The purpose of our life on earth is
to know God, love God and serve God so that we can be happy with God forever in
heaven. This many of us learned in our basic catechism years ago. Saint
Ignatius in the consideration Principle and Foundation expresses the same
concept in these words: “Man is created
to praise God, reverence God, serve God and by means of that save his soul.”
(Spiritual Exercises # 23)
The spiritual writers warn us of the
three major enemies on our road to salvation: the devil, the flesh and the
world. In this article we would like to illustrate fifteen of the many tactics
that the devil often will utilize so as to trick us, trap us, tackle us, and
try to enslave us to sin. A keen knowledge of these astute and cunning tactics
of the devil can be of enormous help in our struggle, with the super-abundant
grace of Almighty God, to attain the eternal salvation of our immortal soul.
May Our Lady intercede for us and help us in our battle against the ancient serpent.
KRYPTONITE. We all know the story of SUPERMAN. He has superhuman strength, could fly, leap
over huge buildings, and many other heroic feats. However, once he was exposed
to the fictional element that we know and call KRYPTONITE he was as weak as any
other human person. Applied to your
spiritual life, you should know you own KRYPTONITE. The devil knows very well your weak point and
weak points, but we are ignorant of them. In this state we are very weak and
vulnerable. Achilles was strong with the exception of his heel. Samson had
strength, somewhat like Superman but when his hair was shaved Samson was
rendered weak and vulnerable and his eyes were gouged out. This is the 14th Rule for
discernment in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. In a word, remember the maxim of the desert
Fathers: “Know thyself!” Know your
LACK OF PRAYER AND STRONGER
TEMPTATIONS. Our spiritual life is a
constant battle against the devil, the flesh and the world. If we give up prayer it is almost certain
that we will succumb to and fall into temptation. A very clear example is that
of the Apostles in the Garden. They fell
asleep when they should have been watching and praying with the Lord for an
hour. Consequently, they fell into temptation and abandoned the Lord. As Jesus
prophesied, Peter denied Jesus three times. Remember the words of Jesus: “Watch
and pray so that you be not put to the test; the spirit is willing but the
flesh is weak.”
STATE OF DESOLATION. Another prime time that the devil will lift
up his arms and launch his grenades is when the devil notices that we are in a
state of desolation. What does this mean?
Clearly this! When we feel sad,
depressed, lonely, discouraged, life has no real meaning, and nobody really
seems to love or care for us, in this state we must be very careful because most assuredly temptations will come
at us in one form or another. In the
state of desolation we should strive to pray more and even more fervently as we
contemplate Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was experiencing a
powerful desolation, but he prayed all the more fervently to the Heavenly
IMPURE THOUGHTS. Impure thoughts at times will invade our
mind. This is to be expected while we
live! Solid spiritual theology and direction
clearly points out to us that these thoughts are not sins. On the contrary, every time that we manfully
reject these indecent thoughts we grow in merit and in the opposite virtue
which is that of purity. It is recounted that the great Saint Anthony of the
desert had a temptation against purity that lasted a full year. He never gave
in and finally Jesus appeared to him to comfort and congratulate him for having
fought the good fight against this prolonged and powerful temptation. Sin is
committed when we give consent in the will to the evil proposed by the devil.
NEAR OCCASION OF SIN—PLAYING WITH
FIRE. All too often temptations come
upon us because we put ourselves in the near occasion of sin. We all know these sayings: “He who plays with fire will get burnt.” And
this one: “He who walks on thin ice will fall.” Finally, “he who walks in a
slippery slope will slip and fall.” One
of the best examples is in the case of our first parent EVE. She was close to
the tree and the forbidden fruit. There were most likely many trees with
delicious fruit hanging from their branches. Why did she get close to the tree
with the forbidden fruit? It was a near occasion of sin and she fell! Keep away from near occasions of sin and
harm’s way! Otherwise disaster will visit you!
LAZINESS—NOTHING TO DO! Another spiritual maxim for you: “Idleness is the workshop of the devil.” The
great saint and educator, Saint John Bosco, experienced a mortal fear for his
young boys during the vacation months. The reason? They were sent home and away from the Oratory
and had all of the free time in the world.
The devil takes quick advantage of this.
A saint once said: “When we are
working diligently still a devil might be there to tempt us. However, when we
have nothing to do an army of devils descend on us!” We should always be engaged in wholesome
activities, be they physical, intellectual or spiritual so as not to open up
the door to the enemy, the devil!
T.V. AND ELECTRONIC WORLD. Even though objectively the electronic
media—t.v., radio, movies, and the internet are neutral, still it must be
admitted that it is very easy for us to visit dangerous and morally damaging
areas—especially in the realm of pornography.
Another tactic and maneuver of the devil is not only to get us to fall
into sin, but to enslave us to sin. We call this an addiction. Addiction to the crude reality of pornography
is indeed one of the chief tools the devil uses to tempt, to seduce, to
captivate, to enslave, and to form a deeply entrenched addiction. Some studies
have pointed out that addiction to pornography can be more powerfully addictive
than addiction to cocaine and other drugs!
