Have you ever played with a partially inflated balloon, or a tied off surgical glove? If you have, you’ve noticed a curious dynamic. When we squeeze a limp balloon in our fist the pressure from our grip displaces air and causes bulges to appear in between our knuckles or thumb. Then, if we try to push those bulges back into place the new air displacement creates new bulges in different areas.
That same shifting dynamic occurs when we try to conquer sin or grow in areas of personal character and integrity. Sometimes when we suppress one area of temptation or compromise we are surprised to see that a different struggle pops up to take its place in another part of our lives.
In 1 John 2:16 the Scriptures tell us about a common trifecta of human temptation: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life. Dealing with these three areas of temptation can often feel like pushing down the bulging bubbles of a balloon. When we make a concerted effort to deal with our arrogance we can be shocked to discover that our physical appetite rears up instead. Then, when we clamp down on our appetite we find that lust swells in another area.
The reason for this dynamic is very simple. All three of those temptations derive from the same source: attempting to find our life outside of God. So, rather than endlessly trying to suppress our lust while also curbing our appetite and resisting our pride, we sometimes need to pray differently. We need to ask the Holy Spirit for a pin. We need to ask God to lance the source of those struggles and reconnect us to the life-giving presence of God.
Our issue is not ego, appetite, or lust. It is a need for greater satisfaction in God. So, the next time you are tempted to chase away every bulge of temptation, ask God to pop the balloon. Ask Him to deal with the root and connect you more firmly to the ultimate, life-giving source.