It may sound counterintuitive, but choosing the harder path may make our life easier. Here’s why:
When caterpillars go into their cocoons for hibernation, they struggle against the barrier of the cocoon for months on end, trying to get out. It’s only when their wings have developed and they’re strong enough to fly that they are able to break free and escape. If a caterpillar were to somehow get set free from its cocoon before it was strong enough to escape on its own, it wouldn’t be able to fly, and would eventually die.
The same is true in a way for us. When we face struggles in life, they have great potential to make us stronger. Not only do hard things make us stronger, but they prepare us more for harder temptations, trials, and suffering in the future. In a way, we are made more able to handle future struggles because of the little hard choices we make daily.
Some struggles are greater than others, and maybe there are some things that you are constantly trying to avoid because they are so hard for you to do. But nevertheless, these are the struggles that you are faced with. These are the things God wants to make you stronger through. Because he knows what you need to continue on your path, and he knows that these struggles are not only going to make you stronger but will intensify the victories he has prepared for you. There are some things that come from struggle that are so much more glorious than a scare-free life, and the Lord is ready to show you what triumphs he has in store for you.
The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.” So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.” John 7:46–49
Hopefully the Pharisees mentioned above went through a deep interior conversion before they died. If they did not, then their day of particular judgment would have been shocking and frightening to them. The greatest act of love ever known was God becoming one of us, being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, growing up in the household of Saint Joseph, and eventually beginning His public ministry by which the saving truth of the Gospel was proclaimed so that all may come to know God and be saved. And it was of this act of perfect love given to us by God that the Pharisees attacked and called those who believed in it “deceived” and “accursed.”
Though the Pharisees do not offer us much by way of inspiration, they do provide us with many lessons. In the passage above, the Pharisees model for us one of the most common tactics of the evil one. In his spiritual classic, The Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola explains that when a person is moving from a life of sin to a life of holiness, the evil one will attack in various ways. He will try to unsettle you and cause an undue anxiety about serving God, he will try to sadden you with an unexplained sorrow, put obstacles in your way of virtue causing you to feel overwhelmed and think you are too weak to live a good Christian life of virtue, and he will tempt you to lose your peace of heart by doubting God’s love or His action in your life. It seems clear that this attack by the Pharisees also has these goals.
Again, though this may not appear “inspiring,” it is very useful to understand. The Pharisees were vicious in their attacks, not only to Jesus but also upon anyone who began to believe in Jesus. They said to the guards who were impressed by Jesus, “Have you also been deceived?” This was clearly the evil one at work through them trying to intimidate the guards and anyone who dared believe in Jesus.
But understanding the tactics of the evil one and his messengers is of great value, because it helps us reject the lies and deceptions spewed out at us. Sometimes these lies come from individuals and are directed directly at us, and sometimes the lies are more universal, coming through the media, the culture and even the government, at times.
My divine Judge of all, at the end of time You will establish Your permanent Kingdom of truth and justice. You will reign over all and will bestow Your mercy and justice on all. May I live fully in Your truth and never be deterred by the attacks and lies of the evil one. Give me courage and strength, dear Lord, as I always trust in You. Jesus, I do trust in You.
Reflect, today, upon the distasteful and bitter words of these Pharisees. But do so to help yourself understand the tactics the evil one often takes as you seek greater holiness in life. Be assured that the closer you get to God, the more you will be attacked. But do not be afraid. Identify any personal, social, cultural or even governmental attack for what it is. Have confidence and do not be deterred as you seek to follow Christ more completely every day.