When Pleasures Tempt You To Stray, Will You Give In? Just Once?
This is a zero humor day again. What I am about to share is one of a handful of the most important things I have learned in my life–more specifically, in my faith. This one is also the basis of some lyrics I recently wrote (and sang) for a band called VENIA. Listen to it here and read all the lyrics here if you’d like.
As I have said before, over the course of life and 22 years of my Christian faith I have talked to thousands of people. This has been through being a small business owner, being in a band called Strongarm, doing around 100 interviews and connecting with people regarding my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity, spending 5 years helping start a church, being involved in other ares of leadership at other churches, and just meandering through life in general. My point is, I have had a lot of conversations, especially on faith. In fact, most people do just meander through life.
Hearing stories (and subsequently, reflecting on my own) I have learned there is basically only one (of two) reasons that people either stray away or stay away from God.
One of those is PAIN, as I explained here in Part 1.
What is the other one?
There is something. Something that has a draw over you. It’s something that pulls you to itself when you are tired, stressed, depressed, have had a fight with someone you love, are failing at work, have lost your job, etc. (you get the idea.) When life sucks, you are tempted to indulge in your little hidden pleasure.
Now, this pleasure might not necessarily be bad in the right context or in moderation–like sex, eating, drinking, and shopping. But when we use it to escape life, get that rush, or generally anesthetize ourselves from reality, it’s unhealthy. Of course, it can be blatantly bad–like drug use, drunkennes, or pornography–especially when it becomes addictive.
Oh, let it be clear, dabbling in any ‘escape high’ (you know, just giving in once) is dangerous. Habits like this always progress. Yes…they always progress toward addiction, especially because there is always something sucky in life that we want to escape from a little.
Remember the lyrics I mentioned? The second part of the chorus is:
When pleasures tempt you to stray, will you stand with me?
Although the line from the chorus is from me, I often imagine these are words God says to me to keep me focused.
Here’s what I know… This is called sin. That’s not a popular word. It sounds archaic, but it is still true. When we dabble in sin it drives a wedge between us and God. Too often it’s as simple as feeling shame and not wanting to face Him. So we let the connection with him dull and fade away–all the while clinging to our imitation (or functional) god (our hidden pleasure).
Most people who stray or stay away from God don’t have some sudden epiphany that “there is no God.” Most people dabble in a behavior that they know is wrong, don’t want to stop, so they change what they believe so that it is not longer wrong in their own mind.
As I heard Andy Stanley say it once at church:
People stop behaving before they stop believing.
You can’t really say it any better than that.
So we have to learn to develop an enduring faith. If we want to finish this race (and life) well, we must do this.
Be ever so careful. Train yourself to starve the appetite of that hidden pleasure. It never goes away, but it can be muted. It’s the only way to not look back on life and see a series of small “just once” moments that have lead you down a path of loneliness, emptiness, apathy, and distance from God. When food, alcohol, sex, shopping, porn, [or whatever your struggle is] tempts you to stray when you’re down-and-out and need an escape high, what will you do?
When pleasures tempt you to stray, will you stand with God?
Sadly, most people don’t. But you can always break that trend. I hope you will. I work at it every day.