I find myself in another season of constant temptation. Maybe it’s because of COVID-19 or the other chaos in our country; maybe it’s due to stressful seasons at work or the changing weather. Maybe it’s just cyclical, and it’s time for another round of apathy and struggle with sin.
Whatever the reason, this is where I find myself: apathetic toward the Church, God, and disciplines like reading Scripture and prayer. I’m not angry at the Church — just apathetic.
And in that apathy I feel ordinarily strong convictions weaken. Not that they’ve changed; I still believe firmly that porn, masturbation, and hooking up are all wrong. I still find myself strongly convinced that celibacy is my personal path forward.
But in the apathy it just feels a little less important to live into those things; that’s all.
It’s odd to me how fickle humans can be. I’ve gone an entire year without masturbating before, gone years without looking at porn.
But then almost without noticing, those gains are eroded and I’m back in a season of sin and temptation.
I used to find myself in a spiritual crisis when I entered a period of struggle and sin like this. I feel I am losing more battles with sin than I win right now, and the temptation is to immediately drown in shame and question my faith and salvation.
But I’ve been through enough valleys now to know that sometimes this is just where we find ourselves in our faith walks, and the only thing we can do is try to cling to Christ. The only way out is forward, and despair and doubt only prolong my time in the valley.
Each time I sin, I repent. Each time I’m tempted by porn, I fight it and delight in the time sin is delayed. I don’t fall for the lie that I’m going to give in eventually, so it might as well be right now.
I fight for every inch, even if that fight looks a little pathetic sometimes due to my general apathy.
The little losses have added up over time, bringing me into this valley. I’ve become lazy in my spiritual disciplines, letting longstanding agreements of mutual accountability with friends become hit-or-miss instead of daily, not leaning into times of worship to renew my sense of awe for God.
None of the decisions to skip out on these things feels like a big deal, but they all add up.
As C.S. Lewis says in his book, The Screwtape Letters:
“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
Seldom do we find ourselves rapidly falling from a mountaintop season of faith and endurance into a valley of sin. We ourselves are usually the ones to slowly work our way down a gradual path into the valley below — sometimes so gradually we don’t realize we are descending. Not until we finally pause to take measure of where we are and where we’ve been.
Be it journaling, talking to a friend, or just sitting in silence — all of these things give us an opportunity to notice how we are doing emotionally and spiritually. There are no signposts on this gradual decline, and so moments of self-reflection become incredibly important in this faith of ours.
Now here I find myself, finally reflecting. I don’t love what I’ve found: regular masturbation, struggles with porn, temptation to find a boyfriend or a guy to have “the real deal” with.
I won’t despair, though. I know this isn’t where I want to be, but I also accept that just like the decline was gradual, so is the journey out of the valley.
The small victories add up, too.
A little prayer here and there can fast become a regular discipline again; reading Scripture, attending church, rekindling mutual accountability as well. Fighting temptation until I go weeks and months between stumbling with lust, instead of days.
I finally see the valley I’m in, and so with the help of God, my friends, and whatever apathetic fight against sin I can muster, I have faith I will make it forward and out, one day at a time.
What do you do when you feel spiritually apathetic? How are you handling temptation and struggle during this current season of COVID-19?