New International Version (NIV)
16 One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. 2 The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.”
3 But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.
Samson was a he-man with a she-weakness. As he approached his fortieth birthday, lust seemed to take over his life.
As the scene opens in Judges 16 we find Samson visiting a Philistine town named Gaza. Enticed by a prostitute’s beauty, Samson goes in “to spend the night with her” (verse 1).
Anybody who knew Samson was aware of his strength. Yet, with all of his great power, Samson couldn’t bridle his own lust. He might have been able to if he had recognized that his actions were leading him progressively to what we refer to today as the stages of addictive behavior.
Stage one is preoccupation. It occurs when we’re thinking about acting out a forbidden fantasy. Samson must have thought often about the beauty of the Philiistine women between visits t Gaza.
Stage two is ritualization. Rituals are those seemingly harmless acts that precede, and then lead to, acting out. They’re the things we do that excite us. Perhaps Samson’s ritual was visiting Gaza “just to look,” nonchalantly turning down the different city streets to look at the beautiful Philistine women at a distance.
Stage three is acting out. It occurs when we carry out what we’ve been thinking about, as Samson did in this passage.
Stage four is shame. We all know the feeling of being ashamed of something we’ve done that we know is wrong. Perhaps this was part of the reason why Samson left the prostitute’s house under the cover of night.
The person who wants to break any addictive cycle – whether that be lust, chemical dependency, gamblinig, or any of a host of behaviors – must begin by first askinig God for the strength to be free from the addiction. Next, he or she needs to identify every desructive thought and ritual that keeps the cycle going, and to develop a strategy for eliminating each one. The behavior will not stop until the activities that lead up to it are exposed and eliminated. Finally, that person must share both the rituals he or she has named and the plan for alleviating them with a trusted friend. Accountability is the key to resisting when temptation rears its ugly head.
Think about how different Samson’s life might have been if he had taken the steps to break the cycle of his addiction! Instead of turng to God for help and insight, he chose to let his destructive appetite get the best of him. If you’re heading down that same path, learn from Samson’s example.