I’ve met a number of people who have been frustrated to find that, even though they’ve prayed and prayed that God would remove their temptations, their temptations persist. Why is this? Have they done something wrong? Do they lack faith? Are they resisting temptation in vain? Has God forsaken them?
If you can relate either personally or because you have a loved one who continues to struggle with temptations, here are six encouraging reasons your temptations may continue:
- God wants you to know yourself as an overcomer. If you think temptation will keep relentlessly dogging you until you give in, it’s only because that’s been your experience thus far. Your experience may give you its opinion about who you are, but it doesn’t actually have that authority. Only God does. Could it be God hasn’t removed your temptations because He wants to teach you how much stronger you are than your temptation?
- God wants you to learn to take authority over the enemy. In Genesis 1 and 3, God gave humanity authority over the creatures, but when the serpent showed up, he seemed to know best, so Adam and Eve signed over their rightful authority. But now Jesus, the second Adam, has retaken that authority and He shares it with His followers. Could it be God hasn’t removed your temptations because He’s wanting to help you take your rightful place of authority over the evil one?
- God wants you to have mastery over your desires. Animals live by instinct, but humans are meant to rule their passions. Despite how it may feel in the moment, giving into temptation is not human freedom, it’s slavery. Freedom for you and me requires becoming people who can say no to lesser passions and yes to higher ones. It also includes rewiring our neuropathways, which simply takes time while you abstain from the old behaviors. Could it be God has not removed your temptations because He aims for you to grow in self-mastery?
- God wants to preserve something in you that is good and beautiful. This can be difficult to see at first, but many people come to discover that underneath their most difficult temptations are important parts of their lives needing rescue. Deep down, a person searching online for pornography is actually searching for something much more important, they’re just searching in the wrong place. A skilled, discerning spiritual coach or therapist can help you “listen to your lust” (as Jay Stringer puts it), to discover what lost treasure you’re actually seeking. Could it be God has not removed your temptations because right now they are the only part of you still searching for that lost treasure (even if looking in the wrong place)?
- God wants you to live in loving intimacy with Him. In order for your love to be real love, it must be freely given. Otherwise, it is just programming, manipulation, or force. Perhaps the greatest reason the Lord placed the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the middle of the Garden was because it preserved Adam and Eve’s ability to choose either God or another lover. In other words, it gave them the opportunity to love. If they were not given the option to say no to God, their yes would not truly be yes. Likewise, for you today. God will not force you to love him. Whatever else it may be, could it be that your temptations reveal your freedom to choose to love God with your heart, mind, and body? If so, you will come to love Him most by receiving His love for you, even while temptations persist. Fix your eyes on His cross and receive afresh today His love poured out for us sinners—and for you specifically.
- God sees you living by faith. The world about you relentlessly demands that sex is good in any context as long as it’s consensual, The fact that you recognize the presence of temptation in your life means you are unwilling to yield to the lies that evil is good and good is evil, or that you desire it so much because it’s what you’re made for. In the book of Hebrews’ description of the great men and women of faith “of whom the world was not worthy” (11:38), one attribute listed about these heroes is that “they were tempted” (11:37). Rather than debase themselves by lowering their vision of what it means to be made in God’s image, they were willing to endure the hardship of temptation. With this in mind, could it be the temptation you have seen as a sign of your weakness God sees as a sign of your faith?
Why hasn’t God removed your temptations? Perhaps it involves one or more of the reasons above. We’d love to hear from you, and if we can help you on your journey, please reach out to us.
Leave a comment below: What helps you say yes to God in the midst of intense, recurring temptation?
No, you’re excellent! You make me smile, Larry. Thanks for the journey you live.
Great topic Josh.Yes I have often wondered myself.A brother in Christ once told me,” You don’t I know how well your doing until you respond differently to that temptation.This has really been helpful to me in regards to how I respond when I have a rough day.Do I turn to porn, fantasy, eating, tv ect , instead of crying out to my Father..
Thanks, Paul. I hope what’s come across most in this post is simply that our interpretation of why temptation continues can either set us up to fall back or to keep walking forward. Thanks for being a man who keeps walking forward.
This is amazing and refreshing to know
Thanks for reading, Caleb.
I have been “clean” from viewing porn, and from wrestling with some other strong temptations for ten years. But I do not know myself as an “overcomer” at all. Instead, I know myself as an extremely grateful and undeserving recipient of grace, bestowed on me after I totally capitulated and admitted that I was hopelessly lost in my sin and that only he could overcome my temptations. I had known it was sinful all along, but my prayers had been for a long time, “Make me chaste, Lord, but not now.” When I recognized that I was hopelessly ensnared, that the “guide rails” I had put on myself to restrain the types of porn I would watch were too weak to help, that apart from his power and grace my life would fall apart and I would lost my wife and my reputation, then I turned to him in total desperation.
He saved me. I turned off the computer and walked away, a free man. I have continued in freedom since, by his power, and through means such as Celebrate Recovery (I live in New England, so Regeneration is not an option for me), I have remained free. But I am not an overcomer; the Lord is. He is also working in me the fruit of the Spirit, such as self-control. I have mastery, but it is from him; it wasn’t in me before.
This is beautiful, Charlie. Praise God!
So what does that say to the rest of us who aren’t free? That God doesn’t want us to be free, or that we haven’t totally capitulated yet? What made your life free and others like me not? Why does God choose to free you and not me? Why does he choose to show Grace to some and not others? Were you just better than the rest of us, or God liked you better?
These are hard and important questions, Lee. One thing I didn’t write in this article that I regret is the plain reality that sometimes we just don’t know. One main point I was trying to convey in this post is that one person’s freedom and another person’s ongoing struggle does not mean God loves one more than another. I know it can feel that way, which is what prompted me to want to address the topic, even though I certainly didn’t and can’t answer all the questions. Jesus came for the sick and sinful, which means he’s here for you…and me. And along the way, know that you are welcome here.