Already defeated temptations
Since Lent is a pilgrimage, it is good to keep in mind that it’s normal to find some bumps in the road. St. Thomas More said that “no one gets to Heaven in a feather bed.” In other words, nobody said that it’s going to be easy to live as a Christian... look no farther than the One whom we follow and from whom we take our name: Christ.
In the temptations of Christ we can learn many things. For example, the place where they took place. “The desert” signifies much more than simply geographical location; what matters above all is the exposure, the necessity and the vulnerability of those in the desert. Whenever we experience being fragile, there we soon experience temptation. All temptations are attractive; otherwise they would not be temptations! Thus, we are “exposed” to the allure of sin in the desert. So in this sense, we can find ourselves in the “desert” at the grocery store, at work, even in the comfort of our living rooms.
Sin is always bad, but temptations can be good. Our time in “the desert” can be an opportunity to know ourselves better: in difficulties, do we turn to ourselves or to God? Do we prefer our will or His? Are we truly a follower of Christ or do we just call ourselves one?
Another positive result of temptation is that it brings us closer to Christ. Like Christ, we go to the desert to be tempted; but what we seek is not to be tempted as such, rather the good that comes from resisting the lies of the devil. All sin is a lie, because through it the sinner says, in effect, “this will make me happy,” while he knows that he has chosen a passing delight over the true happiness that God alone can give the soul. Temptations, then, are a true “crisis”, a time to decide between the truth (the will of God) and a lie (sin). If we resist the temptation, we decide to prefer Christ; we choose Him as our leader and lord, rather than Satan, the father of lies.
In addition, enduring temptations also serve to 1) root us more deeply in the true good (Christ) so that we may more easily resist the seduction of future temptations; 2) help us grow in humility by learning not to trust too much in our own strengths; and 3) help us grow in compassion for those who are passing through temptations, that we might be more patient and charitable with them.
As we admire Christ’s victory over sin and temptation this Lent, let us ask Him for the wisdom and strength to be victorious in all of our spiritual battles and thus for a new reason to praise His love and His grace.