You can feel it from the moment that you open your eyes: something will be different today. You don't know what the "something" is exactly, but you know that this will be your day. Sure enough, the sun beams on your face, the wind blows at your back, and the world is at your fingertips. Then BAM! You are ambushed by a spiritual attack. You never saw it coming. Neither did Eve.
Eve had a day like this, a day that changed the course of human history...forever. God made Adam and Eve and placed them in Eden where they had all they could possibility want- unrestricted access to God, a perfect relationship with one another, and harmony with creation (Genesis 1-2). And BAM! Satan interrupts an otherwise brilliant day in the Garden.
Unfortunately, neither Adam nor Eve was prepared for a strategic assault in paradise. So when Satan approached Eve, he asked a seemingly unassuming question. Has God denied her the opportunity to eat from any of the trees in the garden? The snake slid one question into Eve's mind. And with that single question planted lethal idea that perhaps God was deliberately withholding something precious from her - true power and knowledge.
That's all it takes for us, too-one question of doubt striking our hearts as we stroll about an otherwise whimsically wonderful day. Of course, we want to enjoy our days, but we would be wise to harbor a healthy awareness that we have a real and present enemy lurking.
Satan does not always come in an oppressive or fearful way; in fact, he often presents himself as an angel of light, one who is bringing a freeing truth: death will surely not come to you if you go ahead and take. Poor Eve. She didn't realize she was being played. All she knew was that God made her, loved her, and placed her in paradise with an adoring husband. But even after all that, she began to think that this same God could not be fully trusted.
But the Truth is that God is always good (Ps 19:7-9). He never prohibits without a reason, even if He does not share that reason with us. But by doubting God and distrusting His goodness, Eve began to look at the forbidden fruit. She took it, ate it and started encouraging Adam to eat the one thing God restricted from them. The snake's tail surely rattled as their defiance caused the downfall of the entire human race.
BAM! Sin entered creation.
It has crossed my mind that Eve was being ridiculous. I think, "I never would have fallen like that! I'm going to stand firm in the Lord." But it was only this summer when I was reminded of my own humanity.
It was the National Day of Prayer. As the principal of a Classical Christian School, I had set plans for the morning chapel service. My chief administrator had brilliantly organized the entire day, but she was out sick. Naturally, I scrambled to get everything ready. I was tired, stressed, and completely unprepared for a spiritual ambush. Then it happened: I lost my phone. Not two minutes earlier, it had been in my hands. It was like I was blinded from finding it.
Irate, I began to search for it. I could literally feel my pulse race. My tension, frustration, and yes, anger boiled. Why now? Today of all days! I tore the apartment apart. I knew the phone had to be there. Finally, I blew. I shouted at the only other Person who was there, the One whom I blamed for my own absent-mindedness: God.
"I'm doing all of this for You! I'm trying to put together a prayer chapel for Your children, at Your school, and in Your name! Now, You won't even show up to help me find a stupid phone? I don't know why I'm surprised. I can always count on You to fight me when I need you the most!"
As he did with Eve, the enemy waited for an otherwise glorious day to strike. He waited for just the opportune moment to come after me with a laser-focused attack on God's goodness. Just like Eve, he wanted me to think that my God cannot be fully trusted. Just like Eve, I never saw it coming.
When I got to school, the situation continued. Everything that I needed to work failed - miserably. As the chapel began, though, the Lord did something to stop me dead in my tracks. Our Student Council President stood up and gave her testimony explaining her conversion from Buddhism. She shared about her transformed life after receiving the Gospel. Her 10-minute testimony blew my 30-minute master plan clean out of the water. As she spoke to the audience, the Lord spoke to my heart.
I had been defiant. I had doubted. I had taken the bait straight from Satan's vibrating tongue. I guess I am not as far from Eve's downfall as I imagined. My little plans were not His grand plans, and He was willing to test me, convict me and even shut me down completely, in order to show me exactly that. I didn't need my phone that morning; I needed to trust God. He did not need my organizational leadership, my cell phone, or me to get His job done. But I needed a good reminding of that.
