No matter how well you try to prevent tempting thoughts from entering through the gate of your mind, some will still slip through. Life itself brings temptation. The day you stop experiencing temptation isn’t the day you stop reading romance novels or watching R-rated movies or the day you put a wedding band on your finger or the day you fast and pray for twelve hours straight. The day you stop experiencing temptation is the day you die.
Temptation comes part and parcel with being human, and you are no exception to that rule. For instance, perhaps a handsome boss evokes thoughts of sitting on his lap to take dictation. Maybe a passionate speaker stirs your spirit and you think for a moment how intriguing it would be to pick his brain over a private lunch. Sometimes a charming friend may cause you to wish you had met him before you committed your life to someone else.
Again, you haven’t sinned when these thoughts pop up in your mind; they are merely pesky temptations. Every person on the planet experiences those at times. As I mentioned earlier, Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted. It also tells us that He was sinless.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have on who has been tempted in every way, just as we are⎯yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Jesus understands what it feels like to be tempted. He was human, too. He underwent the kinds of temptations we experience, yet he did not succumb to any of them. Because we have the Holy Spirit living in us, we can have the same victory if we learn to resist temptation by redirecting our thoughts.
Maybe you think, But you just said I can’t choose what thoughts come into my mind. You are right. You can’t prevent your mind from thinking random, inappropriate thoughts. But you can avoid entertaining them or dwelling on them.
In fact, you do this all the time. For example, when you arrive at an all-you-can-eat buffet, you can choose not to think about the twenty pounds you are trying to lose long enough to satisfy both your appetite and your sweet tooth, can’t you? You can distract yourself with a telephone call from a friend when you have a list of house chores a mile long. Do you avoid thinking about the dirty clothes piling up in the basement when an opportunity to go shopping for new ones presents itself? Of course, you do. We constantly make choices either to dwell on or disregard thoughts. We can either entertain ideas or ignore them, and sexual temptations or emotional cravings are no exception.
So what do we do when we come face to face with temptation?
* Rather than eyeballing an attractive man (men are not the only ones who have to control their eyes sometimes, are they?), avoid the second look and simply say to yourself, “Thank you, Lord, for Your awesome creation!” Idolatry is turning your attention from the Creator to the creation. When you notice a beautiful creation, just give credit to the Creator and move on.
* Meditate on scriptures that you have memorized as a way to keep your focus where it needs to be. One of my favorites to help me overcome temptation is Revelation 3:21: “To [her] who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
* Sing a song in your mind that helps you resist temptation. Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Run Away” and Susan Ashton’s “Walk On By” are two songs I’ve kept on mental standby. They’ve saved my thought life from taking a downward turn many times through the years.
* Pray for his wife. If he doesn’t have one, pray for the one he will have someday. Or pray for your husband or the one you will have some day. Remind yourself that entertaining romantic or sexual thoughts about this person is mental adultery, and thank God that with His help you are able to keep your heart and mind pure.
* Finally, as I’ve heard Elisabeth Elliot say on her radio show, Gateway to Joy, when you come face to face with temptation simply do the next thing. Were you on your way to your office when you encountered this fine specimen? Then do not tarry. Go to work. Were you heading to meet a girlfriend for lunch? Don’t keep her waiting. Go. If you want to remain on the path toward righteousness, don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked by a handsome man if this is a relationship you should not entertain.
What is your game plan for redirecting your tempting thoughts? How will you respond when that bird flies overhead? Will you shoo it away, or will you allow it to build a nest in your hair?
Excerpted from Every Woman’s Battle: Discovering God’s Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment by Shannon Ethridge. Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved. Published by WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO 80921. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval.