Anyone who wants to improve his or her spiritual life has to face temptation. Even Our Lord Jesus Christ had times of temptation. One of them was after His Baptism, when the Spirit took him into the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil (Lk 4:1-13). In this text, we can see types of temptations and how Jesus faces them. However, today I would like to consider with you why we have temptations in our lives. Of course, more important and wiser writers have already written many texts about this topic, but I want to share with you my own experience of how the Holy Bible helps me deal with temptations.
In the beginning, we should emphasize that temptations have been present, are present, and will continue to be present in our lives, especially when we want to be close to God. I remember very well that when I was thinking about my vocation, I often asked God about some sign. I wanted to be sure that my vocation was to be a priest. I had prayed very fervently about it and I received a sign. It was a fragment from the Book of Sirach: “My son, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity” (Sir 2:1-2). I was shocked at that time and I understood that everyone who wants to serve God should prepare himself for trials. I think that we might look at these words not just as advice for someone who wants to be a priest or religious. Rather, they are for everyone in the Church. Almost two hundred years ago, St. Vincent Pallotti presented the idea that everyone is called to be an apostle. It means that everyone is called to serve God by sharing his or her faith, to be close to Him, and finally to be holy. Documents of the Second Vatican Council confirmed this idea. Therefore, if we want to be with God, we should prepare ourselves for trials. In our spiritual life, temptations might be one of the trials. When we look at temptation as a trial, we can also recognize at least two important purposes for trials. They can make us a better version of ourselves and lead us closer to God.
The first purpose of trials we will find further in the Book of Sirach. The author of this book writes: “Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation” (Sir 2:4-5). These are awfully hard words, but they state two simple truths: for God, we are like gold, and we are dirty. In other words, we are very valuable to God, but we need to be cleaned. Consequently, the trial is like the fire that cleans us. St. Peter has a similar idea: “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” He is speaking about the faith that is tested by fire. Therefore, we can come to the conclusion that our faith, hope, love, and intentions must be tested in order to make us better. We need to be cleansed from our weaknesses and sins, and after that, we will shine as gold.
The second purpose of trials is to bring us closer to God. We can understand this better when we read the Bible attentively. The Holy Bible has thousands of examples where someone had gotten in trouble and he or she looked for help from God. Among multiple examples, I would like to share just one which is important for me. It is from Psalm 57: “Have mercy on me, God, have mercy on me. In you I seek refuge. In the shadow of your wings I seek refuge till harm pass by” (Ps 57:1). The author of this psalm knows that God can help him, so in the time of trial he is not hopeless, even though it seems terrible: “I lie in the midst of lions that greedily devour the sons of men; their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues sharp swords” (Ps 57:4). Times of trial become for him a time when he wants to be nearer to God. Moreover, he is certain that he will receive help: “He will send [help] from heaven and save me, he will put to shame those who trample upon me. God will send forth his steadfast love and faithfulness!” (Ps 57:4). These words are really helpful for me because they give me hope that God is not far away from me.
In conclusion, I know that we can find explanations for why temptations and trials are in our lives. The most important lesson is not to give up and to keep being near to God in that time.