This is part 3 of a 6 part series on Temptation. If you’ve missed the first two, scroll down to the bottom of the article for the links.
Here are 6 ways in which we are tempted. There may be others, and if you can think of them, please add your comments!
1 Separation from God: God is there inside of you, closer than your life vein, and he will help you through your temptation. But we don’t always feel His presence. In the midst of our temptation, we may feel as though God has deserted us, especially if we’ve prayed for him to remove the temptation and it doesn’t go away, but this is simply not true. He tells us:
At all times I am near unto thee, but thou art ever far from Me. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 21)
God hath revealed, that “We are closer to man than his life-vein” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 185)
Meditate on what the poet hath written: “Wonder not, if my Best-Beloved be closer to me than mine own self; wonder at this, that I, despite such nearness, should still be so far from Him.” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 185)
He understands how far we are from Him in this moment, and He wants us to come back to Him:
The sword of thy rebellion hath felled the tree of thy hope . . . While there is yet time, return, and lose not thy chance. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 21)
When we seek God and follow His ways, He always provides us with an escape from temptation. For example, people tell me that I need to set boundaries around my time but when I try to live a life of service and overbook my schedule, something always gets cancelled, or God stretches time. One time I had to grab something to eat before attending a meeting in another town. I had 45 minutes to accomplish what would normally take an hour, but I yielded to God, did what I needed to do, kept praying, and I arrived at the meeting on time. This has happened so frequently, that whenever I’m running late, I always ask God to stretch time for me, and He always does! And even better, it’s spiritually sound:
An individual must center his whole heart and mind on service to the Cause, in accordance with the high standards set by Bahá’u’lláh. When this is done, the Hosts of the Supreme Concourse will come to the assistance of the individual, and every difficulty and trial will gradually be overcome. (Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, p. 20)
2. Thinking it’s God’s way of teaching us something: Sometimes we justify it by thinking that either the temptation or the sin is God’s way of teaching us something but this is not true. Nowhere in the Writings does it suggest this. God can’t be tempted by evil and neither does He tempt us. We’re tempted when we’re drawn away by our own lust.
3. Blaming others: Sometimes we blame other people for our temptations, when in fact, we alone are responsible. Shoghi Effendi tells us that no one can affect our minds:
You should not be afraid anyone can affect your mind. Even when we want to catch the thoughts of those we love most we cannot do so, how much less other people succeed in penetrating our minds. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 518)
For example, for a long time I blamed my parents for setting me up for the anxiety and depression arising from years of childhood abuse. Now that my inner eyes have been opened, and I can see that as an adult, whose parents are dead and no longer able to hurt me, I’m responsible for continuing to believe in fear that isn’t real. I alone can change my thoughts and cast away fear.
The fears and agitation which the revelation of this [God’s] law provokes in men’s hearts should indeed be likened to the cries of the suckling babe weaned from his mother’s milk, if ye be of them that perceive. Were men to discover the motivating purpose of God’s Revelation, they would assuredly cast away their fears, and, with hearts filled with gratitude, rejoice with exceeding gladness. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 175)
4. It attacks our weakest spots: Don’t underestimate the power of temptation. It attacks us in our point of weakness and can cause us to change our minds when we least expect it. For example, we can be the best Bahá’í we know how to be all of our Bahá’í lives and then at the moment of death, when we’re tempted by fear of the unknown, or full of self-pity and feeling rejected and abandoned by everyone, including God, we can turn away:
By the righteousness of Him Who hath called thee into being and unto Whom ere long thou shalt return, if thou remainest, at the moment of death, a disbeliever in the signs of thy Lord thou shalt surely enter the gates of hell, and none of the deeds thy hands have wrought will profit thee, nor shalt thou find a patron nor anyone to plead for thee. (The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 19)
. . . which is why steadfastness is so important. With steadfastness, our faith will be unshaken:
Such must be thy steadfastness in the Cause of God, that no earthly thing whatsoever will have the power to deter thee from thy duty. Though the powers of earth be leagued against thee, though all men dispute with thee, thou must remain unshaken. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 339)
And we’ll be blessed, assisted and rendered victorious:
Today is the day for steadfastness and constancy. Blessed are they that stand firm and immovable as the rock and brave the storm and stress of this tempestuous hour. They, verily, shall be the recipients of God’s grace; they, verily, shall receive His divine assistance, and shall be truly victorious. They shall shine amidst mankind with a radiance which the dwellers of the Pavilion of Glory laud and magnify. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 17-18)
And will make us rich, filled with joy and assured of the perfections of heaven:
Steadfastness is a treasure that makes a man so rich as to have no need of the world or any person or any thing that is therein. Constancy is a special joy, that leads us mortals on to lofty heights, great progress, and the winning of the perfections of Heaven. (Shoghi Effendi, Bahíyyih Khánum, p. 148)
5. Through our egos: Temptation has defeated many people who were supposedly highly spiritually developed. Mason Remy and those closest to Bahá’u’lláh who became covenant breakers came to mind.
6. Through mutual deceit: Sometimes the temptation in one person hooks up with the temptation in another, so both people fall into sin together. Our lower natures are masterful at organizing these dynamics. For example, one spouse yells at another, and the other spouse yells back. When two people argue, both are wrong:
The more the friends argue back and forth and maintain, each side, that their point of view is the right one, the worse the whole situation becomes. (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)
I hope you’ll let me know what you think of these ideas, and then continue on to the next few articles, as I explore this topic more fully.
In part 1, we look at What is Temptation?
In part 2, we look at The Steps of Temptation Leading to Sin
In part 4, we look at Why We are Tempted
In part 5, we look at Things We Can Do When We are Tempted
In part 6, we look at: The Consequences of Temptation and How to Prevent It