Temptation can be viewed as somewhat of a “dirty word”. The implication is that if you get tempted, than there’s something wrong with you. Yet in truth, everybody gets tempted…even Jesus got tempted. The one big difference with Jesus was that he didn’t ever succumb to temptation. “ For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”(Hebrews 4:15)
Temptation is not sin. As a young boy I had what is called a scrupulous conscience and felt that every time I was tempted that it was a sin even if I gave no consent to the temptation…it was not a lot of fun fighting this condition…almost everything was a sin…. yikes. Thank God that I have a more balanced view today.
In the Our Father we pray, “ and lead us not into temptation”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (par. 2846) says the Greek words for this phrase can be translated “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation.” It goes on to say that “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one”; on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil.
With all of that in mind, is there any good that comes out of being tempted? Well the catechism goes on to say that “there is a certain usefulness to temptation; temptation can teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us.” It requires a decision of the heart (par. 2848); in this assent to the Holy Spirit in resisting temptation, the Father gives us strength. Let’s also remember that “no testing has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it.” (1Cor. 10:13)
So, we all get tempted and the Lord will use the temptations to make us stronger…somewhat like working out with weights in the gym. We may get sore or even pull a muscle at times, but eventually we’ll get stronger. Even when we fail and sin, the Lord is there to pick us up and get us going again…always encouraging us that “you can do this…I’m building something great in you….don’t give up…I will help you.”
The above quote from St. Philip Neri is also very encouraging; he’s building virtue in you, and “you will be successful if you only stand fast.” So, let’s stand fast and not be discouraged… Jesus will have the last word and his word is victory.