The Spiritual Combat: THE EFFORTS OF THE DEVIL TO PREVENT THE CONVERSION
THE EFFORTS OF THE DEVIL TO PREVENT THE CONVERSION OF THOSE WHO, KNOWING THE DISEASED CHARACTER OF THEIR SOULS, DESIRE TO AMEND THEIR LIVES. THE REASON WHY THEIR GOOD INTENTIONS ARE FREQUENTLY INEFFECTUALTHOSE WHO ARE COGNIZANT of the diseased character of their souls and desire to cure them are often deluded by the devil. He endeavors to persuade them that they have a long time to live, and consequently may safely defer their conversion.
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He insinuates the impression that some business affair or difficulty must be cleared up before they can devote themselves sufficiently to the spiritual life and fulfill its duties without disturbance. This snare has entangled and daily does entangle many. But its success is directly attributable to their own supine neglect of a matter in which the glory of God and their own salvation should be the only considerations.
Let persons of this type say: "Now! Now!" instead of "Tomorrow! Tomorrow!" Why tomorrow? How can I be sure of living until it comes? And even if I were, would I really be trying to save my soul if I delayed my repentance? Would it look as though I sought victory if I exposed myself to fresh wounds?
It is beyond all dispute that a willing co-operation with the graces of Heaven is the only way of escaping this delusion, together with the methods suggested in the preceding chapter. When I say "willing co-operation" I do not mean mere desires, or feeble and sterile resolutions, by which so many are deceived. The following are the reasons.
First. The foundation for such desires and resolutions is not mistrust of one's own abilities and confidence in God. The result is that a soul, inflated with secret pride, is so blind that it takes for solid virtue what is a mere illusion. The remedy for this evil, and the acumen necessary to recognize it, must be obtained from Heaven which permits us to fall. This is done that our eyes may be opened by sad experience, that we may reassign the confidence we had in ourselves to Divine grace, and that we may exchange an almost imperceptible pride for an humble knowledge of our own weakness. Good resolutions will never be effectual unless they are firm and steady, and they will never be firm and steady unless they are founded on a mistrust of one's own strength and on confidence in God.
Second. When we make a good resolution, we merely consider the beauty and excellence of virtue, which attracts even the most vapid minds, but we never consider the difficulties of attaining it. Consequently, cowardly souls are dismayed at the first sign of trouble and they hurriedly abandon their project. For this reason, it would be better for you to consider the difficulties which occur in acquiring virtue, rather than the virtues themselves, and to prepare yourself accordingly. You may rest assured that the greater courage you show in conquering yourself or defeating your enemies, the sooner will your difficulties diminish, and they will gradually vanish.
Third. We are too concerned with our personal advantage, rather than with virtue and adherence to the will of God. This frequently happens when we are comforted by the consolations we receive in a time of affliction. Finding that the comforts of the world have escaped us, we resolve to dedicate ourselves to God's service.
To be free of this charge, let us be careful not to misuse the grace of God. Let us be humble and prudent in forming good resolutions. Let us not seek extraordinary favors through rash promises which are beyond our capacities to fulfill.
If we are burdened with affliction, let us merely ask to carry our Cross as we should, since it comes from God. Let this be our glory, and we shall seek no alleviation from earth, or heaven itself. Let us ask, let us implore only that God may strengthen us in our trial, and that we may patiently undergo the trials He sees fit to send.