There is a habit we learned at a young age that lingers. We probably don’t even remember learning it.
As Christ followers, we learned to confess our sins. Most of us can rattle off texts like, “Confess your sins to one another that you may be healed.” What about our temptations? We learned early on not to talk about them. Did you ever go to your parents with something like, “I’m thinking a lot about taking money out of my sister’s piggy bank?” Or add some years and, “Dad, I know I said we were going to Mark’s house to watch the game, but more likely we’ll break into a cabin by the lake and get baked.” Neither did I.
Ever notice that the Psalmists do? Here is one example among many:
Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity… Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it…(Psalm 141:4-5 ESV)
David tells God (and anyone else who can read) about his temptation to join bad company to get his evil on. Thankfully, David doesn’t exhort us to publish our own. His careful wording does give some guidelines for public treatment, but I digress.
Back to the main point – Pray? Absolutely! But he doesn’t stop there. He finds “a righteous man” to slap him back to his senses. He exhorts us with urgency – find a trusted brother with grit before the temptation births sin.
Will we push past the stigma of our ugly struggles? Will we fight the bad habit learned early? Do we know in our hearts temptation is not sin? Fight it alone in the dark and odds are one day it will be. Call to mind that your temptations are not unique. Jesus made sure you know he wrestled with heart temptations like people pleasing, lying, greed, lust, envy, rebellion, control, favoritism, and vengeance (Hebrews 2:17-18). He also made sure you know who else struggles like you.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
The way of escape isn’t painless or without risk. We know pastors can be fired or have their reputation ruined for talking about their temptations in an unwise way or with the wrong person. But, it isn’t a stretch to hear David saying to you and me in this moment, “Remember my story and choose – Psalm 141:4-5 with head lumps, or Psalm 51 and your worst nightmare.” What will we do?