What do you do when temptation is right here, inside you, when you can feel it coursing through your veins, pulsating through your body?
When this happens, it can seem like God is far off, distant and disconnected, only perceptible with great effort. And in these times, it doesn’t so much feel like temptation is coming at us, but like temptation is coming from us, as though we ourselves are the fuel that has ignited the flame.
What can we do?
First, even if the temptation you’re experiencing has been a part of your life as long as you can remember, and even if it feels right and natural to give in, you are not your temptation.
This is one of the enemy’s biggest lies regarding temptation. If the enemy can get you to believe a temptation you experience is a part of you, is coming from your essence, then to resist is useless, to flee (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22) is futile, fighting means fighting against yourself, and defeating your temptation means…what? Being half alive?
Instead, practice the truth that the temptation you feel is not you. You’re a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); your God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12); and you’re one of Jesus’s friends (John 15:15). The best antidote to lies is truth. Find Scripture passages that affirm who you are and what temptation is.
Second, rest in the knowledge that God knows our predicament, and instead of scolding you for the intensity our temptation, He wants to help us. Instead of pulling back from us when we want what He forbids, He draws near to us right there where we need Him the most. When we really get this, everything changes. Tell God what you observe within yourself, even when you think what you see there will displease Him. Tell Him not with an attitude of entitlement (“Jesus, you owe me.”), not with an attitude of self-pity (“Jesus, I’m the only one who has it this bad.”), but with an attitude of simple humility (“Jesus, look at my lowly state and have mercy on me.”).
With this in mind, here are three practical responses when you’re in the midst of intense temptation:
- Call a Christian brother or sister. This will feel difficult, but not much is more effective when tempted than talking to a spiritual ally who knows what you’re dealing with, can encourage you, pray for you, and help you figure out how to get out from underneath the temptation you’re experiencing.
- Pray. I’ve found in times of intense temptation it helps to pray simple prayers like calling out “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” over and over again. I also find it’s helpful to pray out loud, in a whisper if necessary but loudly if possible. This way, not only am I reaching out to God, this also fires up the decision-making part of the brain, which I need when tempted.
- Move. Oftentimes, getting up and moving to another location can make a big difference. Make sure the place you choose removes you from extra temptation, and combine this with numbers 1 and 2 for an especially powerful plan against temptation.
All this is a start. Remember, God is nearer to us in the heat of temptation than temptation itself is. Choose to trust Jesus’s commitment to you (“I am with you always, even to the end of the age” [Mt. 28:20]) more than you trust what your temptations tell you.
Question: Have you felt the kind of temptation that feels like it’s coming from who you are? If so, what else do, think, or say to deal with it? Leave a comment below.
P.S. Keep an eye out for our upcoming podcast series in May 2018 on dealing with temptation!