Friday, February 28, 2014

Remove Temptations

In my journey back to Jesus, I find that he continues to give me strength, every day. He gives me strength to proclaim his Gospel. He gives me strength to trust in him, even when things are not going well. He gives me strength to listen to him, even when I'm not sure why. And, he gives me strength to resist temptations. 

In my experience, there are multiple types of temptations. Some, to borrow a medical term, are acute. By acute I'm referring to intense and short lived temptations. For example, there is temptation to lash out in anger at some perceived slight. Or, the temptation to be selfish as opposed to putting the wants and needs of others before mine. 

Acute temptations, though generally fully charged with strong emotions, are usually clear cut; we know that it is wrong. We will frequently feel bad about it; in fact we should always feel bad. If it was some act committed against another, as in lashing out in anger, we typically apologize to the offended person. Even something less apparent to another, such as selfishness, usually results in some visible effort at recompense. Of course, we should always ask God for forgiveness.

Another type of temptation is I would call chronic, again borrowing a medical term. By chronic I mean low level and constant. For example, maybe it's that television show that you like to watch, that occasionally crosses the line between moral and immoral. Or, maybe it's watching the graphic displays of violence in the movies you choose. Or, maybe it's the not-so-innocent flirting you do at work. I think you get the point.

Chronic temptations are not generally so clear cut. They frequently seem borderline sinful, making it very easy to say things like 'it's not so bad', 'everyone does it', or 'that's not tempting me and I can stop whenever I want'. Do those excuses sound familiar? To me, they are the excuses of addicts. With chronic temptation, it is easy to become 'addicted'. And, of course, the difficult task is to break the addiction. That is where the strength given to me, and all of us, by Jesus comes in to play. 

First of all, one must recognize that we did succumb to the chronic temptation. This will allow us to act and ask Jesus for forgiveness as well as the strength to defeat the temptation. Next is the hard part. And it can be difficult. We have to actively, not passively, make the decision to remove those things from our lives, then follow through with removing them. As I've gone through this process, I have felt bad, torn, like something was being taken away from me. Like losing a prized possession. What will I do without....? My life will be empty!

I do believe that something is being taken from us - that something is sin. It's almost as if the tentacles of sin have wrapped themselves into and around our souls, and pulling out the sin hurts. Almost like pulling adhesive tape off our skin. But, after it is done, after the temptation is gone, the wound begins to heal, and it feels so much better. I've found that, within a few days after removing the temptation, I question why it took me so long to make the decision and act. And, I feel so much happier. A dark cloud of shame, of which I was not even aware, has been taken away.

Jesus gives me strength to proclaim his Gospel. He gives me strength to trust in him. He gives me strength to listen to him. And, thankfully, he gives me strength to resist and defeat temptations.