I grew up in a Christian home—we prayed together, we went to church together, I even went to a Christian school. Scripture memorization was how I learned the alphabet in kindergarten. When I entered college I was more than ready to break free of all the rules I had been held to by my loving, Christian parents. I wanted to get away from everything that had characterized the last few years of my life at a private Christian school.
Ultimately, what I was running away from was the God whose primary purpose was to kill fun (or so I thought).
It took about two months of crazy party weekends and the pursuit of everything I thought college had to offer to realize that this party life was not all that people promised it would be. After much disillusionment and disappointment, I found myself in great Christian community at my university. This community offered the safety and the comfort that I needed in order to establish a relationship with God. And boy did I grow.
By the end of my freshman year I sensed that God was calling me to join a sorority. I wanted to answer that call so badly but I was scared of falling back into old ways. I was terrified that if I went Greek then I would lose my relationship with God. My faith would be crowded out by all the old temptations that Greek life could reintroduce into my life.
I was terrified that if I went Greek then I would lose my relationship with God. My faith would be crowded out by all the old temptations that Greek life could reintroduce into my life.
But this fear is not the life that God calls us to. Scripture says, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) So, what should we do? Just by living in this world, we will always be surrounded by temptation (unless you hide in your closet, and that would be horrible). Therefore we must learn to navigate temptation.
Here are some of the ways I learned to do just that:
1. Scripture Memorization
“My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.” (Proverbs 6:20-22)
After joining Greek life, as expected, I faced a lot of temptations. One that was particularly difficult was my appearance; I felt super uncomfortable in my own skin. Too much of my identity was wrapped up in how I looked; I felt like I couldn’t shake it. I realized that my thought patterns were being shaped by the voices around me more than the voice of God.
I began memorizing scripture about how God sees me: Psalm 139:14, Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Memorization helped me fight off the thoughts that left me feeling uncomfortable and I learned to hear God’s voice over the voices around me.
Knowledge of God’s desires for us are crucial as we navigate temptation. Try memorizing some of God’s promises (Joshua 23:14; Isaiah 49:25; Ezekiel 36:26) and recite them during times of temptation. Another type of scripture to memorize is God’s rebuke of evil (Psalm 23:4; Psalm 91:5-6). You may feel very dramatic when you memorize and recite these scriptures to yourself (I did), but they are incredibly helpful when facing temptation.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Dark closets are scary right? They are scary even when you know exactly what’s in there. But what happens when you’re approaching the scary closet with someone else that knows exactly what is in there? Somehow, the dark, scary closet loses its power.
Sometimes our hearts can be like those dark, scary closets. Allow your friends to take a look with you, let them help you navigate temptation. Ask them to specifically call you out on whatever you are struggling with. Share with them what is difficult for you.
3. Tune Yourself to God’s Voice/Promptings
The seductive whispers of temptation can often crowd out the voice of God, the voice of true wisdom in our lives. When this happens we can easily forget how much God treasures and loves us. Forgetting God’s truth sets us up to fall more easily into temptation. It’s a terrible cycle isn’t it? Prepare for these times of temptation by tuning yourself to God’s communication with you. If it isn’t an audible voice, is it a feeling that he gifts you with? Is it a vision he’s given you?
Check out this Greek IV article to learn how to recognize God’s voice.
4. Avoid it
Are there times when you feel that you are too weak to fight temptation? If we're honest, there are times when the answer is absolutely YES! Sometimes when I am weary and desire just desire to be comforted by my Heavenly Father, those are the nights I stay in and turn my phone/computer off.
Often we underestimate the power of God in us to do battle with temptation, we must stay engaged with the culture around us. But sometimes God calls us to come and be with him, fleeing rather than fighting temptation.
Navigating temptation isn’t an easy or short term thing. In navigating temptation I have learned to lean on God in new ways. God speaks to our identity, he speaks to our drinking habits, he speaks to and is willing to transform every area we are willing to bring to him. Ultimately, navigating temptation leads to a deeper faith. I can confidently say that the perseverance and struggle is worth it.