A Few Thoughts on Defeating Temptation

Fear was my constant companion, and no matter what I did, the unease wouldn’t leave me alone. I prayed constantly for God to take the anxiety away, but to no avail. Was the Lord even listening to my cries for help? Little did I realize that I was approaching my problem the wrong way.

We all struggle with negative thoughts or feelings that want to control us. It could be a sinful desire, a toxic emotion, or destructive reasoning. We may sometimes feel as if we’re in the trenches on the front line, bombarded by all sorts of trials and temptations, and God seems far away. Or is he?

Even a cursory reading of the Bible points to God’s willingness to help, but our experience sometimes doesn’t appear to match the biblical promises. As I struggled with my fear, I wondered why my prayers weren’t working. I concluded that I wasn’t praying “hard enough,” and so I multiplied my efforts. Despite all my attempts, terror still kept me in its grasp.

God was gracious and caused a breakthrough, but not in the way I imagined. I had been praying for him to remove the fear, but he never did. Instead, he helped me see that I could stand up to fear and defeat it with his help. God had already given me everything I needed for the victory, but I had to learn to walk in that victory. Once I understood this truth and rebuked the fear in Jesus’ name, the anxiety disappeared.

The next time a temptation or toxic emotion attacks you, don’t repeat the same mistake I made. Don’t limit yourself to only asking God to take away whatever is attacking you. Although God sometimes answers such a prayer, he usually doesn’t work that way. Instead, he wants us to learn to walk in victory, which should be the focus of our prayers.

If God had answered my request and removed the fear that had ensnared me, I would have been unprepared to face the subsequent attacks, and God would have had to intervene repeatedly ever since. I would have never fully experienced his victory. By helping me defeat the fear instead of simply eliminating it, God made me stronger, and anxiety never stood a chance the next time it reared its ugly head.

Take the example of a child learning to walk. The toddler’s leg muscles must acquire the strength and balance necessary to put one foot in front of the other, and his parents can’t do it for him. In the same way, God can strengthen us, but we must move our legs.

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul addresses the issue of temptation. He writes that God precisely knows what we’re going through and wants to help—not by removing what torments us—but by giving us everything necessary to endure or bear up under the temptation. In other words, with God’s help, we learn to walk in victory.

It’s not wrong to pray for God to take something away. Two famous examples of such prayers are from none other than Jesus and the Apostle Paul. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked the Father to take away his upcoming ordeal on the cross. Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn in the flesh tormenting him. In both cases, the answer was “no.” This negative response didn’t mean that God had abandoned them. Quite the contrary. In both cases, the very things they asked to be eliminated led to a great victory. Jesus defeated death on the cross, and Paul declared, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (1)

As we struggle with toxic emotions or sinful impulses and ask God for help, let’s remember that he is by our side, even if we don’t feel his presence or if he doesn’t remove the temptation. Like a loving father holding his child’s hand when learning to walk, God leads us through our trials, giving us the strength and ability to be victorious.

(1)  2 Corinthians 12:8-10

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Karen Rusch

    Good Morning, Carol,
    I am so glad I signed up for Bible and Soul. The thoughts you shared today certainly speak to struggles I have had in the past. This is one that I will have to read several times and let it soak in.
    I hope that all is well since you are back in the USA. we are saying farewell to Janna Forseth this Sunday, and it seems like the time has flown by since she got here just before Christmas. Are you coming anywhere close to Wisconsin? Right now I don’t have plans to head “out East” but somehow it would be great to connect with you while you are here.
    This weekend I head to Minneapolis/St. Paul to help my granddaughter who just graduated from high School.
    God bless and keep you. I will do my best to stay in touch. Hugs, Karen

    1. Carol

      Thanks for your kind words. Praise God!

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