Taming the dragon: 5 steps to overcoming lust
Whether it's an unhealthy desire to eat excessive amounts of food or consume copious amounts of alcohol, lust amplifies the desires we have to do things that ultimately lead us to separation from God. Because of its multi-sensory nature (it can stimulate us mentally, emotionally and physically) and its association with pleasure, it can be difficult to get under control.
Here are five things we can do to help us overcome lust:
Don't downplay it
We have a tendency to convince ourselves that things we know are wrong are harmless when we're not ready to give them up. Telling ourselves that whatever we're lusting after "isn't that bad" or that we'll "just do it once more" prevents us from taking action to overcome it. And before we know it, that harmless habit is a big issue. Start with being honest about just how damaging it is and all that you stand to lose. You can even write them down with a corresponding list of all the things you will gain if you stand firm and resist temptation.
Avoid situations with known temptations
Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart, 2 Timothy 2:22
When we've identified that we have an issue with lust, it's often pretty clear to us what the triggers are. These can be as simple and obvious as our proximity to temptation. If we feel that we're not strong enough to resist ungodly desires, then it's worth taking steps to avoid it entirely. For example, if we want to cut down on overeating sugary foods, then we shouldn't put them in the cart during our weekly shop.
Pursue a path that leads to Christ
For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world, 1 John 2:16
Depending on what we're lusting after, complete avoidance isn't always possible but we can still overcome lust by choosing love. If we make a concerted effort to follow Jesus, then we can more readily make decisions which eliminate lustful pursuits by default. Because our hearts and minds are so focused on getting closer to Christ, we're less likely to look for fulfilment elsewhere.
Tackle the root cause
Former smokers often say that when they quit, they replaced their habit with another one. It's usually food related and can turn out to be just as unhealthy. Simply accepting that we're susceptible to lusting after something or someone and taking steps to avoid doing so isn't enough. Often our lustful desires are a symptom of something else, and we need address this issue if we hope to prevent another habit from taking the place of the old one.
Confess and repent
No matter how hard we try to overcome lust, sometimes we still slip up. Knowing that our sins will be forgiven isn't a get out jail free card but it is an essential part of our healing process and the journey to removing the power that lust can have over us. Confessing our sins means that we have to acknowledge our behaviour, which is key if we're to take steps to change it. Part of the habit of confession could mean having an accountability partner or simply opening up to a trusted friend about your struggle; you don't need to try and conquer it alone. They can encourage you to keep going when you feel weak and stand with you in prayer.