When you’re dealing with food allergies, everything is laid out pretty clearly. You know what you can and cannot eat, and you know the consequences if you stray from those parameters. Therefore, in order to avoid the negative repercussions, you avoid eating things that cause stomachaches, rashes, or anaphylactic shock. Seems straightforward enough, right?
Recently on The Inner Life, Josh Raymond talked about the slow growth of his lactose intolerance that developed as he got older. He ended up coming to the realization that if he ate too much dairy, his body would react poorly. He disappointedly resigned his love for all things dairy because he did not want to aggravate his body. He likened this avoidance of bad consequences to the avoidance of sin in the face of temptation. We know what physical suffering will be caused by allergies, so we avoid it. But if we could tangibly grasp the damage that sin can do to our souls, we would avoid it all costs.
But Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that it is not wisdom that saves us, but the ignorance of how good God is in the face of our shortcomings that saves us. Our inability to grasp how much God loves us even though we continue to sin is what excuses our imperfection. If we were privy to that knowledge, and we continued to sin as humans do, we would be lost forever.
Joining the show to talk about dealing with temptation was Father Michael Hurley, OP of St. Dominic parish in Pacifica, CA. Father Hurley brought up the fact that he deals very often with people who feel discouraged and desperate because of how much temptation they face regularly. They feel like they are bad people at their core. Why else would they be tempted? But he encourages them because there is a stark line between temptation and sin. “Temptation is not the result of sinfulness. Temptation is the result of being human,” said Father Hurley.
Even Jesus was tempted in the desert! “Filled with the holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1-2) Jesus was offered all the kingdoms of the world, rule over everything and everyone if he would just bow down and worship Satan. He would not have had to take on the sins of the world and die on the cross. And we know he would gladly have given up that task had it not been part of God’s will. “He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew, 26:39)
It is not a sin to want to give in to temptation. That’s what makes it tempting. So long as we have a pulse, we will have those urges to give in, but it is through God’s grace and our free will to follow Him that we will make it to the other side. Father Hurley provided three great strategies to resisting temptations that plague your life.
The first suggestion he made was to keep that specific sin or temptation in your prayer. You should always be praying about ways to improve, and acknowledging and addressing weaknesses is a big first step. He strongly encouraged us all to pray the prayer to St. Michael constantly, in times of peace and in times of temptation. St. Michael will always go to war for us in our most difficult battles.
The second strategy to avoiding temptations is to identify the near occasions that you fall into, and find an alternative activity that you can say yes to, rather than just saying no to the sin. We only have a limited amount of willpower and if we put our state of grace purely in the hands of our will, it will break down. Finding an alternative outlet for our temptations can almost retrain our brain to avoid those thoughts or actions, and it may provide us with time to do something far more productive.
The last step Father Hurley gave to us is a simple one: Never give up. That is perhaps the most important step because as long as we make an effort to avoid sin and continually go back to God in Reconciliation, the devil always loses. We already know that we will fall and we will fail, but it’s never too late to find our way back to the Lord. “No one is too far gone this side of eternity.” (Patrick Madrid)
Listen to the full conversation below:
Tune in to The Inner Life weekdays at 11am CT