Anyone can have troubling thoughts, but how do we get rid of the ones that threaten to separate us from God?
Apart from cases of mental illness, Christian tradition recognizes that evil spirits can sometimes disturb and tempt us, taking the form of troubling or even blasphemous thoughts. Usually, they cause inner turmoil that eventually goes away. But these inadvertent manifestations are sometimes the sign of temptation.
The temptations of this world are many and there are internal temptations as well. “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire,” we read in James 1:14. But we must not exclude the temptations of the Tempter and evil spirits. They are usually of the order of insinuation, like a parasitic thought. And they can at times be severe and insistent.
These strange voices must be treated like any other distraction: don’t dwell on it, don’t give it room. That will only make those voices louder. Humor is the best defence against these thoughts. And the age-old advice still holds true: take a deep breath, look to the Lord, say a Hail Mary, and make a sign of the cross. Or, quite simply, pick up the thread of what you were thinking beforehand, or praying, or working on. For temptation is precisely there to divert us from our task.
Is the temptation great? That’s rather a good sign. The Enemy tends to leave the lukewarm in peace.
Beware of practitioners of spiritualism, clairvoyance, and the occult
In some cases though, it’s a question of something more powerful than temptation, before which we always retain our free will. Perhaps it’s some sort of uncontrolled impulse that gives rise to a thought, sometimes even a word or an action. That’s what you’ll hear from practitioners of spiritualism, clairvoyance, or the occult, or in various schools of concentration or meditation and, of course, in all practices that seek to offer special powers. What they all have in common is that they place the subject in a state of expectation and even vulnerability and they open onto some other nameless, faceless world. Through this opening, spirits can filter through: the medium’s spirit or satanic spirits. These practices all profess to seek personal fulfillment and the altruistic service of humanity. And yet they also have another worrying point in common: a human being is deemed capable of progress through forces within them, or through forces they can learn to harness. But these techniques are the opposite of faith in Jesus, who is our sole Savior and Mediator. Even if not explicitly meant to be, they are synonymous with blasphemy and can be harmful.
Here again, we must not fear: the risen Jesus is victorious over the Enemy. However, we must embrace that victory unconditionally and without delay. First of all, recognize the doorways through which Satan’s ruses could enter. Next, sever all ties with anything or anyone related to these practices. If you have any books or objects related to them, you must be as strict as St. Paul was with the Ephesians: Burn it all! (Acts 19:19). Finally, you must entrust yourself to the prayer of the Church in order to be interiorly freed, purified, and regenerated in the true faith. Then it will be possible to hear the light breeze of the Holy Spirit. It has the sound of truth and freedom.
Father Alain Bandelier
A prayer to help you beat temptation