Not Overconfident in Your Power

From Introduction to the Devout Life, v. (1609)

Be humble and full of holy fear, not overconfident in your power to resist lesser temptations because you have overcome those that were greater, unless by means of a most steadfast faithfulness to God. Come what may in the shape of temptation, attended by whatever delights — so long as your will refuses consent, not merely to the temptation itself, but also to the delight, you need have no fear — God is not offended.

When one faints and gives no sign of life, we put our hand to his heart, and if we find the slightest fluttering there, we conclude that he still lives, and that, with the help of stimulants and counter-irritants, we may restore consciousness and power. In the same way, sometimes amid the violence of temptation the soul seems altogether to faint away, and to lose all spiritual life and action. But if you would be sure how it really is, put your hand on the heart. See whether heart and will yet have any spiritual motion; that is to say, whether they fulfil their own special duty in refusing consent to and acceptance of temptation and its gratification.

For so long as the power to refuse exists within the soul, we may be sure that love, the life of the soul, is there, and that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is within, although, it may be, hidden; and that by means of steadfast perseverance in prayer, and the sacraments, and confidence in God, strength will be restored, and the soul will live with a full and joyous life.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was a gifted preacher and writer on the spiritual life, who served for several decades as Bishop of Geneva. Though a talented anti-Protestant controversialist, he was revered for his gentle spirit, which gained the respect of many of his opponents. His Introduction to the Devout Life, a manual for laypeople, is among the finest practical guides to discipleship. His feast day is January 25. The text has been altered for contemporary readers.


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