One of the smartest things I’ve ever done is take lower level classes as a senior in college. I took a 100-level class for my Philosophy and Religion minor, and I took a 200-level class for my Literature minor. They made my work load lighter and easier to say the least.
The English class I took was British Literature and Criticism (I called it “Brit Lit and Crit”). Basically, we covered research papers, which was admittedly useless in the last semester of my academic career, and all of the famous, dead, white guys a lot of people dread to read.
One of those guys was Milton. We read a few pieces of Paradise Lost, which is about the Fall of Mankind, Eden, and Lucifer. I don’t think the newbies in the class understood the liberties that Milton took in making the story of the fall his own. There’s more about Lucifer and his squad, Eve’s feelings on her role in the grand scheme of the garden, etc., and you won’t find that sort of stuff in Genesis. When I overheard a girl say, “You can just read the Bible instead,” I felt bad for her in regards to how difficult the rest of her English classes would be if that was what she really thought.
I still haven’t read all of Paradise Lost. It’s one of those that I own but haven’t gotten around to yet. From what I have read of it, I do like Milton’s additions and flourishes. They’re thought provoking and make the characters more rounded and interesting. Milton’s take on the fall provides more information on why Eve ate the fruit – how she was feeling and why she was feeling that way, the fact that she did find a talking snake peculiar, and just how cunning and smooth Lucifer is.
I like it because I imagine the temptation had to be strong and crafty for Eve to disobey her Creator, which is exactly how it’s presented in Paradise Lost.
When I think about it, the first temptation was probably the hardest. Imagine the confusion of Eve and the persuasiveness of Lucifer. She went from “Whatever, talking snake. God said no,” to “Hmm. This fruit tastes sweeter than it looks,” in just one conversation.
Satan’s first attempt at temptation was award-winning, and he’s had nothing but time and energy fueled by hatred to perfect his craft.
Temptation isn’t his only livelihood. There’s also lying. Lies played a part in the fall, so Satan knew their power from the start. He knew that when said the right way and at the right time, his lies could hold us back from going down the right path or send us speeding down the wrong one, beat us down so that getting up seems impossible or set us up on such a high pedestal that everything else fades away altogether.
Then there’s destruction. Heaven itself was divided and torn over Satan. If you flip to the last book of the Bible, you’ll find that he’ll leave many things in ruins. At no point between the two events has he taken or will he take a vacation.
Using these three elements, Satan hopes to stop you from living the great life God has for you.
Just as God’s designed an outstanding, amazing life for you, Satan’s developed a plan to try and stop it. Roadblocks and misdirection and strongholds all along the path. Aches, insecurities, doubts, and desires strategically placed to turn you around or make you stop entirely.
It’s the same dilemma Eve faced long ago. Who are we going to believe? What are we going to pursue?
It’s so much easier when we put it like that, right? “Don’t do this,” or “Obviously, do that.” But there’s a big difference between theory and reality in this case. The temptation is pulling at us. The lies are convincing. The destruction can be subtle. It’s easy for me to say one thing when the context of how badly I want something or how truthful it felt or how messy it really is can’t seem to be put into words.
I’ve heard people give Satan too much credit, and I’ve heard people not give him enough. The truth is that Satan is very good at what he does, and what he does is never good. Another truth is that Satan is only as good at his job as we let him be. He only has power if we give it to him.
Those temptations to turn back to the substance that enslaved you to itself and left you alone? They’re compelling, but they’ll ease off if you cling to God.
That voice that whispers how disgusting you are, how irrelevant you are, how you should give up every time you look into the mirror can be silenced if you keep searching for God and finding your worth in Him.
The shambles your life has become can become a masterpiece. You just have to keep your eyes and ears on the Master.
It all takes practice, but that’s what life is for. Practicing for eternity. Taking time to learn what’s right and then taking time to get it right.
I often say that I think John 3:17 is just as lovely (if not lovelier) than John 3:16. It tells us that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but that He was sent so that we would be saved. God isn’t condemning you for giving into temptation or listening to the lies or continuing down a destructive path. That’s not His goal or His mission. He wants to save you from it because He loves you, and He hates what all of that is doing to you.
God can make it better. He can help you avoid all of the hurt and terror that Satan wants to put you through. If you stay with Him, you’ll be more than alright; you’ll be great. And there won’t be a single thing Satan can do about it on his own.