PAST HURTS—OBSESSIONS! It is not uncommon that the devil can fish
into our past and bring images into our mind in the present. This is especially
the case with respect to past wounds. I think all of us have experienced this case
where, out of the blue or out of nowhere, a past hurt in which possibly a
family member who hurt us even years ago surfaces in our mind. There that
painful image is present causing us pain, anguish and definitely taking away
our peace of mind, heart and soul. This thought can be transformed into a fixed
idea; it simply will not leave us. This could be termed a diabolical
obsession—a fixed idea that will not leave us in peace! The remedy to this
interior struggle with the enemy is to go to one’s confessor or to one’s
spiritual director and to reveal this to him.
Usually after divulging this the temptation and the obsession crumbles,
dissipates and evaporates like smoke. The devil can easily turn mole hills into
huge mountains. Transparency and openness to one’s spiritual director is
PAST ROMANCES. Parallel to the past hurts that can easily
surface and rankle the soul is the play of the devil on our emotions and
feelings, especially related to past emotional, affective, and romantic ties.
How often is the case of a married man or woman that out of the blue a thought
surfaces in the mind of a past boyfriend/girlfriend and how good it use to be
with that person. Frequently these past romantic images will surface when one’s
present marital status is shaky or even on the rocks. The devil can compare
your “X” lover with your present spouse. The devil will point out all of the
negative qualities of your present spouse; then he will accentuate and glorify
in graphic detail all of the excellent qualities of your past
boy-friend/girl-friend. In other words,
the devil is inciting adultery of the mind and feelings and emotions. One thing
is certain; the devil never goes in vacation. He works 25 hours a day, eight
days a week, and 366 days a year. As
vigilant soldiers we should always be in the guard for the attack of our
enemies—the evil spirits.
PROCRASTINATE—“THE DEVIL OF TOMORROW”.
Another major tactic of the devil is to convince us that we have a long
life and that we can put off important decisions and actions until tomorrow.
Often this is the case with respect to our prayer life. The devil can convince
us to get up late so as to avoid praying early in the morning. Or simply the
devil can convince not to do our prayers for the day, convincing us that we
need a rest and will pray much better tomorrow! If there is one thing that the
devil is, it is that of being CRAFTY!!!
11. DISCOURAGEMENT. Saint Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church,
states that after sin the worst thing that can befall us is that of giving in
to discouragement, losing hope and wanting to give up the daily battle. Like Judas, after a fall the devil will try
to convince us that we are a loser, a basket-case, that we will never be able to
overcome this failure! The good spirit teaches us that after a fall we should
get up, like the Prodigal Son and return to the loving embrace of the Heavenly
12. THE DEVIL OF
COMPARISONS. Another tactic of the devil
is to move us to compare ourselves to others. The devil will often work in this
way to point out the talents, qualities and good aspects of a friend or family
member; then the devil will highlight the fact that he/she is much better than
you. This results in sadness and bitterness of soul. Spiritual writers agree on
the fact that comparisons are odious and to be avoided like the plague. Do not
focus on others but focus on the talents and gifts that God has given you— this
is the best remedy!
13. DISTRACTIONS IN
PRAYER. If the devil cannot convince you
to give up prayer, then he will do all in his power to destroy your prayer. If
he cannot destroy it, then he will try to diminish its efficacy by assaulting
you with a huge variety of temptations.
The following are some examples of distractions that might visit you in
your Holy Hour: food, work activities, impure thoughts, a past hurt or even
that you are wasting your time at prayer and your time could be used much more
profitably by working—like in the case of Martha!
14. WEARINESS, FATIGUE,
AND SICKNESS. We should never forget
that when we are in a weak state that the devil will sometimes exert double
force. That is to say that when we are physically exhausted or run-down,
mentally drained, emotionally frazzled, or simply physically sick, the devil is
aware of this and may even attack us more forcefully. In other words our
spiritual life is a constant combat. We are in war-zone until we die!
15. TEMPTATIONS AGAINST
JESUS AND MARY. The devil is so astute that He can sometimes even tempt us
against God Himself. Due to an untimely death the devil can tempt those who are
weak in their faith to doubt God’s love and providence. The devil can even
tempt us against the love and maternal presence of Mary in our lives. All too
often the devil can launch this attack: “If you pray to Mary and love her then
you will be diminishing the importance that Jesus merits from you in your
spiritual life. Many saints have had these and similar temptations!
In conclusion, let us calmly and prayerfully
read over these various ways that the devil is known to tempt us and be ready
as soldiers of Christ to resist immediately and manfully the onslaught of the
devil and have quick recourse to Jesus and Mary, being fully aware that God’s presence
and grace is much more powerful than the assaults of the enemy. Our help is in the name of the Lord who made
heaven and earth.