As we struggle with anger, gluttony, with judging others, sexual impurity, and a myriad of other passions, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. We find ourselves feeling defeated and tempted to give up the battle. Sometimes we even tell ourselves that we have no choice, for we were born this way or our temperament is the result of an abusive household.
There is certainly a kernel of truth in all of this, for we were born into a fallen world and are therefore influenced by the results of our first-born parents’ rejection of God’s love. Death is all around us because of ancestral sin, and our commitment to struggle with the passions is meant to return us to the Father. Yet this struggle is not about our power or strength, but simply surrendering to the Lord’s mercy who would save us.
This same merciful God knows how difficult a struggle we have and has given us the strength we need to progress towards purity and holiness. He furthermore rewards us each according to our abilities and rewards us based on our willingness to commit to the struggle, a struggle that is empowered by the grace that abounds when we call upon his holy name.
What do we do when we seem to succumb to the same old sins over and over? Do we simply surrender in defeat because we failed to curb our anger, blaming the family members or co-workers who know how to push our buttons? Do we give in to sexual passions because we’ve always done so, and curbing our appetite for pleasure would be too difficult? Do we gossip about others or judge them because everyone does so?
Or, do we ask God to help us with our anger and confess before a priest when we have fallen, and ask the person who pushed our buttons to forgive us for getting angry? Do we ask God’s forgiveness when we’ve given in to lust and promise to better guard our hearts and our eyes lest we fall again? Do we choose to remain silent when others around us are gossiping and perhaps even avoid those social settings where we know this will be happening?
The good news is that in our struggle with the passions we do not have to struggle alone. Our Lord Jesus Christ has promised to help us in our quest for purity and holiness. Like the holy Apostle Paul, we can say, “It is not me, but Christ in me,” that we are able to do good. Transformation of the heart is the direct result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit from whom we are given the power to change. All we have to do is approach God with a humble and contrite heart, and victory will be ours.