A huge piece of bakery deliciousness sat in front of me. It was a combination of three desserts in one. One layer was cheesecake, one layer was ice cream cake, and in between those was a layer of brownie-like chocolate cake… all drizzled with some kind of fudge icing that was calling my name.
This was served to me while on a family vacation. At the time, I was at the beginning of my no-sugar adventure. I’d been doing great at home, but I’d been dropped into a place that was teeming with bakery things my mind could not even conceive of, while everyone around me could eat a pound of sugar a day and still look fit and trim.
I didn’t want my family to miss out, so I told them to please enjoy. “I’m fine,” I said with a carefree smile. But inside a totally different dialogue was playing in my mind:
It’s not fair!
I think this is one of the biggest tricks Satan plays on us girls to get us to give in to temptation.
Saying “it’s not fair” has caused many a girl to toss aside what she knows is right for the temporary thrill of whatever it is that does seem fair. But the next day the sun will rise. As each band of light becomes brighter and brighter, the realization of the choice she made the night before becomes clearer and clearer.
Guilt floods her body.
Questions fill her mind.
Self-doubt wrecks her confidence.
And then comes the anger. Anger at herself. Anger at the object of her desire. Anger even at a mighty God who surely could have prevented this.
It’s not fair that others can have this, do this, act this way.
It’s not fair that God won’t let us eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden… one little bite wouldn’t be so bad, right?
It’s not fair I can’t buy that new thing I want. Just a little debt wouldn’t be so bad, right?
It’s not fair I have this body that requires I watch everything I eat when that girl eats junk and stays a size 4. One piece of cheesecake wouldn’t be so bad, right?
It’s not fair that we can’t have sex before we’re married when we’re so in love. Experimenting one time wouldn’t be so bad, right?
Our flesh buys right into Satan’s lie that it’s not fair for things to be withheld from us. So we bite into the forbidden fruit and allow Satan to write shame across our heart.
And whether we are talking about having premarital sex or cheating on our diet, once we taste the forbidden fruit, we will crave it more than we craved it before — thereby giving temptation more and more power. And given enough power, temptation will consume our thoughts, redirect our actions, and demand our worship.
Temptation doesn’t take kindly to being starved.
I don’t know what tempts you today. But I do know this vicious cycle, and I’m here to give you hope that it’s possible to conquer it.
Just typing that sentence gives me chills. A few years ago, I wondered if it might ever be possible for me.
As I’ve mentioned, the eating plan I chose was a no-sugar, healthy-carbs-and-protein plan. Which doesn’t sound so bad until you realize sugar is in just about everything we enjoy eating. Breads, pasta, potatoes, rice, not to mention all things bakery-licious.
So, sitting at that special dinner during my special vacation, I started to have a little pity party, and those words It’s not fair crept into my brain.
In that instant I squirmed in my chair and thought, I’ll take just one little bite… maybe two… I’ve been so good… I even exercised this morning… this is vacation… everyone else is indulging… oh my stars, what are you doing, Lysa?!
The sugar was like a siren of mythical tales, luring the ships over to rocky coves that would inevitably dash and destroy them. The seduction was smooth and seemingly innocent. But in that moment of temptation, I realized having a pity party was a clue I was relying on my own strength.
I had to grab hold of God’s strength, and the only way to do that was to invite His power into this situation. In this case, I gave God control of the situation by mentally reciting, I am made for more. I am made for more.
I recalled pieces of scriptures I’ve tied to this go-to script and banked up in my heart.
I’m more than a conqueror.
With God all things are possible.
Let the peace of God reign in your heart.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one…
The problem is, Satan hit me with a twist that left me momentarily shaky: But this is a special time, Lysa. And special times deserve an exception to your normal parameters. It’s not fair that you have to sacrifice. Look around you. No one else is sacrificing right now.
It’s at this exact point when the dieter on vacation indulges. The virgin sleeps with her prom date. The girl on a debt reduction plan pulls her credit card back out for a big sale. The alcoholic skips AA and heads off to the bar for her friend’s fortieth birthday.
