Urges are easy to overcome. I wanted to start with that because it’s really good news for so many people who ask me how to stop doing something they know is sinful.
Whether you call it an urge, impulse or temptation, if it leads to sin, it’s something you have to learn to take control of. Most Christian women are taught that to manage urges, you must crucify the flesh. But, as I’ve shared before, that’s extremely ineffective and isn’t actually Biblical. So what can you do instead?
Here’s the thing,
Whether you’re tempted to masturbate, have sexual relations with someone you’re not married to, overeat, overdrink, commit self-harm, look at your phone or social media too much, whatever urges you’re struggling with, you have the power to stop.
Stopping is the easy part.
It’s what happens afterward that’s the real challenge.
The hard part is the feelings that come up when you don’t do the thing.
Most of us don’t want to deal with our feelings, we like to bury them waaaay down under muffins and movies and manicures. The realities of life tend to feel too sharp and they cut like broken glass, and we use all these things (the sex, food, social media, drugs, and alcohol) to dull the pain.
But let’s start at the begining.
What is an urge?
An urge is a feeling that you HAVE to do something. “I HAVE TO look at my email, I NEED TO answer my phone, I MUST clean that, I Need TO Masturbate, I Have to eat this…
Any time you’re feeling like you HAVE TO, NEED TO or MUST do something, you’re experiencing an urge. If that urge leads to sin or some other unhealthy behavior, it becomes a problem in our lives.
It begins in your mind with a thought… “I have to…” and you experience that thought as a physical feeling. You literally feel that thought in your body, and it’s very real to you. This is one of the reasons urges feel so overpowering.
That thought and the feeling that goes with it cause you to start doing the action. Picking up the phone, touching yourself, lighting the cigarette, eating the cookie, pouring the drink.
When you comply with the urge it’s satisfied and goes away until next time.
But what happens if you don’t pick up the phone, or touch yourself, or light the cigarette? What happens when you refuse to comply with the urge?
What happens when you don’t comply with an urge?
That’s when the fight begins.
Remember; not doing the thing is easy. It’s easy to not pick up the phone. It’s easy to not light the cigarette. What’s hard is dealing with the FEELINGS that come up when you don’t give in to the urge.
Urges want you to DO the thing. They demand action!
This is where many people blame their urges and temptations on the devil and other demons. Because they’re so demanding. They are persistent. Constantly shouting at you “do it, do it, do it now! Do it Right NOW! I SAID DO IT!
But they have no authority over you unless you give it to them.
Although they are persistent and demanding, they can’t actually make you do anything. Except in very rare cases of demonic possession, most people are in control of their bodies and their actions.
They may attempt to torment you with their urgent demands, but they have no real power to make you do anything. If they could make you do something, you would be free from sin because you had no choice. Your sin remains because they have no real power. It’s your choice.
How To Deal With Urges and Temptations.
So how do you deal with the urges? How do you overcome the urge to masturbate, or overdrink, or use something, or do something that’s destructive?
My husband likes to call these kinds of demons, demons in diapers. They’re loud, annoying, demanding and persistent, but they have No authority and you don’t have to give them what they’re asking for.
I find it helpful to imagine that you’re going grocery shopping with one of these demons sitting in the grocery cart demanding candy. What do you do?
Here’s the truth: You NEVER HAVE TO give the demon the candy!
You don’t have to give in to the demands.
Most people give in because it’s very uncomfortable to be dealing with that demon and all its noise. They have work to do, they just want to finish their day, and this demon is kicking up a storm. This little demon in diapers is throwing a full-blown temper tantrum and in YOUR shopping cart.
But, no matter how loud they get, no matter who is staring, no matter how overwhelming it feels, you never HAVE TO give in to the demands.
Understanding this, that urges have no real power, is essential!
Urges have no real power or authority
And we know this because there are lots of urges that come up that we have no problem ignoring.
For example, even the people who I talk to who claim to be sex addicts and say they can’t control their masturbation habit, admit that they’ve never masturbated in the middle of a public place. The urge may have come up, but they effectively ignored it and didn’t even think about giving in.
Or, maybe you’ve been in a heated discussion, and you’ve felt the urge to punch someone in the nose, but you would never punch anyone, so although you felt the urge, you had no trouble overcoming it.
Very few people on this earth have so little control that they give in to every single urge. Most of us have a lot of experience in ignoring urges.
The problem is, that there are certain areas of our lives where we have been giving into an urge and now the demon knows how to get us to give him the candy.
Why do we give in to Urges?
Now we have to stop and ask ourselves, WHY are we giving in to these urges? Why do we allow the demons in diapers to have so much authority in our lives?
