For the Times When You’re Exhausted, Discouraged, and Tempted

Some truth is just worth remembering. These musings about discouragement and temptation spilled out six years ago; perhaps they can encourage people even still…

We moved to Cambodia about two years ago, and it’s been good. But it’s also been very hard. I’ve had my days of doubt, fear, and deep discouragement. I’ve looked around at the poverty, abuse, corruption, and I’ve despaired. I’ve heard that raspy, wicked voice taunt, “What can you do? Why are you even here? What about your kids, think of what you’re doing to them? You are completely ill-equipped for this. Did God really call you here?”

But on this mountain climb called Mission, there is a phrase that has been to me a strong foothold. When I’ve despaired, it’s grounded me, and when I’ve been near to giving up, it has given me rest and peace.

It’s what Jesus said when he came face to face with the Father of Lies, Enemy Number One, Satan:

I will worship the Lord my God. I will serve only him.

In Matthew 4, Satan attacks Jesus, desperate to win. At this point, Jesus has not eaten for forty days. He hasn’t talked with friends for forty days. He’s lonely, tired, exhausted. Hungry. And Satan himself shows up, on the prowl, to attack.

Satan won’t shut up. He keeps talking and stalking, “You want food, right? Nice, fresh-baked bread? How long has it been, Jesus? Eat.” “How about you prove God cares for you? I don’t think he does. Jump.” “OK, everyone wants stuff, power, and control. You want some? I’ll give it all to you. Bow.”

Jesus answers Satan and gives us a key.

When I’ve despaired, this key has given me hope.

When I’ve been tempted, this key has given me a way out.

When I’ve needed more strength for the climb, this key has provided it.

Over the last two years, when I could pray little else, I’ve stuttered, “I will worship the Lord my God. I will serve only him.” I’ve prayed it silently and I’ve prayed it out loud. When I’ve been discouraged, I’ve begged, “God, help me worship you. Help me serve only you.” When I’ve been tempted, I’ve declared it, as a reminder to Evil and myself; I’m with Jesus.

We sometimes imagine the Tempting of Jesus as if it were a nice chat between buddies. Satan tempts Jesus and Jesus coolly brushes it off with a simple, “Oh, Satan, you silly, the Scriptures say…” But these two were mortal enemies, the Prince of Evil vs. the Prince of Peace. These temptations were real and Jesus felt them.

So, when Jesus answers this last temptation, he was saying so much more than “No.” He was emphatically saying, “I will not listen to you, Satan. I will worship only One, and you’re not Him. I will not follow you, or obey you, or bow down to you.”

He was making a dramatic gesture towards the Father and shouting, “I’M WITH HIM!”

Anytime you wrestle with evil or temptation, you have to know Satan’s smarter than you. You do not “have this under control.” He’s stronger, has more charm, more experience. He has more time, more resources.

You can’t outlast him, outsmart him, or outcast him. But you can resist him. And you must.

How?  With this resolution: There is only One God, and I’m serving Him. Let this be your stake in the ground, your line in the sand. In stating and restating this truth, you disarm and deflate Satan, reminding him that he loses because Jesus wins.

What was Satan’s response to this declaration? He left. What was God’s response? He ministered to Jesus through his servants, angels.

Put another way, Satan responds by leaving and God responds by coming. And that’s a pretty good trade, I think.

Yes, there is temptation and despair and discouragement. And evil. But there is still Hope, and his name is Jesus. And I’ve decided that with everything in me, until my last breath, I will worship the Lord my God. I will serve only him.

I hope you’ll join me.


Jesus says in Matthew 4:10, “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God; serve only him.’” When Jesus said this, he was in effect saying, “That’s what I’m doing right now, I’m honoring the Word and obeying my Father. I will worship the Lord my God. I will serve only him.” When we respond to the ancient command (originally from Deut. 6:13) in this way, we make a serious statement of intent, impacting both Heaven and Hell.


Infidelity on the Mission Field


Standing at the kitchen counter, drying dishes with a towel and wiping the sweat from my neck, I knew it was finally time to come clean to my husband.

