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Distrust of Ourselves Under Temptation

“The Lord is the protector of all that trust in Him.”

-Psalm 17:31

One of the best means of overcoming temptations is to distrust ourselves and to place all our confidence in God, for as the Scripture notices in several places, it is this which chiefly moves Him to assist us in our temptations and sufferings.

“Because he hoped in Me, I will deliver him.” (Ps. 90:14). The prophet alleges no other reason to God than this, to oblige Him to have mercy on him, “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me; for my soul trusteth in Thee, in the shadow of Thy wings will I hope” (Ps. 56:1). It was the same reason that Azarias made use of in the fiery furnace when he begged of God to accept the sacrifice of his life, saying, “For there is no confusion to them that trust in Thee.” (Dan. 3:40). The Wise Man, in like manner, assures us that “No one has hoped in the Lord, and has been confounded.” (Ecclus. 2:2).

But let us now see why this entire distrust of ourselves and confidence in God is a means so well fitted to merit His help in our necessities. We have already touched on the reason in several places, and God Himself has given it to us when He said by the mouth of David, “Because he hoped in Me, I will deliver him; I will protect him, and I will deliver him, on condition that, acknowledging his deliverance to come from Me, he attributes it not to himself, but gives all the glory of it to My name.”

The reason, therefore, why God so particularly protects those who hope in Him is that they attribute nothing to themselves, but give all the glory of it to Him so that, as they are regardless of their own honor and attentive only to that of God, He takes their cause in hand and makes it His own business, as a thing that regards His own honor and glory. He acts not so towards those who confide in their own light and rely upon their own strength, but since they attribute all to themselves and thus usurp a glory which belongs to God alone, He leaves them to their blindness and weakness and permits them not to succeed in anything. For according to the Prophet, “he shall not delight in the strength of the horse; nor take pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, and in them that hope in His mercy.” (Ps. 146:10).

St. Austin says that God sometimes defers the help of His grace and permits that for a long time there should remain in us an inclination to certain vices without our being able to attain an entire victory over them. “And this not to destroy, but to humble us, that we may more esteem His grace and fear also that if we should find a facility in all things, we should believe that to belong to us which is His: an error very dangerous to religion and contrary to piety.” Without doubt, if things became so very easy, we should set less value on them and believe we were indebted to none but ourselves for them.

St. Gregory, explaining these words of Job, “Behold there is no help for me in myself” (Job 6:13), says, “It often happens that some virtue which we possess becomes an instrument of our destruction and that we should have been better off without it, because it fills us with pride by inspiring a vain confidence in ourselves. And by means of this pride, it kills the soul; while it seems to give it new strength, it throws it down a precipice, after it has separated it by presumption from that confidence it ought to have had in God.”

This abuse of God’s graces often causes Him to refuse them to us, permitting in a thousand occasions, that we should know by experience how little ability we have of ourselves to do anything that is good and allowing us to remain a long time in this state, to teach us humility and that we should not confide in or attribute anything to ourselves, but to render the glory of all to God alone. When we shall be in such a holy disposition of mind as this, then we may assure ourselves of His divine assistance and sing with the mother of Samuel, “The bow of the mighty is overcome, and the weak are girt with strength.” (1 Kings 2:4).

This article is taken from a chapter in The Soul Sanctified: Catholic Wisdom on the Way of Salvation which is available from TAN Books.

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