the task! But w-ay-ay too often, I’ve “overdid it” and ended up suffering for a good long while.
Pain of back can lead us to think of “pain” of conscience
Like that pain twinge we should listen to when we’d rather finish the job, there’s a twinge of conscience that God sends into the heart of His child when he or she would rather finish the fantasy, indulge the whim or give in to the emotion. There’s a moment when what we’re doing or thinking or feeling just isn’t right, and we know it. But our desires seem to smother that moment and we continue on, until it’s too late and once again we’re in deep pain – the kind of soul pain that sends us reeling into doubts about ourselves and whether or not God can forgive us and welcome us home one more time.
A reading of 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 assures us that God gives a way out of the temptations that come along with the trials of this life. We read and believe, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (ESV)
So, WHEN does God give us a way out?
Another New Testament passage helps us not only helps understand where temptation comes from but gives insight into when the “way out” mentioned in 1 Cor 10:13 is given.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted [enticed to evil] by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:12-18 ESV)
According to the Apostle James, temptation begins in the weakness of our flesh under the testing of life that a fallen world naturally gives us, a world under Satan’s dominion. It is overcome in the moment of “steadfastness” during that trial.
Weakness of flesh is any weakness of body or soul that causes us to desire and become preoccupied with the control, comfort and justification of desires. Wherever and whenever we are weak in our flesh, questioning whether we measure up or beginning to feel we are shortchanged, that is precisely where the temptation can lodge very easily and very often. And then the fallen, broken world we all live in ramps up the pressure, by telling us that we don’t measure up or we must measure up in some way. The deceitful Allure tells us we have been shortchanged. It’s then that Satan can truly make headway with the temptation, because he personally with great hatred is constantly attacking any and all that belong to Christ Jesus. And when the devil gains a foothold in our mind or soul, it’s then the temptation turns so easily into something destructive either to ourselves, to God, or to our relationships with others. We start out for pleasurable satisfaction and end in miserable pain.
The Twinge of Conscience is our best friend!
Like the twinge of back pain that keeps us from serious, debilitating hurt if we listen to it, God gives a way out of temptation at the precise moment when conviction pokes our conscience that something is not right. God gives a way out of temptation in that moment when we have enough spiritual sense to say, “This is not as it should be.” There, in that moment, is a way out of the temptation. There, in that moment, is the opportunity to make a 180 degree turn and go in the other direction one way or another. If we do not take that moment to do a 180, the temptation continues to have power and increases in power in our lives until we give in. As the temptation increases in power, the voice of the Spirit urging us to stop and turn the other way may be lost in the steadily increasing white noise of lust. (See Galatians 5:13-21.)
Among the beautiful gifts then that can be lost, in ignoring the twinge of conscience, is the “way out” God provides. We lose it simply because we didn’t believe God had provided it, or stupidly ignored the moment God did give us in which to do a 180. And then, of course, we also lose the ultimate in good gifts that God intended for us – the opportunity to fully trust Him to fulfill our desires in the right way, and to glorify His name as the Giver of life and all good things.
Discovering the way out when we feel the twinge
What is “the way out” God provides in that moment when we feel a twinge from His holy presence? Like the stretching and resting that a chronic back sufferer practices whenever necessary, so the chronically tempted (and who isn’t?) practice some spiritual resting and stretching.
We rest in trusting, humbling prayer – bowing to the good and perfect will of the King. We rest in turning our thoughts to God’s Word on the matter.
And we stretch.
We stretch toward thankfulness, seeking to remember the good gifts God has already given us and how they are designed to satisfy the deepest desire of our hearts.
And finally, we stretch toward the Fruit of the Spirit – i.e., the results of walking in sweet accord with the Lord, not in the deceitful embrace of fleshly desire. (See Galatians 5:16-26.)
- When tempted to hate or believe the worst about ourselves and others, we stretch toward the unconditional LOVE of God.
- When tempted to discouragement in unending chores, we stretch toward the JOY of the Lord.
- When tempted to give up over what life forces us to give up (sometimes for the rest of our earthly life), we stretch toward His PEACE.
- When tempted to blow our stack against the unyielding, we stretch toward His longsuffering PATIENCE.
- When tempted to return meanness for meanness, we stretch toward the KINDNESS of the Jesus.
- When tempted to be critical and overbearing, we stretch toward His GOODNESS.
- When tempted to cut corners, we stretch toward His FAITHFULNESS.
- When tempted to ignore the feelings of others, we stretch toward His GENTLENESS.
- When tempted to give up control to the world and the devil, we stretch toward His SELF–CONTROL.
Feeling that twinge of conscience, it’s time to rest and stretch in the Lord!
—David Ewert (03.10.2020)
 Temptation comes from three sources according to the Scriptures: the earthly (fleshly) desires of our human nature (Romans 7:18, Galatians 5:19 – 21, James 1:14 – 15, etc.), the world (2 Peter 1:4, Galatians 1:4, 1 John 2:15-17), and the devil (Ephesians 6:11, James 4:7; 1 John 3:1-10).