By Susan Klemond
The start of Lent seems a little like New Year’s to me. Both dates are new beginnings that we mark by resolving to make life changes. While our New Year’s resolutions might include exercising more or learning a new skill, during Lent we’re more likely to begin a new spiritual practice or give something up.
It doesn’t matter what I give up, the temptation to cave a little on my Lenten resolution gets stronger week by week. Knowing that Our Lord was also tempted at the end of his long retreat in the desert gives me consolation.
After 40 days of fasting, I wonder if Jesus was not only hungry but also tired and maybe a bit lonely. Those three states of being —along with anger—are the origins of triggers which make up the acronym HALT. When someone in addiction recovery has been unable to resolve any of the HALT. states, they could be susceptible to relapse. I think HALT. moments are also when we may be especially vulnerable to temptation.
The devil is very familiar with HALT. He first appealed to Jesus’ hunger. I can’t imagine how hungry Our Lord must have been after almost a month and a half without food. Satan aimed for the weakest part of his humanity at that moment—his stomach.
Facing his adversary while he was physically weak, Jesus used a weapon we also have at our disposal: God’s Word. To Satan’s whispered suggestion that he make bread for himself, Our Lord responded with Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man shall not live by bread alone.”
The devil doubled down with two more temptations, but Christ returned fire with Exodus 34:14 and Deuteronomy 6:16.
Jesus definitely had the last word in that encounter—and it was a word of Scripture.
The Bible doesn’t say what form Satan took when he tempted Our Lord. He is a subtle master of disguises and he’d like us to think he only makes appearances in horror movies, wears a funny red suit with horns and carries a pitchfork. His strategy seems to be working: 27 percent of Americans don’t believe he exists and 12 percent aren’t sure.
I can’t completely say “the devil made me do it” when I sin, but he does give us that extra push of temptation. When I’m in HALT. mode, Satan doesn’t have to push as hard. The Bible tells us that if we resist the devil he will flee, as he did after he tempted Jesus. Our Lord shows us that Scripture is the best weapon.
I think it’s possible to overcome temptation by finding encouraging, life-giving scriptures and keeping them nearby. Gradually we can learn to use this two-edged sword so we’re ready when the enemy approaches. Here are a few adrenaline-boosting verses that may help in a HALT. moment or any time defenses are low. I know there are many more!
- Not a spirit of cowardice but power—2 Timothy 1:7
- Greater is God in me than evil in the world—1 John 4:4
- The Lord is my light and salvation, of whom should I be afraid?—Psalm 27:1
- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me—Philippians 4:13
- We are more than conquerors—Romans 8:37
- Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom—2 Corinthians 3:17
About the author:
Susan Klemond is freelance writer in St. Paul, Minnesota, who writes articles on faith, family and Christian values for Catholic newspapers and magazines.