The Main Way to Conquer Temptation
1. God never allows us to be tempted beyond our strength, but will always give us the grace which we need in order to resist. “God is faithful,” St. Paul writes, “and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will always give you a way out that you may be able to bear it.” (Cor. 10:13)
The man who is so discouraged by frequent falls that he surrenders to temptation and resigns himself to the slavery of sin as if there were no other way out, is making a fatal mistake. God is infinitely good and merciful and loves us all, even those who are sinners. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son and of the lost sheep. How could our heavenly Father abandon us and not give us the strength to resist evil?
If we are discouraged, let us ask God's help, for He loves us and knows how weak we are. “He knows how we are formed.” (Ps. 102:14) It is a favourite trick of the devil to persuade us that nothing can help us. Let us cast aside all thoughts of discouragement, therefore, and arm ourselves with the necessary spiritual weapons. With humility, perseverance, and the grace of God, we are sure to triumph.
2. The masters of the spiritual life suggest various ways of combating temptation. As St. Alphonsus de' Liguori points out, however, “the first way is absolutely essential, and that is to pray to God for the light and strength to conquer. Without prayer it is impossible to overcome temptation, whereas with prayer we are sure of victory.” (Al Servizio Divino, p. 11, c. 6)
The reason is obvious. Prayer is not simply a verbal address to Almighty God, but is an elevation of the mind and heart, a conversation with God. Let us pray, therefore, with confidence and with love.
3. Jesus Himself commands us to do this. “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Mt. 26:41) Temptation against chastity in particular can only be conquered by prayer. There must be no hesitation, but an immediate recourse to God as soon as the temptation is experienced.
“Slay the enemy while it is small,”' recommends St. Jerome. When a lion is small, it is easily killed, but if we wait for it to grow up, it will be more likely to kill us instead. It is the same with temptation. St. Francis de Sales tells us that we should imitate the little children who fly to the arms of their father and mother as soon as they spy a wolf. We should fly to Jesus and Mary for protection.
As long as temptation lasts we should persevere in prayer.