In spite of my pride and my bad behavior, the Lord gave the students, faculty, and staff an inspiring message through another servant (a child no less). Oh, how easily we can be ensnared by sin's sneaky suggestions. How quickly we can turn on the One who loves us the most.
Just like Eve, we don't need extra wisdom; we need to believe. We don't need a better day; we just need to obey. We need to trust God even if we do not understand our circumstances.
Imagine you're married to a really important person—so very important that they seems too busy for you. (Because someone must be crazy busy in order to feel important, right?) Well, whether they're actually important or just really "busy," you still feel a void.
And then—in walks some smok'n hot employee who is now paid to be your personal assistant. That's pretty much where Potiphar's wife found herself—BAM! Smack in-between a busy husband and a sudden distraction named Joseph. He packs a broom, biceps, and a daily question for Potiphar's wife:
"Hey, can I help you around the house or maybe make you some lunch today?"
This pilot episode of Desperate Housewives nestles inside the book of Genesis:
" . . . So he [Potiphar] left everything he owned in Joseph's charge; and . . . he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance." (Genesis 39:6)
Potiphar (the husband) is apparently such a special, busy leader that he felt the need to completely delegate his home life to another man. Whether that's a model worth repeating, we'll save for another discussion, but for now, it is what it is. And Potiphar's wife was stuck with one wildly confusing view—a godly Hebrew paid to oversee her inner sanctum, home.
"Hello?" If you were placed in a similar circumstance, surely a day would come where loneliness and opportunity would combust into t-e-m-p-t-a-t-i-o-n.
If you were given the perfect set-up to sin, would you take it? Not sure? Me either.
So, let's both take notes from a man who withstood:
"It came about after these events that his master's wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she [Potiphar's wife] said, `Lie with me.' But he refused and said to his master's wife, . . . `How could I do this great evil and sin against God?'" (Genesis 39:7-9b).
When Joseph was presented with a clear invitation to swing Tiger's club or set up a Jesse James sexting match, Joseph refused. Instead, he had a heart-to-heart conversation with his conscience. He wielded a mighty question: "How could I do this great evil and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9) When sin pulled, Joseph looked up to the God who saved him from the pit of abandonment. He looked up to the God who had given him a vision for his life that far surpassed the passing pleasure of sin.
And after considering God, Joseph FLED: "She [Potiphar's wife] caught him by his garment saying, `Lie with me!' And Joseph left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside . . . " (Genesis 39:12).
So, what is the shortest distance between loneliness and lust? One loitering glance.
What then is the shortest distance between temptation and faithfulness? A gaze fixed on heaven.
. . . And feet ready to flee, like Joseph's and Jesus'. Remember when Jesus lifted His gaze above Satan's offerings? During the wilderness temptation, Satan dangled a mighty fine invitation: a chance to take His kingdom before God's timing and instead He endured the palpable pain of the waiting and the agony of the cross. Jesus looked over and above loneliness, rejection, and feelings of abandonment to the glory set before Him—a coming kingdom and the Father's plan for reconciling sinners to Himself.) And the result?
And now, because the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in those who believe, we can access this same perspective and power, too (Romans 8:11). We can look over our loneliness, sadness, anger, bitterness and up to the eyes that love, fill, and raise us from the dead areas in our life and marriage.
Ask God to give you a higher view of Christ. He is the coming King of kings galloping from heaven with a sword in His mouth and a name written on His thigh—Faithful and True. He is the Resurrection and the Life that changes an unfaithful bride into a woman of purity and faithfulness.
We are not a slave to Satan's view of femininity—Playboy Bunnies hunting for men and putting them one by one into her basket whenever she feels the need for attention. No, we serve a King who laid down His life to redeem us and our view of self. So, let's look into His eyes that purify our feminine wiles. Turn back to your husband and love only him, again and again.
