I used to be a full fledged alcoholic. At the time I was actually proud of it. I gave in to every temptation to get drunk without putting up any kind of fight. However, when I began to understand that there were detrimental effects to my drinking, my falls to temptation became a source of despair. After fully converting to the Faith and giving up drinking for over 10 years now, I see temptations in a different way.
I eventually quit drinking when I was at my lowest. I was at rock bottom basically living in a drunken stupor everyday. Finally, I allowed grace to burst into my life as I started to frequent the sacraments and taught myself how to pray the rosary, beginning the climb up the mountain of sobriety. It was not easy, God played His part, and I still fell a lot (even getting drunk one time “on accident” right after leaving the confessional), but I learned to say yes to God and no to my sinful desires.
In the first few weeks of my sobriety there was temptation, but I had made the choice to live with a close friend and his family so that I would not fall so easily. I was able to put myself in a safe environment to help myself battle the temptations I faced. It was easier to say no in these surroundings.
I continued to attend Mass and Confession on a regular basis as well as pray the daily rosary which truly helped me in my battles. Implementing these tools and staying in my safe place helped me overcome the temptation to drink. This helped me to reject alcohol over and over again, building up my will to be able to decline the thing that I had desperately needed to get through the day.
I eventually completed three more years of college and graduated from Grad School where I was often around folks who liked to drink, without giving in to a single drop. Each day, strengthening my resolve more and more to not drink, I continued to overcome temptation. It has truly been a miraculous experience.
Today, I receive the Blood of Christ at Mass, but have no issue with turning down alcohol. I have absolutely no problem being around it and support anyone who chooses to drink moderately. But I know that it was not always easy and I understand that I have been able to get to where I am, through God’s grace, by the many times I turned down the temptation to drink.
The falls to temptation that I experienced were bad. Very bad. However, the temptation itself was good for me. After a while, I was able to use the temptation to strengthen my will to say no to the sin of purposefully getting drunk.
In this way, we can recognize that all temptation, all trials, are a way for us to grow in our Faith and relationship with God. They help us to be cleansed of our imperfections as we are purified in the fire like gold and silver. If we respond correctly, we are better for the fact that we experienced these trials of temptation.
St. James tells us, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials” (Jas 1:2). Consider it all joy! He goes on to say that we are put to the test to help us grow in perseverance. Temptation helps us grow.
It is important to keep this in mind and to remember the difference between temptation, which is made more difficult by concupiscence, and sin itself. We do not sin just for the fact that we are tempted. Many have fallen to despair for this. The attraction to sin is a part of human life.
It is only when we choose to give in to an attraction to sin that we commit a sin. A person can be attracted to another and be tempted to lust after him or her. However, if the person chooses not to lust, there is no sin. A person can suffer from a strong desire to act on anger and really hurt someone, but there is no sin if the person rejects this temptation.
We will always experience temptation and an inclination to sin due to concupiscence, but we do not need to give in to it. In fact by rejecting temptation and overcoming it, we use the temptation to battle our concupiscence.
In this way, we witness God bringing good out of our fallen predicament. After the Fall we suffer greatly from our tendency to sin and temptation, but God helps us to say no to these and grow through our overcoming them.
Therefore, we can view temptation as something that is good for us. God allows it to happen so that our love for Him increases and our selfish love decreases. We simply ask that he not give us more than we can chew, which is what we do when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.”
We pray this phrase in the Our Father to petition God that He may allow only what we can handle in our daily battles. This is not a request for God remove all temptation from our lives. Teaching about this petition, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “When we pray it, we are saying to God: ‘I know that I need trials so that my nature can be purified. When you decide to send me these trials, when you give evil some room to maneuverer, as you did with Job, then please remember that my strength only goes so far. Don’t overestimate my capacity. (Jesus of Nazareth, 163).”
We remember that through everything that happens, God brings only good out of it for those who love Him. Even if we fall, we must not love the fall, we must love the fight. We are warriors in battle and we can use the very tricks of our enemy to defeat him and remain in God’s Grace.