What's the REAL Threat?
Many years ago Archbishop Fulton Sheen pointed out that sometimes God lets us struggle with carrying certain crosses in life in order to protect us from larger, more dangerous ones. For instance, Sheen explained, God may allow someone to struggle very desperately with lust in order to avoid the greater sin of pride. A person so aware of his or her own weakness in this area may be more able to discover humility and thus avoid be drawn into the devastation that awaits when we are caught up in pride and vanity.
It has been suggested that Mother Teresa was allowed by the Lord to struggle with very long and painful periods of doubt and feelings of separation from God in order to protect her from growing fond of fame and the spotlight. In the public eye for decades, she could perhaps have fallen quite easily in love with all of the attention if it were not abundantly clear to her that she needed to exhaust herself in her search for the God she was frequently tempted to doubt even existed.
Even Saint Paul, legendary convert and champion of Christ to the ends of the earth
described a "thorn" that he begged God to remove time and time again. But the God who always sees our lives in their entirety had different plans:
"To keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me... Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
And that, I would say, is the point here. Our spiritual lives are not ultimately reliant upon our own strength. God is our strength. It is all too often the case that we lose sight of this reality. If not unchecked, pride can be like a magnet pulling on us from all directions at all times. It has a way of distracting us so that we aren't even aware that it's pride we're facing, and it's pride that seems to be the first and the last gap between us and God.
When Lucifer, the "light bearer", saw his magnificent beauty, he made a deadly choice. Giving way to pride, he tragically lost sight of the infinitely greater beauty of the One who had fashioned him. Every time we sin, we do the same thing. But God is merciful, and He loves me so much that He will spare no effort to save me.
Prayer is the key, I think. If we think of prayer as spending time with God, especially listening to Him in a quiet environment, we can begin to hear Him more clearly and more consistently. We can begin to hear what He is calling us to do and who to be in life, and we acknowledge His primacy in all things. We can then see the obstacles that stand in our way more clearly. Only then does it become possible for us to plan how to confront these struggles appropriately. In order to fight the right fight, I need to know who my enemy is. I need to resist distraction and diversion in order to know what the real threat is. May we all devote a little more time to God each day so that He can draw our attention to the areas in which we need the most healing and growth.