Teachers and speakers have repeatedly told me that I could not be tempted beyond that which I could bear. Consequently, I believed that the power was personally within me to resist any temptation I faced.
When I failed and succumbed to temptation, I thought I personally was a failure and became discouraged. This, in turn, often made me even more susceptible to temptation. I would then try extra hard to obey every commandment and be perfect. But my fanaticism pushed people away, and I felt alone in dealing with life’s challenges. Left to my own devices, I would fail again, regardless of how hard I tried to be perfect. I judged myself by the same standard that people around me used. If someone sinned, they were weak. People would look down on others who sinned because “no one is tempted beyond what he is able to bear.” I would then try even harder to be strong. And so, the cycle continued, year after year.
Unfortunately, I did not really understand the scripture people cited to support the proposition that the power is within us to resist temptation. The scripture states:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
I overlooked two key phrases: “God is faithful,” and He will “make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
In what is God faithful, and why is this phrase a key component of the scripture? Christ made a covenant with each one of us before we were born to bear our burdens. He was faithful and kept his part of the covenant. He suffered, bled, and died for all of us. His suffering was personal to each one of us. He has already felt our individual emotional pains. Consequently, we hold on to our emotional turmoil needlessly.
This internal anxiety makes us susceptible to temptations we cannot resist unless we resolve this conflict. The only way to escape this turmoil and the temptations that follow is through Christ. He has borne our grief and can heal our souls. We cannot heal ourselves, no matter how hard we try. When we rely on the arm of flesh, even our own, we will eventually be left wanting. Christ is faithful, and he is the way to escape temptation.
But how do we find Christ and the way to escape temptation if not by our own determination to be perfect? We need to humble ourselves and pray so that we will not be tempted above that which we can bear. Otherwise, we might be. Simply stated, we need to have enough faith in the Lord to be willing to submit our heart to him and seek his guidance. God will then empower us with hope, and fill our soul with his love, so that we will have no desire to sin.
Sin usually results from our using inappropriate means to deal with unresolved emotional issues. Until we resolve these internal conflicts, we will be unduly subject to emotional black holes that pull us down. Our unhealthy emotional conflicts are based on fear. Love, however, casts out fear. God is love. (1 John 4:8, 18). God can conquer our fears and free us from our sins if we turn our hearts over to Him. As we open ourselves up to Him, He is able to fill us with his love and eliminate the allure of sin in the process. Christ was faithful, and his love truly is the way to escape temptation.
When we try to earn our salvation or prove our value, the focus is on ourselves and not on the Lord. This often leads to pride, which is the opposite course we need to follow to escape from temptation. While we are obsessed with accomplishing a myriad of tasks, the list keeps growing. This is because we can never do enough to work our way to heaven. Instead, we should focus on the Lord and simply seek to know His will. If we sincerely seek to know His will and let go of everything, He will bless us with His spirit so we will know what to do and what not to worry about. Good works will naturally follow as gifts of the spirit.
No wonder the Lord said that He requires us to offer as a sacrifice (to give up, let go, not hold back) a broken heart and contrite spirit. He then promises to bless us with His spirit. (Psalm 34:18). When we are humble and call on God for help, we have claim on the Lord’s promise of peace. Once we feel God’s acceptance, we lose our desire to sin so that we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear.
However, the first step in coming unto Christ is to stop running away from him. If you are doing anything that you know is offensive to God, stop it. We need to use our intelligence, exercise our free will, and choose goodness. We demonstrate our sincerity by doing those things that are within our power to come unto God. Ultimately, our ability to overcome sin comes from God, but we need to use the power and intelligence that God has already given us to seek His love so that He will further empower us to overcome our weaknesses.
We don’t have to be perfect to experience this love. When the prodigal son came to his senses and made the effort to return to his father’s house, “when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15–20). Even though we are far from perfect, as we demonstrate our desire to come unto Christ by taking the steps that are within our power to return to God, our Father who is in heaven will rush to greet us.