What is a temptation, really? We make feeble attempts with ardent effort to overcome our temptations during Lent, but what is it we are really trying to overcome?
We are trying to overcome those things in our lives that hinder our relationships with God and prevent us from putting God first. So often we try to decide for ourselves what is right or wrong for us without any thought of God’s will for us. We naturally turn first to our desires for fun, to our inclinations for busyness, to food or alcohol for comfort, and to others for company.
God often comes behind these things in our thinking and often is not even considered as the source that can calm all of the chaos and desires in our lives. Instead, we put our human desires first, and we find ourselves in a state of restlessness, tiredness, or desolation. We feel lost as to the problem but also to the solution.
When it comes to deciding what is right or wrong for us, we can look to Jesus as our teacher. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert and leaned heavily on his Father during his time there. It is only with his Father’s help that Jesus was able to overcome the temptations presented to him by the devil. Jesus surely felt the desires of his humanity in the desert—hunger, pride, and power. How ardently he must have fought against his human desires! How weak he must have felt! Jesus understood, though, that his strength to overcome temptations came by turning to his Father and letting God help him decide what was right and wrong for him.
This Lent, we are invited to make that same bold turn toward God. And we do not make this turn alone. Both Jesus and the Spirit are here helping us as we turn to God to give us the strength and wisdom to overcome our temptations.
I was thinking about the claim that “Jesus surely felt the desires of his humanity in the desert—hunger, pride, and power” and my immediate thought was…well I can imagine he struggled with the desire for food, but pride and power? There is nothing out there in the desert to take you away from God. Now place Jesus in a room with Netflix, computers, junk food, and a cell phone – then talk to me about struggling with temptations. I think I pray more earnestly when I am in the desert, than surrounded by distractions. But Jesus went into the desert voluntarily, didn’t he? – led by the Spirit. Am I brave enough to enter the desert? Lord, lead me to the experience of nothingness. It is there that I rely on You.
Agony of the Garden, Jesus loved the Lord with his heart. Scourged at the pillar, Jesus loved the Lord with his soul. Mocked with the crown of thorns, Jesus loved the Lord with his mind. Carrying the cross, Jesus loved the Lord with his strength. When he was crucified, Jesus loved his neighbor as himself, saying: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Mk 12:30; Lk 10:27, 23:43)
Recently, I’ve begun to see temptations as “little addictions” that constantly put the focus on “self” rather than God. Jesus’ focus is amazing and refreshing!
For me the key to overcoming temptations is contained in this insightful post. I believe it is my determination to be independent that causes me the most problems and you have stated that “Jesus…leaned heavily on his Father…” That is the key – I need to rest in the arms of God and allow God to do the work. Thank you.
” … what is it we are really trying to overcome?”
Can’t resist a bit of humour here, what we try to overcome is the self. The mighty all encompassing and truth resistant self.
See the mirror. See it shine.
Oops. It cracked!