(c. 184 – c. 253)
And lead us not into temptation
How are we commanded to pray not to enter into temptation, when the whole of human life on earth is temptation? We are into temptation by the very fact that we are on earth, surrounded by flesh that wars against the Spirit, the mind of which is hostile to God, since it can in no way submit to God’s Law (cf. Jas 4:1; 1 Pet 2:11; Gal 5:17; Rom 8:7)…. How is it our Saviour commands us to pray not to enter into temptation, since God somehow tempts everyone? “The Lord scourges those who draw near to him, in order to admonish them” (Judith 8:27). And it is written in the Acts of the Apostles, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Paul told the Corinthians not that they would not be tempted, but that God would favour them with not being tempted beyond their power (cf. 1 Cor 10:13). He received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one, was beaten with rods three times, was stoned once, was shipwrecked three times, was adrift at sea a night and day (cf. 2 Cor 11:24-25; 2 Cor 4:8-9; 1 Cor 4:11-13)…. Paul, who was rich with all speech and all knowledge (1 Cor 1:5), was freed from the danger of sinning on account of this by being given a thorn of Satan to harass him to keep him from being too elated (cf. 2 Cor 12:7).
They who are healthy and wholesome in body sometimes suppose that they are beyond all temptation because of that very health and wholesomeness. But to what others does the sin of destroying God’s temple (cf. 1 Cor 3:17) belong than to those who are healthy and wholesome… if they do not keep their heart with all vigilance (Prov 4:23)?
Now some may think they are not tempted when they are glorified by others. But how can we avoid the hard saying, “They have received their reward from men” (Mt 6:2)? And how can we avoid the rebuke, “How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (Jn 5:44). Therefore let us pray to be delivered from temptation not by avoiding temptation (for that is impossible), but by not being defeated when we are tempted. Now I suppose that the person defeated in temptation has entered into temptation, since he or she is caught fast in its meshes…. Thus it is written, not to enter into temptation (Lk 22:40; Mt 26:41; Mk 14:38)…. Since someone who enters into temptation is conquered, it is absurd to suppose that God leads anyone into temptation as if he were giving him up to be conquered.
A quick and too brief healing causes some to think lightly of the diseases into which they have fallen as though they were easy to heal, and since this results in their falling into the same diseases a second time after they have been healed, God in such cases will reasonably overlook the evil as it increases to a certain point, even disregarding it when it progresses so far in them as to be incurable. His purpose is that they may become surfeited by long exposure to evil, and by being filled with the thing they desired they may become aware of the harm they have suffered. Then they come to hate what they previously welcomed. [When the Israelites were complaining to Moses about having no meat to eat] he replied: “The Lord will give you eat to eat and you shall eat meat. You shall not eat one day or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you” (Num 11:18-20).
Now the use of temptation is something like this. What our soul has received escapes everyone’s knowledge but God’s - even our own. But it becomes evident through temptations, so that we no longer escape the knowledge of what we are like. And in knowing ourselves we are also conscious, if we are willing, of our own evils; and we give thanks for the good things that have been made evident to us through temptations…. Eve’s easy deception and the unsoundness of her reasoning did not come about when she listened to the serpent and disobeyed God, but was in existence even before she was tested. And this was why the serpent approached her…. Not even in the case of Cain did wickedness begin when he killed his brother (Gen 4:8). For even before that, God (who knows the heart) had no regard for Cain and his sacrifice (Gen 4:5). But his evil was made evident when he slew Abel.
Deliver us from evil
God delivers us from the Evil One not when the Enemy who wrestles against us (cf. Eph 6:11-12) has in no way attacked us… but when we are gaining the victory with courage by standing firm against what happens to us. This is how we have understood the verse “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, and God will deliver them out of them all” (Ps 34). For God delivers us from afflictions not when we are no longer in affliction… but when in our affliction we are not crushed because of God’s help (cf. 2 Cor 4:8). “In affliction you have given me room” (Ps 4:1): for the sense of joy and good cheer that comes to us in critical times from God by the cooperation and presence of the Word of God, who encourages and saves us, is called “room.”