The following is a transcript of the audio.
Podcast listener Adam writes in to ask this: “Pastor John, every morning I enter combat against homosexual lust. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard work. In fact, often I don’t want to do it. I don’t desire to do it. In this frame of mind, I realize I’m not desiring God. How does a young man like myself make such a battle a joy rather than the lonesome, joyless sacrifice it almost always becomes?”
I wonder if the most helpful thing I can say to Adam is this. When the battle rages it is not and never will be in and of itself a pleasant thing. It is not a happy thing. It is not joyful. It never will be joyful. And I want you to feel it, Adam. I want you to feel that you have millions of comrades in such sorrows. I speak as one. And I mean lifelong sorrows. Almost all of us sooner or later have sorrows, battles, struggles for faith, struggles for purity, struggles for love or for tender heartedness or for hope or whatever that nagging thing we never quite can reach because we seem to be wired wrong. And that is, I am not thinking homosexual there. I am thinking John Piper’s bad wiring for whatever sinful and genetic reason makes certain things hard for me to be that I ought to be. Those battles are going to be there as long as you live. And nobody can know the depths of what you are dealing with. You are lonely in this.
Now I have got to be careful here. It is right to have confidants. It is right to be in a small group, to have a trusted friend. You should share your life. But such relationships only go so far in understanding and empathy. They cannot know. They can’t know what you are dealing with the way you know it. They can’t feel what you feel. They can’t bear what you bear. It is too personal. It is too deep. It is too complex. It is too woven into a dozen other things in your life that themselves are all complex. No one can grasp this or untangle this except God.
So when the old Negro spiritual says: Nobody knows the trouble I have seen, nobody knows but Jesus. It didn’t mean they didn’t have soul brothers. It didn’t mean that they didn’t have any deep friends to unburden themselves to. It didn’t mean that they were loners who couldn’t share their lives. It meant that only goes so far. Sorrows and struggles and troubles are too deep, too personal to be known fully by others. So the main thing I want to say to you, Adam, is that this life is marked by sad struggles to the end, not happy struggles. Sad, sorrowful, painful struggles till the day we die. So steady yourself with that truth. Don’t have expectations that this life is going to be easy. Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom. And, as I understand, the ongoing, remaining, indwelling sinfulness of the saints of God that is not just external tribulations, but internal struggles.
Now, one more thing. Having said that do fight in the right way. That is, fight for joy. This is not the opposite of what I just said. I am not contradicting myself here. The fight itself is sad. You wish it weren’t there. It ought not to be there. It must be there. It is right that it be there and wrong that it be there. It is just the way it is in this fallen world. It hurts. We wish it weren’t there. In a world without the fall, without futility it wouldn’t be there. It is not going to be there in the age to come. But it is there and it is not pleasant while it is there, but the way we fight is with the mighty death of Jesus, the mighty resurrection of Jesus, with the blood of Christ to cover all our sins. And the unutterable complexity of our souls where we don’t even know if it is sin, we fight with the gospel and the all sufficient blood of Christ. And we fight with promises, the promises of God. That is, we put over against all the depressing voices of our body, all the depressing voices of our soul that are moaning with hopelessness in the battle we put over against them the voice of God, the promises of God. We preach to ourself: Nothing is too hard for God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will hold you up. I will meet all your needs. I will provide all grace for every good deed. I will give you words that you need. I will not let you be tested beyond what your Spirit given power is able. I will keep you from falling away. I will never leave you. I will be with you to the end.
We preach these promises to ourselves in the name of Jesus. That is what I mean when I say: Fight for joy. The battle itself is horrible sometimes and the joy doesn’t come out at the other end exactly at the way we want it or the time we want it, but that is what we are after. That is the way to fight the battle. It is not just a battle of no, no, no. It is a battle of reach, reach, reach for you know there is a joy out there he has offered in the battle. It can be maddening and overwhelming at times, but God gives victories. God shows up. In this life there is ongoing brokenness, sorrow, but we can rejoice and we can do it sometimes simultaneously. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
So I pray, Adam, that those two things will help, namely, that this is our lot. The battle isn’t pleasant. It is going to be there for all of us until the day we are dead and yet there is a way to fight it that puts a strain of joy into our lives alongside and inside the sorrows that gets us to the end.
Amen. Thank you Pastor John. And speaking of sexual lust, there’s a recent episode on this topic titled: “Visualizing Christ to Battle Lust?” (Episode 304), it’s worth checking out in the podcast archive. You can find that episode and over 330 other episodes in the free Ask Pastor John apps for the iPhone and Android. And be sure to update your app to get all the new features that make it really easy to search and browse all those episodes. We’ll be back tomorrow. Until then, I’m your host Tony Reinke, thanking you for listening to the Ask Pastor John podcast.