There was a time when it didn’t seem I could resist the urge to lust. The temptation to lust felt like a tidal wave overpowering all my resolve.
I’m still on the journey away from lust, but I enjoy a great deal of freedom compared to how I used to live. Here are five things I’ve learned to do when I’m tempted to lust:
- I admit it to myself, to God, and to at least one trusted brother. When I act like everything’s fine, then there’s nothing to change, no battle to fight, no sickness needing treatment. Admitting it was especially important when I was regularly struggling with other sexual sins. I thought lust was no big deal compared to those other sins, so I’d give myself little permissions. I’ve since come to see that lust is the door to other sexual sins, Admitting I’m tempted to lust means I quit playing games, quit skirting around the edges, and instead break out of my isolation, and connect honestly with those who care about me.
- I ask God to show me what He sees. Lust always includes fantasy—a fictional alternate reality that turns a person into an object. To paraphrase the late Pope John Paul II: The problem with lust is not that we’re looking at too much but that we’re seeing too little. Lust doesn’t want to see a person’s soul, their family, their deepest hopes, their heartbreak, their childhood dreams, their needs, their faults, their richest joys. Seeing these aspects of a human being opens me up to love him or her, and it’s impossible to lust and love at the same time.
- I tell Jesus how I long for Him. If men and women are made in God’s image (and they are), this means that when I find myself desiring a male or female body, on a deeper level I’m longing for the Real behind the image. I’m longing for God Himself. Specifically, different body parts represent to my soul real attributes of God—things like comfort, strength, nurturance, security, life, home. So I consider how I’m tempted and cry out, “Jesus, I’m longing for Your comfort,” “Jesus, I long for Your strength,” “Jesus, I long for the warmth of Home,” “Jesus come to me, I long for you!”
- I run away. Sometimes I just need to get out of the situation I’m in. Maybe today I just don’t feel within me enough resolve to resist, or maybe despite my efforts, I’m faltering. The great Apostle Paul wrote, “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). That word ‘flee’ in the Greek means flee. Out of respect to the other person and to myself, sometimes my best shot at love is to get up and go somewhere else.
- I aim never to beat myself up for feeling temptation nor even for giving in to temptation. I struggle with this one because it feels like being hard on myself is only right when I encounter a strong desire to do wrong in me. But in my experience, beating myself up is rooted in a faulty belief that God is angry with me and turns from me when I falter. The truth is that God knows my condition more accurately than I do. As I acknowledge my weakness and sickness to Him, He draws near to me quickly because in those moments I need His loving strength the most.
This isn’t a prescription, and certainly not an exhaustive list. I didn’t even mention calling Scripture to mind, praying for the other person, or recalling to mind the truth about who I am in Christ.
How about you? What can you do when you’re tempted to lust? Leave a comment here.
Learning to see,