We may feel as if fighting the temptation to sin is the last thing that we can handle while weak in our suffering. However, we must always remember that the Tempter of Old doesn’t fight fair. Sin is not a polite guest. It doesn’t notice suffering and say, “Terribly sorry! You look busy right now.”
Where our Lord deems it necessary, He accomplishes great good in our souls through trials of various kinds (1 Peter 1:6). But wherever great good is in the works, we can be sure that evil is lurking nearby (Romans 7:21). This is why Peter warns us to “Be sober-minded; be watchful.” The reason is clear: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Like a cunning lion, he targets those who struggle at the back of the herd.
We may feel as if fighting the temptation to sin is the last thing that we can handle while weak in our suffering. However, we must always remember that the Tempter of Old doesn’t fight fair. Sin is not a polite guest. It doesn’t notice suffering and say, “Terribly sorry! You look busy right now. I’ll come back another time that’s more convenient for you.” No. Sin is scheming, crouching at our door, desiring to have us when our guard is down. Sin has no rules of war, no code of honor. It stabs a man in the back, raids the infirmary, and makes off with the women and children. Against such an enemy, we cannot afford to ignore Peter’s command to be watchful.
Though the trials we face will vary greatly from person to person and season to season, we must learn to recognize those that are common to all people in order to withstand them. Here are a few of the temptations that suffering believers commonly face:
1. Self-pity. The “I don’t deserve this,” voice is familiar to many of us. Sometimes, it may even be true in a creature to creature sense. Injustice is real- we are not always treated fairly by others or our hard work is not always fittingly acknowledged. Other times, self-pity rears up when suffering exceeds our determined limit- we want to say “when.” Or self-pity may functionally believe, “God exists to serve me, and he’s not doing a very good job.” In some cases, lament is very appropriate, but sulking in self-pity only keeps us from true comfort. It twists our reason into believing that our misery is the cause not the result of our problems. Without defining our own sin as the source of our cursed state, we will not be able to see and be thankful for mercy. In reality, we deserve death (Rom 6:23), but “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) Self-pity is driven off by thanksgiving for mercy.
2. Anxiety. Having established our proper place as people deserving of death, but shown great mercy, the the next base suggestion that might come to mind is, “Now it’s up to you to keep it, or else…” At its root, anxiety is a lack of trust in God’s affectionate sovereignty. It cannot see that our troubles are ordained by God for our good “to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Cor 1:9). Anxiety’s antidote is not the absence of difficult circumstances; it is to cast our burdens on the one who cares for us with power (1 Pt 5:7). Anxiety cannot thrive in the presence of prayerful dependence.