In the past few weeks I have had the unique experience of hearing hundreds of personal stories of heartbreak and pain. I can tell you one thing—I have never felt so surrounded by support of those who have been where I have—but I also have never felt such a heavy heart for so many people I have never met. A cloud of gloom has surrounded me as I have stepped into the shoes of each and every woman and man who have told me their story.
I have an overwhelming amount of empathy for all the victims who have suffered because of the actions of another person—but for the first time in my life I have an outpouring of empathy for the victims who are suffering because of their own mistakes.
One email I received I will never forget. It started out like this—“I am like Emmett. I have done everything wrong. I have lost everything—and for what? My selfishness has destroyed my family and I hate myself for it. It is too late for me, just like it is for Emmett. There are no apologies that will take away the pain that my choices have caused.”
As I continued to read this heart felt email from a man in pain—my heart hurt for him. Tears fell down my face as I thought of all the men and woman who have stood at the crossroads where Emmett once fought with that powerful temptation to walk down a dark road for “just a minute”.
I don’t think I have ever viewed the world with such a somber heart as I have come to terms with this truth—we are all victims. At times we have all been wronged against a life we set out to live. We have all been down a road we never intended on traveling—yet so many of these diversions in our path have come because of pain we have caused ourselves.
Infidelity is not something anyone plans—yet so many relationships will experience it. So my heart goes out to all of the victims who have suffered watching someone they love give into that temptation . . . but today my heart goes out to all who have become a victim of their own mind—a puppet in the enticement that was orchestrated to make them fall.
No one plans for their life to be one that hurts others. None of us want to fall into the temptations that have plagued our thoughts. We don’t always remember that Satan has a plan of his own—and he will do everything he can to make us believe his lies.
Not one of us is exempt. That moment when our eye catches someone’s gaze or we sense that someone is trying to be flirty. That moment . . . that one moment—is ours. In that very second our mind stops us to question how we will handle our thoughts, and it is there that we must take the power. It is at that crossroad where we decide if we win—or if Satan does.
He wants us to think that because a temptation has entered our mind—we have already failed—and we are not worthy. It isn’t about our worthiness. Every single person will be tempted at some time—with something.
Just because an unhealthy enticement comes to your mind . . . that doesn’t make you a bad person. It is what you do with your thoughts that will determine what road you will take. Carnal desires come naturally. They do not mean that something is wrong with you. We all have desires to know we are: successful, valued, appreciated, attractive, glamorous, sexy, wanted, and enough. Being accepted and seeking approval is basic human nature. It is where we turn to fill those desires that can lead us astray.
There are so many healthy desires that can, and should, be kept in the relationships they were promised to. Your spouse can meet those cravings and needs your body yearns for. Realistically the excitement and butterflies may not last, but they can be replaced by commitment and respect that can help your love last forever.
If you have felt the temptations of the world—you are not alone. That is part of our mortal test. We will be tried and tempted—just as Christ was. It is through our resistance to these temptations that we will learn true obedience. We will gain greater faith, empathy, and compassion for those who struggle. We will have a greater perspective when we step in another’s shoes and feel the pain they have felt, as they have been plagued with temptation.
Robert D. Hales taught of Christ’s resistance to temptations when he said, “Then Jesus expressed His commitment to obey, saying, ‘Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.’ Throughout His ministry, ‘He suffered temptations but gave them no heed.’ Indeed, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.’”
Jesus chose to feel all our pain—including those put upon us by our own choices.
He has been where we have been—even in our strongest temptation. He has felt those deep dark secrets that bring sorrow to our souls. He has felt the temptations that each of us has battled, and He has given us a perfect example of how to resist them. He gave them no heed. That doesn’t mean it was easy—but He knew the resistance to these temptations would be worth it.
He didn’t just know of our personal demons, and deepest temptations—He felt them in his soul. It is His sacrifice that makes it possible for Him to kneel at God’s feet and be our number one advocate. He knows how hard these battles are to overcome—because He has.
I don’t think I truly understood the magnitude of His sacrifices, until I was in a position that I too had to overcome my own difficult battles. I can’t imagine the torment Christ felt enduring our sins and failures. Just as He was tempted—and overcame—we too can follow His example, leaning on His strength to pull us out of the deepest trenches.
No temptation is too great, no darkness too bleak, for us to call upon His help. Those feelings that our mortal bodies crave can be used for good. Cherish the relationships that they were meant for—and those desires will bring you closer to God. We can be stronger than the negative thoughts that pop into our minds. We can overcome any temptation that is leading us away from our true selves.
