The struggle against temptation is real. Temptation, by its very nature, feels wrong. When a sinful temptation comes to us, our conscience immediately senses danger. After all, as we learn from the Prophet Jeremiah, God’s law is written on our hearts (Jerimiah 31:33). Yet, we need to remember that having temptation itself is not a sin. It is when we accept temptation into our hearts, willfully play with it in our minds, and step over the line, that we lose the struggle and sin.
The temptation to sin is something we all face. It is part of our human condition. We are warned in the First Letter of Peter to “be self-controlled and alert. [Because] your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).” Even Peter knows the struggle is real. So how do we manage to stay alert and maintain self-control?
First, recognize your tendency to sin. Admit that you are weak and identify your weaknesses and personal struggles. The temptation to sin is normal, so don’t be surprised by it. Expect to be tempted daily and be prepared for it.
Secondly, be ready to flee from temptation. When you come face-to-face with a temptation, look for a way out. You may need a change of scenery. Leave the room. Change the channel. Turn off your computer. Refocus your mind. Whatever it is, get away from the danger.
Last and certainly not least….pray. In the moment of temptation, cry out “Jesus, help” or “Come, Holy Spirit”. On our own we are not strong enough to overcome the struggle, so we need to pray. That is why Jesus taught us to say, “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).
“When we find ourselves in some grave danger, we must not lose courage but firmly trust in God, for where there is the greatest danger, there is also the greatest help from Him who wants to be called our ‘Help’ in times of peace and in times of tribulation.” -St. Ambrose