I was reading a book on adoption the other day, in preparation for adjustments we will face when we introduce our child into our family sometime next year.
Buried in the middle of this book was a line that jumped out at me. It was so profoundly imbued with spiritual truth that I felt like God Himself had stopped me as I was walking, tapped me on the shoulder, and whispered this in my ear:
The ability to delay gratification is an outgrowth of the attachment process.
In its essence, sin offers something now, and on our own terms, what God promises us for later and on His terms. Look at the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4: Satan offered him bread in the moment; but through His death and resurrection Jesus proved He is the bread of life – man cannot live by bread alone, but from every Word that comes from God – and Jesus was that Word (John 1).
Satan then offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world right then; but God raised Jesus up to the heights of heaven and gave Him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.
Finally, Satan offered Jesus the thrill of proving He was God by challenging Him to jump off the highest point of the Temple because the angels would catch Him. But imagine the thrill Jesus experienced when He proved His divinity by coming back to life after His death, or by ascending to Heaven in the presence of all the disciples!
Sin offers now what God promises for later. And we see this in our own lives, too. We are eager for lustful pleasure rather than trusting God’s plans for marriage. We hoard and greed, rather than trusting that God will provide and prosper us. We control, connive, and scheme, rather than believing that God has a plan for us that fulfills the desires of our heart. Too often we can see ourselves in Sarah offering Hagar to her husband, tired of waiting for God’s promise, rather than in Sarah being pregnant with Isaac, experiencing the fullness of God’s promise in the very core of her being.
So how do we resist sin? How do we stand against temptation? How do we muster up that kind of self-control? How do we delay our gratification?
Here was the answer, buried in an adoption book: through attachment.
In other words, our ability to resist temptation is directly correlated to our level of attachment to God. The more attached we are to Him, the more effectively we can delay self-gratification. The closer our relationship to Him, the easier it is to stand against sin.
Which explains why Jesus was so successful – and unfazed – when the devil himself presented Him with three powerful temptations back to back: Jesus had a strong relationship with God.
Lord, may my relationship be like Jesus’ relationship was when He was here on earth. Increase my attachment to you more and more with each passing day, that I may be increasingly able to delay gratification and withstand any temptation.