The ARM of St. Michael
The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. Exodus 14:14
Our recovery is from malformation, broken flesh. This distortion is often the bitter fruit of years of unconscious and conscious addiction, but can also be rooted in deep imprinting at a critically impressionable time of development. Often, we aren't just addicted - we suffer an invisible structural-behavioral deformity.
The recurrence of temptation seems to pose a discomfiting question: "Can you really be made new?... see? your affliction never goes away!" The voice of Satan always seeks to destroy hope and faith. But he is a liar. Sin and temptation are not the same thing, nor is temptation a sign that healing hasn't or isn't occurring. God does not tempt his children. Only Satan tempts.
As sobriety blesses us, our life becomes more conformed to God's will and plan. There is rest in longer and longer periods of freedom from temptation. The awesome beauty of a loving God healing and bringing abundant life, settles upon us. It is almost beyond belief.
But while we are not looking (i.e. being human), the ego can slip back in behind the wheel, thinking it has no need for protection since the occurrence of unstruggling periods seem to become more "inevitable". Yet temptation can and often does return, and with it perhaps, an uncured, unexamined self-reliance or fear. If we have lived a long time watching our helpless self drink what we hate whenever it comes up, it is almost natural to dread temptation.
Has this invisible fear that arises the moment temptation appears ever been fully examined before? Through prayer we can move beyond unconscious fear, by the mercy of God's grace. We need to slow down. Historically the addict mind identifies strongly with all the "predictable" parts of the temptation script, unwittingly expecting that the script can only play out one way. There can be a blind spot -- addiction to distress and fear, which have been 'uptaken into the script' by high rate of historical failure to resist temptation. But distress and fear are lies too.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4: 7 We don't resist the Devil because we have never defeated him by our self. With our own hands we have never been able to surgically remove the unclean thought. But we may have still secretly made a basic attachment to self-reliance, thinking "I have to somehow master this, I'm the one who is the addict".
There is a bigger space holding our anxiety and self-reliance: it is silence, a quiet unperturbed sense that the upstart mind and the dead past are lies. Insidiously compelling as it may seem, the body does not have to helplessly follow a preset script. The deeper temptation is to believe the well-worn false proposition that 'fear makes real'. Our enemy is called the Deceiver.
If we find ourselves saying, "No! I will not be taken prisoner, I will not say yes to the curse again!" Or "I would rather die than be lead into the nagging stupidity of the dead past!" Or, "Fold up my life now O God, for I do not want to die by my own hapless hands!" Or, "I die not dying now! Have mercy on me God of Safety", we will be comforted by the positive proof that the life of the Spirit is alive and well in us.
Certainly before there is any hormonal escalation, or the trance that follows it, there is a grace of inner silence, Christ coming to us to gently avert obsession before it starts. The "anti-temptation" is seeing the opportunity for a mental non-reaction. Peace can be preferred over anxiety and self-reliance. Freedom can be preferred over distress and control. Temptation can be discerned apart from sin and we can choose to be certain of our no. We can shape our prayer accordingly:
In the name of Jesus I renounce the spirit of thinking
In the name of Jesus I renounce the spirit of calculation
In the name of Jesus I renounce the spirit of control
In the name of Jesus I renounce the spirit of self-reliance
In the name of Jesus I renounce the spirit of fear
In the name of Jesus I renounce the spirit of anxiety
In the name of Jesus I renounce the spirit of helplessness
In the name of Jesus I renounce the spirit of irritation
In the name of Jesus I renounce the spirit of involuntary resentment of what I am suffering
In the name of Jesus I renounce the spirit of addiction
In the name of Jesus I take custody of every thought
I take authority over all of these unclean spirits and command them to leave immediately and quietly in the name of Jesus.
It was hard to ever notice before, its window of time so small. But it is there, we have to slow down, slow the mind down which always rushed ahead to the "inevitable". The mind is the problem, which must be what Jesus called "the fullness of the heart" from which he said evils issue. The long-sick heart clings to the "reliability" of self-hardening fear, which is not love.
Our resistance to Satan is silence. Our response to Satan might be to read scripture to him. Jesus IS the unconquerable silence. St Therese of Lisieux (Feast day October 1) said "Jesus alone is perfect joy when he appears to be absent." We are resting in God, keeping calm, saying no to the furious mind that wants the fear to be real, the fog of anxiety to rule. Christ is the Sun of the Kingdom.
Our love is well spent in gratitude, as much as can be poured out upon our protecting, safety-ensuring God. We have to keep moving toward silence, keep believing, keep praying, keep trying to be still and keep saying "You are mistaken Satan!" with confidence in our eternal Savior. By the power of His grace, we resist the noise of Satan, we say no to the chatter of calculation and the voice of the dead past.
There is also always the choice to do the unthinkable in the face of temptation -- to live the Gospel, by loving and serving our neighbor, right now.
Dear Jesus grant self-control without repression, allow us to permit temptations remembering always they are strengthening our weak trust muscles, that you will always deliver us, as quickly as we die to the life of our worrying thoughts and choose to rest in you instead of our restless selves. Amen.