Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Human Mind Is a Battleground

Some sinful habits--such as drunkenness or pornography--can at least be kept under control by avoiding the material sources of enticement. But how does one escape from primarily mental temptations--resentment, greed, or pride? How does one deal with the even more insidious tendency to allow relatively harmless, but nonconstructive, thoughts to crowd out thoughts of God? Obviously, physically running away from our own minds is not an option. And keeping constant check on the thought life can soon leave a person wondering if there's any hope outside of the unlikely two months in solitary confinement.

Of course, at their root all temptations are of the mind--you can lock someone in a room full of marshmallows for three hours and not tempt her to eat too many, if she hates them to begin with. And Jesus said (Mk. 7:15) that the real problem is not what we take in from outside, but what we already have inside. Nonetheless, the fact remains that sinful thoughts have to be attacked head on far more frequently than any material sin--and the battle is often exhausting and seemingly endless. So often we're tempted to surrender. So often we do surrender.

Part of the trouble is that we see no option besides either surrendering or fighting the whole battle ourselves. Actually, it's no sin to say, "I can't keep up this fight," because the truth is, we can't! Our Commander in Chief--not we ourselves--plans the battle and stands ready to furnish us with ammunition for every moment. If we kept a constant ear open for His orders (including orders to take time for rest), and always followed them promptly, we'd do fine. What most of us do wrong is to get into the habit of making our own way in "ordinary" things, and only calling for help when the situation is desperate. God still enables us to fight our way out, but it's a much longer and tougher battle than it would have been had we followed our Leader consistently from the beginning.

Ultimately, God does all the fighting--we can act only through His strength (cf. John 15:4-5). We can take comfort in knowing that He is more than equal to any battle, that He will not leave His work in us unfinished (Phil. 1:6), and that in Heaven temptation will be forever banished.

The human mind is a battleground
That can rarely know pure, true peace;
So long as we still here on earth are found,
The war's battles will never cease,
That great war between what we know is right
And the things that our flesh would crave--
And the Christian has all the harder fight,
Than the devil's most willing slave.

The human mind is a battleground
Full of strong infiltrators named
Pride, and Greed, and Spite, and Just Lounge Around,
And Conceit, and the Lust for Fame.
And though we possess the Lord's mighty power
That will give us the strength to win,
As the fight drags on through each mortal hour,
It's so tempting to just give in.

The human mind is a battleground--
But take heart, for the war will end,
And our souls will rest in the peace we found
In our Lord, our Forever Friend.
So be strong and brave, and hold to God's Word:
Those who stand to the end will find,
On the day when He shatters evil's sword,
Perfect, undisturbed peace of mind!

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