Demystifying Temptation

Demystifying Temptation
By Robert Schaeffer

One of the most frustrating things about working toward freedom from homosexuality is the sudden and unpredictable flare-ups of sexual desire. Numerous people have had the experience of attending a LIFE ministry meeting where they have gotten in touch with the truth of God and soon after leaving had a strong desire to have sex with someone. Some counselees are abruptly tempted by sinful desires while sitting on the subway or at work or even in church. When I was a pastor and struggling with homosexual feelings I often had thoughts of and desire for my homosexual partner while I was preaching! Later, when I was not in the grips of temptation I was frustrated about having such ungodly thoughts. What stirs up sinful desires in moments like this? Are such flare-ups solely demonic attacks, or is something else to blame?

Admittedly, some sexual desire is stirred by ungodly images flashed across the person’s mind such as the thought of a previous sex act or a scene from a pornographic magazine. These images seem to appear out of nowhere. Such unprovoked thoughts often throw the person off balance and stir intense desire. In some people a seemingly insatiable “hunger” for connection is stirred by these images. Others feel overwhelmed in the face of temptation and powerless to resist. But this feeling is a lie. Images that appear in the mind without the recipient’s instigation come as a direct attack from Satan. It is his intention to lure the person into lustful fantasy and/or erotic homosexual behavior, both of which are sin. The presence of these sexual images (and the lust that often is stirred up by them) is a source of frustration to the person who is trying to become free of homosexuality. Many persons reason incorrectly that if they had truly been doing the work such ungodly images wouldn’t appear. If they react to these images by yielding to sin, their initial frustration can be compounded by guilt, shame, anger, condemnation, hypocrisy or despair.

If sexual images or thoughts suddenly appear in your mind unprovoked, do not judge yourself a reprobate sinner or to be “back to square one again”. These ungodly sexual images are from the devil, not from you! Do not equate with them or entertain them. Command them in the name of Jesus to be gone. Speak forcefully to the devil rather than critically to yourself. Most importantly, resist dwelling on the images or creating a fantasy scenario out of them. Verbally declare that you will not yield to them and instead turn toward the Lord and his righteousness. As you do this, these images will disappear. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Stay alert and keep your mind actively on guard for such attacks. They will come, especially if you are turning from homosexuality! In fact it is precisely because you are turning from homosexuality that Satan attacks. Each victory you win by resisting him will strengthen you for future attacks. The more you resist and turn to the Lord, the less temptation such sexual images will have over you.

If you have lusted or fantasized over the ungodly sexual images that have been dropped into your mind, you have sinned. Repent of this by confessing your inappropriate thoughts and, if necessary, your behavior. Have someone pray to cut any one-flesh relationship you established by having sex with someone while under the power of lust, and to break any emotional ties or co-dependency you may still have with a previous sex partner. Also ask the Lord to erase any pornographic images stored in your mind. Be assured that if you confess your sins, God delights to forgive you (cf. 1 John 1:9). He never forgets that in this struggle against homosexuality, the enemy knows our weaknesses and will stop at nothing to discourage us.

Homosexual desire is not only stirred by images demonically dropped in the mind. Most often it is stirred as the person relates to other persons or things. That may include a specific word or action directed toward the person, the appearance of another person, a stressful situation, or anything else which causes the individual’s rational, spiritual mind temporarily to shut down. When this happens, the ability to think rationally is diminished, just as if someone has turned off a switch in the mind. In these instances many people forget about what they were doing and the principles they have learned with which to fight homosexual attractions. Their mind goes into unreality. Their conscience feels numb or dead, and their ears seem deaf to the voice of the Lord. Some even feel like an “invisible hand” is leading them helplessly into sin. This may begin if you make eye contact with a good-looking person on the street or sit directly across from a gay couple in a coffee shop, if you are humiliated in public or if you find yourself alone on Christmas Eve (or with your family on Christmas Day). What is the explanation for this?

Sexual desire in this case is triggered by a negative emotion such as envy, resentment, rejection, loneliness, or anger. The present negative emotions that a person feels actually taps into a deeper storage of childhood emotions that have never been expressed. It is these young emotions—generally experienced before the age of ten—that connected to the sex drive as the child passed through puberty. The sex drive is, in other words, linked to the emotions. God elevated human sexual intercourse above animal reproduction or mere physical pleasure by giving it an emotional component. In sex a man and woman experience the physical expression of the intimacy they share in the union of mind, emotions, heart, spirit and will. The hope or desire for this type of intimacy has its beginnings in childhood.

Unfortunately, many children do not have a good relationship with one or both parents, which leaves them with a stomach full of painful emotions. Some fear marriage because of their parents’ dysfunctional relationship. Many experience extremely low self-esteem and fear or despise the opposite sex. As they go through puberty these negative, ungodly emotions get connected to their emerging sex drive. Instead of being attracted to someone of the opposite sex with whom a relationship appears too difficult, risky or unprofitable, the person is drawn to someone of the same sex with whom a relationship seems safe, easy and manageable. Many adolescents discover masturbation or some other form of sexual behavior as an escape from the pressures of daily life. A boy who goes into his room when he is angry and masturbates establishes an ungodly, sexual method for dealing with anger--a pattern that he may find difficult to break. Hereafter, when he experiences anger the sudden urge to masturbate will be strong.

Journaling your feelings when you are in the midst of sexual desire or temptation is actually the most productive way to discover these triggers and the emotions connected to them. Many people think that when they are tempted sexually they have no choice but to yield to sin. This is absolutely untrue. (Continuing in this lie will surely lead to more sexual sin!) It is possible to resist sin—even sexual sin! When sexual desire is triggered, say “time-out” and turn away from the object of your temptation. This will stabilize you emotionally and mentally. Rather than trying to pray the desire away or ignore the temptation or even quote scripture, ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now? What emotions are running full speed in me? What thoughts are going through my head and where did they come from?” Write down the emotions that you are feeling. The ungodly behavior pattern you are drawn to now is actually the response of a wounded, isolated child and the upsetting feelings you had as a child are connected to your sex drive. The ungodly behavior you chose in early adolescence was in reaction to those feelings. This present trigger taps into the storage of childhood emotions that demand to be quieted in some sexual fantasy or act.

Remember that if you have yielded to the sexual temptation in the past and had sex with yourself or someone else, the temptation will seem very strong. Strong, but not irresistible! It is possible to resist sin as you move toward your journal instead of the object of your sexual desire. God will meet you in your journal as you write your feelings and then ask him to show you what the truth really is. Resist the lie that you are “back to square one” or worse—the teaching you have acquired makes it impossible to be where you were before you started! If there is still a place in you that believes homosexuality is good, confess it to God and give it up. You are not a failure or pervert. If you haven’t had someone pray demonic power off of you, do so right away. Stand against the false guilt that you are too sinful to forgive or redeem. You are not a hypocrite for having dirty thoughts.

It is no mystery why you still struggle with homosexual thoughts or temptations. Satan will attack you periodically with ungodly thoughts and images. There may still be an area in your emotions, thinking or concept of self or God that needs to be worked. God knows why you struggle with homosexual desire and wants to set you free. Learning what the situations, persons, or ideas are that trigger your sex drive is key to demystifying those troubling flare-ups of homosexual desire.
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