In the world, there are many beautiful poisons – things that appear good but will always end badly. We desperately want to drink the poison, not because we want to die, but because of the ‘benefits’ they give us before their harmful effects take hold. Drugs that give you amazing highs before enslaving people to their addictions. The thrill of breaking the rules even though there will be punishment. Drinking in high spirits only to wake up with an awful hangover. Excitement coupled with, or even aroused by, danger.
There are also many vile medicines – things meant to help you even though they may not feel helpful all the time. They may be medicines that taste bad or make you cough uncontrollably. Radiation treatments, chemotherapy that makes you feel sick. Working your body to the max to strengthen it even though it makes your muscles ache for days after. Things that feel like a punishment but are supposed to make us better.
It can be tempting to drink the poison or refuse the medicine, even when we know we should do the opposite. So how should we resist poison? And how should we tolerate medicine that is hard to swallow?
I think the slightly easier question to answer is how to resist poison that looks so inviting. One strategy is to avoid the poison in the first place; don’t get into the situations where you are tempted to take the bait. Or you can stand up against it. Of course you can’t just force ideas out of your mind – it doesn’t work. The ideas become even more persistent and repetitive. But you can acknowledge them as things you desire and then recognise that they are harmful. See the damage they can cause and choose to deny yourself. It will probably hurt, especially when you see others give in while you miss out. But I guarantee you have the strength to resist if you want to.
How should we take medicine that is hard to swallow? Deal with discomfort that is supposedly good for us? I ask you this: a patient with cancer can undergo chemotherapy as treatment to remove tumours. Chemo has terrible side effects; it weakens the immune system, causes nausea and makes your hair fall out. But people go through with it anyway. Why? Because it gives them hope for their future – hope of a cure. If we can see our ‘medicine’ as temporary, we can find hope. We know it is supposed to help us, strengthen us, heal us – if we can focus on that, it makes the taste and the side effects a bit easier to deal with.
This is one way that I find courage in my faith. There are a lot of things that I choose to abstain from even though they look inviting. I don’t engage with them because I know in the long run they will do me no good. It can be incredibly difficult at times, especially at this point in my life with the world so open in front of me. Even in these moments I find myself feeling like I’m missing out on one thing in particular, but I know I must not give in. Academic success, relationships, careers, money, fun… any of these may be the main directive or goal for a person, but I must make sure I am serving God before any of these other things. I also deal with a lot of uncomfortable things – criticism, disappointment, judgement, ridicule and exclusion for my faith. This is the nasty taste of the ‘medicine’. But I know that taste is only temporary and the medicine will do its work eventually. For me, ‘temporary’ could very well be my whole life. And you may (understandably) say, well it’s not temporary then! But in comparison to eternity? My life is merely a blink. For me, discomfort now is worth enduring for such a great prize.
And through all of this – through the pain that comes from denying yourself worldly things and the pain that comes from doing things that are right, God is with us. He is strengthening us so that we can reject the beautiful poisons and take the disgusting medicine. 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Philippians 4:13 tell us this! God will provide us with a way to resist every temptation and achieve all He has planned for us. We just have to see these pitfalls when they present themselves and pray for guidance and support.
Don’t drink poison, no matter how good it looks or how many other people tell you it’s alright – poison will always kill in the end. Please take your medicine, even if it tastes gross or makes your hair fall out – it is designed and prescribed to do good.