Temptation, Gratification, and Dependence on God
Today is Ash Wednesday and we begin our Lenten journey. These forty days offer a beautiful opportunity to apply the principle of spring-cleaning to our spiritual life. During the gloomy days of winter, many cobwebs gathered, yet the light of spring exposes all that was previously hidden in darkness. This Lenten Season provides a time to refocus our dependence on God, as we consciously resist temptation and excessive gratification of our creature comforts.
When contemplating sinful behavior or temptation, it may help to remember that God created the object by which I am tempted for a specific purpose. It fits in proportion with the entire picture, as one piece of the puzzle that is our world. God created the world as an ordered place. It had no shape but He gave every creature a rightful place. When we consider this, we realize that we must look to God to find order in our own lives. He alone knows how the pieces are meant to fit together. Sin then, is the misplacement of creation. It is the arrogance of man to propose that he knows better than the Creator does. How many times must misfortune hit before we realize that we must look to God for direction?
You were a forgiving God to them, but you punished their wrongdoings. Psalm 99:8B
Temptation is Historical
Yet God leads us through the wilderness, much as He did Moses and the Israelites. He does this to remind us that we are wholly dependent on Him. Problems arise when we persist in seeking independence from Him. Most sins must certainly be derivative of our prideful nature. Just as Adam and Eve were prideful in their attempt to become like God, by eating the forbidden fruit, so do we shame our lives when we arrogantly seek our own will in our lives.
But they soon forgot what he had done and had no confidence in his plan. In the wilderness they yielded to their cravings; in the wasteland they put God to the test. Psalm 106:13 – 14
Let our Lenten Journey begin with the prayer,
“O Lord, let me see and except your love in the painful consequences of my sins. Oh Lord. Oh God, my experiences of the wilderness become an opportunity for me to trust you more”. ~Rev. Msgr. C. Anthony Ziccardi
Even though God leads us through trials, in order to teach us to depend on him, he also allows us to have the free will of choosing fulfillment of our earthly desires. In this way, we are presented with options. We are free to empty ourselves and follow him or to satisfy cravings and follow the world. Lent is the perfect opportunity to exercise the option of flexing our free will in confirmation with the Will of God.
He led his people through the wilderness, for his love endures forever. Psalm 136:16
Train for the Kingdom
In seeing God as the creator of all, we also come to realize how temporary and fleeting life is. In one fell swoop, all sources of earthly pride can vanish. Cancer, sudden death, or a fall from grace – they can all, in an instant, bring about earthly doom. The lesson to take away from this is to seek up our treasures in heaven. Gratification and pleasure are brief. Eternity, that is where our goal lies.
All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. Isaiah 40:6
The beauty that is nature, grass, trees, flowers – reminds us that we, too, are here only for a time. Yet as God cares for even the sparrows, He cares for us. Scripture tells us that he knows the count of the hairs on our head. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us, He knew us even before we were formed in the womb. That means He knew us before we were conceived! He knew us and intended us to be. Even before our parents came together.
Recalling God’s rightful place as the creator helps us to keep Him in our hearts as we travel the world throughout our lives. And remaining aware that He alone can bring order to the world of chaos, gives us the security of being in His care. There we find our eternal home, in the Kingdom where we have stored our treasure of the highest measure.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:20
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Psalm quotes are from Daily Meditations on the Psalms by Rev. Msgr. C. Anthony Ziccardi.
Inspiration for this post derived from St. Basil as recounted in A Year With The Church Fathers by Mike Aquilina