Attend any sporting event and chances are you will see someone holding a sign that says “John 3:16.” This is certainly a wonderful verse from Scripture that I am glad to see broadcasted to the world—because everyone should know that God sent his only son to save us. However, I wonder how many people know the verse that follows:
“For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”John 3:17
I’m not sure the general opinion of non-Christians (or sadly, even some Christians) is that God is not out to condemn the world.
Think about how many times you have heard people joke that God is going to strike them down with a lightning bolt or send them to hell for something they said or did. While said in jest, I’m sure somewhere in their heart they actually are worried that God will smite them. And, don’t we all fear God’s wrath when we fall into sin? Don’t we all act similar to Adam and Eve after we have sinned and try to run and hide from God rather than run to him for mercy?
Negativity and Temptation
But perhaps it’s our own focus on negativity that directs our thoughts so easily to God’s justice than to his mercy. Think about your present moment—the stress of the day, worries about the family, temptations that are lurking, insecurities, doubts, lack of motivation, self-criticism—the negativity so easily piles up. It can be really easy to beat ourselves up, even more, when we sit down to pray, thinking, “Wow! So much for picking up my cross and following the Lord today. God must not be very pleased with me.”
It is tempting to see the Cross not as an act of tremendous mercy on God’s part, but a tremendous failure on our part; and, if we give in to this temptation we condemn ourselves because we think God does too, and we become discouraged. The temptation to condemn ourselves is strong and very dangerous! So let’s talk about temptation. St. Francis de Sales says:
“I tell you this so that if you ever happen to be attacked by strong temptations you can know that God confers an extraordinary favor on you. By it he declares that he wants to make you great in his sight but that you must always be humble and self-fearful. Your only assurance that you will be able to overcome little temptations even after you have prevailed over great ones is by constant fidelity to his majesty. No matter what temptations may come to you and no matter what pleasure accompanies them, as long as your will refuses consent not only to the temptation but also to the pleasure, they should not disturb you since God is not offended by them.”
Did you catch that line? God confers an extraordinary favor on you. WHAT? Yep. Extraordinary favor. These daily crosses, these attacks against purity, chastity, humility, self-control—are extraordinary favors from God because of the glory of the Cross. Christ has transformed our suffering through his own suffering. So when we resist temptation—carry our cross—we unite our suffering with his and receive the graces he merited on the Cross.
This is easy to recognize with the usual temptations, but what about those temptations that I mentioned earlier? What about the ones that tell us we are not carrying our crosses well, that we’re not good at being holy disciples, that in fact, we shouldn’t be helping others in their faith because we don’t have our own figured out yet? Those are self-condemning temptations! They must be resisted and rejected even more so than the temptations to indulge in pleasure or lose our patience. These are the temptations that cripple our spiritual lives and paralyze our prayer. These are the temptations that lead to frustration and anger with God and we easily lose our peace and motivation to persevere.
But, these are also the temptations that, if resisted, will confer upon us those extraordinary favors that God promises. So let us rejoice today in the Cross! Let us examine our hearts and see where we need to hold more firmly to the Cross and keep our gaze forever fixed on him. Today, let our hearts hear Jesus speak from the Cross and say to us: I love you, my beloved; do not be afraid to look upon me with love! Let us linger for a moment longer at the foot of the Cross today and rejoice.
You May Also Like:
Does God Ever Lead Us into Temptation? [Fr. Mike Podcast]
How to Face Temptation [Fr. Mike Video]
Where Is God When Tragedy Strikes?
The Way of the Cross: Praying the Psalms with Jesus [Book]
Caroline Harvey is the associate communication director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Prior to working at the archdiocese, Caroline worked in various ministry positions throughout southeast Wisconsin, focusing on teaching and discipleship. She is pursuing a doctor of ministry degree in liturgical catechesis from the Catholic University of America. She has a master of arts degree in biblical theology and a bachelor of arts in communications media from John Paul the Great Catholic University.
Featured photo from pxfuel