affliction and temptations

Affliction and Temptations: How to deal with Them

“There are things which the Lord so orders that He may not leave Himself without testimony of His divine grace and calling; and there are others which He orders in the way of permissions, that a man may be proved and exercised, that his self-determination may be made plain. Those in affliction and temptations, if they endure, do not fail of the Kingdom of Heaven, therefore Christians in circumstances of distress are not vexed or grieved. If they are tried by poverty or suffering, they ought not to be surprised, but rather to take pleasure in poverty and reckon it as wealth, and fasting as feasting, and dishonor and obscurity as glory. On the other hand, if they should fall into circumstances which in this life are glorious, which incline them to worldly ease, or wealth, or glory, or luxury, they ought not to take pleasure in these things, but to shun them as they would fire.” ~St. Macarius the Egyptian

Affliction and Temptations

There are many reasons why we may end up having to deal with affliction of some sort. Disease, poverty, physical handicap, etc. St. Macarius says this is because God is testing us. He wants to know if we will hold up under pressure. He wants to know if we will change our path when the path gets difficult. That is one reason why such things can happen. It isn’t the most common, however. It is nice to think that we are so important to God that He thinks we are worthy of such attention. It is somewhat egotistical to believe that. And while God isn’t opposed to us having an ego—it is a perfectly natural and useful thing—an overinflated ego is definitely not good. So while there is a slim chance that our problems are due to God testing our mettle, we shouldn’t think that if we don’t have good reason to. Good reason meaning something like an angel appearing to us in a vision and telling us. We should consider other possibilities first.

One other reason for afflictions is simply that we are in the place where they abound. Afflictions and difficulties are the weeds of the material world. They happen everywhere, needed or not. So sometimes they land on us for no particular reason.

The third reason applies only to those engaging in spiritual development methods. There are forces and beings that don’t want us doing that. They are the powers of matter, the demons of materialism. So when you stray from the path they want you to be on, they will smack you down with an illness, financial disaster, or other affliction. Or they will tempt you with material treasures. Affliction and temptations are the primary tools for control of humanity. Sometimes they use affliction and temptations together to get you to behave. This usually makes people unhappy. It shouldn’t. When the dark ones are trying to stop you, you know you are doing what you should be doing. We must be strong and ignore their efforts.

What Doesn’t Kill Us

While God rarely bothers to test the mettle of anyone, it may be other spiritual beings who do so as his agents. They know that affliction and temptations are the tools of the dark beings, so they will use them to test us sometimes. They do this not to prove our faith in God, but to make us stronger. We need to be strong because the closer we get to a complete spiritual awakening, the more desperately the dark ones will try to stop us. We need to be able to resist their attacks. We need to resist the afflictions and temptations. It’s the spiritual version of Wim Hof techniques to strengthen a person’s will-power and physical body by sitting outside nearly nude in very cold weather. It is Mr. Miyagi training the Karate Kid. This may seem harsh, but trying to force you to suddenly lift 200 pounds when you have never before lifted more than 20 is even harsher.

Reject Wealth and Glory

While St. Macarius is correct in saying that we also have to reject the temptations of wealth and glory, that doesn’t mean we have to live in obscure poverty. We can have a nice house, comfortable clothing, and even a little recognition (not too much). We can have it as long as we can avoid getting attached to it. Getting attached to material things is like filling your boat with rocks before heading off on a sail. Even if the boat still floats, it will be slowed down significantly. Yet you can sail over a large rock that weighs a few tons without difficulty because it isn’t in the boat or attached to the boat like an anchor. So we can accept some wealth and glory, just as we accept the affliction and temptations that help us grow stronger, as long as we don’t get attached to the things of the material realm.

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helpful temptations

Helpful Temptations and Obstacles

“To men that are just and upright, temptations become helps. Job, a man of discernment, was victorious in temptations. Sickness came upon him, and he complained not; … his body failed and his strength departed, but his will was not weakened. … So Joseph from the house of bondage was made to rule as king of Egypt. They of the company of Ananias and Daniel delivered others from bondage.

“See then, O thou are wise, the power that freedom possesses; that noting can injure it unless the will is weakened. … Seek thou not here repose, for this is a world of toil. And if thou canst wisely discern, change thou not time for time that which abides for that which abides not; that which ceases not for that which ceases; nor truth for lying. … Collect thy mind, let it not wander among varieties which profit not.” ~St. Ephraim the Syrian

Helpful Temptations

An excellent runner who is used to running on a clear track will not do well if suddenly put into a hurdle race. Likewise, one who has always ran on flat ground, will get winded quickly running up a mountain. Even worse, the guy who sits on the sidelines watching the runners will not become a good runner at all. For that reason, some people need a wolf to chase them so they will start to run. Some need hurdles and mountains to climb to really build strength in their legs.

We usually think of temptations as something that seems to be good, but often isn’t. The ice cream that gets us off of our healthy diet. The movie of TV that gets us to skip our workout to watch it. But temptations can also be unpleasant things. An illness that makes us stay in bed, even when bed rest isn’t the best solution. A minor injury that gives us an excuse to quite exercising. Most of all, physical problems that cause us to skip our spiritual exercises. But resisting such temptations make us grow strong. That’s why they are helpful temptations.

Power of Freedom

The Power of Freedom has many aspects. The one of concern here is the freedom to choose what is right rather than what is easy. Sometimes, that choice can be painful. It may take us away from things we would rather be doing. But we have the freedom to ignore our own thoughts, or the dark ones whispering in our ears, when we know they are leading us astray. Continue reading “Helpful Temptations and Obstacles”

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Away, Hideous One!

“Away from my eyes, O Hideous One. Slink back into the dark shadows about the black sunless abode, where dwell the self-distorted souls of the Fearsomely Formed Ones. Back to your murky haven of compatibility. Away, out of sight, for your repulsiveness brings back into my heart the thoughts of evils and temptations I have encountered and overcome, … Away, back to your own kind. … Back to the place with which you have pitiful affinity, back to your own dark, compatible companions.
“The Guardians of the Hidden Gates repel you lest you befoul the pathways of the Glorious Ones, who once struggled to find beauty and cleanliness. The light of this place is ever spreading, and soon a Glorious One may walk where you now slink in the gloom. … O Fallen One, who once walked Earth so proudly in self-esteem, selfishness and arrogance, go back; … O Wriggler in the Slime, back from the purifying flame, what can it avail you now? … O Squirming One, turned back are you. …” ~The Kolbrin Bible (SCL 7:14)

devil1JOr, As Jesus put it more simply, “Get thee behind me, Satan”. The speaker, whoever he is in this chapter of the Kolbrin Bible, is clearly talking to a devil or demon, a fallen one. His opinion of such creatures is not kind, to say the least. Hideous, dark, slimy, squirming and other similar epithets are used to describe this being. The speaker is clearly no friend of the dark dudes and wants him to leave ASAP.

Why he wants so much for this dark being to leave him alone is found in the statement, “your repulsiveness brings back into my heart the thoughts of evils and temptation I have encountered and overcome.” So he is concerned that this demon will use his tricks to get him to give in to temptations and do evil deeds, so he wants him to leave. Of course, it is easier to avoid temptation if you can send the tempter away, but they probably won’t listen when you tell them to leave, so you really need to develop the strength to just say “No”. Continue reading “Away, Hideous One!”

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Resisting Temptation

“When the man of God has conquered almost all the passions, there remain two demons that still fight against him. The first troubles the soul by diverting it from its great love of God into a misplaced zeal, so that it does not want any other soul to be as pleasing to God as itself. The second demon inflames the body with sexual lust. This happens to the body in the first place because sexual pleasure with a view to procreation is something natural … We should fight the first of these demons by means of great humility and love, and the second by means of self-control, freedom from anger, and intense meditation on death, until we come to perceive unceasingly the energy of the Holy Spirit within us.” ~The Philokalia

Lord of DarknessYou might think that once you have awakened your soul and are well along on the path of enlightenment that you wouldn’t have to worry about attacks from demons and devils. Nothing could be further from the truth. Demons and devils are attracted to such people for two reasons: their Light, which the dark ones would love to have for themselves, but can’t because they defy God, and their soul because they know that as more people turn to the Light, the sooner will come their inevitable end, that is, the end of their evil activities, not their death. So these dark ones will do just about anything to stop you from becoming totally enlightened, while at the same time trying to suck off your Light like a kind of vampire. Continue reading “Resisting Temptation”

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