Do you ever struggle with temptation? (If you don’t, you’re either dead, you have no conscience, or you have no life.)
One of the reasons we struggle with temptation is because temptations come at us full of deception. They promise to make us happy—at least for a little while. Or they make us think that they will take away our problems. Or they con us into believing that they are what we need to feel better for the moment or to make it through the day. They promise us thigs they cannot deliver.
Jim DeCamp shares a chilling account of how destructive deception can be:
“In February of 1991, I attended the memorial service for a soldier killed in action in Desert Storm. I’ll call him Mike…
“Mike and his driver had become disoriented in the desert, and desperately needed to find friendly lines. They came upon a truck filled with civilians who pointed north (toward Iraq). What Mike and his driver did not know was that the people giving directions were Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes. Minutes later, Mike and his driver approached a suspicious-looking road block. His last words were, ‘Let’s get outta Dodge!’
“His driver wheeled their vehicle around, only to meet the truck speeding north toward them. The hail of bullets miraculously missed the driver, who managed to stay on the road and make it to a French Army hospital. When they arrived, Mike was dead.
“Mike asked the right thing: Which way should I go? His problem was that he looked in the wrong place for the answer. It wasn’t enough that Mike asked a legitimate question, nor that the response was convincing. The answer he got was a lie, and it cost him—and his family—his life.”
When temptations come your way, ask the question Mike asked, “Which way should I go?” But be careful who you ask the question to. Are you turning your attention to one who has no real interest in you—perhaps even wishes to make a mess of your life? Or are you turning your attention to one who cares deeply about you—perhaps even One who gave His very life for you upon a cross?
Here’s another bit of advice in the struggle with temptation: Recovery programs often use the warning: H.A.L.T. It is meant to remind us that we are most vulnerable to temptations when we are H: Hungry, A: Angry, L: Lonely, and T: Tired. To handle temptations well, we need to address well these needs in our lives:
Are you hungry? Get the nutrition you need. When we do not “fuel” our bodies well, we run out of the reserves our souls need to fend off temptations.
Are you angry? Is there some irritation in your spirit that needs to be settled in the right way? Before giving in to temptation, try addressing your anger in a healthy way. Write out your anger in a journal. Release the tension through physical exertion. Vent your hurt to a trustworthy friend. If you are able to do so, talk it over with the person who hurt you.
Are you Lonely? Make good connections with people. Put yourself if places where you can meet good people and where you can develop healthy friendships. This is also why Recovery programs encourage people to find a sponsor—someone you can call when battling temptation—because that personal connection is often the actual thing that is needed.
Are you tired? Get the rest you need. It’s amazing how helpful a good night’s sleep can be in resisting temptation. ■
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa.