Are you troubled by a temptation that you feel powerless to avoid? Is there something you’re addicted to, whether it’s one of the usual “social vices” (smoking, drinking, drugs, …maybe rock and roll?), or something less talked about (gambling, video games, shopping, over-committing)? Some call these challenges, “besetting sins” – those vices that we may grit our teeth and denounce (in our more clear-headed moments), but somehow still find ourselves caught up in. We* may promise to never head down those paths, but somehow we look back and find that we took the same fateful turn, again and again.
(* Of course, when I say “we”, I’m including myself. It seems that when I overcome one challenge in a given phase of life, another faces me in the next season. Or, something I thought I had beaten comes back with a vengeance.)
If you are challenged by temptations that you just can’t seem to shake, I hope that you will consider two truths, today:
1. You are not alone.
(No, I’m not suggesting that there are little green men out there.)
Instead, this truth is that your struggles are shared by others. No matter how isolated or unique you think that your challenges are, someone else – and probably thousands of other people – faces the same kind of thing on a regular basis. There are those who have struggled with the same temptation and overcome it; there are others who are still fighting the battle and losing ground; and, there are those whose path is taking them towards the same problem, unless someone shows them a better way.
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 NASB
We may often call upon the second part this verse when reminding ourselves that God gives us a way out of temptation. (And, for those who don’t struggle against the same temptations as us, this can be taken out of context and used as judgement. Don’t be like that!) However, when we’re struggling with a temptation against which our defenses are weak, we can also find hope in the first part of this verse, knowing that we aren’t alone in our struggles.
If you’re like me, you live in a culture that promotes a facade for everybody – putting on a good appearance, regardless of what is actually going on. We smile and shake hands – at church, at school, at work, in the community – regardless of what our heart feels. Sharing your struggles and failures isn’t natural.
However, I can speak from experience that, when we share our challenges with the right group of trusted friends, suddenly others open up about experiencing similar things (or having supported another friend through the same trials). I’ve been in settings with trusted friends in the past, where either I shared one of my struggles, only to find out that someone else had dealt with the same thing; or, someone else was bold enough to be honest about what he or she was experiencing, and I was able to share my own experiences – for the encouragement of us both.
It’s ok not to be perfect (and even to not look perfect). Once we – and others – share our struggles, we no longer have to be alone when fighting our battles.
2. Jesus “gets it”.
While Jesus did not sin, He understands temptation, because he’s been there. Technology might have changed, but temptations do not. Jesus went through the most challenging of these during His time on earth.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16 NASB
You may be pulled in by your sinful nature, dragged along by other people who want to pull you down, or tempted by evil forces. Jesus, though, was tempted by Satan. (Read Matthew 4:1-10.)
Why? I believe that this was because Satan knew that Jesus was the Son of God, and wanted to take the opportunity to strike back – to score the ultimate win against God. I also believe that God the Father let this happen so that no one could claim that Jesus got off easy. No one could honestly say that Jesus lived a sinless life only because He didn’t face a certain kind of temptation. While much history has transpired since then, Jesus still knows what every sort of temptation feels like. He can relate to the pressures we face.
So, in the words from the refrain of an old hymn, “I Must Tell Jesus”, we can – and should – first confide in Jesus. While mature friends, Christian leaders, and trusted confidants can provide us support and solidarity, sometimes only “Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.”
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.
As you fight your own temptations, today, I pray not only that you find God’s help in getting through, but also that God will send His messengers to minister to you, as Matthew 4:11 illustrates after Jesus’ great temptation in the desert was finished:
Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.
Matthew 4:11 NASB
You weren’t meant to struggle alone.