I needed a go-to script for this situation. So I lowered my head and prayed, “God, I am at the end of my strength here. The Bible says Your power is made perfect in weakness. This would be a really good time for that truth to be my reality. Help me see something else besides this temptation looming so large in front of me.”
Suddenly a memory flashed across the screen of my mind. I was sitting on my back deck with my teenage son and his girlfriend at the time, having a deeply honest and gut-wrenching conversation. They had gotten into a bad situation and allowed things to go too far physically. While not every boundary line was crossed, they had crossed enough to scare them both. My advice to them was to think beyond the moment. Say out loud, “This feels good now, but how will I feel about this in the morning?”
That was it.
I was challenged by the words and expectations I had placed on my son while not realizing how this same advice could be so powerful if applied to my area of struggle. I had my next go-to script, and as I recited it,
God’s power filled in the gap of my weakness.
Soon it was time to get up from the dinner table. I pushed back my chair, left the dessert untouched, and walked back to the room. And I’ve never felt so empowered in my life. Later, I looked up that verse about God’s strength being a perfect match for my weakness:
But [Jesus] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. — 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Weakness doesn’t have to mean defeat. It is my opportunity to experience God’s power firsthand. Had I said yes to that one bite that first night of our vacation, there would have been more compromises.
Compromise built upon compromise equals failure.
Instead, resisting temptation allowed promise upon promise to be built up in my heart, and that creates empowerment. This is God’s power working through my weakness. I knew one day I would be empowered enough to take a couple of bites and walk away, but that day had not yet come.
I don’t know what you might be struggling with today, but I can assure you that God is fair and just. There is a good reason we must face our temptations. The struggle to say no may be painful in the moment, but it is working out something magnificent within us.
For so long I’ve considered my struggles with weight a curse. I know I’m not alone in this. But, what if this battle with food is actually the very thing that, if brought under control, can lead us to a better understanding of God? What if we could actually get to the place where we thanked God for letting us face this battle because of the rich treasures we discovered on the battlefield?
My friend E. Titus summed up what I am discovering:
When I get all caught up in how unfair it is that my friend is skinny and doesn’t have to work at it, how she can eat what she wants when she wants, and how much it stinks that I can’t be like her, I remind myself that God didn’t make me to be her. You see, He knew even before I was born that I could easily allow food to be an idol in my life, that I would go to food, instead of to Him, to fulfill my needs. And in His great wisdom, He created my body so that it would experience the consequences of such a choice, so that I would continually be drawn back into His arms. He wants me to come to Him for fulfillment, emotional healing, comfort — and if I could go to food for that and never gain an ounce, well then, what would I need God for?
There is such wisdom in my friend’s perspective. Instead of parking her brain in a place where she constantly feels a struggle with food and weight issues, she’s chosen a much healthier perspective.
The reality is, we all have things in our lives we have to learn to surrender, give up, sacrifice, turn away from. Think of that skinny girl in your life who you’ve watched eating whatever she wants. She may not struggle with her weight, but trust me, she has struggles. An anonymous comment on my blog gave vulnerable witness to this reality:
I am one of the skinny girls, but don’t mistake skinny for healthy. I battle depression and starvation, fight self-esteem issues from years of verbal abuse, the list seems endless. Little is just an image. But being little doesn’t make a person any more happy or faithful or joyful. The struggles are the same (or at least similar), just in a different-size package.
Life as a Christ follower will always be a learning process of depending less on our own strength and more on God’s power. The Bible teaches that this
testing of [our] faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that [we] may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:3-4
Oh, sweet sisters, this truth should be the cry of our souls instead of Satan’s lie that “it’s not fair.” Our taste buds make such empty claims to satisfy us, but only persevering with God will make us truly full, complete, not lacking anything.
Press on, sisters. Press on.
Excerpted with permission from I’ll Start Again Monday by Lysa TerKeurst, copyright Lysa TerKeurst.
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Temptation of any kind doesn’t like to be starved. It will fight us and the enemy will whisper in our ears how unfair it is to deny ourselves anything we desire. What are you repeating to yourself to fight the urge to indulge in something you know isn’t God’s best for you? Come share with us. We want to hear how you’re fighting the good fight! ~ Devotionals Daily