We are going to be tempted—not just in our fidelity to each other—but also in everything we are . . . and everything we do. Our temptations might be as simple as having hate in our hearts. Some might be tempted to forgo forgiveness. Some struggle with: addiction, fear, anger, resentment, entitlement, abuse, and deceit.
Temptations are enticements—when put into action they keep us away from our goals. I believe that Satan is the author of all temptations, for he knows if he can get us to sway on the simple things—he might be able to get us to fall for anything. However, I believe that God allows us to feel those enticements because they are the tools we need to gain greater faith in obedience. When we battle our enticements with God by our side—we learn of our need for Him to help us overcome; but when we lose to our temptations—we are given the opportunity to return to Him and seek true repentance for our sins. Either way, though hard to bear, the enticements serve a great purpose for us in developing our faith in our Creator.
Sometimes it is our reactions to another person’s struggle that can help them remember who they are. One morning I walked into Teage’s room to see he had taken snacks from the pantry in the middle of the night and had an all night party. I wanted to scream and yell at him. I wanted to tell him what a stupid decision he had made. I was tempted to swat his butt and make him stay in his room for the rest of the day. I didn’t understand the irrational thoughts he must have had to make him steal food and hide it from me. I was totally out of my mind frustrated.
I stepped outside of his room and said a small prayer that I could know how to handle the situation and stay centered on my goal to help my son learn from this mistake.
As I walked back into his room these were the words that came out of my mouth, “Teage, there is nothing you could ever do that would make me stop loving you.” Now this doesn’t mean we didn’t talk about the consequences and the choices he was expected to make in the future. All that statement meant, to me, was he needed to know that no matter what choices were made—he was loved.
Separating actions from the love we have for someone else is not easy to do, but it is what Heavenly Father does for us. No matter what we have done—the mistakes we have made do not change the love God has for us.
My temptations have never involved a gun. I have not felt the need to seek another person outside of my marriage—but I have been tempted to be less than I am. I fight the enticement to hate those who have hurt me; I struggle to see my own worth. I have doubted my story and feared my chance for happiness was taken from me. I have questioned the goodness of others, and I have forgotten myself. There has even been a day when I have been tempted to smile back when an inappropriate glance has been sent my way; I have been enticed to spend too much time in front of the mirror—or my phone. Some days I have been tempted to just stay in bed; some times I have battled the feeling to hate myself. I have been annoyed with my children; I have been angry with my spouse. In all of these temptations, I have grown closer to God as I have fought my way through them—some successful, some less so.
I have felt the darkness of the world in those moments when my thoughts have wandered from my goals. I have been reassured that there is light—when I steer my thoughts back to Him. In those dark moments when Satan wants my mind and my heart to believe the lies of the world, I have found that I can be stronger than him. I can get on my knees and pray to God that He sends me the help I need to overcome my enticements and not give into Satan’s temptations.
The world can only win if we give temptations a second glance or allow ourselves to be attracted by them. It is not our enticing thoughts that will define who we become. It is the strength we use to control them that will empower us to stand, to show Satan who wears the pants in our relationship with him. He isn’t waiting for us to give him permission—he steps in any time he sees a crack in our armor. He tries to make us believe that those negative thoughts—are just who we are. If he can get us to doubt ourselves because of the thoughts that have entered our mind—he knows that our fall will come naturally.
Enticements are just thoughts; but when we follow these thoughts and put them into action we give into temptation. We do not have to be perfect—but I can promise you . . . as you take control of your thoughts . . . you will have better control over the decisions you will make.
So to all the “Emmetts” who feel they have lost their chance to right their wrongs—your time is not done. You have not lost your chance—just as I believe Emmett still has the opportunity where he is now—to right the wrongs of your imperfections. Every day is a fresh start, an opportunity to be better . . . to do better . . . to be more. It is not too late for any of us.
Even if you feel like you have gone too far down the wrong path—it is not too late. Turn to Him even in the pain that you have inflicted upon yourself. Those temptations were real—and the decision to make them was tragic—but those choices do not revoke the love God still has for YOU. I know that God lives, and as His sons and daughters He sees our worth no matter what mistakes we have made. He believes in our dreams and He will do all that He can to bring us back to the light our hearts still long to find.
To all the imperfect sinners of the world—so to every single one of us—we are not alone. We can overcome this world. Because of Him—even we can find a higher road when we are tempted to settle for the dirt. Because of Him—we can walk away from the deceiving powers of Satan. Because of Him—even on the road to temptation we can find strength to help us overcome. His grace can make us whole.