Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Devil Never Stops

The other day I invited you to let me know how your Great Lenten Journey was going by using the “Tell us what you think” form on my website. Today’s Daily Lenten Journey post is a response to a comment I received yesterday....“Once I set foot out of the church it seems the devil is always trying to trip me up. More so during lent than not.”

One of the allures of a monastery is that many people think monastics don’t have temptations like those of us in the world. This is especially true when we visit a monastery for a few hours and return home filled with peace and looking forward to growing closer to God once we return to our routine. Then suddenly, once we step across the property line (it seems) the devil begins with a vengeance trying to beat us down. The same thing can, and often does, happen when we attend Lenten services in the Church. Once we leave the Church, the temptations start all over again. When this happens to you, first you must understand YOU ARE NOT IMAGINING THINGS. The devil is indeed trying harder to trip you up.

Great Lent, if we are taking it seriously as our Daily Lenten Journey has been urging us, is a period of INCREASED spiritual intensity, similar to a visit to a monastery. First we shouldn’t be surprised that while in the Church for Lenten services (or any services for that matter) we feel closer to God. We are in His physical presence. Secondly, we should not be surprised that we notice the real difference between the temptations inside the Church (there are ALWAYS temptations) and temptations outside the Church. As the Church teaches, and we sing in the Cherubic Hymn, “Let us lay aside all earthly cares that we may receive the King of All,” when we enter the Church (Heaven on Earth) we change our focus, or at least we should.

Everything seems fine so long as we are inside the Church, smelling the incense, hearing the bells, singing with the chanters or choir, venerating the Holy Icons and Relics, and feeling the hard marble floor on our knees as we do our prostrations as we worship God. This will in fact lift our spirit closer to God. Then we leave the Church and return to the world. Remember our Daily Lenten Journey post from earlier about Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden. Once they left the comfort of the Garden they (we) had to suffer the reality of a world without God’s protection.

In a similar way, though God DOES protect us, when we leave the Church after services and return to the world, we are entering a world that is not focused on God. Just as Adam and Eve had to focus attention on survival, so do we have to survive. Our attention outside the Church is suddenly returned to “How am I going to pay the bills this week?” And once we begin to turn our attention away from God, as Eve turned her attention toward the Tree in the Garden, the devil has an open window through which to attack. And attack he does.

So why does he try more during Great Lent than at other times? There are two reasons. First, he isn’t actually trying harder. We might just be more aware of his temptations because we are working harder to remain focused on God. Imagine Eve in the Garden for a moment. Imagine she has her back to the Tree and staring constantly at God. The devil might be jumping up and down behind her, but she never realizes. This is like us being in Church during Great Lent. Then she turns and sees the Tree and seeing its beauty and imagining how tasty is must be (See the story in Genesis 3), she also sees the devil jumping up and down next to the Tree trying to get her attention. NOW, she has to work harder at ignoring the devil’s temptation along with the Tree and turn her eyes back toward God. The more she contemplates the Tree, the harder it gets to turn her eyes away.

The second reason is seems like the devil is trying harder during Great Lent is because he is trying harder. Once Eve turned her attention completely toward the Tree the devil had to work much less to convince her to eat the fruit. The truth is, the more the devil has our attention the less he has to work for it.

So during Great Lent, when we are working more intensely to focus our attention on God, the devil has to work harder to compete for our attention, and the more we focus on God the more we are aware the devil is behind us jumping up and down. So it isn’t surprising that you feel greater temptations during Great Lent once you leave the Church, but that doesn’t mean you give up the fight. It just means you are making progress. The more you work to keep your attention on God, the more the devil has to work to get your attention away from Him. Whatever you do, don’t give up because the devil never stops!

Using the link to the left, “Tell us know what you think” and let us know about your Lenten Journey, and we can share your story with others. Together we can help each other Live A New Life In Christ.

1 comment:

Carol Piechnik said...

Thank you for the writing "The devil never stops". I will be more aware of the increased activity of satan and keep my focus on the Lord. This reminds me of a saying on a TV talk show, "you can't fix what you don't acknowledge ." God Bless You!, Carol