The flesh… she does NOT take kindly to being denied!
The struggle, the absolute struggle of wills...my inner voice of reason and conscience telling me I have “given that up for Lent” and then my flesh screaming at me to be satisfied.
It is as if I am walking along, minding my own sweet business and then--BOOM! Out of nowhere, I get head-butted by a temptation. At first, I can just walk away, brush it off and not pay any attention to it, but eventually, the temptation is so strong and relentless I have no choice but to do battle or be trampled.
For some reason, setting goals of abstinence stirs up inside of me all kinds of angry bulls that only awaken when I am trying my best to be good! My flesh awakens-- all of it-- even in areas I am not trying to tame! The fast shows me my “go to’s”; my “others”--things I use to satisfy myself rather than God. (I substitute something in place of what I am denying myself, only it is not any better, as it is not the “Healthy Substitution.” It is not God. ) The fast points out to me how quickly I come to the end of my OWN resources and strength, (painfully short distances in some areas) and then I MUST RELY ON GOD and HIS STRENGTH if I want to go one inch further, one moment longer. I am brought to my knees and I must depend on His strength and grace.
EEESH! The flesh… she is soooo demanding! She wants what she wants when she wants it.
So, what to do? How can we cooperate with God’s grace to help tame the flesh? Here are a few tools that I have found most helpful…
1. Up-grade my focus: Fr. John Pietropaoli states: ”I'm always looking for something good-- for God. A temptation is towards trying to grasp, to possess, to distrust God's desire to fill my heart. But we can always ask ourselves, ‘What is my heart really seeking? What is this temptation telling me about my heart, and about true fulfillment?’” Therefore, when I see that it is Jesus that I need, that I most long for, I begin to focus on Him and His immeasurable love for me. After all, He is the real reason why I am fasting -- to train my focus onto HIM.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
2. Unite my suffering: I think about what He suffered and endured for me and therefore I want to unite my suffering in the moment to His. This brings me closer to Him. My friend and editor Maribeth offers us this: “One thing I like to do [when I can remember] is to offer at Mass during the offertory those struggles that, with His grace, I conquered. They go on the paten with the bread and wine and are raised up and perfected to make a "pleasing sacrifice" to God. That makes me happy because I know it makes Him happy:)”
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church…: Colossians 1:24
3. Prayer and Praise. Nothing makes the enemy flee like this:
“Help!” (my all-time favorite prayer.)
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.” Matthew 16:23
( I can say this, not in my own authority, but in God’s.)
“Thank You God for (name something good). I praise You that You are (name something you like about God.” (The enemy hates to be ignored.)
“In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
4. I encourage myself with Truth:
When temptation knocks at my heart, I say to myself, “The old me would give in to that, but by God’s grace, the new me, will not! Because I have the power of God inside of me!”
( If you are a baptised Christian you have the Holy Spirit in you, renew your mind and heart to this fact and ask Him to fill you with an even greater in-filling of His Spirit to give you strength. CCC1215 on Baptism: This sacrament is also called "the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit," for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit ...")
5. Remember, it’s a gift I am offering:
If it were easy, it would not be a struggle, and therefore would be a “cheap sacrifice.”
In the Old Testament, King David was offered a piece of property on which to build an altar and yokes of oxen for a sacrifice to the Lord--all for free. The King replied to the owner…
“No, I will buy it from you at the proper price, for I cannot sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty silver shekels. 2 Samuel 24: 24 (eventually the Temple in Jerusalem would be built upon this very spot. 2 Chronicles 3:1 You never know the lasting effect your sacrifice will have on others.
He was not willing to give to God something that did not cost him anything...
Would I? Would you?
This Lent, offer to God an entire treasure trove of your struggles against the flesh. He understands. He was there too. And, as you do, think of the joy you are bringing to Him as you accompany Him in His struggle, His journey to the Cross. Think of the beautiful things that will develop in you when your struggle has worked it’s way to perfection.
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
HELP!!!!! I am struggling against my very self. I need You now and I need You always! Please give me strength in my weakness and perseverance to run the race with endurance. I want to be able to offer You, my Lord, something that is precious...my struggles...and in them, to unite myself more perfectly to You. Help me Lord, for without you, I can do no better.
I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.