July 18th 2023
#268: Facing Temptation: Fostering Sexual Wholeness & Growth
Do you find yourself fleeing or distracting yourself when faced with temptation?
This approach may actually be doing more harm than good in your journey towards sexual integrity, wholeness, and maturity.
In today’s episode, we explore the importance of acknowledging the underlying distress that often accompanies temptation and offer three steps to navigate through it more effectively.
Listen in as we discuss strategies for feeling the distress, seeking help from friends and family, and moving towards sexual wholeness.
By becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings when experiencing temptation, we can better understand our struggles and address them head-on.
Don’t miss this insightful and practical conversation on managing temptation and fostering sexual wholeness in our lives.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
What We Discuss:
- 00:04 – How to deal with temptation.
- 02:25 – How to deal with temptation and distress.
- 04:09 – Learn different ways to deal with temptation.
- 05:54 – Flee sexual immorality and temptation.
- 07:48 – Where do you feel distress in your body?
- 09:14 – How to invite the holy spirit into your distress.
Transcription: Facing Temptation: Fostering Sexual Wholeness and Growth
Josh: So you’re in that moment when you experience a wave of temptation. Maybe you’ve run across something online, Maybe somebody’s crossed your path, maybe it’s just thoughts that have been percolating in your brain all day and you’ve got a moment alone. What do you do?
Josh: Typically a lot of us, if we’re not diving into the sexual sin, we are running, we are fleeing, We are trying to busy ourselves, trying to distract ourselves, going over scripture, memory verses blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, whatever. But we’re in a frenzy, trying to get away from the temptation, which is a problem. And I think there are a couple of verses that often feed into that idea that that’s what we’re supposed to do. So in 1 Corinthians 6, for example, Paul talks about fleeing sexual immorality. Flee, sexual immorality. That word flee, what does it mean? It means to flee, to get away, right. So it gives us even an impression of running from a dangerous, dangerous enemy, and even doing it mindlessly running mindlessly. The other is in 2 Corinthians 10, when Paul talks about taking every thought captive.
Josh: A lot of times people use that passage to talk about what do you do when you have a tempting thought in your brain? You take it captive First of all. Just as an aside, I’m not sure that’s a great exegesis of that passage. I think it’s taken out of context and used in that way. But even if you are taking the thought captive, one of the questions that would come next is well, what do I do with that thought? Like I don’t want it in my brain and I’ve just taken it captive. So now it’s just stuck there, right? What do I do with it now? And I think those two passages and others like them can give us the impression that what we’re supposed to do when we experience temptation, what we’re supposed to do when you feel a sexual desire, is to hurry up, busy ourselves And we get ourselves in this frenetic space which actually does more harm than good in moving us towards sexual integrity and sexual wholeness and sexual maturity. So I think they give a sense of urgency. Right, and I don’t want to give the wrong impression It is urgent. So it would be equally problematic to deny the fact that you’re feeling temptation, to deny the fact that you have a fantasy starting to run in your brain. So do take it seriously. When that happens, don’t deny it. That’s not what I mean by not being urgent about it. So be urgent in that way Address This is something that’s happening now, but avoid that kind of hurried, frenetic thing that happens in your brain and can happen in your activity. Here’s why, When we experience temptation, most all of the time we are actually deeper down, experiencing some type of distress, and I’ll come back to that in a minute.
Josh: We’re experiencing some kind of distress And oftentimes we’ve learned, going back to childhood, that we can’t really deal with the distress, and so we seek to dissociate from it, to disconnect from it, to distract ourselves from it. So if, when you were a kid, for example and you might even consider this when you were a kid, when you felt sad, when you felt stressed about school, when you felt overwhelmed with something, when your parents had a fight and you were afraid that your family was gonna fall apart, when a friend betrayed you or spoke badly behind you, when you were embarrassed or ashamed, what did you learn? who walked with you to help you learn how to deal with that kind of distress? Who, in your life, shepherded you at that point. A lot of us didn’t have much shepherding in that point, or a lot of us. What we got from our parents was kind of a dodge ignore it, avoid it, let’s get away from it. There wasn’t a whole lot of help in us learning how to grow up and manage those situations of distress, and so we learned to dissociate from them, to disconnect from them.
