I think that sometimes people think about Christianity only in terms of what you aren’t allowed to do. Don’t drink and chew and run with the girls that do. Or something like that. (That ditty must have originated in West Virginia…)
But the reality is, God has created us to be people who have strong, good desires. We’re not robots. We want to eat. We want to have community with friends. We want to have sex. We want to rest our weary bodies. Passions and desires course through us, and those passions are good things.
And God isn’t some sort of sadist deity who gives us desires and then refuses to fulfill them. Every good desire has a God ordained outlet. Our stomachs are filled at the dinner table as we gratefully enjoy our food. Our desires for community are filled when we get together with friends or family. Our appetite for sex is filled in a God-given spouse. All good desires, all good outlets, all designed by God.
Satan however, wants us to find our fill outside of the outlets God has given us. In his book Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ, Russell Moore makes an outstanding point:
The pull of the passions always promises a resolution of the “burning”. I will manipulate my coworker with a morsel of office gossip, just once. I will view this pornographic image, just to see what it’s like. But the passions are a lure. Unless they find resolution in the way God designed the universe by his wisdom, they are perpetually unsatisfied.
Dang that’s good! Often times our desires are so strong that it does indeed feel like a “burning”. Satan promises a quick outlet for the burning. Instead of offering sexual fulfillment in marriage, Satan offers porn and adultery and lust. Instead of offering a satisfying meal eaten with thankfulness and self-control, Satan offers gluttony, or anorexia, or bulimia. Instead of offering the honor and exaltation that come from God, Satan offers self-exaltation and clawing for the top.
When we give into these sinful desires, the burning does stop for a brief moment, but the relief doesn’t last long. It will be back stronger than ever.
That’s why I find the words of Russell Moore very helpful. Fighting against sin isn’t just about suppressing the desires, like some sort of monk. When we are tempted, we need to ask God for the self-control to say “no” to ungodly expressions of godly desires. Then we also need to ask God to help us find a God-honoring way to satisfy the desire in our hearts.