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How Did I End Up Here

By February 6, 2020Church

“Midway through our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.” – From Dante’s Inferno

If Dante had been writing for a social media audience, he might have added a hashtag:

#HowDidIendUpHere

In 50 years of living, I’ve never had a morning when I woke up to find new tattoo on my arm (or any tattoo!). But I’ve had many mornings … and afternoons … and evenings … that did not go according to plan.

Interruptions happen, but I’m not talking about interruptions.

I’m referring to those moments when you are sitting in the accumulated darkness that gathered as a result of your choices. It wasn’t a sudden jump from morning to night. Incrementally, over time, I dimmed the lights and allowed the darkness to ease in. As my spiritual and emotional eyes adjusted, the darkness became easier to navigate.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reading and re-reading the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil. I understand not everyone believes in the presence of evil. But nearly everyone I’ve met believes Jesus really lived — and I believe this story really happened.

Here are a few things I find insightful about this encounter.

The first attack is on identity — who does Jesus think he is?

Jesus is about to start his public ministry. This encounter doesn’t happen at the end but at the beginning. The temptations are crafted in a way to plant doubt: “If you are the Son of God …”

It is when you’re looking to start something new or expand your current influence that you are most susceptible to self-doubt.

  • Who do you think you are?
  • Why do you think you can do this?
  • No reasonable person would act that way.

How many projects die on the drawing board because we let the voice of self-doubt discourage us from even trying?

Even worse, we let the voices of doubt and discouragement create our identity. We begin to believe the lies … we aren’t good enough, lovely enough, smart enough. Or — and this might be the worst of all — we create a false identity that is built on pride, power, and arrogance.

The second insight is this — not all hunger is physical.

It’s not coincidence that Jesus has been fasting for 40 days when the devil comes to tempt him. And just be to clear — he’s not been fasting from social media for 40 days, but from food.

“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

While I’ve had bread that was as hard as a rock, this is going the other direction. It’s tempting Jesus to do something that — on the surface — doesn’t seem inappropriate or even wrong. After 40 days of fasting, he had to be pretty hungry.

How does he answer? Only God can truly satisfy.

I’ve never fasted from food for 40 days. I have gone 40 days (and more) without finding my satisfaction in God.

Not all hunger is physical. We also hunger for attention, acceptance, and approval. Here’s the big lie: you can satisfy your real need for attention, acceptance, and approval in ways that don’t involve God.

So we become people-pleasers who are constantly twisting our values to fit the situation.  We indulge in behaviors that provide a momentary buzz of power or control only to quickly dissipate, leaving us unfulfilled. While God offers us an approval that respects our dignity and inherent value, many young people are taught that they are only valuable when they are providing a service to someone (be that sexual or otherwise).

As a person who has studied human behavior, I believe these struggles are common to all people. As a Christian, I believe in a supernatural power that is able to transform me from the inside out.

Not to spoil the rest of the story, but Jesus isn’t defeated by Satan’s temptations.

Whenever I wake up to #HowDidIendUpHere, I find hope and draw strength from how Jesus handled his challenges. You can, too.

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