How can we battle the forces against our attempt to become holy? Can we truly master our thoughts and our desires even in the most tempting situations?
We sure can. It takes practice but here are some ways to fight temptations when they come but also to prepare ourselves before they come.
The Devil is Cunning
Let’s start with the last one because Satan and evil spirits are woven throughout the world and mess with the desires of the flesh/body. The Devil will be cunning and will slightly manipulate God’s will in our lives. He is masterful at helping us deceive ourselves. For most of my life, I bought into all the lies so, I speak from experience. I only wish he came with a big black cape and red glowing eyes and said, “I am Satan, worship me!” Unfortunately, he is much more conniving and he has fooled me so many times.
He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies ( John 8:44).
He will say things like, “You can have that drink, that drug, watch that porn – just this once. You deserve it, you have had a stressful day. Come on, you have had a great Lent and gave up so much, you were good! Now it is time to celebrate. You are human and are not perfect, God will forgive you. Nobody will know, you won’t get caught. You can always go to confession.”
How to Deal With Negative Thoughts
When these thoughts attack us, we can renounce Satan and protect ourselves by saying the following out loud:
1. In the name of Jesus Christ, I renounce the spirit of “lust, addiction, harassment, obsession, sexual desire, etc.”
2. Jesus Christ, pour your precious blood over me and protect me from the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
3. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, St. Maria Goretti, Guardian Angel, “Protect me.”
The name of Jesus Christ has authority over evil. His precious blood is powerful, one man’s blood saves us from our sins and the evil spirits must go, they have to flee. Make sure you say these out loud. Pay attention to how your body reacts and notice the peace and calmness that begins to shower over the anxious, unsettled feelings you once had.
Let’s play the opposite mind game when it comes to temptations and remind ourselves that God is our all. He is the only one who can give us true consolation, true peace and true love. We will not have any lasting stress release or peace from that drug, sexual desire or food. It will be a fleeting sensation and we will be riddled with guilt, which lasts much longer than our moment of giving in to the temptation.
Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour (1Peter 5:8).
How to Protect Yourself
We can prepare ourselves in advance to battle these temptations by leveraging all of the amazing resources and sacramentals in the Catholic Church. Some ideas:
1. Wear a crucifix and hang a one in your house.
3. Wear a blessed scapular and/or a miraculous medal such as a St. Benedict medal.
4. Keep holy water with you, sign yourself often, sprinkle it in your bedroom or car and have your house blessed by a priest.
5. Light blessed candles often. I love to light them during morning prayer, a beautiful way to start the day.
6. Use blessed salts and oils in your cooking.
7. Pray the rosary every day.
We can protect ourselves from the negative effects of the world on our souls. It matters what you watch, read and listen to; this is what damages the soul. I once heard an explanation that hit home. You would not eat rat poison, right? I don’t think you would, even though it is 98 percent food and there is only two percent is poison. We sometimes say, “Well, this show or this movie isn’t that bad, only a few scenes are too racy or too violent or too evil.”
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna ( Matthew 10:28).
Be careful what you are exposed to and read books of the saints, watch good Catholic TV, read good Catholic periodicals like Catholic Stand and feed your mind and soul. Be mindful of the company you keep as well. If you know that certain friends seem to do drugs or party or have sexual relations outside of marriage, maybe it is time for you to find some new friends. I didn’t use to participate in Church functions in the early part of my journey, but I have made some incredible friends over these past few years. If you aren’t finding them at your own parish, go to a conference or another parish event, God will provide good and holy companions for the walk.
The body is something I have battled my whole life. I used to give in to my body for anything, food, drink, drugs, sexual intimacy and pleasure – you name it, I did it. I was not the master of my body; I was a complete slave to my body. And Satan convinced me that life was short and that I needed to party hard. Life is not supposed to be peaceful. Life is full of stress, worry and anxiety and we must work hard and party even harder because you only live once- so live it up. This is where we must practice some mortification. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with mortification. I have read many saints who have beaten themselves, fasted on bread and water for days and have done many things to master their bodily desires. I can barely fast for a day or I make it to the very last hours and then I eat the house down.
Lately, I have been making little mortifications throughout the day instead. For example, if I want that ice cream I will stop and say, “No, Jesus, I give up this desire and give it to you. I will not eat that ice cream.” It is a sacrifice, an offering and one small step to mastering my body instead of it mastering me.
If we continue to pray and rely on Jesus as our peace and consolation, He will continue to grace us with ways to fight the temptations or addictions in our lives. Only God can win over the evil in this world, our bodies and of course, the devil. So, let’s go to Him and ask for His grace and His will to be done. Let’s rest in Jesus as our power and watch the temptations lose their grip.
Only through His graces have I walked away from so many sinful and addictive behaviors. You can find out more on my website.