Down deep, you know that struggling is good for you. It builds up your strength. It helps develop your character. Skills are honed as you struggle to perfect them. You observe the beauty of struggle as a butterfly labors to free itself from the cocoon where once a caterpillar dwelt. St. Paul admits his struggle as he writes about wanting to do good but finding other “forces” at work in himself that cause him to struggle (Romans 6.13-25). You might like to believe that your greatest struggles are outside yourself – political, relational; economic, cultural; God, weather, or people. However, your greatest struggle is with yourself.[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
You may not like to admit this. It’s easy to look outside yourself to explain why life is so difficult. But the reality is, you are your own worst enemy. And that enemy, called the self, must be battled. There is no other option. No one can fight this battle for you. You are responsible to do war with your own self and your passions.
The ancients had a term for these “things” you battle within yourself – passions. They were often good realities within that when left unchecked (encouraged by the evil one) created all levels of problems for people.
Evagrius Ponticus (4th c.) listed eight passions. These have become the standard for Christians ever since.
- Gluttony – overeating; eating in secret; eating portions that are too great; desire for delicacies/fancy foods
- Unchastity – sexual activity outside marriage between man and woman; vouyerism, looking at someone with sexual desire; homosexuality; sexual innuendo; playfulness; flirtation
- Avarice – love of money; desire for wealth; idolatry; covetousness; stealing; desire for security or status through possessions
- Discontent – sadness; self-pity; fretfulness; exasperation; restlessness
- Anger – outbursts; hostility; outrage; resentment; hatred; violence; slow burn; disgruntledness; meanness; bitterness
- Despondency – anxiety; listlessness; persistent grief
- Vainglory – boastfulness; vanity; smugness; overconfidence; pretention; bragging; conceit
- Pride – self-absorption; arrogance; disdain; egotism; self-importance; contemptuousness
These passions lie within you. You may be controlled more by one than another. But they are all active to some degree. You can’t eliminate them. But you can enter into the battle against them. And in this struggle, you become a stronger person with a character, will, and heart more in line with Jesus Christ.
A life in Christ provides the only context to successfully battle these passions. However, living more fully in the life of Christ takes purposeful and wise effort. Only with Christ in you and you in Christ, living in synergy, being united as one, do you stand a chance against the passions. Find hope in the reality that this kind of life is available to you.
In my next post, I want to address one particular passion and how it has profoundly impacted prayer and worship.
In the meantime, can you pinpoint a predominant passion from the eight above and begin praying for God’s mercy on you as you struggle with it? I will be praying for you as well.