Spiritual Warfare, Emotional Brokenness: Finding the Way Back Home
“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.”
- 1 Corinthians 10:13
As I get older, I take more and more comfort in the fact God never promised life would be easy. It reminds me He knew our lives before they were ours, that He’s already seen them through to their end, and there will still be plenty of room to sit at His feet when we get there. It shows me He gets us, He knows what we’re feeling when we feel it and why. He knows about last week’s breakup, this week’s irritations at work, and next week’s family squabble. He knows how you’ll react to it, and He’s forgiving. But He also provides a way through it.
Paul knew this better than anyone. Theologians surmise that in the spring of AD 56, he wrote his first letter to the church of Corinth, an ancient city and former municipality located in south-central Greece, during the last year of his three-year ministry at Ephesus, off the coast of Ionia. His second letter, known as 1 Corinthians in Scripture, explains the necessity of accepting God’s authority over the lives of the Corinthians, and indeed, over everyone’s. Jesus is King and believers are His possessions, and for Paul, Christ’s authority over them was the answer to all of life’s quandaries. After all, the Corinthians were not the first of man, and therefore whatever hardship they encountered, God had already spoken over long before.
Living in New York, especially during the winter after daylight savings has darkened the skies, it can be so easy to slip into stagnancy and let my feelings do the decision making. I’ve done well at escaping the pull of them this year, but I’ve spoken recently to many who haven’t. It’s a familiar script, and one we all write for ourselves far too often, understandably: I’m tired so I won’t get up and be productive in the day God made for me. I’m sad so I won’t find joy in those fleeting signs that life is beautiful: a smile from a passing stranger, a game of eye-tag on the subway with a curious child. I’m heartbroken so I won’t try to mend it by helping to heal someone else. We give ourselves a lot of tempting reasons to stay right where we are, under the pull of emotional brokenness, without noticing the spiritual warfare going on underneath it—that “fight on!” cry of our souls wanting us to choose God’s love over our own pain. In other words, we’re human. Luckily, God was once, too, and He endured everything we go through and more so that we’d find peace in the midst of it.
The Corinthians were a broken people, lost amidst their own faulted understanding of the way in which they should live. Paul reminds them in 1 Corinthians 7:23, “you were bought at a price; do not become slaves of people.” I think people applies to ourselves, too, so that we should not only avoid enslaving ourselves to other’s whims or power over us, their potential to inflict pain or disappointment, but that we should also not becomes slaves to ourselves—to our feelings, in any given situation. We should not bequeath our purpose, happiness, or sense of self to anything other than Christ, as He’s already proven Himself, and far greater than anyone else’s efforts, has given His life to prove it. There’s profound joy to be had in that fact.
Humanity is so much grander than our own stories. It’s a million stories woven together to write the same tale of love, sacrifice, and redemption large enough for others to take notice of. I think it’s crucial, especially with the New Year nearing, that we remind ourselves nothing we do or feel could ever overwhelm God. We have the whole of His people to fall back on if we do, indeed, need to fall. But His grace promises that we can escape ourselves. In fact, we must, if we’re to live like His son. And that life is better than anything we could devise on our own.
Whatever conflict life throws at you, cover yourself in the protection of God’s promise for your life. Seek out the company of people who know how to love, unselfishly and abundantly. As difficult as it may be to fight the pull of your emotions, deny them by living outside yourself, for the betterment of someone else. Before you realize, you’ll find yourself home again.