Saturday, March 17, 2012

Temptations...

If you struggle in temptation and fight against sin because you are in love with an idea you have of yourself as a holy soul or a religious person, you might succeed for a little while, but sooner than later you will fail and fall into sin. And this, in fact, is God's mercy, for you are only flattering the flesh.

If you struggle in temptation and fight against sin because you believe in goodness or morality or the sovereignty of God or because of your duty to observe the state of life you have chosen for yourself, you might succeed for a time, but eventually you will also fail.

But if you don't fight temptation at all, but instead rejoice to find yourself in temptations because you realize that in them God has found you worthy of embracing Christ crucified and sharing in his sufferings, and that this suffering is the resetting of the dingy sack of broken bones that is your mortal nature deformed and miserable in the effects of original sin--a procedure for which there is no anaesthesia—then you have found the remedy for sin and the path from death to life.

Brother Charles

I think this is one of the clearest and most striking explanations of the nature of our struggle with temptation I've ever seen. I don't know why, this Lent, I keep finding myself thinking so much about the redemptive aspects of suffering, but that's just what the Spirit seems to be doing with me...

It seems to me that we often don’t realise that temptation, too, is a way of sharing in Christ's sufferings, since he was tempted (Hebrews 4.15) exactly as we are ourselves. Perhaps this is a way in which we can draw very close to our Lord, as Paul said, “For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1.5)

We usually think of physical suffering when we read Peter’s famous exhortation, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4.12-13) Indeed the next few verses seems to imply that that is what Peter had in mind, but the principle applies to moral and emotional suffering just as much...

Once again, I’m amazed at how the Jesus Prayer adapts itself (or we adapt to it?) in these circumstances. I can’t imagine a prayer better suited to being prayed in the grip of this kind of temptation. And if we pray it imagining that we are “a holy soul or a religious person” as Br Charles says, then we will fall, in the mercy of Christ. I know. I’ve been there, more than once!

The Prayer for me is the clearest refuge, the best comfort I know. It is always there because Christ is always there by the power of his Spirit. His steadfast love never fails.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner...

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