Then I read some more in John Owen's Overcoming Sin and Temptation. Zinger. It's like I can't get two pages without needing a week to meditate, repent, think, and pray. The focus of what I read was on struggles with particular sins, and why God doesn't always give us the victory over the particular sin that we most desire to overcome. oh man. get ready.
First, he argues that the rage of one particular sin is generally the result of a negligent or careless course in general. How true! When I forsake reading, prayer, writing, and memorizing, how quickly that space in my thoughts is filled with a thousand temptations and evil desires. The longer I forsake spending time with God, the more I doubt the goodness of his love and choice of life for me. I just came off chaperoning a retreat and jumped straight into prepping Quinn for school, so I haven't really seen my close friends for several days. Already I've begun to think they all hate me and I'm a terrible friend and I'm nervous about calling or texting or hanging out because I'm sure in the last five days they've all moved on to better friends. If I can think those ridiculous thoughts about people whose presence in my life is so real and tangible and good, how much more am I tempted to doubt God's goodness and kindness when I neglect Him?
But even more piercing is that God deliberately does not relieve me from the burden of these particular sins, though I pray like Paul every day for victory. Why do I struggle with the same sin over and over and over? Get ready for the sucker punch. Often God chooses not to give us victory over particular sins because we desire that relief because the particular sin bothers us, not because we grieve over how deeply our sin offends God. If He were to remove the particular sin and its troubling temptations, we would be satisfied with ourselves, not realizing how desperately we need deliverance from all sin. In other words, we don't desire the mortification of all sin because it grieves God. We merely want to get rid of the habits that trouble us so that we can go on living without God, indulging in our pet sins such as pride or lust or envy. So God chooses not to give us victory because He knows we would not turn to Him if we did not struggle with those particular sins. OUCH.
Universal obedience, the complete mortification of the whole sinful nature, and not simply the elimination of particularly annoying sins, is God's desire for me. When I secretly harbor certain pet sins while asking for relief from the troubles of one or two, then I am deluding myself. And then when God doesn't deliver? I get so angry, and I find myself in Quinn's position, saying the words I am supposed to say to God without the change of heart. Quinn wanted to get out of bed without ever truly being sorry for his actions. In the same way I want relief from certain temptations and struggles without really wanting to relinquish my entire sinful nature. I think I should get what I want because I've said the right words, but God wants me to have the right heart.
At the high school retreat I chaperoned this weekend, I got launched off something called "the blob." If you've ever been to a youth camp at a lake, you've probably seen something like it. I saw it on the drive in and thought, "please, no, Lord, don't make me do that." So of course I had to go try it. It's a giant inflatable tube and you sit on one end while the largest football player at the school jumps off a platform, landing on the other end which launches you into the lake in a very ungraceful manner. And in that instant you're glad you're a girl so you can scream like one and nobody will judge you. When you come up out of the water after an amazing teeth-first flop, there is an instant when you are physically incapable of breathing and you're convinced you're going to die and all you can think is, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe, I can't breathe." That's exactly how I feel after reading John Owen. As I'm reading, it's like I'm saying, "please don't take me here, Lord." But he does, and it hits me so hard that I feel like I can't breathe, and I've spent all week waiting for my lungs to work again.