Ask God to help you flee temptation and run back to your spouse. I bet you he finds some new time in his busy schedule, somehow. Wink. Wink.
· What view stands out to you through the window of Revelation 19:11-16?
· Do you still have corners of your heart that harbor the Playboy Bunny mentality?
· How can wielding Genesis 39:6 or Romans 8:11 prevent you from living like Potiphar's wife Part Deux?
· What area of your life do you need Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, raise from the dead for you? (John 11:25)
· Can you think of another verse that could turn our gaze to the One who saves in a moment of temptation? Post and share it with us!
It's hard to see others getting what you want. Hannah knew this all too well, yearning and aching for one thing...a child. She never knew the cry of new life or the joys of parenting. Even though she was intimate with God, He did not give her the one thing that she longed for most.
In the marketplace women whispered, "What did Hannah do so wrong that the Lord would close her womb?" Enter Peninnah stage right. Penninah was her husband's other wife. (I can't even imagine what dinner was like at that house.) But Samuel pretty much sums it up: "Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none" (1 Samuel 1:2).
As if that wasn't enough heart ache for Hannah, the daggers go deeper. "Because the LORD had closed her womb, her [Hannah's] rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival, [Penninah], provoked her until she wept and would not eat" (I Samuel 1:6, emphasis added).
This not only happened once to Hannah, this was Peninnah's provoking goal! Have you ever had someone nag you to the point of tears? At work. At school. At church. Mean people attack anywhere, anytime. I learned took a few hits from mean girls even in my youth:
When I got in the car that day, I exploded with everything that had happened to my mother. Looking for her to vindicate and sympathize with me, her 5th grade daughter. I explained how rude Jennifer had been to me, again. As we were both sopranos in the choir, we were forced to stand next to each other and share a music folder. "She never shares the music with me. She's rude to everyone, glaring down her nose at them and saying mean things. And I have to sit next to her. It's not fair!"
My mother told me that she had a solution. I think I was hoping on maybe kidnapping Jennifer's family pet, toilet papering her house, or forcing her to go to another school, but my mom replied, "You should invite her over to spend the night this weekend."
"Are you insane? She'll probably kill me in my sleep!" I was enraged and felt my mother did not fully understand the gravity of the situation, but my mom kept pressing the issue. So, I invited her. I knew that she would probably say no, and if she did say yes, then my mom would understand once and for all what a jerk Jennifer was.
However, Jennifer said yes. And the strangest things happened that Friday night. From the moment she got in my mother's car, Jennifer acted like my best friend. It was a typical Friday night of movies, giggling, and eating junk food. Late that night Jennifer told me that she'd never been invited to anyone's house to spend the night before. Then she added an interesting question, "Angel, why does everyone hate me?"
Jennifer was simply reacting to her perceptions of everyone else's opinion, responding in hatred to guard herself. Our sin is simply misguided energy. It's usually a legitimate need met in an inappropriate way. I'm not saying that we should rationalize sin away because we're all "needy Nellies," but if we're trying to understand how in the world we could ever respond in love when someone is so awful to us, realizing their hurt and insecurity serves as a helpful catalyst.
Now, think back to Peninnah. Her cruel words and spiteful prodding derived from the fact that her husband loved Hannah more and made it very clear that he did. He even gave Hannah double portions of food, just so everyone in the house knew that Hannah was his fave! Peninnah's painful need for exclusive love bubbled over into anger, vengeance, and one mean woman.
God hears our cries, whether it be for rescue from mean people or for the ability to bear a child. He hears us.
And He heard Hannah's prayer and finally gave her a baby boy. This boy would come to change history, a prophet to kings and all of Israel-Samuel. Pain and prayer can create great things. Never give up on God, even if you have a Penninah in your life badgering you to the point of misery. Keep praying for a hope greater than the pain.
He will give you the strength to love and pray for everyone, even our enemies. Take time to pray for one "Peninnah" in your life to be drawn to God through your love or through His, even if you are hurting, like Hannah.