WHAT ARE THE MEANS TO OVERCOME TEMPTATIONS?
Below you have an excerpt from In Conversation with God, vol. 5, 41 which will help us understand this petition we ask Our Father.
The devil is allied with the world and with our passions. The world is here intended to mean whatever in our existence separates us from God. This includes those we come in contact with who live solely for self-love and sensuality, those who have their gaze fixed entirely on temporal worldly affairs. Such people consider Christian detachment and chastity to be absurd remnants of days gone by … They hold voluntary mortification in contempt, even though it is absolutely indispensable for following Christ. These souls have become incapable of understanding the things of God. It suits them better to introduce and persuade others to their way of life, from which God is absent or, so they think, largely under control. With their words and behavior they try to lead everyone else along this broad highway of pride. They will even seek to discourage people who are endeavoring to live their Christian vocation seriously, by mounting and sustaining a campaign of ridicule against them.
God allows us to undergo temptation so that we may obtain a greater good. His Providence has so arranged things that trials and contradictions may yield good fruits. At times these tests may turn out to be the best means of bringing us closer to him.
Temptation frequently acts as a kind of barometer of our spiritual life. It is precisely in difficulty and in temptation that we discover our true capacity for generosity, sacrifice and detachment … We will in similar circumstances also encounter our own hidden envy, greed, sensuality and pride, as well as our astonishing capacity to do evil. These are good moments for us to grow in self-knowledge and humility. We will see how weak we are, how much help we need from the Lord. As a result, we will find it easier to ask for the Lord’s assistance. How often we should pray those words to our Father God: Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil! Our experience of trial will help us to understand the defects of others. We will better appreciate their struggle, and we will be of greater service to those among whom we live and work.
The experience of temptation can inspire us to grow in virtue. In order to overcome a doubt against faith we make an earnest act of faith. Whenever we cut short a negative thought or purely critical comment we are simultaneously improving our relationship with the Lord. We should approach difficult periods in our life as opportunities in which to deepen our love for the Virgin, to grow in humility, to be more docile and sincere in spiritual direction … We cannot allow ourselves to be alarmed or discouraged by temptation. Nothing can separate us from God without our consent. No one can sin if he or she withholds consent to sinning. If the Lord permits us to suffer a time of trial it is because He wants us to become more united to him.
Temptation, then, can be a source of the grace and merit that leads to eternal life. And because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee.11 With these words the Angel Raphael explained the logic of God to Tobias. Many Christians have found great comfort at the hour of trial from this passage of the Old Testament.
God has given us the Guardian Angels to help us in times of trial and danger. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone, 15 We should seek the help of the Guardian Angels at all times, but especially when we are experiencing temptation. Our Guardian Angel is a very powerful ally and friend who is ready to assist us when we are in trouble.
We will be best prepared against temptation when we are faithful to our personal prayer, when we avoid lukewarmness, when we keep in mind the need to practice mortification. We are strong when we flee from occasions of sin. Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the springs of life.16 When we work well with intensity and order we will avoid laziness and vice. We should always keep in mind that it is easier to resist temptation at the beginning. This is the moment when the enemy is at the door of the soul. That is why people say: ‘attend to the first signs; it is hard to cure an old wound’.17 Even when the wound is ‘old’, however, we can always have recourse to a remedy in the Sacrament of Penance.
We can do effective combat against temptation in the setting of spiritual direction. When we reveal our temptations, we are well along the road to overcoming them. Let us ask the help of Our Lady that we may be victorious in the trials of our interior life.
8. cf St Thomas, Commentary on the Lord’s prayer
9. 1 Pet 5:8
10. Tertullian, Treatise on prayer, 8
11. Tob 12:13
12. John 16:23
13. Phil 4:13
14. Ps 26:1
15. Ps 90:11-12
16. Prov 4:23
17. Thomas A. Kempis, The imitation of Christ, 1,13, 5
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