Josh: Distracting ourselves by playing video games, distracting ourselves by thinking about something else, distracting ourselves by thinking about Bible verses, i know right. Distracting ourselves by looking at pornography, perhaps, eventually. Or fantasy, or when we were really little, it might have been imaginative play, distracting ourselves with imaginative play. That also was a form of dissociation. I’m not pointing a finger at us as little kids we do our best to survive and praise God that we did, but as adults we need to learn different ways instead of dissociating. So if what we’re doing when we feel temptation is we’re actually responding reacting with a learned response that we’ve had since childhood of dissociating, disconnecting from the distress we’re experiencing, what happens when we flee sexual morality? What happens when we run away or we take a thought captive? In many ways, what we’re still doing is we’re trying to dissociate from the distress And sometimes it takes the form of we’re ignoring the distress and we’re still paying attention to the sexual temptation, but we’re having that occupy all our time by running away from it, going over scripture memory, calling our Christian brothers or sisters to deal with the temptation.
Josh: Now, scripture memory, calling brothers and sisters is all well and good. We ought to do those things, but not in a dissociative way, not in a disconnecting from our distress kind of way. We don’t wanna get away from that, we wanna move into that. So it’s a subtle trap, right? There’s a subtle trap there and I hope you hear that of feeling like we’re doing the right thing by fleeing, by getting frenetic, by hurrying our brains on other topics, when really what we need to do is slow ourselves down.
Josh: So, instead of getting frenetic, instead of adding to the dissociation, adding to the disconnect in some different ways, i wanna give you three steps that would move you in a different direction. These aren’t the only three steps, but these are three steps, I think, that can help you. The first thing is feel it. Feel the distress. Feel the distress that you’re experiencing Now. If all you’re aware of is the temptation, in that moment. You may need to get up and move out of that situation.
Josh: I think that’s what Paul means by fleeing sexual immorality. Notice, he says flee sexual immorality, he doesn’t say flee sexual temptation. Sometimes those may be the same things, like as in the often quoted passage from Genesis where Joseph fled. He got out of there when Potiphar’s wife was coming on to him. So it might be the same thing. But is it possible that once Joseph left, that he felt some temptation outside the door, that he felt some sense of like I could go back and I could have sex with that woman and man? wouldn’t that be nice? I’m not saying he did, but it’s possible he did. So he fled the sexual morality, but he still had to deal with the temptation.
Josh: So if you’re not aware of the distress you’re experiencing, deep or down, then you begin by feeling the temptation. But the aim is to feel the distress. Are you hungry? Are you ashamed? Are you sad? Are you grieving? Are you stressed? Are you anxious about something? Feel it. When I say feel it, don’t do it in passing. Give yourself some space to feel it.
Josh: I’m not saying you just have to sit there all afternoon, but sometimes for me, i’m so used to dissociating, so used to distracting myself, so used to trying to get away from pain that I’ve not learned very well just to sit with it, and sometimes I almost have the feeling or the thought in my brain like I can’t live with this. I’ve got to get away. It hurts too much. So slowing down and just feeling it for a bit actually shows me. You know, this does hurt, but it’s not killing me. It’s not killing me.
Josh: So remember how I said, some of these that go back to childhood. When you’re a kid it’s possible that you experienced adult-sized distress and it was too much for you to deal with as a little kid. So you learn survival mechanisms. You learn to survive by dissociating or by disconnecting from some of those things. But now you’re an adult and you don’t need to do that anymore, and so sometimes you might just kind of notice like where do you feel the distress in your body? What does it feel like? Like I typically feel it if you’re watching the video. I feel it right about here, kind of right in my sternum, right behind my ribs. There That’s where I feel a lot of the pain or anxiety that I experienced or sadness that I experienced in my life. Some people feel it lower down in their stomach. Sometimes people feel it in their shoulders or in their head. They might even notice they’re having a physical headache.