This is a really important question to stop and ask yourself. Because most people have never even considered it. They honestly believe that they HAVE TO comply with the urge. That you have no control over them.
Now, this is a great place to turn to the Bible for a word of wisdom.
James 4:7 identifies how to overcome urges and temptations.
7So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you.james 4:7
In this case, I think it’s very important to understand the definition of resist that is being used here. Notice that this verse talks about giving GOD the authority in our lives. This is crucial, we must know that His voice is the only one we have to obey.
But the second half of the verse is essential, Resist does not mean, control, or wrestle or dominate, or crucify. We are not going into a battle with the devil. We are only asked to stand firm against him.
Remember my example of the demon in diapers in the grocery store cart screaming for candy. We don’t need to smoother the demon, destroy or bind it, we just have to STOP giving into his demands. You don’t react to it, you don’t attack it, you don’t fight it, you simply allow it to be there.
I know, that this is going to be a real challenge to wrap your mind around. But think about it this way; every time you give your attention to Satan, you’re taking it away from God.
Satan wants to steal the spotlight
Satan’s greatest delight is stealing the spot light from God. He wants to get your attention, whether it’s so that you give him the candy, or fight with him over the candy, either way, he’s done his job, and you’re no longer paying attention to God.
Now, I believe that spiritual warfare is very real, and we must be prepared for the battle. But too often we are confused about our position in the battle. Remember, the battle is already won, and God is our defender. Our job is to keep our eyes on God.
Now, if we’re not trying to control or fight the urges, and we don’t want to give into them, what do we do?
Let’s review our options.
We’ve got the demon in diapers in the grocery store demanding candy
OPTION 1: It screams long enough, loud enough – we give in. The demon learns that screaming works and does it every time.
Option 2: Demon starts screaming and we start wrestling with it. We attack it, and fight it and exhaust ourselves in the process. We might win this one, but if a second battle starts, we’re too exhausted to even try. – We give in.
Option 3: Allow the urge. Allow the demon to sit in the grocery cart and throw the tantrum, let it scream and cry and have a fit, don’t fight it, don’t react, just let it be. DISOWN the demon.
This is how you resist the devil.
Because eventually, if no one is paying attention to the little demon, he will tire himself out and have no option except to flee.
If every time you have an urge you respond, the intensity of it increases, and eventually you begin to feel like that’s who you are. Think about the people who say I’m just an angry person”, or “That’s who I am”.
But if instead, you have an urge and you don’t respond, then Satan has no power over you. And eventually, he goes away. If you stop rewarding the urge, it has no reason to keep showing up.
You’ve done it before
Maybe you’ve already experienced a victory like this in your own life. If you’ve ever quit smoking, you know that it’s hard to ignore those urges at first, but eventually, you stop wanting cigarettes.
On the other hand, if you have a lot of urges and they feel intense and uncontrollable, it’s because you have a lot of experience giving into them. Now you don’t even think about them, when the urge comes up you just do it.
If you want to change that, you have to do the work of allowing the urge to come and pass without giving into it or exhausting yourself in a battle against it.
You have to allow the little demon in diapers to go through his whole song and dance while you keep your eyes on Christ. This is hard work. That demon is very distracting, but getting angry at it, attacking it, or hating it doesn’t help. Adopt the mind of Christ and keep your focus on God.
Now a word of warning. This; Ignoring the demon/urge doesn’t feel good. In fact, it sucks. But, if you are willing to resist the devil, enough times, he will flee.
However, please do not think that this will be easy. It is a real challenge to keep doing this over and over and over again. And if you reward the demon, even a little bit, he knows that you’re still giving him authority in your life and he will be back.
If you give in to the urges some times but not all the time, they will continue to be extremely intense. But if you never give in to the urges, the devil learns that it’s pointless to be there. Never reward an urge
Of course, this is all easier said than done and you might be thinking, but what if I fail? What if I slip up? What if I can’t handle the demon in diapers throwing the tantrum?
This will take practice and determination. This is the battle. Training ourselves to stand firm. This is when you put on the whole armor of God.
Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. So stand firm and hold your ground, having tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), and having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. Above all, lift up the [protective] shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all [eGod’s people.Ephesian 6; 13-18
You can do this, my friend.
This is doable. And please remember, you’re not doing it on your own. You have Christ in you.
If you’re feeling ready to make some of these changes, but you’d like some professional help overcoming your struggle, I want you to book a free coaching call with me.
My goal is to help you be truly victorious in Christ, by providing Christian Coaching services for women who want to take back control of their lives and enjoy doing the things that will allow them to one day stand before God and hear Him say “Well done good and faithful servant”.