Temptations, Trials, and Testings, Day ３
This Christmas was my first Christmas truly alone. My first two Christmases in Japan (years ago), I was living with people. And the other Christmases of my life I’ve always been with family, either immediate or extended. It was a hard Christmas season. On Christmas Eve particularly, I felt terribly lonely. I felt a strong desire to message an ex-boyfriend, for some emotional escape from loneliness, even for a short time, even though I knew it wouldn’t be sincere, but in that moment, I was ok with the notion of tricking my heart into feeling embraced. The desire built and built, but at 11:26pm I messaged one of my close girl friends instead. At 11:40pm, the ex-boyfriend I had been tempted to message, MESSAGED ME. (These times are exact, I have the proof in my Messenger chat!)
His message was just to wish me a Merry Christmas. But the timing of this was WILDLY suspect (as if there was someone roaming the earth that night tempting lonely hearts to find false and temporary solace in one another). If we had talked, we wouldn’t have talked about ‘bad’ stuff, but I knew that my heart was terribly insecure that night and was seeking some form of security. Before God set me free, I would often chat with ex-boyfriends when I was sad and essentially ‘use’ them to feel better, by tricking my heart that they ‘truly cared’ about me in the way my heart desired to be cared for. I do look forward to being loved by my future husband, to meeting the one who will truly care for my heart. But in the meantime, I MUST LEARN that my heart is superbly cared for, loved and held by Jesus, and I must train my heart to recognize this as truth and as completely sufficient for all of my needs. Because even in the healthiest marriage, humans simply cannot love one another in the completely constant, fully sufficient way that our hearts yearn for. Our hearts must learn to find ever-security in Jesus alone. And we learn by turning to Him in these moments. When we short-circuit the unpleasant feelings and instead reach out for some immediate, tangible companionship, we miss learning what it is like for our hearts to truly find their fulfillment. During those unpleasant feelings, Jesus is coming, ready to meet us in that place and tend to our heart, and He is never late. But there is one who runs ahead and offers something else to us – something sooner and tempting. But what he offers is a facade. On the outside it promises to give your heart what it needs, but when you open it, you see too late that it is completely empty, and your heart is left as empty as or emptier than before. Hold out for the real thing, heart!
I ignored his message until a few days later when my heart was not feeling vulnerable, and then I in turn wished him a Merry Christmas!
Last night I was walking home from the station at around 10pm, and very close to my apartment, while there were very few others on the street, a man in his 30s spoke to me. He said in Japanese, “Do you speak Japanese? Sometime in the future, do you want to go out and have dinner together? You’re very pretty.” Because it was so late at night and it was near my apartment, this was a strange conversation from a stranger, I pretended to not understand and politely excused myself.
Before God set me free, sexual attention from guys was my ‘food’. I lived for it, sought after it, felt filled by it. The test in this encounter was that old temptation of feeling affirmed by this. It was a nice comment, and there is nothing wrong with receiving compliments! But in my heart, I could feel that there was a potential to twist this perhaps innocent complement into that old habit of being filled by it. My heart must find its firm foundation in Jesus only, not to return to the old way of chasing after its security from any other source.
Over the past week or so, several things have been adding up in my heart. This week, hearing about several friends with new romantic relationships, and feeling my own ‘panic’ over approaching 34 with no man on the horizon, and approaching 10 full years of singleness in 3 months. On Saturday, I was literally knocked over by a wave of discouragement; knocked down to the floor, crying. “What are you doing with your life? God left you here and abandoned you. You’ve wasted your life.” These words came and crushed me beneath their weight.
Pretty much every temptation recorded in the Bible had the same theme: satan has whispered the same lines to humankind since the beginning. “Doubt God. Doubt His word. Doubt His love. Doubt His faithfulness. Instead, look to me. I’ll give you what you need right now.” I’ve followed God all the way out here to Japan, all the way out on a limb, out of the boat, walking on water, and what I see with my eyes is that He has indeed abandoned me and led me to only let me sink?? The thought sent me into a spiral of panic.
But I remembered that Jesus gave us a template of how to respond to the devil’s temptations. Respond with the Word of God. Respond to the lie with Truth. In that place of such weakness, I somehow mustered up the strength to write down the opposite of every panic-provoking thought. The Bible is full of statements to use against the temptation to doubt what God has said and to doubt His character.
Every time something hits your heart, feelings of envy, discontent, loneliness, panic over biological time clocks… go to Jesus with each item. Let’s give to Jesus each discouragement as they come, because if we don’t, and we let them add up, we can gradually find ourselves crushed beneath a mountain of discouragement, and that much more weak and vulnerable to the stupid lies of the evil one.
Later that day, I realized that that same day exactly one year ago, I had unexpectedly ran into my ex-fiance, after exactly (to the month) 10 years since our breakup. An appointment that God had amazingly set up, in His perfect timing, to fully bring closure to a past chapter of my life. The one-year anniversary of a very vulnerable day.
“But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.” Psalm 31:14-15
In several portions in this section, you will see a collection of verses focused on themes of running to God and waiting on God, and standing on His promises. If you find yourself in a difficult season of needing to trust God, would you pray these verses to God, thank Him for what He shows you about His character through these verses, and express your desires to Him?
“I will wait for you… I will run into you! I will refuse to doubt who you are and your love for me – regardless of what I feel or see. In times of scary doubt I won’t linger there for even a moment but immediately run into you.”
Today’s theme: Waiting on God
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame. Psalm 22:2-5
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13
Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalm 27:14 NKJV
Praise be to the Lord,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:6, 7
I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.”
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:1-5; 10-12
We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:20-22
I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Psalm 34:1-10
Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;[…]
do not fret—it leads only to evil.[…]
The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.[…]
The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
Psalm 37:3,4, 5,6, 8b, 18,19, 39,40
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