A few days ago was one of those days where no matter how much I prayed, preached to myself, and sought Gospel reminders, I just couldn’t seem to turn my heart from wanting to lust to wanting to rest in God. I was working at a McDonald’s enroute to the beach so there was ample opportunity to enjoy “beauty in the flesh.” I have to confess that I gave in far more often than I’d like to admit. So I ran to my Christian brothers for prayer and gospel encouragement. It made all the difference.
But I still wanted to dig deeper into why it was so difficult to stay faithful to God. I told myself all the right things, prayed the right prayers, avoided, avoided, and avoided. Why did my heart refuse to turn from sin? Here are some of the reasons I found.
I’m angry at him for being God
I want to decide when and how and with what I am satisfied. But that is something for the Lord of the universe to decide; not me.
I recently had some conflict at work and home, as well as just some stressful circumstances. I wanted comfort. But as I believe in the sovereignty of God, I was angry at him for ordaining some of those trying circumstances in the first place. It’s hard to run to the person you’re angry at for comfort. My heart had forgotten that God is not only sovereign but good.
I can’t run to God demanding comfort. I have to come to him as a child who knows that everything he gives me is an undeserved gift of grace.
Sex has no direct parallel in our relationship with God
Sex in marriage is a picture of the intimacy in heaven between Christ and the church, but it will in no way be sexual in heaven.
To fight anxiety, you trust that God works all things for your good. To fight greed, you realize that in Christ all things are ours and we will inherit the new earth. To fight pride, you realize how helpless you are without God. But to fight lust, do you realize that God is physically more beautiful and satisfying than the feminine physique? There seems to me to be an awkward disconnect between the desire for sex and battling that with a desire for God.
I want to enjoy feminine beauty. Women are the height of beauty in God’s creation. There is nothing like enjoying the eloquent looks of an exquisitly beautiful woman. And I’m supposed to fight that desire with a greater love for Jesus? Jesus is a man. I’m just not going to enjoy a man the same way. I really do enjoy my relationship with Jesus, but what I want is to have intimate, passionate sexual pleasure with a woman. How can the gospel overpower that desire?
We’ll answer that in a different post about heaven. But suffice it to say, what is coming for us in heaven is a pleasure all together different yet comparably greater than sex. So much so that believing sex is the greatest thing will be like an adult still thinking that candy and toys are the greatest thing. However, because we are not yet in heaven this is truly a challenging obstacle for finding satisfaction in God now.
The Christian life is the world’s longest engagement
The marriage of Christ and the Church is a future event. Until then, our union with Christ is much like that of betrothal or engagement.
This an imperfect analogy since in many ways our union with Christ is complete. But there are also ways in which the true marriage between Christ and the church has not yet fully happened. Being engaged to my wife was one of the hardest seasons of my life thus far. The anticipation of sharing all of life with her was intense. We enjoyed a lot of the benefits of marriage and definitely had a lot of the challenges, but the greatest benefit was still out of reach.
We married young, so both of us were still living at home. She still belonged to her parents. She was still under their authority. She had a curfew up until the day before our wedding. She was mine to marry, but the intimacy and mutual belonging was not realized yet. This was agonizing.
The Christian life is much like this. We belong to Christ, but sin still lingers in our hearts. We battle a dual ownership. We truly belong to Christ, but sin still grabs on with all its might. We feel this battle daily. We’re pulled in two directions daily. Sometimes it is extremely easy to belong to God. Other times it is an agonizing struggle. This is the hardship of living in the already-but-not-yet of union with Christ.
We experience many of the benefits of being united with Christ. But the greatest benefits are yet to come. It is agonizing to wait for the best that is yet to come.
I don’t fantasize enough about heaven
A Christian ought to use everything he knows about heaven to fantasize about what it will be like to be with God. Set your mind on things above.
Part of the problem is Christians typically don’t know very much about what the new earth will be like. But that is not for a lack of information in God’s word about it. We will be spending a considerable amount of time discussing what heaven will be like on this blog. I believe that understanding what God has in store for us and actually being able to imagine ourselves there is one of the most powerful weapons against lust in our hearts. Part of what it means to cling to God’s promises in the midst of temptation is to imagine their actual fulfillment. They become far more concrete in your heart when you do this.
So if our desire for sexual pleasure is a picture of the pleasures of heaven and we are not yet in heaven, we should not expect to be fully satisfied this side of heaven. Paul says we are betrothed to Christ and Jesus says he is preparing a place for us in heaven like a groom prepares a home for his bride. We need to ask for the self control to wait for him to return and bring us home.
However, God also is actually present with us now. Unlike a human groom, he is the omnipresent God who has specifically chosen to dwell in our hearts through his Spirit. Because he is with us in Spirit now we should expect to experience satisfaction in him in Spiritual ways. Deep within our soul we can be satisfied with him when we drink from the Fountain of Living Water. We’ll talk about how to pursue that in another post.
What are some other reasons you have a hard time finding satisfaction in God this side of heaven?