When you’re married, spending quality time with your spouse is crucial. And when you’re the working parents of three children and you make it to 9pm, quality time together looks like watching a no-emotional-or-intellectual-energy-required TV show.
This September, that show came in the form of “Castaways,” an ABC reality show where 12 strangers were ‘abandoned’ separately on a group of uninhabited islands in Indonesia. To “win” the show, they had to remain on the islands until an unknown “day of rescue” and the only thing they knew (based on the fact that they were left with another castaway’s luggage rather than their own) was that others were out there somewhere.
In the first two episodes, several of the castaways set out to find the others and were successful in their efforts. As a pair or trio, they were able to pool their resources, combine their energy and effort, and most importantly, have someone else to talk to!
In the third episode, one of these pairs, Tim and Krichelle, made their way through the forest to the other side of their island, where they found another castaway named Eric. As the audience, you were celebrating with Eric, who, in his own words, was “starving for human connection”. No longer would he need to create imaginary conversations with the tools and objects he had named – Eric had found the companionship he was desperate for.
But as quick as you were celebrating, you were scratching your head when, instead of going with Tim and Krichelle back to their camp, Eric chose to remain alone. And then, after going to their camp to visit them a couple days later, he still did not stay. “Even though I know everybody needs everybody and that’s how the world turns,” he said, “I just dislike asking people for help. You know, it’s a pride thing. I’m just gonna try to do it on my own for as long as I can.”*
Sin has been a part of the human experience from the very beginning. The struggle between doing what we feel will satisfy or fulfill us in the moment and doing things the way God has planned or commanded that we do them is part of every human’s everyday. Paul’s words in Romans 7:18-19 may be some of the most relatable verses in the Bible because we all know what it feels like to “have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”
Temptation is no fun and no joke. Life would be so much easier if it didn’t exist! If my human brain would just agree with God that His ways are best and everything in me was willing to follow those ways, I would never hurt myself or anyone else. But that happens pretty much never and more often than not, I’m sitting in a moment where I have to make a choice. I can fulfill my selfish desire. Or I can put my selfish desire aside and walk in what God has told me is better.
We know from Paul’s other words in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that, “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.” Because we’re human, we like to create this “way of escape” or “way out” (NIV) by threatening or punishing ourselves, making promises that we’ll ‘never do it again,’ or by setting harsh rules for ourselves. If those methods don’t work, we simply resign ourselves to the fact that we are failures, throw up our hands and stop trying. Or even worse, we convince ourselves it’s ‘not really sin anyway,’ and hope we stop feeling convicted about it.
In Romans 8:12-14, Paul gives us the only solution that works: “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”
The real “way out” is the Spirit of God living within me. I have His companionship right here, available to me 24/7, and His companionship is the answer to my struggle!
By inviting the Spirit into my moment of temptation, no matter how unnatural that seems, I’m admitting that I can’t do this on my own. Temptation can only be defeated “through the power of the Spirit,” so my part is only to cry out for His help. By inviting the Spirit into the moment, I open up a conversation with Him about what is right, rather than engaging in pointless debate with myself. And inviting the Spirit in gives Him the chance to remind me of His goodness and shift my desire from that thing that’s in front of me over to Himself.
Our instinct reaction in moments of temptation is not to think about God! If we’re thinking about Him at all, it’s that we want Him to leave us alone or that we believe He’s already abandoned us because of our choices. Like castaway Eric, we let our pride tell us we can handle it on our own.
Eric’s willpower only lasted about one more day after he left Tim and Krichelle that second time. Only eight days in to the show (“rescue” came on day 41), he hung up his hat and quit the game. As the audience, it was frustrating to watch someone give up so quickly, when the one thing that would have helped was readily available to him. Everything inside of you wanted to jump in the TV and shake him and say, “Dude! What in the world?! You had the companionship you needed right there, why didn’t you take it?”
Temptation is real, but I’m never a castaway. My way out is my constant Companion and His help is just an invitation away!
*Castaways, Episode 3, “Only the Lonely”