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One of the challenges that we know to be at the heart of living in personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the Christian struggle with temptation.
Many of the great spiritual writers when they talk about this temptation speak about it using battle imagery. It’s like the battle that we’re engaged in between good and evil trying to do the good and fighting to overcome the evil. And in that thinking there’s often a hidden presumption that the evil is more attractive than the good. The presumption is in this way of thinking that if I’m doing the good I’m taking the hard way it’s virtuous and it’s right. But it’s the more difficult way. I think that that way of understanding this is not only unhelpful, I know that to be incorrect.
Let’s take the Gospel of John here’s an example Chapter 10 verse 10. Jesus says I have come that you may have life and have that life in abundance.
When we sin we are turning away from life. We are grasping at whatever might be available in the moment. We are settling for things that can never deliver what they promise which is why so often after we sin we are left feeling more isolated more lonely more unfulfilled.
A couple of points that we might find helpful in reflecting on this. The first is when we are tempted to simply become aware of what is it that I really really want If the thing that I am tempted to do or to not do is what I really really want then we have a problem. But if it’s not then why would I go there. Why would I do that.
Instead of going down that track of settling for the thing I think I want that’s actually a temptation, we are much better off if we become aware of the desire we have for something greater. Human beings are created as a desire for God.
The second thing that I would want to say about temptation is an encouragement for those of us who find struggle with temptation is an acronym Halt. H A L T. Am I hungry. Am I angry? Am I lonely. Am I tired? When we are feeling hungry angry lonely or tired. We are much more vulnerable to temptation. We are much less able to see what it is that we really really want to do.
If I’m hungry I should eat something. If I’m angry I should deal with whatever it is that’s making me angry if I’m lonely call a friend if I’m tired, Get some sleep. When we do this we become much more able to see the good and to avoid the evil.
Most of all let us remember that God is working with us and in us and through us as we struggle with temptation and the Christian life is a call to the fullness of life.
Inspiring temptation quotations:
“The greatest temptations are not those that solicit our consent to obvious sin, but those that offer us great evils masking as the greatest goods.” – Thomas Merton No Man Is an Island
“Every temptation comes with a choice.” – Master of Maxims
“Temptation: Recognize it for what it is, and then reject it—immediately and without compromise.” – Billy Graham in Quotes
Beautiful reflection as always God wants us to have what we WANT but he means what we really really want not what the Spice Girls offer.. God Bless.
Thanks Fr John for the HALTReminder. These reflections very helpful to start the day.
Use of an acronym (in this case HALT) is such a helpful suggestion to overcome a situation which stops me going forward toward God. Thankyou!
Thanks john. It is very true that we seem to find doing good the most difficult and Paul often brings us that theology. Is it that the things we know to tempt us are at war with our inner spirit which seeks to seek out God. I often think the prick of conscience is a tangible reminder of Gods spirit and an invitation to choose well
I came to today’s Lenten reflection in the evening, but it is welcome guidance whatever time of the day. Thank you.
Especially needed reminding of the HALT acronym …. thanks Fr. John.