“When it ends, and when you have a good habit to work with, do not forget the moments of the battle when you were wounded and disarmed and helpless. Do not forget that, for all your efforts, you only won because of God, Who did the fighting in you.” (Thomas Merton – New Seeds of Contemplation)
With Pharaoh hot on the trail of the Israelites, they cried out to God and let Moses have it: “You brought us to die in the desert, were there no burial places in Egypt?” But Moses, ignoring their sarcasm, encouraged them: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today…The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13)
When armies were bearing down on Jehoshophat, he gathered the people to pray. In that prayer meeting, prophets in attendance delivered this word from God: “You will not have to fight in this battle. Take your places, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord; he will be with you…Do not fear or be dismayed.” (2 Chronicles 20:17)
Here we encounter two episodes where the Israelites were facing down their enemies and instructed by God to stay still and let God do the fighting. Don’t take things into your hands against these enemies, you’ll never win alone. Be still, I have your back.
It’s tempting to think that we can eliminate sin and cultivate virtue in our lives by our own strength. I can conquer this if I just try hard enough, or am disciplined enough, or if I formulate enough strategies to overcome weakness. Discipline and strategies are good, but if we could eliminate sin by our own power alone, we would have no need for the sacraments. It is God who washes away our sin, and we are empowered by His Spirit to lead a life of virtue.
By God’s grace, we have been given the ability to take those first steps toward holiness, and if we cooperate He will lead us through every desert temptation and give us the strength to overcome our battle with sin.