We are back from our Advent and Christmas silence and ready for a new year of grace, following the Holy Spirit’s guidance for evangelizing women. With that, I am going to begin by cross-posting a piece that I’ve written for Catholic Sistas.
Today, I will highlight the way that Satan deceives our minds in order to trigger negative emotions and lead us into discouragement, and, ultimately, despair. In the last two weeks, I’ve had at least three conversations with women who are beautiful, blessed, and economically comfortable; yet, each of these women was in great distress, sharing with me emotional pain such as sorrow at not being married or fear of miscarrying or regret at sinful choices. And, while these women were not sinning in their fear and sorrow, they had allowed their peace to be taken from them by the Enemy who plays with our heads.
Before we go on, let me interject a little metaphysics; metaphysics is simply a fancy word that refers to who a person is psychologically/spiritually/in their inner self. Metaphysically speaking, therefore, it seems to me that one of our dominant female weaknesses is inconstancy, namely, the temptation to remain faithful to God and continue to believe that we are loved. Women need to love and be loved. It is our primary vocation, given by God at the first moments of creation, and is summed up in the titles “helpmate” and “mother”. God offers woman to man, and, in some sense, to every person she meets, as helpmate who provides support and encouragement; this vocation is closely tied to that of mother, whether spiritual or physical, who draws nascent life into fullness and offers her energies to sustain and nurture that life. These dual vocations of mother and helpmate are bound up in the feminine genius. Pope John Paul II coined the phrase “feminine genius” to describe woman’s natural talent for relationship, for identifying the human dignity in every situation and emphasizing that personal dignity over economics or convenience. Feminine genius guards women from treating others as objects or from using others for their own gain.
While we females are relational geniuses and while we thrive on love, it is very difficult for us to steadfastly believe that we are loved, no matter what. This is because we are daughters of Eve; we bear Eve’s curse, which includes the propensity to listen to the Serpent when he lies to us that God is not real and that we are not precious. Here is how Satan works against women. It is the method he used with Eve, and he continues to use it successfully against women every day. First, he attacks woman’s thoughts with a lie, such as “You are never going to get married because God doesn’t have a wonderful plan for your future.” At that moment, unless a woman quickly takes that thought captive and intentionally thinks the Truth, like “God loves me and I entrust myself entirely to Him. Jesus, I trust in you.”, her emotions will start to react. She will become sad at having an unfulfilled vocation and frightened of spending her life alone. Those emotions will quickly snowball and before she knows it, she might start to think about all the reasons she has to be sad, such as the job she hates and the fight she had with her friend last week. Suddenly, life can begin to seem unbearable, and her feelings lead her into discouragement. This malaise of discouragement, if allowed to grow, will spiral into depression and, if not stopped there, ultimately, despair. Despair is a sin; it is the sin of believing that God does not love me and that my circumstances will never change, which is simply not true. And, despair can lead to awful things, including suicide, eating disorders, escapism through alcohol or sexual promiscuity and so forth.
Now, please know that I am not condemning female emotion, nor am I saying that sorrow and anger are bad. Emotions are neither bad nor good. Emotions simply are; they are raw energy which cooperates with our intellect to move our will to action, and they are not sinful. However, very often we allow our emotions to be roused unnecessarily and we suffer needlessly when, if only we had caught the Lie an hour ago, we would not be in tears on the floor right now. We let the Deceiver trick us again and again and allow our emotions to be triggered. And, while emotions are raw energy that is non-moral, they do take a toll on us, leading us through a veritable roller coaster that drains our energy and makes us grouchy with our families and co-workers.
It is amazing how much damage can be started by one deceptive thought. And, we fall again and again, allowing lies to infect our minds and to steal our peace. Everything might be great–my husband and I are in an affectionate season, my children are healthy, I feel pretty, and I feel close to God. Then, tomorrow, I might see a woman whose diamond ring is bigger than mine and, if I don’t catch that thought of jealousy, I might end up with feelings of resentment toward my husband for not having more ambition and with feelings of frustration that I don’t have a bigger house and, suddenly, I hate my life and am feeling tempted to drive to the airport and fly to Italy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let the Serpent’s thoughts into my mind and ended up with wild desires to drive to the airport. Seriously.
So, what I propose is that we put on the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6, most especially the Helmet of Salvation. The helmet of salvation is Truth, truth about who God is and who I am in Christ. God is Love. God the Father is visible in Jesus Christ. God wants my good. I am willed for my own sake, and I am not forgotten. Etc. These are a few of the truths that I often have to repeat in my head as I hold back a barrage of Deceptive thoughts. Some days, when I am especially tired, the thoughts come like an assault, and, if I am not careful, I will be almost immersed an emotional response before I even realize what is happening. On days like that, when I know that I am especially at risk, I put the Helmet of Salvation on tightly and turn off my mind. I refuse to think about the future or what I wish for my life and repeat doggedly, “Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you.” As if holding off the barbarian hordes, I keep my head down and pray over and over, “Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner”.
I will close with this anecdote about Saint Therese; please pardon the rather vague paraphrase. Basically, when Saint Therese felt distressed, she would say, “Jesus, I know that you are asleep in the stern of the boat, and I am not going to wake you up. I am going to trust you and let you sleep.” That is beautiful. And, that is the sort of trust that God hopes from us, that, just because circumstances are frightening today, we remember the peace and joy of yesterday and hold onto the blessings that we have received and refrain from accusing Christ of failing us. Please, dear sisters, be brave and strong and take thoughts captive that are ugly and untrue. Guard against thoughts that are anxious and that dread the future. Guard against thoughts that lie to you. Do God the service of being faithful to Him in your mind and emotions, even when the world seems to be falling to pieces all around you.
Put on your helmets of salvation, ladies, and hang on to the truth!