An Arsenal for Overcoming Temptation (Part 1)

“The truth will set you free.” – Jesus (John 8:32)

Considering the important truths outlined in the previous post, as well as Church teaching, the words of saints and Our Lord, let’s see how we can overcome various temptations- at least in part (God’s grace is necessary for us to overcome any temptation; neither understanding nor passion alone is enough to overcome sin and error).

After each temptation is a quote that refutes it. I will also provide an explanation with the help of other references.

1. “God is indifferent to my needs.”

“Each soul is a matchless treasure to Me.” – Jesus to Sr. Mary of Trinity

Do you truly know what you need? Only God knows what is best for us, therefore we can know with certainty that whatever befalls us is ordained by God, so we can (and should!) accept with gratitude everything that happens to us in life. God desires our salvation first and foremost. He knows each one of us intimately and He desires our love. His words, “I thirst”, relate to each one of us. God knows that our salvation is the most (and only truly) important thing that we can attain. Everything else is transitory. Consider how blind and ungrateful we are when we complain to God about this and that, when everything God allows (or directly wills) is for our eternal benefit! We need to shift our focus to eternal life and God’s eternal love, lest we be overcome by the vicissitudes of this earthly exile.

God obviously also knows that the merit we gain on Earth will be enjoyed by us in Heaven for all eternity. St. Catherine of Genoa could not emphasise more strongly the immense rewards that we will experience in Heaven for our every sacrifice, every illness beared patiently, every suffering “offered up”, every act of humility etc. A book I strongly recommend, which implicitly deals with this particular temptation very thoroughly and practically is ‘Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence’ (written by two very holy men, including St. Claude, who was the confessor to St. Margaret Mary).

2. “God cannot still love me.”

“Yes, I love all souls… My love NEVER changes… I yearn for souls… I thirst for them.” – Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez

God does not- and indeed cannot- stop loving the souls He created out of and for love. Even while were sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). Whatever we have done, God’s nature remains unchanged and unaffected. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

3. “My sins are too grave to be forgiven.”

“The mercy of My Heart is inexhaustible.” – Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez

God’s love and mercy is infinite/inexhaustible and unchanging; it cannot possibly be exhausted by any human iniquity (Council of Trent). This means that God’s mercy is always available to us; always infinitely greater- and therefore capable of and willing to annihilate/forget- our sins, whatever they may be. This temptation suggests the impossible: that we could exhaust God’s mercy. Succumbing to such a temptation- particularly out of pride, rather than ignorance- has the ability to lead us to despair (the total and wilful abandonment of hope), which has the potential to make us so blind and hardened that we become ‘unforgivable’ i.e. only when our despair becomes final/absolute (because we lose the ability to- and therefore never will- acknowledge or accept the graces that lead us to repentance). Final impenitence is always found in such souls (God can “overcome” a hard heart, but it is much more difficult- if not impossible- to overcome a hard and blind heart!) Jesus said to Sr. Consolata Betrone that final impenitence is only found in those souls who “purposely wish to be damned and therefore obstinately refuse [His] mercy.” Jesus has made it clear through His Holy Church that we can always accept forgiveness in this life, no matter how great our guilt (“Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them…” – John 20:23). “Sooner would Heaven and Earth turn to nothingness than would My mercy fail to embrace a trusting soul.” (Jesus to St. Faustina) In other words, it is impossible for God to refuse His mercy to those who trust in Him, provided that they have the right dispositions, of course (which are solely the affect of God’s grace!).

Jesus’ words must always be understood within the context of his other words (as understood by His Church). If Jesus were to say, for example, that “presumption is unforgivable,” He would obviously not be imposing a limit on His mercy; He could not be saying that He will refuse mercy to those who repent of this sin (especially considering that repentance is a grace from God); rather, Our “all-merciful” Lord would be warning us that we can become so stubborn and impenitent that He is unable to help us, as He cannot force His mercy on us. Only those who “absolutely will it” are lost (Jesus to Sr. Benigna), “… for terrible is the condition of an impenitent heart… I [Jesus] cannot penetrate it. It is not I who condemn it; [the soul] wilfully repels Me.” (Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity).

St. John Vianney reminds despairing souls in particular- although these words apply to all souls- that God is as eager to forgive the repentant than is a mother to rescue her child from a fire!

(*Read some of my earlier articles/posts, which deal with this temptation at least implicitly. The post named “The SEEMINGLY unforgivable sin” deals explicitly with this topic. St. John Vianney’s Catechism on hope is very helpful and has been included- in part- in an earlier post).

4. “After I have sinned, I lose the confidence to approach God.”

“… because the divine nature is passionless, God never punishes nor takes vengeance with wrath, but with tender care and much lovingkindness. So we must be of much good courage and trust in the power of repentance. God does not punish for His own sake even those who have sinned against Him, for nothing can harm that divine nature.” – St. John Chrysostom

God is always the same: love and mercy. His mercy and love always pour forth in the Sacraments. We simply have to receive them with the right dispositions. Even without the Sacraments, God is still more than willing to give us His grace. He is bound to His Sacraments, but He is not bound by them (St. Thomas Aquinas).

4. “Jesus only died for some.”

“[Jesus] gave Himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:6)

Not all souls will accept the free gift of God’s love (it is in this sense that Christ only died for some or many).

5. “My past sins haunt me.”

“… let us have no doubt about the solemn pardon pronounced over our errors. Let us place a tombstone over them just as the Lord has done.” – St. Padre Pio

Listen to the advice of the holy confessors St. Padre Pio and St. John Vianney, who were both known to spend over 15 hours a day in the confessional. Each of these holy men tell us that after we have been absolved, we must no longer dwell on our past sins. St. John Vianney admonishes those who dwell on sins which have been absolved, reminding us that we have no right to think about what God has chosen to forgive and forget.

6. “My past is so sinful that I get discouraged.”

“Never consider your past sins except in the light of infinite mercy, so that the memory of them may not discourage you, but may lead you to place your confidence in the infinite value of the Saviour’s merits.” – St. Catherine of Siena

When we consider that no one can approach Jesus unless the Heavenly Father draws Him (John 6:44), and that, when we repent, Jesus casts our sins “… as far as the east is from the west…” (Psalms 103:12), rather than being discouraged by our sinful past we should be immensely encouraged! Why? Because the fact that Our Heavenly Father has drawn us to His loving Heart for forgiveness- especially when our sins are grave and shameful- is clear evidence that He still loves us very dearly and wishes to use us in His plan of redemption (He does not simply forgive us and leave us be; He uses us in His vineyard)! Thus, whenever we are tempted to dwell on our sinful past we should remember that: a.) Our sins have been forgiven and forgotten b.) It was Our Heavenly Father who drew us to His Divine Son for pardon. Why does God wish to pardon us? For our own sake- because He loves us, and wants to love us more. Sin hinders God from pouring out the immensity of His graces into our souls, in the same way that our parents are unable to embrace us when we turns our backs on them. What pleases God is when we let Him embrace us, which is what happens most intimately in Holy Communion.

There is much more consolation to be derived from meditation on this quote from St. Catherine, but I will leave it to you and God.