I'm afraid we haven't heard the last of Temptation Island, though you, like me, may wish you had! Let's face it, most of us don't need more temptation. There's enough to deal with in day to day life without stacking the decks against ourselves.
It might not make good television, but I'd like to know more about how to avoid and overcome temptation. All this hoopla about temptation ignores an inescapable fact: giving in to temptation leaves behind it a wake of terrible pain.
Just last week I learned that some friends of mine had separated because of the husband's infidelity. His wife, his children, his parents, business, church, and friends are all deeply hurt and confused. Watching this happen to a friend is as far from entertainment as anything I can think of.
So we come back to the question, How can we overcome temptation? I'm convinced that most people don't want to do the wrong thing - that they yearn to be strong when it's needed. We want to get to the point where temptation simply doesn't get our attention anymore. Wouldn't that be good, to no longer feel temptation?
Well, the television way would probably be to send us to No Temptation Island, but the ratings would doubtless be pretty poor. And it's really no answer at all. We have to live our lives. We can't go away to No Temptation Island. We need to find this "no temptation space" right where we're living and working now.
One writer who well knew both the lure and torment of temptation was the Apostle Paul. In his letter to the Romans, he wrote, "... the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do" (Rom. 7:19). Unfortunately, we know exactly what he means. But Paul doesn't leave us there. He says there's an answer. There is a way out. And it's available to all of us.
In another letter, he wrote something very reassuring: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (I Cor. 10:13).
A way to escape! God provides a way to escape. The Lord's Prayer includes a petition to God to deliver us from temptation. And behind this prayer is the understanding that divine goodness itself has the power and will to answer this prayer. If we're willing to pray sincerely, we'll be given the strength to rise above temptation and feel the resulting peace of mind and the joy of victory.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science and the author of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," wrote this to one of her students: "Pray daily, never miss praying, no matter how often: 'Lead me not into temptation,' - scientifically rendered, - Lead me not to lose sight of strict purity, clean pure thoughts; let all my thoughts and aims be high, unselfish, charitable, meek, - spiritually minded" ("Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer," pg. 171).
What does this tell us? We need to yearn to be good. We need to take hold of ourselves and seek God's guidance and care every day. We need to monitor our thinking and cut temptation off at the pass. When we're aware of a thought or feeling that would lead us in the wrong way, we can admit our need for God's help and ask for it.
Of course, we may be tempted to rationalize temptation. To discount its seriousness. At such times we should take a no-nonsense approach and think directly and unflinchingly about the hurt and destruction that come from yielding to temptation. There is no real pleasure in infidelity. It doesn't matter how much tinsel is draped over it. This no-nonsense assessment reminds us of what we're fighting for and gives us the determination to keep turning to God until we feel His love lifting us out of temptation and restoring us to our right mind.
We can overcome temptation with God's help. A life untainted by fear and guilt is happiness worth working for.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society