Our greatest spiritual battle is against ourselves

posted in: Prayer and Virtue | 9
File:Joan of Arc on horseback.png
Joan of Arc on Horseback (Wikimedia Commons). Our flesh is our greatest enemy.

Sometimes life is a war zone. So many things disturb our peace. The kids act defiantly. An important contract falls through at work. Our finances are in trouble. The phone rings during a serious conversation. These are all surface battles. The real war we fight is the war against ourselves.

God created man in love and goodness. Adam and Eve sinned. Evil entered their hearts. Where once it had been easy to do God’s will, it became a struggle. They passed this struggle down to us, their children.

I want to do good, but I don’t

St. Paul wrote, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members” (Romans 7:15, 21-22). Haven’t we all experienced this?

We start the day with a prayer for grace and resolutions to do God’s will. Then temptation hits us, and we give in to the sin that we promised God we would resist. We know we do not really want to be sinful. We know that disobeying God cannot make us happy. And yet, we give in, because we are weak, or tired, or—for a moment—indifferent to the consequences.

The exterior battles are difficult. They wear us out. But if we could win the battle within, the battle against our baser selves, we could maintain peace in our heart in every situation. How can we find this peace?

God fights with us

The first step is to remember that God is in control, even in our interior struggles. God knew that Adam and Eve would sin. He knew we would have to fight against the consequences of Original Sin, the concupiscence that tempts us. When a battle rages within us, we do not fight alone. God fights on the side of good.

God guides our hand in the battle, but he does not force it. He gave us free will and He respects our freedom. He quietly offers us the grace to conquer sin. We must choose to accept that grace. We must invite Jesus to conquer sin in us.

Sometimes, we will be too weak to do this. Sometimes we will fail. Failure is part of being human after the fall. We cannot avoid it. We should not be surprised or dismayed by it. Failure does not surprise or dismay God.

Humility wins every battle

Whatever the outcome of our initial struggle, we can still triumph in the end. When we sin, we can simply say, “Jesus, I’m sorry. I sinned. Please forgive me, and give me the grace to resist temptation next time.” We don’t need to anguish over our sins. When we calmly accept God’s forgiveness, we grow in humility and trust.

We can grow closer to God by accepting his grace in the midst of the battle and resisting the temptation to sin. And we can also grow closer to God by accepting his grace and forgiveness after we lose the battle, resisting the temptation to despair. No matter how many individual battles we lose, we can still win the war. Weak and sinful people that we are, we can still become holy. Nothing can stop the progress of grace in our lives except our refusal to embrace it.

Connie Rossini

Share with us: Are you fighting a battle that you can’t seem to win? Can you tell us about past triumphs?

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Hi, I'm a Catholic writer and homeschool mother of four boys. I practice Carmelite spirituality. Check out my Books page for publications to help your whole family grow in holiness.

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9 Responses

  1. Loyd McIntire

    Sometimes we think we’re all alone in this battle. Thank you for reminding me that I have company in this fight.

    • Connie Rossini

      That’s such a good point, Lloyd. Our interior battle really does seem like a one-man show sometimes. But we are all enduring the same kind of struggle, and God is fighting alongside each of us.

  2. Bice Comichista

    Connie your beautifully written article spoke exactly to the spiritual struggle I am having right now. Like the last paragraph especially. Thank you!

    • Connie Rossini

      We have all been there, Bice, and perhaps we always will be there! After all, we’re never going to avoid every sin in this life. I am so much more at peace since I learned from St. Therese that my failures don’t need to get in the way of my relationship with God. They can actually help me, as I am prone to pride. He’s the same, no matter how much I waver!

  3. Liesa

    Thank you for this insight. After many years of practicing my faith, with many, many ups and downs, this is the same conclusion I have come to. I have always shared that quote, “A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying” with others, but so rarely did I ever apply it to myself. I think as I grow older and death is a little closer, it has finally dawned on me how true this statement is. We stumble, we fall, and then we get back up and continue. Doubts and fears are what keeps us down, but we must keep our eyes on the prize. I feel like God tells me this everyday. Now a days, when I feel like a total failure, I just remember that God loves me and desires Heaven for me and that the main thing I have to do is not quit.

    • Connie Rossini

      Liesa, I’m so glad you’ve found this peace. Just a few minutes ago, I underwent this battle against myself again. I have certain temptations that I just hate, and even when I don’t give in I tend to feel terrible for even being tempted. But I was able to lay them at Jesus’ feet and place my trust in Him. We don’t have to feel down about ourselves.

  4. sajal chakraborty.

    Fantastic article to encourage oneself for to fight against sin

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