Does sin get you feeling really discouraged? After you sin—and God, in Confession, has forgiven you—do you dredge up feelings of guilt, over and over? Do you become frustrated and feel like a lost cause? We’ve all been there at one point or another, but those thoughts are not from God.
Satan is sometimes known as the Accuser. As if sin isn’t enough to draw us away from God, Satan uses those sins against us. He attempts to drive a deeper wedge between our Creator and us by making us feel excessive guilt, frustration, and hopelessness. Here’s how to overcome these tactics and stay on the right path.
Fr. Matthew Spencer, host of St. Joseph’s Workshop on Relevant Radio®, spoke about the Evil One’s ploy through the writing of St. Joseph Marello. “He points out that when you and I fall into sin, something happens. … You and I can get frustrated and angry that we’re not persevering in the spiritual life the way we expect ourselves to. Maybe we feel really guilty about it.”
Saint Joseph Marello wrote this: “After gaining the first victory, the devil makes himself daring and changes tactic, trying to exaggerate the wrong we have done, showing us how great was our mistake in letting ourselves be won by pride and self love. And so he tries to make us fall into discouragement and desperation, making us believe that we are already in his hands and he can make us do what he wants.”
Does that sound familiar to you? The devil uses our guilt against us, twisting things to make us feel worthless and hopeless. We can hold onto these wounds for years without letting go and trusting in God’s mercy. “He loves for nothing more than for us to be discouraged and ultimately to despair, even,” explains Fr. Matthew.
This isn’t to say that we’re off the hook for our sins. Some amount of guilt is part of having a well-formed conscience and knowing right from wrong, but when we allow guilt to fester and grow, it becomes unhealthy and unhelpful. An overwhelming feeling of guilt and discouragement is something we should reject.
We can find in the saints a model for hope that helps us to grow in faithfulness rather than despair that holds us back. “What we see are saints who are not afraid of their sinfulness, even. Who do not despair even when faced with their own misery … but rather, these are saints that don’t let anything keep them from the love of God,” said Fr. Matthew.
The next time you stop to wallow in your own sinfulness, think of the merciful love of the Father. Make sure you have made a good Confession and then pray for the grace to put your sins behind you and move forward with joyful hope. God welcomes you back with loving arms and wants you to persevere in your spiritual journey, not fall into discouragement.
St. Joseph Marello tells us, “Instead of talking with him, who is very astute, let us drive him away immediately with the words of the Lord: Vade retro, Satana! Go away, Satan! Blessed are those who are tempted, because they will have the crown of victory.”
Tune in to Saint Joseph’s Workshop weekdays at 7-8pm ET / 4-5pm PT only on Relevant Radio®.