What is the secret to overcoming temptation? As a friend of mine often says, the only time we fall into temptation is when we remove our focus from Jesus – thus the only source of victory we have is to keep our full focus upon Him. In today’s guest post, Francois Fenelon (1651-1715), a remarkable writer of the deeper Christian life, gives several thoughts about how to remain fixed on Jesus and removed from temptation.
I know of but two resources against temptations. One is, faithfully to follow the interior light in sternly and immediately cutting off everything we are at liberty to dismiss, and which may excite or strengthen the temptation. I say everything which we are at liberty to dismiss, because we are not always permitted to avoid the occasions of evil. Such as are unavoidable connected with the particular position in which Providence has placed us, are not considered to be within our power.
The other expedient consists in turning towards God in every temptation, without being disturbed or anxious to know if we have not already yielded a sort of half consent, and without interrupting our immediate recourse to God. By examining too closely whether we have not been guilty of some unfaithfulness, we incur the risk of being again entangled in the temptation. The shortest and surest way is to act like a little child at the breast; when we show it a frightful monster, it shrinks back and buries its face in its mother’s bosom, that it may no longer behold it.
The sovereign remedy is the habit of dwelling continually in the presence of God. He sustains, consoles, and calms us.
We must never be astonished at temptations, be they never so outrageous. On this earth all is temptation. Crosses tempt us by irritating our pride, and prosperity by flattering it. Our life is a continual combat, but one in which Jesus Christ fights for us. We must pass on unmoved, while temptations rage around us, as the traveller, overtaken by a storm, simply wraps his cloak more closely about him, and pushes on more vigorously towards his destined home.
If the thought of former sins and wretchedness should be permitted to come before us, we must remain confounded and abashed before God, quietly enduring in his adorable presence all the shame and ignominy of our transgressions. We must not, however, seek to entertain or to call up so dangerous a recollection.
In conclusion, it may be said that in doing what God wills, there is very little to be done by us; and yet there is a wonderful work to be accomplished, no less than that of reserving nothing, and making no resistance for a moment, to that jealous love, which searches inexorably into the most secret recesses of the soul for the smallest trace of self, for the slightest intimations of an affection of which itself is not the author. So, on the other hand, true progress does not consist in a multitude of views, nor in austerities, trouble and strife; it is simply willing nothing and everything, without reservation and without choice, cheerfully performing each day’s journey as Providence appoints it for us; seeking nothing, refusing nothing; finding everything in the present moment, and suffering God, who does everything, to do his pleasure in and by us, without the slightest resistance. O how happy is he who has attained to this state! and how full of good things is his soul, when it appears emptied of everything! Let us pray the Lord to open to us the whole infinitude of his paternal heart, that our own may be there submerged and lost, so that it may make but one with His! Such was the desire of Paul for the faithful, when he longed for them in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Francois Fenelon is best known for his devotional works Christian Perfection and The Inner Life. Fenelon is counted amongst the classic Christian mystics such as Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Jeanne Guyon, and Michael Molinos. I highly recommend any book by these authors – they all had an incredible (and practical) intimacy with Jesus.
Tempations was taken from Counsel, Thoughts for the Inner Life as posted on path2prayer.com