“…for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”
As we begin the season of Lent in preparation for Easter, the issue of temptation takes center stage.
Reader’s Digest published a story about an overweight businessman who decided to shed some excess pounds. He took his new diet seriously, even changing his driving route to avoid his favorite bakery.
One morning, however, he showed up at work with a gigantic coffee cake. Everyone in the office was shocked, but he smiled at them and explained, “This is a special coffee cake. I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning and there in the window was a host of goodies. I felt it was no accident, so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to have one of those delicious coffee cakes, let there be a parking spot open right in front.’ And sure enough, the eighth time around the block, there it was!”
One of the central issues of Lent is temptation. But if the temptations we encounter in life were to relate only to coffee cakes, our problem will not be fundamental. Life is full of events that test our faith, create spiritual crises for us and leave us wondering if God is still with us. The story of Jesus’ temptation offers a powerful evidence God is present to us in our temptations. There is no place, no time, no circumstance beyond God’s ability to protect. But this is only possible if we know and love God. How do we cultivate knowledge and love of God; especially when he seems absent to us in crisis?
We need to change the expectations we have of God. Scriptures never suggest that bad things will not happen to us. Sometimes, we have this silent expectation. Jesus’ temptations were meant to refine his expectations. What does it mean to say that Jesus is God’s son? Jesus ignored the interpretation which the devil offered him in the three temptations. He understood that God alone is God and he would not succumb to idolatry and submitted completely to the will of God. We cannot subordinate ourselves to the divine will, like Jesus, without immersing ourselves in prayer and meditation on the scriptures.
Another way to discover God is to reach out to those who are suffering. According to St. Paul, we suffer affliction so that we can offer the same consolation we have received to those who are going through the same affliction (2 Corinthians 1:4). One of the pillars of Lent is almsgiving, which embraces any act of mercy that we extend to others. The challenge is to be open-hearted and ask the Lord to bring into our lives someone who needs our ministry and prayer. You will be surprised whom the Lord will send your way. Our ministry to those in need will take us away from our self-pity and give us a greater understanding of why God allowed the unpleasant situation in our lives, in the first place.