Tempted by Pain Relief
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted 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.” (James 1:13–15 ESV)
As we conclude our look at our desires and the ways in which we are tempted to sin, we must be willing to recognize that our perception is not synonymous with reality. What we see and feel can be misleading; the promises of God cannot. For this reason, in every situation in which we are tempted, we must recognize the lie and remember the promise.
The Desire: People want to avoid suffering.
When I say “people want to avoid suffering,” I mean we do not want to hurt; we want to escape because our reality is more painful than we feel we can handle. Show me an addict—to anything, really, but especially to drugs—and I will show you someone who lives by this principle. Show me an addict, and I will show you someone running from something.
We all know people who live life trying to escape it. Perhaps we have been those people. If people were happy, fulfilled, satisfied with life, experiencing no pain and no suffering, they would not be trying to drink their pain away every weekend. They do those things because there is something messed up in their lives, something they cannot fix, something that feels out of control. They do those things so they can force themselves to forget, force themselves to feel differently, force themselves to find a fleeting form of happiness without having to face their problems.
However, people’s drug of choice is not always a substance. For some, it is entertainment. They binge Netflix. They are hooked on video games. They cannot live without their phones. They wake up and check how many people liked what they posted. They fall asleep engrossed in the fictional lives of a tv drama or the nearly-fictional lives of their friends on social media websites. They get angry, upset, depressed, stressed, and frustrated, so they sit in front of a screen and drown the pain in the same endorphin release that the heroin addict thinks he needs to survive. They do not want to suffer, so they find ways to escape. They find ways to transport themselves to different realities so they do not have to deal with the problems in their own lives, in their own families, in their own schools, in their own neighborhoods, in their own churches.
Recognize the lie. The lie is that you do not have to suffer. It is a lie because escaping the pain now does not stop you from suffering—it just makes you suffer in a different way. It makes you suffer as your relationships die. It makes you suffer as your threshold for pain gets lower and lower, and you need to escape more often. It makes you suffer as you start giving up because “it’s too hard” and “life’s not fair.” Eventually, you find yourself too weak to endure, too weak to push through the pain and accomplish anything that is not handed to you on a silver platter. That sounds like suffering after all, does it not?
Remember the promise. God does not pretend like we are called to avoid suffering. It seems pretty ridiculous for a disciple of Jesus—who Himself was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, the very epitome of the concept of the “suffering servant”—to expect to make it through this life without suffering. But God promises that sanctified servants who are willing to suffer now get to see God. Suffering now means healing later. Suffering now means glory later. Suffering now means riches and joy and peace without end, forever—but later. It is not about whether you are going to suffer or escape it; everyone suffers. The question is whether your suffering is going to mean anything in the end.