It was the year 1730. King Louis XV of France, in cahoots with the Roman Catholic Church, was attempting to violently stamp out the growing Protestant movement. Marie Durand, a 19-year-old Protestant woman, was arrested for her faith and locked in La Tour de Constance, a famous tower-prison in Aigues-Mortes, France, with several other Protestant women. It was a cold, humid prison in the middle of a mosquito-infested swamp. Every week temptation would come, in the form of the Catholic priest, to offer the women an opportunity to recant their Protestant faith in Christ alone and walk out of the prison.
But Marie refused. Despite the miserable conditions in the prison, she did not give in to temptation. She maintained her trust in Christ and remained in the tower for 38 years! There is a stone in the prison on which the word RESIST is carved. It is believed that it was Marie and the other women who carved it.
Marie Durand serves as a powerful example for us to remain strong in the Lord. But how did she do it? She had no Bible with her in the tower. But I suspect that Marie knew her Bible well, even though owning a Bible was a crime at that time in France. Perhaps she had even committed portions of it to memory as her “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). How important it is to hide God’s Word in our hearts!
She must have appreciated the psalms of lament and often cried out in prayer, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1). For 38 years, she resisted the temptation to recant her faith. She could have given in to the desire for safety and comfort. But she surely knew that putting her own interests before Christ would amount to idolatry. Perhaps she carved “RESIST” into that rock as a way of constantly coaching herself and the other women to stand firm in Christ.
How to Remain Steadfast
Perhaps not many of us will ever experience the severe trial of Marie Durand. But we all face temptations, and God has provided instructions in His Word for those times. When we are tempted by the world, the flesh, or the devil, we need to remember and double down on the instruction from the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 10 offers insightful reminders of Old Testament history and instructions for resisting temptation. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul recounts the Israelites’ temptations in the wilderness, using them as an example to the believers in Corinth: “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved” (1 Corinthians 10:6). The Israelites were tempted to idolatry, to immorality, to testing God, and to grumbling (1 Corinthians 10:7-10). Using these reminders, Paul warns the Corinthians to “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14).
The Three Promises of 1 Corinthians 10:13
Zeroing in on verse 13, we find Paul’s teaching that is so helpful in times of temptation: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Paul underlines three precious promises in this verse:
- God’s Providence in Trials
“No temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man”: Marie Durand was not the first person to experience such a trial. Jesus warned his disciples of persecution: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). I bet Marie Durand held onto Jesus’ words with a firm grip. She was surely familiar with the Old Testament stories of God’s sovereignty in history and trusted Him to be in control of her history as well. She had probably learned of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 and strove for the same courage: “Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (Hebrews 11: 35-38). Marie Durand was in good company. Suffering is not outside the providence of God. In fact, Paul wrote, “…that no one should be disturbed by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we have been destined for this” (1 Thessalonians 3:3). God is sovereign even in our greatest trials.
- God’s Provision in Trials
“…and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also”: He will provide the grace that you need to remain steadfast under the temptation. Just as for the heroes in Hebrews 11 who overcame “by faith”, God is the One who grants us faith in Him; it is not a matter of mustering it up from within ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9). He will be faithful to sustain our faith in times of temptation, and He knows our limits: “A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish” (Isaiah 42:3).
But what is the “way of escape” that He will provide? He Himself is our help: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). What words of hope and comfort! We have an approachable God who is ready to minister to us in our weakness.
- God’s Purpose in Trials
“…so that you will be able to endure it.” God’s purpose in our trials is that we learn to trust Him, that we overcome our temptation, and that we glorify Him through our Spirit-empowered endurance. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking to the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14). In this way, we “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (Titus 2:10). God’s plan is that His grace be made more lovely through our trust and sanctification.
After refusing to deny her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for 38 years, Marie Durand was finally released from prison. But more than her unwavering resolve, we see God’s providence, provision, and purpose in keeping her faith and securing her in His everlasting arms. So, when temptation knocks at our door or persecution tests our faith, we ought to remember the faithful saints that went before us and our faithful Saviour who is worthy of our affections, obedience, and life. May the example of Marie Durand, who was willing to suffer to avoid sinning against her Lord by recanting her faith, exhort us to die to ourselves and take up our cross daily. God is faithful.