We should never take the devil for granted. They are always around, ever scheming and plotting against us in many, many ways, and often in a manner that is so subtle that we may not even notice him. As St. Peter would put in his first letter: “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” (5, 8)
We should never consider the devil as a myth, or as some kind of literary device only to highlight a point in the drama of our life. He is as real as you and me. Our problem is that we think lightly or, worse, falsely of him. And so we become completely unprepared to deal with his antics.
But in spite of that unfortunate fact of life, we should remember that the devil cannot do anything against us unless allowed by God. And if allowed, it is because God in his mysterious providence can always draw a greater good from any evil the devil may cause in us.
This is verified in the story of the trials of Job and that gospel episode of the man possessed by a legion of devils. (cfr. Mk 6, 53-56) The devils, being fallen creatures of God, cannot help but acknowledge the authority of God over them. So, we should not be too afraid of the devil.
We just have to learn how to cope with him. First we should realize that any evil that befalls us, especially if it is moral and not just physical or material evil, is always instigated by the devil. Yes, we may have our own weaknesses and there also are many worldly tempting allurements around, but these can hardly do us harm unless stirred by the devil.
Our problem is that we often attribute the cause of any moral evil we commit to our human limitations alone and to the natural temptations in the world. We hardly consider the role of the evil who, being spiritual and supernatural, are far more superior to us in terms of power. And so we fail to take the adequate means to avoid him and to remedy the damage caused by him.
Let’s remember that as St. Paul said, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6, 12)
We need to go to God to handle this lifelong predicament of ours properly. Aside from the human means which, of course, we should never neglect, we have to avail of the spiritual and supernatural means. We have to pray, offer sacrifices, wage continuing ascetical struggle, have recourse to the sacraments, develop virtues, etc.
In the meantime, let us also take note of the antics of the devil. We need to know him well as our archenemy. In this, we cannot be naïve. Especially with our more complicated times, it is urgently imperative that we know the ways of the devil very well. We should avoid dialoguing with the devil.
We have to strengthen our faith in God and our complete trust in the saving providence of God. We should not allow ourselves to be dominated by the devil for long. We would know when are being dominated by him when we let ourselves plunge into sadness, bitterness and depression. God is always there for us. All we have to do is to go to him.
Of course, we have to understand that our sensitivity to the presence and the ways of the devil and our power to avoid him or to free ourselves from him once caught by him depends on our closeness to God. In other words, the closer we are to God, the better for us with respect to our power to cope with the devil./WDJ