Josh: And it’s interesting to notice, isn’t it, that we often talk about emotions as being matters of the heart, but we experience emotions in one place. We experience them in our bodies. That’s where God designed that we would experience our emotions. And when you’re in your body, you feel it. What does it feel like? A therapist friend of mine would even ask the question if you have a hard time describing it, what kind of shape would it be? If it’s a shape inside of you, what’s the shape of that feeling? And notice that it’s not killing you, that you can actually sit with it.
Josh: Now, if it is so intense that you find yourself having a lot of difficulty, then you may be tapping into an area of trauma or some deep, deep distress where you actually do need some help right in that moment. So if you’re a rational pastor, a dear, trusted friend, somebody else to help hold that with you, to carry that with you, it could be a helpful thing. But notice how that’s not dissociating, it’s not running away from the feeling, it’s inviting them into it. So and then step two I’d encourage you then, once you notice that you’re feeling it and how you’re feeling it, invite Jesus into that, invite the Holy Spirit into that space. Come, take it away, because really the distress is trying to tell you something.
Josh: In the same way, if you put your hand on a burner, a burner on your stove, and you feel pain, that pain hurts, but you’re not asking for it to go away. If it went away, that would be even more deadly for you, right? The pain is telling you. Your hand is on a burner and it needs attention. So you pull it away. So you’re not inviting the Holy Spirit to come in and immediately remove the pain, but with you.
Josh: So I would put my hand where I feel the pain and I would say Holy Spirit, would you come into this, be in this place with me right now. Come into this space, into this distress If you know what kind of distress it is come into the sadness, come into this anxiety. Be present with me in that space. So you’re inviting him into it. Now notice the difference there. I’m not running away from it. I’m also not inviting media or fantasy. I’m not inviting those things into the space. I’m inviting the Holy Spirit of God into those spaces, which is beautiful, powerful, wonderful. He is a manual God with us. There’s good news in that, even beyond what we understand in the moment.
Josh: And then the third thing I’d invite you to do is to ask it questions, listen to it, like what are you here for? Why am I feeling this way And why is it feel so intense? So if I’m feeling anxiety about something like going out at work, can I feel anxiety? What is it about what’s happening at work that I feel so such an intense anxiety about? And listen to it for a bit. Again, here you might need the help of somebody else Trust, friend, spiritual coach at regeneration, a therapist, a good pastor, but somebody who will listen with you and who recognizes the importance of not dissociating from it but by entering into it And by inviting both God and another into that space.
Josh: What you do is you reverse that story from your childhood. So remember I said earlier, you experienced these things when you were a kid and no one taught you how to deal with sadness or fear or stress or difficult situations or grief or anger when you were a kid and you learned to dissociate from them because it was adult-sized stuff for your little child brain and you were alone because no one was shepherding you. Well, now you’re walking through something different. You are paying attention to it, you’re inviting God to come into it and you’re inviting someone else to come into it. Now, those three steps are not as immediately. They don’t as immediately resolve the distress you’re experiencing, but over time they actually do bring resolution to it or are much more able to bring resolution to it as opposed to dissociating from it.
Josh: Because when you dissociate, you actually just leave the problem. You’re leaving your hand on the burner. Your hand is getting worse and worse and worse. And when it comes to dissociating with pornography or other unwanted sexual behavior, you’re just adding insult to it, because not only do you have the initial distress, but now you’re adding more distress on top of it. You can see even in that, just how what scripture says is true that sin leads to death. It’s not life-giving, it’s leading you down the path to leave what’s distressing you in action, in play, without responding to it, without attaining to it, and it’s throwing additional coals of fire onto it. And that’s not what you want, that’s not what God wants for you. So try those three steps And, as always, if we can be of any help to you at Regen, let us know.