We all have those sins that are no stranger to us. They’re the ones that drive us to our knees in confession and pleas for help. They’re the ones that stay close by, threatening us with the lie that Jesus hasn’t fully broken their chains. For some it’s anxiety. For others it’s lust. For me it’s anger.
The grace that comes alongside these frequent struggles, is that the Spirit teaches us how to fight them. He reminds us of our desperate need for His help, because we know all too well that we can’t overcome them on our own. He grows our spiritual muscle so that we can combat the lies that tempt us with the truths that free us to follow Him.
But every so often we get blindsided by unfamiliar temptation and stumble into new sin. It’s these unexpected struggles that can most discourage us. We’re surprised and disoriented by the newly surfaced darkness in our hearts.
A few years ago I started writing. In the midst of finishing the first draft of a book, my close friend launched a blog. Within a couple months, multiple articles went viral and she built a substantial following. Initially, I was thrilled to see God use her talent with words for His glory. But when one of my favorite authors asked to feature her article on his website, I felt an unfamiliar grip on my heart. Jealousy.
My pride was wounded by a keen sense of embarrassment—I thought I was “too godly” to struggle with something as shallow as jealousy. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had a fleeting jealous thought! And of all people to direct it towards, how could it be this dear friend? The inner conflict was perplexing—part of me was genuinely happy for her, but jealousy infiltrated my heart and threatened to suffocate my joy.
When we’re blindsided by our sins—falling to those temptations we thought we didn’t struggle with or were too mature for, there are three truths that can help us not lose heart.
God Is Not Surprised
Any time we feel surprised by our sin, it’s because we’ve forgotten how wretched we are apart from the grace of God. Any good we do is because of His good work in us, any sin we commit is already covered by the blood He shed for us.
God is never surprised by our sin. Before the foundations of the world, He knew every angry word, lustful glance, and jealous thought we’d have. He knew every immoral, selfish, and prideful act we’d commit. When He sent His Son to drink the cup of wrath stored up against us, He knew how deep it went.
Remembering that God isn’t surprised by our sin will help us escape the grip of self-pity and condemnation. Though our tears of repentance should flow, we can look up to a Savior who will wipe them.
Our Sin is Common
Another temptation we face when confronted with unfamiliar sins is to believe the lie that our struggles are unique. In this, we will either feed pride and think that our extenuating circumstances justify our sin, or we’ll hide in shame and fail to confess it. But Scripture teaches, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
We are not alone! There are others who’ve encountered the same temptations we have. Some can testify to God’s faithfulness to help them overcome them, and others can testify to the sweet forgiveness of Christ where they’ve failed. They can share what Scriptures have ministered to them, what lies they’ve fought, what practical steps they’ve taken to flee. This should encourage us to always humbly confess our sins to one another—those who conceal their sins will not prosper, whoever confesses and renounces them will obtain mercy (Proverbs 28:13).
God’s Grace is Sufficient
Though we may be less accustomed to fighting these surprising sins, God’s grace is more than sufficient. He has given us all we need for life and godliness. If we humbly confess our sins, seize his grace, and seek the help of our brothers and sisters, He will sanctify us.
When I felt that grip of jealousy, the Holy Spirit drew near to help me. His grace empowered me to confess to my husband, pray earnestly for help, and proactively love and encourage my friend. And it got easier. By the grace of God, the spiritual muscles needed to fight this unfamiliar sin were strengthened.
I haven’t felt jealousy for a long time now, but I don’t presume that “jealousy just isn’t a struggle for me” as I used to—I know I could fall again. So while I enjoy a season free from its temptation, I must stay ready for battle if it comes.
And praise God, His grace is sufficient for the fight.