May 15, 2011

Falling and Getting Back Up

Living in a culture of high-speed Internet, microwaves, smart phones, and pills for almost everything, I find myself expecting similar immediate results in my Christian walk. Indeed, the Christian book market is filled with formulas for saving your marriage, conquering depression, losing weight, and living the single life. But if you begin to read about the lives of the saints - individuals who went through great trials and testings - you observe a quite different picture. They battled sins and temptations their entire lives. In our American culture, this appears to be an individual failure - one should identify the problem, devise a solution, and eradicate it once and for all! But in the Kingdom of God, it is in the very struggle with sin that we can grow and make progress. Here is where we are weak. Such struggling requires continual communication with God and an appeal to his mercies, for he wants to help us and purify us.

It is helpful to be aware of where and how we fail in this process:
When we still fail, it is probably for one of three reasons.
First, we do not hate sin sufficiently as to be willing to “fight to the death” to avoid or overcome it. Our concupiscence hobbles us and keeps open the back door to our hearts, allowing access to the temptations we’re supposed to be valiantly fighting.
Second, we do not trust sufficiently in the power of God’s grace to heal or strengthen or protect us, but like St Peter, walking on the water and overestimating the supposedly superior forces of wind and water and gravity, we sink, even though the Lord already has given us to power to overcome.
And third, we hinder our progress by making excuses for ourselves, and so we never really break out of habitual failures, for we sabotage our own victory by telling ourselves, in effect, that such victory is unattainable, for this reason and that. But the Lord is still trying to whisper in our ear: “My grace is sufficient; come on, get up, you can do it; take My hand and you’ll see what I can do for you.” - Father Joseph

And there are these good words also:
The evil one cannot comprehend the joy we receive from the spiritual life; for this reason he is jealous of us, he envies us and sets traps for us, and we become grieved and fall. We must struggle, because without struggles we do not obtain virtues. - Elder Ieronymos of Aegina