“Thy word enlivened me.”
“God is faithful,” says the Apostle, “who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able, but will make also with the temptation an issue, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13).
This ought to be a great comfort to us in temptation. We already know on the one hand that the devil has no power but what God gives him and can tempt us no further than God permits, and on the other, that God will not permit the devil to tempt us above our strength. Who is there to whom this assurance ought not to give comfort and courage?
Upon these words of Sacred Scripture, “Jesus having entered into the boat, His disciples followed Him, and behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves; but He was asleep” (Matt. 8:23).
St. Ambrose, says that the elect of Our Lord and those who accompany Him are tempted just like others; nay, regarding temptation, it even sometimes happens that God “pretends to sleep,” thus industriously hiding the love He bears His children, that He may require them to have recourse more to Him.
But He sleeps not, nor does He at all forget them. It seems to a sick person that the night is longer than ordinary and that the day is very long in coming, notwithstanding that it comes at the ordinary time. So in like manner, though God seems to you who are sick to stay away longer than He should do, yet it is not so.
He knows at what time precisely He ought to come, and He will not fail to do so. “If it [the vision] make any delay, wait for it; for it shall surely come, and it shall not be slack.” (Hab. 2:3).
Regarding this method of acting, St. Austin explains our Saviour’s conduct when the sisters of Lazarus sent Him word that their brother was sick. “This sickness,” He said, “is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” (John 11:4). After this He waited two days longer, to make the miracle He planned to perform all the greater. It is thus, adds the Saint, that God sometimes treats His servants: He leaves them for some time in temptations and sufferings and seems as if He has forgotten them, but it is in order to procure greater advantages for them.
God allowed Joseph to remain long in prison, but He afterwards drew him out of it with greater glory to make him governor of all Egypt. Therefore, if He leaves you for a long time in temptation and suffering, it is to draw you out of them in a way more advantageous to His own glory and your salvation.
St. Chrysostom makes the same remark upon these words of the Psalmist: “Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death.” (Ps. 9:15). Observe, he says, that the prophet does not say, “Thou who dost deliver me,” but, “Thou that dost lift me up from,” because God is not contented with delivering His servants from temptations, but He makes temptations serve to their greater elevation and glory.
Therefore, though you feel yourself overwhelmed and imagine yourself to be already within the gates of death, yet you ought to believe firmly that God will draw you forth from there. “The Lord killeth and maketh alive; He bringeth down to hell, and bringeth back again.” (1 Kings 2:6). “Though He should kill me,” says Job, “I will trust in Him.” (Job 13:15).
St. Cyprian, desiring to inspire us with the same confidence, makes use of the words of God in the prophet Isaias: “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, and called thee by thy name: thou art Mine.
When thou shalt pass through the waters, I will be with thee, and the rivers shall not cover thee: when thou shalt walk in the fire, thou shalt not be burnt, and the flames shall not burn thee; for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.” (Is 43:1, 2, 3).
Those words also, of the same prophet, are well fitted to strengthen us in the same holy confidence: “As one whom the mother caresses, so will I comfort you.” (Is 66:13). Imagine with what marks of love a mother receives her infant when, being frightened at anything, it casts itself into her arms.
How she embraces it, how she presses it to her breast, how she kisses and tenderly caresses it, but the tenderness of God for those who have recourse to Him in temptations and dangers is without comparison far greater. It was this that gave so much comfort to the Psalmist when he cried out to God, “Be Thou mindful of Thy word to Thy servant, in which Thou has given me hope. This hath comforted me in my humiliation; because Thy word hath enlivened me.” (Ps. 118:49-50). Let us animate ourselves with the same hope, and let us make it the subject of our comfort because, as the Apostle says, “It is impossible that God should lie” (Heb 6:18) or violate His word.
This article is taken from a chapter in The Soul Sanctified: Catholic Wisdom on the Way of Salvation which is available from TAN Books.