It is so hard, I know. Those things that chase you around and run your life, the ones you want so badly to break free of. You ache for change. You pray for change. You cry because the fight is hard and the road is long. And here it all is again, the same thoughts, the same feelings, the same triggers, all pulling you towards the one thing you want away from. You don’t want this, but something insists you do. It tells you that you need it. What could you possibly do under this stress, this tension?? You’ve said “this is the last time” more times than you can count. You’ve repeatedly decided to just tough it out and not give in, only to find yourself swallowed by guilt in the aftermath of giving in. How can you win?!
Don’t panic, just shift your gaze.
Temptation yells in your ear, and it yells loud. It probably scares you when you hear its voice creeping up on you, growing louder, again. Don’t let the fear overtake you. You don’t have to give in. You do have a choice. When you are scared, you will tend to end up making more panicked, emotional, irrational, and not-well-thought-out decisions. If you let fear grip your heart when you are tempted then you make yourself more vulnerable. Instead of being afraid of falling again, which puts you in that panicked mindset and also centers your focus on doing it wrong, remind yourself that through Jesus you already have victory over sin. Sin can’t control you because Jesus killed its power on the cross. As His child, you are free and you are protected from sin. If you are free and protected from it, then why do you still mess up? It happens when you forget that you don’t have to sin anymore, when you believe that you have no choice, or when you decide you want to because of the illusion of some reward from it. But either way, it is a choice you make.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13
God has promised a way out. It is there, always. Sometimes it feels like it is invisible, like it is hidden, but that is often because we are too busy staring at temptation in terror to really look around. When we do stop and look, or when we cry out for help, we see that Help and our Way of escape is standing right next to us, with His arms wide open.
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6
Jesus is the way out. He is our freedom from sin. He is our escape. He keeps us from falling.
“Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” – Psalm 94:16-19
It isn’t up to us to grit our teeth, strain our spiritual muscles, and not give in. We never had the power to overcome sin, but that is okay because Jesus does have that power! And He finished that work through His death and resurrection! When we remember that we don’t have to fear sin, because it is already overcome and it can’t control us unless we choose to let it, we find an ability to think more clearly. With that new ability to think without your head racing around in terror, walk away from the temptation. Sometimes this can be a physical act, like leaving the room or turning your phone off, but it is also important to walk away from the temptation mentally and emotionally as well.
How do you walk away mentally? Run to God. Cry out. Run! But don’t run to Him fearfully saying, “Help, God, Daddy! This temptation is chasing me! I don’t want to give in! I don’t know what to do! How can I win this?! It never works! Everything is falling apart! How can I make it stop?! Why do You keep allowing this??! Everything is so bad! I’m still thinking about it! The desire hasn’t left! The thoughts are still there! I don’t know what to do!! Please hurry up!!! Amen…” It is good to run to God and admit your weakness. It is good to be honest and let Him know exactly where you are and what you are facing. Tell Him how you are feeling. He wants to hear those things from you, and He already knows them, so you have nothing to hide. But do you see how that prayer was talking to God, but still focused on and staring at the temptation? It is easy to pray like that and then wonder why you end up still giving in. It “doesn’t work” because you never really shifted your gaze. The focus and attention remained on the sin and the pull towards it. When you go to God, come to Him and tell Him where you are, and ask for help and strength, but then move on from there and just gaze at who He is.
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7
That verse says “submit yourselves to God,” not “fight the temptation harder.” Let go of the temptation and don’t keep checking to see if it is gone yet. Just sink into Jesus. Thank Him for different attributes that He has, think back over your life and praise Him for how He has shown His love and faithfulness to you, marvel at His greatness and power. The more you look at Him the more His light envelops you. And the darkness cannot go into the light, so you are totally safe from the temptation there. Don’t let it dwell in your mind again. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1-3) Just run into the light and trust that the darkness can’t follow.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:1-3
That is how you beat temptation. Don’t dance with it. Don’t get into a staring contest with it. Don’t play hide and seek with it. Just turn around and look at God. Shift your gaze. Let His glory consume you. Dig into the Bible, that is what Jesus used to rebuke Satan when He was tempted. (Matthew 4:1-11) Pray, with petition and thanksgiving. (Philippians 4:6)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. ” – Ephesians 6:10-13