I was thinking about buying a particular book in a bookstore some months ago. Even though I doubted it was really necessary to buy it, I felt an interior impulse to just pay for it there and then. I decided to leave it and think about buying it for some time. I returned a few weeks later and looked through the same book a second time. This time I did not feel the initial pressure I had felt to buy it as I had before. It no longer seemed necessary to buy it and I ended up not buying it. I just avoided getting one more book that is good only for re-gifting next Christmas!
I learned something about temptations from this experience. In our temptations, we are pressured by the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh to act immediately to meet what we consider our pressing needs. We are pressured to act so that we do not “miss out” on some advantage or benefit, even if we cannot exactly describe what exactly we are missing out on. If only we waited before acting, we will surely value things in these temptations differently.
St. Ignatius described this pressure in temptations when he said this about the moments of spiritual desolation when our faith, hope and love seems to fade, “For just as in consolation the good spirit guides and counsels us, so in desolation the evil spirit guides and counsels. Following his counsels, we can never find the way to a right decision.” (Spiritual Exercises, #318) In short, the devil acts as our “spiritual director” in those moments of temptation, pressuring us to just act to meet our exaggerated and imaginary needs no matter the consequences. We will surely regret when we cave into his pressures.
What then are we to do in the face of those nagging temptations that pressure us to act immediately? We can start by choosing to do the will of God at the present moment while we postpone our thinking about the temptation. We can say, “Today, I want to do the will of God for me. Tomorrow I can think about this temptation.” We can constantly and consistently postpone thinking about the temptation by repeatedly saying day after day, “Tomorrow I can think about it. For now, I want to do the will of God.” We must say this daily, at the moment of each temptation, because our past successes in overcoming these temptations do not guarantee our future successes.
When we constantly postpone actually thinking about the temptation no matter the pressure to succumb to it, we are not only acting with patience in the face of the temptation but we are also giving God a chance to act and deliver us from the power of this temptation. Why are we so certain that God will surely act in our temptations? Because we are in a covenant relationship with Him and God never forgets His covenant with us even if we forget it and choose to offend Him through sin.
God was faithful to His covenant that He established with the Israelites through Noah, “I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.” He unceasingly recalls this covenant and gives a visible sign of His fidelity, “I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of covenant between me and the earth.” (Gen 9:11,13)
In Jesus Christ, God’s covenant with His people is brought to its perfect fulfillment, making us God’s children in His kingdom. Jesus Himself faced temptations in the desert for forty days with patience, “He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” Satan pressured Him to turn stones to bread, jump down from the temple and worship him. Jesus neither fled from the “wild beasts” in the desert nor yield to the tempter; but He resisted till His Father acted and sent Him ministering angels, “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to Him.”(Mk 1:13)
In Jesus Christ, we have assurance as God’s children that God will surely act and deliver us in our temptations and provide for us the true goods that alone satisfy us. He will surely act in our temptations now because “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that He might lead us to God.” How can God abandon us to the tempter now that “we have been saved through baptism?”(1Pt 3:18,21) On the contrary, “God is faithful and will not allow let us to be tried beyond our strength; but with the trial He will also provide a way out; so that we may be able to bear it.”(1Cor 10:13) He only asks us to face the pressure of temptations with that patience born of that certainty that He will surely act and deliver us.
Jesus proclaimed, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” After vanquishing the tempter in the desert, He triumphantly invites us to His kingdom where we can participate in His bold confrontation with the powers of darkness while patiently waiting for the Father to act. The Father who did not fail to raise His Son Jesus from the dead will surely not fail to raise us from the throes of our temptations.
We are all facing today the pressures of temptations in many ways today. This pressure can feel unbearable sometimes and we feel like we just cannot bear it any more. We can even feel like we are “missing out” on something that we cannot describe. Contrary to the message that the devil, our sinful world and nature send us, we do not have to cave into these tempting pressures. As children of God’s kingdom, united to Jesus Christ, our Eucharistic king, we can resist this pressure. We can always say in the face of these and all temptations, “Today, I will do the will of God…Tomorrow I can think of this temptation.” This is the only way that we too can be patient and give God a chance to act in our lives and save us from our temptations.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!