Pray that you may not enter into temptation. Luke 22:40
My addiction began when I first had an impulsive desire to indulge in a pleasurable but destructive behavior. I knew this behavior would bring immediate gratification and though I didn’t completely understand the long-term ramifications, I also knew it wasn’t right. This is temptation – the desire for something destructive but pleasurable now, at the cost of our long-term good.
When that impulse to indulge in illicit use of pills was just a thought, I had some chance of arresting it. Once I ruminated on that thought though, it began to take hold in my mind. I made plans of how I could attain it and by that time, I’d made a choice. Having made my choice, I carried out the action. Using reinforced the behavior because it felt good and I didn’t get caught immediately. This led to repetitive use and soon, I was addicted.
In my addiction, searching for a way out, I read today’s passage in which Jesus went out at night, with his disciples, to pray. He warned them to pray that they may not enter into temptation. Enslaved to the pill, I thought I’d try this. The next time I want to use, I’ll just pray, and my addiction will be gone, right? When my prayer didn’t lead to immediate relief, I grew frustrated with God. The problem of course, was that I’d already entered into temptation. I’d jumped in and was drowning in it.
The lesson is that if I want to avoid the painful effects of my destructive desires, I need to learn to abandon them at the first temptation. When I’ve given in once, the second time is far easier and after I’ve given in a few times, an addiction has formed.
It’s not wrong to experience temptation. We all have natural desires for pleasurable but destructive behaviors. Where we go wrong, is by indulging in the thought. Once we begin to enjoy the idea – to fantasize – even for a few seconds, we’ve entered into temptation and started down the road of addiction.
The answer, as Christ prescribed, is to recognize the temptation and immediately pray. In choosing prayer at the moment of temptation, we practice turning our minds away from the destructive thought, towards God. In doing so, we build constructive habits, instead of destructive ones. Self-control – a fruit of the spirit – is a discipline that we grow by exercising it as Jesus commanded.