“I have been attracted to him for months.”

And I wasn’t talking about my husband.

He looked at me, without much surprise, and said, “I think I knew.”

This conversation came after months of working closely with another man in Southeast Asia. We were part of a small close-knit team with daily interactions. And I had “fallen” for a coworker – developed a crush, felt a strong attraction, whatever you want to call it, they were feelings that a married woman should not have for another man.

For months, I suffocated under the weight of guilt and shame. My attraction magnified my husband’s flaws in my eyes, and I found myself seeking out this man’s time and attention in unhealthy ways that perhaps weren’t noticeable to anyone but my husband.

I was terrified to share my struggles with anyone. I labored under the idea that as a cross-cultural worker, it was unacceptable for me to admit my feelings. And I felt ashamed that I couldn’t control my desires.

Thankfully, God protected me from ever acting on those emotions. Eventually, the feelings faded in intensity and stopped occupying the forefront of my mind. God gave me the courage to admit it all to my spouse, even if it was after the worst of the struggle. Yet I wonder how many others have felt the same, and how many have given in and made decisions they deeply regret and have a terrible impact on their marriages and ministries.

There are so many things I wish we’d done differently about preparing our marriage for going overseas. I am sharing these in the hope that they will help you and your spouse strengthen your marriage, even if you never experience the same struggles.


Denying your own vulnerability to affairs is denying your own brokenness. If we cannot remain faithful to a perfect Savior at all times, how can we expect to remain faithful to an imperfect human partner?

It is an incredibly awkward conversation that no one in a healthy marriage wants to have or thinks is necessary. But cross-cultural work often puts us in close emotional and spiritual proximity with others. Emotional intimacy can slowly grow between people without notice. And we can often seek comfort and approval from the wrong places, if we are not aware of our tendency to drift from purity.

So talk about it with your spouse – what do we do if we feel attracted to someone else? How can we stay accountable to one another, pray for one another, and be honest with each other? Talking about it before it happens also releases the expectation (and accompanying shame if it happens) that we will never be attracted to another person.


Satan wants to steal your joy in marriage, kill your intimacy in marriage, and destroy your witness in marriage. Our relationship with our spouse is the most intimate way God shows his relationship with the church to the outside world. If Satan can steal any of marriage’s power for displaying the Gospel, he will do it.

It’s only by God’s help we can keep our marriages strong. Pray for your spouse. Ask others close to you to pray for your marriage. Cherish your relationship, and look for ways to make it stronger.


I wish I had had the courage to share what I was feeling with other women. But because our expat group was so small, and we worked and fellowshipped so closely together, I was terrified of how that disclosure would affect our relationships. And I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my struggle over Skype with friends back home.

Being proactive could have helped this, by asking my support group back home to ask me about my marriage and praying for my weakness. The Bible tells us to bear each other’s burdens, but we can only do that if we actually share them with others. Ask other same-gender friends if they are willing to carry the hard burdens with you.


This looks so different in everyone’s relationships. I can’t lay down the rule that you should never be alone with someone of the opposite sex, for example, because sometimes that just happens in work or travel situations. But you and your spouse need to talk about how to protect your marriage. Boundaries aren’t about making rules; they are about protecting what matters. I knew I couldn’t trust myself to be alone with that person, because my heart wanted to share things with him that were too intimate. You need to pray and talk with your spouse about how to protect your relationship.


Not “if” you fail – because we will all fail in marriage, whether through full-blown affairs or through our inability to love our partners well enough. We are broken, sinful people – and the sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can throw ourselves on Jesus. He is the only hope for marriage. He can give us the power to love our spouse selflessly and to say “no” when temptations come our way.

And when we mess up, he still loves and accepts us. Our value in the eyes of God is not found in our ability to love another person perfectly; it is found in Jesus’ perfect love for the Father and for us, and in his life given for ours on the cross. Knowing that gives us hope that, despite our sin and helplessness, we are still loved by him.


This article was written by an anonymous worker. If your heart has been touched by this story and you (like the author) wish to remain anonymous, we invite you comment anonymously. The author will also be responding anonymously.