“IF you are the Son of God…” This big “if” is the most devious tool used by the devil in his temptation of Christ in the desert. Two times the devil begins his proposals in Luke 4:1-13 (first Sunday of Lent) in this way.
Christ’s challenge is not turning a stone into bread, rejecting the power and glory of kingdoms, or even believing that angels will catch Him if He throws himself from the temple. His challenge is overcoming the seed of doubt that the devil continuously plants in Him; that He is somehow not who He says He is.
As men and women of flesh and blood, this is a source of great weakness. There is always a desire to prove to others, and in turn ourselves, that we are authentically who we claim to be. Taunting childhood voices from our past remind us of this:
“If you really know karate, then break this board.”
“Join our clique and gain the popularity of the whole school.”
“If you are really cool, then try this cigarette. It’s not like one is going to kill you.”
Planting the seed of doubt within us is the fastest way to challenge us to do something we may not want to do. It weakens the foundation of our conviction and insists that we are obligated to offer proof of our claim. The proof of course is never on our terms.
The devil not only tempts us by planting the seed of doubt within us, but likewise enlists us to plant that same seed in others. Most of us have fallen prey to this at some point. For instance, the root cause of many relationship problems can be understood through the language used with one another. Most commonly the woman in a relationship will use manipulative language to coerce her husband to do something that she thinks he should be doing. “If you really loved me, you would yell at your mother for what she said, or buy me a bigger house, or do what this other husband is doing for his wife.” As well the children can be used as leverage. “If you really cared about our kids, you would be at the soccer game, or stay home instead of going out with your buddies.”
In most cases the husband does truly love his wife and care for his children. He authentically feels that he is trying to do the best for all of them, yet is constantly defeated. His wife often begins her pleas by planting the big “if” seed of doubt within him. Christ defeats this attitude by seeing it for what it is and rebuking the devil for putting God to the test. Likewise, the wife must stand guard and catch this same pattern happening within her own contentious approach. Proper language for a true need that is not being met would be to say, “I know that you love me and care for the children, and therefore I am asking you to spend the day with us and help out around the house.” “I want to have a better relationship with your mother and know that I can do this with your support, by helping to define boundaries and standing up for me when they are crossed.” “The kids and I understand your pressing work obligations and it would mean even more to our son if you could make it to his soccer game this week.” These approaches begin in understanding and affirmation rather than doubt. They are positive and non-contingent. The wife is supporting and affirming her husband through her language, rather than unsettling his convictions with the seeds of doubt. In turn, conversation and response are often equally more positive and productive, although it can take time to reverse doubt planted.
Christ is our most perfect example and although we fall for the devil’s temptations in the desert time and time again, Christ never does. Lent is a time to take inventory and recalibrate. After finishing his temptations, the devil departs from Christ “for a time,” not forever. However, Jesus return to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit.” He knows that He will meet the devil again, but the Spirit that strengthens Him is stronger and keeps watch with Him always.
In what ways have these seeds of doubt crept into your life and how have you conquered them?
Copyright 2014 Kimberly Cook