Sometimes temptation can feel like it knocks you over like a powerful wave. One moment you’re doing fine and the next your whole body and mind wants to indulge in sin. What can you do when Temptation comes knocking?
In Jay Stringer’s book, Unwanted, he uses the illustration of temptation showing up unannounced on your doorstep. He highlights the importance of not allowing it into your house, but he also discusses the importance of “talking with” the temptation to figure out why it’s there.
I like to think about it this way: When you hear the doorbell ring and discover that temptation is standing outside, it’s important to recognize that, although it may have shown up unannounced, it didn’t show up uninvited. Something inside of you texted or called it and told it to come over.
“No,” you might say, “I was scrolling social media and a provocative post hit me out of the blue.” Or maybe, “I was at the store and someone who reminded me of an old partner crossed my path, and that’s when it started.” Or perhaps even, “I was minding my own business and a past sexual partner texted asking if I want to have sex.”
You’re not responsible for others’ actions, but consider this: Why is it that sometimes those kinds of situations create intense temptation in you and other times they don’t?
Temptation may fixate on something outside of you, but it’s power to pull you toward sin comes from inside. This is not an accusation, it’s an opportunity to tend to whatever it is inside that is being drawn so powerfully. Or to return to the illustration, it’s an opportunity to find out who is inviting temptation to the doorstep.
For example, when you slow down to prayerfully ask this kind of question (and by all means, invite God and a good friend to help you with this!), you may find that you’re feeling lonely inside. You hadn’t really noticed it—or at least you hadn’t really taken time to consider it—until now. Or maybe you’re feeling stressed, helpless, frustrated, small, unwanted, or any number of other things. Some part of you called temptation and asked it to come over in order to “tend to” whatever it is that you’re feeling.
But now that you’ve taken time to be curious about what’s going on and what part of you is needing tending, you can tell temptation and sin to leave. Why? Because you can tend to that part of you.
If you’re lonely, you can tell a friend or invite someone to grab a coffee. If you’re stressed, you can take some time to map out a strategy to deal with whatever it is that’s stressing you, or you can take time in prayer to turn that situation over to the care of God.
You can see in all of this how responding to temptation is not just a matter of telling it to leave or trying to force yourself not to think “those thoughts.” If you only take that approach, the untended part of you will probably just pick up the phone and invite temptation to come back over.
This is also one reason I’m so grateful for Jesus. He is so aware of all this and so willing and patient to be with us through these things. He loves to tend to our hurts and be with us in those times when the hurts remain. Temptation and lust are freeloaders, just looking to come into our “house” so they can take over, eat our food, make a mess, and use us. Not Jesus. He wants to care for every part of us and bring life, goodness, beauty, and love to us.
One more thing: It’s not uncommon that when you tell temptation that it can leave, it will often still stick around and keep ringing the doorbell. When that happens, it’s totally fair to call in the big guns. Ask the Father to go out there and send that freeloader away, and you can stand behind the Father shouting, “Get off my property, in the name of Jesus!”
For four more things you can do when temptation comes knocking, listen to this week’s podcast!
Have you ever tried something like what I’m describing here when you’re tempted? How has it worked for you? What else helps you in those moments? I’d love to hear from you.