Temptation strikes in many different ways. It targets its victims by pinpointing weaknesses and seeking them out. It is crafty in the way it morphs to each individual. Your temptations are not always the same as mine and no temptation is created equal.
There are varieties and different levels of temptation. You begin by chipping away at the obvious like lying, stealing, cheating, and so forth. Once your conscience is strongly developed against these wrongs you realize the hard work has just begun. The devil becomes craftier and craftier with his forms of attack.
Before you know it you are face to face with a variety of “lesser” temptations. They’re not lesser in severity to your soul but rather lesser in the way we see them. They’re more dangerous because we convince ourselves they’re not a big deal. This is where those seeking only to be a “good” person usually stop. But if we stop here we’re accepting the worlds mediocre viewpoint of what it means to be “good.”
This Lent I find it hard to explain the things I’m working on because I’m working to attack my less obvious temptations. Some of them I’m still working hard to pinpoint and understand. But during this I have found that these are deeply personal things that others often don’t understand because they don’t feel tempted in the same ways. This discovery has opened my eyes to the reality of a personal relationship with God. He is speaking, encouraging, and challenging me in ways others can’t always relate and vice versa.
God is intimate and loving. He has called you in a unique way just as the devil knows to tempt you in a unique way. This is a personal invitation to draw closer to and trust in Jesus more. One of our biggest temptations is to shrug our shoulders and ignore our calling because our neighbor does it, so why can’t we? Or because the world tells us it’s not a big deal and we should work to drown out our conscience. The little details are a big deal and, in fact, they are often our life’s work.
The reality of temptation is that it’s everywhere. It hides in both small and big things, seeking each one of us out in subtle ways. But the greatest reality is that in its attempt to pull us away from God it actually presents the perfect opportunity to draw closer to Him. He uses it for His good, calling each of us to Him in special ways! Isn’t it beautiful that the thing we believe to pull us furthest from Him is also our greatest stepping stone toward Him?
The biggest thing to get in the way of this personal invitation to bring God into our temptation is discouragement. We are so quick to be overwhelmed by our failings that we turn away in shame. We turn away from the only One who will always accept us. And when we turn away we become discouraged and suddenly find ourselves traveling further and further in the opposite direction, convinced there is no turning back now.
The temptation to run is followed by an invitation to stay and rest. The temptation to become discouraged is followed by an invitation to surrender. This Lent, I hope you face temptations hopefully and joyfully, with the understanding that there is no path to God without them and He is with you every step of the way.
Many try to fly away from temptations only to fall more deeply into them; for you cannot win a battle by mere flight. It is only by patience and humility that you will be strengthened against the enemy. Those who shun them outwardly and do not pull them out by the roots will make no progress; for temptations will soon return to harass them and they will be in a worse state. It is only gradually—with patience and endurance and with God’s grace—that you will overcome temptations sooner than by your own efforts and anxietiesThomas à Kempis