Temptations To Love More
"Then Job arose, and rent his robes, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshiped. And he said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I shall return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.'" -Job 1:20-21
"'Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on....[D]o not be anxious...[Y]our heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.'" -St. Matthew 6:25a, 31a, 32b, 33Recently, I read through the Book of Job again. I had forgotten how beautiful a text it is, and in its beauty is its inspiration. From the account of Job offering sacrifice daily for the sanctity of his children to the description of God holding court and His interaction with Satan to God's own testimony to His infinite power and majesty, the Book of Job is truly beautiful and beautifully true.
As related within the first chapter of the book, Satan is constantly "...going to and fro on the earth, and walking up and down on it," looking for righteous people, for you and me, to tempt and torment. Yet, it is God alone Who allows these temptations in order that the righteous man may draw ever closer to God through such temptations and the intense suffering they bring. In being righteous before God, which we are, through our willing and active participation in the passion, death, and resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in fact, placing targets on ourselves. We will be tempted and as we, through God's grace, make it past one temptation, a more difficult and more troublesome will be awaiting us. Why?
For us to be in Heaven with God, we cannot love anything or anyone more than we love God nor can we prize anything more highly than we prize a place in Heaven. Every temptation is another opportunity to love God more than something or someone else and to prize Heaven more than what we find here on Earth. Every temptation resisted is a virtue practiced and every virtue practiced is greater love of God expressed in a very concrete way, a way for us to understand how much God means to us. In resisting a temptation, we cleanse ourselves of that bit of attachment to something temporal and demonstrate to ourselves that we do love God. Temptations are like training for an athletic competition. It's not fun to work that hard, but through that training, we rid ourselves of the weaknesses that keep us from performing at our best and each session is a measure of how far we've come. Instead of being feared, temptations, when they do come, should be fought with all of the love we have for God in the secure knowledge that this triumphant struggle will result in loving God more.
That said, we must always remember that the strength we have to successfully resist the temptations that come our way comes only from God. On our own, we cannot resist even the slightest of temptations. Will power and self-discipline will get you only so far and, being directed to the individual, result in a growing cancer called hubris. Because all we have to fight temptation is God's strength, then our love of God is a recognition of our utter dependence on Him and our complete trust in His Word. Resisting a temptation brings us so much more benefit than we could ever get from succumbing to the temptation.
Like Satan discovers in the Book of Job, even the hardest and most painful temptation a man faces will only serve to reveal the infinite Love, Power, and Majesty of God. Satan will never have the soul of the righteous man. His lies are transparent and empty. In return for his faithfulness, though, God gives the righteous man His Word and God's Word has given us His Body through which we have become the children of God and co-heirs of the Kingdom, and so we are.
Blessed be the Name of the LORD!