Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been proved, he shall receive a crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him.
– James 1:12
Thoughout the day – especially during prayer – we might encounter unwanted thoughts. It is very important for those with some form of religious OCD/scrupulosity in particular, to know that God permits everything (including our weaknesses and involuntary imperfections) for our good. It may be that God wishes us to be more humble, trusting or faithful; perhaps He wishes us to sympathise with others; perhaps He is preparing us for future combat; perhaps He is cleansing us of past faults. Whatever the reason, God always acts in our best interest i.e. He arranges everything for our salvation. We can trust Him wholeheartedly.
Even if our current state is due in part to God’s justice, we can rest assured that His loving “chastisements” are tempered with mercy, and that He can draw a greater good from our trials; furthermore, that He allows us to be tried here is evidence that He wishes us to be spared hereafter. Deo gratias!
St. Francis de Sales assures us that, even if our prayer were to consist entirely of repeated attempts to drive away distractions, that prayer is pleasing to God. Why? Because God is pleased with love, which is evident in such good-will, faith and perseverance. The same principle is revealed in the following revelations, which will be of great consolation to many.
Some Relevant Anecdotes
+ When St. Bridget was harassed by temptations in prayer, Mary the Mother of God said to her: “The devil with malicious watchfulness seeks to hinder the good from praying. But do thou, daughter, whatever temptation may assail thee in prayer, persist in thy desire or good will, and in thy holy endeavours, as best thou canst; because thy pious desires and endeavours will be reputed as effectual prayer. Even if thou art not able to cast out the base and evil thoughts that come into thy mind, yet for those endeavours thon shalt receive a crown in heaven; thus these troubles will profit thee, provided thou consentest not to the temptation, but art displeased with whatever is unbecoming.” (pp. 226 –227, ‘Spiritual Works of Louis of Blois’)
+ The Lord Jesus said to St. Bridget: “Wherefore, daughter, art thou anxious and disquieted?” She answered, “Because I am afflicted with many unprofitable and evil thoughts, which I cannot drive away, and the fear of Thy judgments oppresses me.” Then the Lord said, “This is true justice [remember that God permits trials because He loves us; also, His justice is tempered with mercy: He will always give us the strength to remain faithful to Him] ; that as thou hast formerly taken delight in the vanities of the world against My will, so thou shouldst now be molested by various perverse thoughts against thy own will. Do thou, however, fear my judgments with moderation and discretion, ever firmly trusting in Me, thy God. For thou must know, for certain, that evil thoughts, which the mind resists and detests, are the purification and crown of the soul. If thou art unable to avoid them, bear it patiently, and let thy will strive against them. And, although thou consent not to them, fear lest thou take pride in that and fall; for whosoever stands, it is by the power of God alone that he stands.” (p. 237, ‘Spiritual Works of Louis of Blois’)
+ Again, the Lord said to St. Bridget, “In order that man may understand his own weakness, and the strength he receives from Me, it is necessary that he should sometimes be allowed to be attacked by evil thoughts; and if he consents not to them, they become the purification of his mind, and the safeguard of his virtues. And although they are hard to be borne, they heal the soul, and conduct it to eternal life, which cannot be gained without sufferings. The soul should, therefore, labour diligently, lest it consent to them, or take any pleasure in them.” (p. 237, ‘Spiritual Works of Louis of Blois’)
Why does God permit temptation?
“One can distinguish five reasons why God allows the devils to attack us:
first, so that from attack and counter-attack we may become practised in discerning good from evil;
second, so that our virtue may be maintained in the heat of the struggle and so be confirmed in an impregnable position;
third, so that as we advance in virtue we may avoid presumption and learn humility;
fourth, to inspire in us an unreserved hatred for evil through the experience we thus have of it;
fifth, and above all, that we may attain inner freedom and remain convinced both of our own weakness and of the strength of him who has come to our aid.” – St. Maximus the Confessor
In a word, God permits temptation for our greater good. The more we are tempted, the more right we have to trust in Him, without Whom it would be impossible to overcome even the slightest temptation. God rewards our efforts generously in Heaven.
To Inspire us with hope for Heaven:
“If when visions [of Heaven] are shown to thee, thou wert to see the beauty of the blessed souls or of the holy Angels as it is, thy heart would be broken with excess of joy.”
– Jesus to St. Bridget of Sweden