The pull of addiction is strong and often overwhelming. Many times, the addict is tormented and burdened with the thought of using. The appetite and desire to use seems almost unconquerable and the addict feels completely defeated as he once again gives in to the urge to use. Quite often he is no longer finding the high he once experienced. The satisfaction is gone, but the addiction rages on. The torment seems unbearable as loved ones walk away. Is there help? Is there hope? Is there any solution?
Yes! There is an answer. There is hope. There is healing. The Apostle Paul was one of the most dynamic characters in the Bible, if not in all of history. A man with a strong personality who killed Christians, and persecuted those he found to be unworthy. Paul caused terror in the lives of many. One day, Paul met Jesus and it changed his life forever. But Paul still had struggles, temptations, wrong thoughts and desires.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul describes for us one such struggle. His pride was killing him. His arrogance and self-centeredness were creeping in again. God has a solution for our pride and self-centeredness and Paul was about to learn it.
And lest I [Paul] should be exalted above measure [pride] by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure, (v. 7).
God used a message from Satan to strike at the mind and body of Paul in order to humble him. Ouch! Yes, God uses Satan as a pawn to humble us. What Satan intends for evil in our lives, God turns to good when we respond correctly and biblically. Verse 8 tells us that as soon as the pain hit Paul, he prayed “God take this away!” Three times Paul prayed this before God told him, “no.”
That’s right—No! Paul relays to us the lesson God is teaching. Paul, if I take the pain from you, then your pride will come back. Pain keeps you humble. The Bible uses the word “buffet” or “torment” to describe what Paul was experiencing. Whatever the temptation, struggle, or trial, it was wearing Paul out with torment. His appetite and desire to do wrong was overwhelming.
What was God’s solution? Allow Paul to remain in pain and affliction so that he would have no choice but to lean into God. “…for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul learned that his power was no good to fight the urges, the pull, the appetite to “use.” He had to completely rely on the grace and power of God.
Paul had to make up his mind. Temptation and wrong thinking are coming every day. But every day, God’s grace is more. Every day, God’s grace is more powerful. Every day I must look forward to the trials that are coming that I know I cannot defeat, because that means I have to draw in closer to Jesus Christ and His Word. Every day!
The torment transformed Paul’s thinking and his thinking transformed his actions.
“…Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The urges, the pull, and the temptations are really God calling for us to draw near to Him, and to not draw near to our drug of choice. This torment is the call of God on our lives to find the strength of Jesus Christ, and not our strength. This torment is the call of God to mold us into His image. Paul had a decision to make. He could allow these wrong urges to plunge him into sin, or he could fall into the grace of God. It is a decision that we must all make every day and many times a day.
How are you responding to the torment of strong desires to do wrong? To abuse drugs and alcohol? To pursue wrong and sinful relationships? Do you view them as an avenue for building your trust in God and not in your flesh? Our desire to do wrong never goes away. However, we must learn how to view them through the lens of the Bible and turn them into the very best that God has for each of us.
We will be tormented each day to do wrong. Each day I must know that the temptations are coming. Each day I must make a decision to follow God and learn that His grace is sufficient for me. Not some days. Every day!