“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 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 1:12-15)
I am so good at throwing pity parties for myself that I never need anyone to give me one. In other words, you might never think I indulge in self-pity because I do it in the privacy of my home, and not in public (usually). How pitiful! I need passages like the one in James to bring me to my senses when I start blaming God for difficulties in my life (which is usually at the root of self-pity). Do phrases like, “life is unfair,” “I shouldn’t have to deal with this,” or “why do I always have to be the one to… (fill in the rest)” sound familiar? They all ask God, “why me?”
Why? We are sinners who don’t remain steadfast, who don’t want to be loved so much that it hurts, and who want to blame everything on someone else, including and usually God. We must follow the trail of temptation to know the truth and James helps us by tracing our sin to our temptations, which emanate from our desires. Our desires come from our hearts, beliefs, appetites, and attitudes. Many of us move through life with a punishment-reward system—we are either always punishing or rewarding ourselves and others based on outward behavior. However, in doing so, we neglect the source of good or bad actions, as if they spring from thin air. We wouldn’t try to fix a pipe without turning off the water, because the source of the water will continue to provide a steady stream (in our faces). Why do we think that we can isolate conduct to fix it, as if it has no source?
I have a desire that lurks in my heart (either consciously or unconsciously) and is fed by temptation when my eyes, ears, or other sensory organs take notice. Then, because I am caught by surprise, or think I am unable to stand up to the pressure, I give in to the temptation and sin. Self-pity kicks right in, justifying the needed “reward” because things are too hard—sin becomes the reward. Not only do I die a small death because of my sin that separates me from God, but I am also now calling sin a reward, adding self-righteousness to my account, all the while blaming God for it.
Are you willing to admit that you are a co-conspirator with me in this sometimes? Will you examine the desires of your heart that are engaged by temptation and start taking responsibility for standing firm with God’s strength, rather than give in? “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)